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ND Grads

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  4. » ND Grads

sent on June 02, 2012 (9:54)

Looking to buy an ND grad filter for the Grand Canyon. I'll be heading there at the end of June. Lee Filters have been recommended to me several times from several different sources, but they're extremely expensive (adapter ring + Lee Filter holder + filter itself).

I was wondering if I could just get the filter and hold it manually in front of the lens?

Also, for something like the grand canyon, what density would you suggest? I'm guessing a density of 3 stops soft? Or would you go for a hard transition?

Thanks in advance!

sent on June 03, 2012 (2:15)

It is possible to hold a ND grad filter in front of your lens. Or use some tape to fix it temporarily. But it is way easier with a filter holder. Also, make sure there is no light leaking around the filter (think asymetric lens hoods)and be careful not to scratch the filter itself with the metal(?) of your lens.

I have no experience with the Grand Canyon, but I have two 2 stops ND grads and a 3 stops ND grad. I use the 3 stops the most, sometimes even combined with one of the 2 stops. With the built-in dynamic range of modern DSLRs I would go for a 3 stops ND grad as you suggested.

Soft or hard one? Again, I use the soft ones most often. They are way more flexible than the hard one. If I had to choose just one, I would go for the soft one. But it also depends on the lens you use with the filter: The wider the lens, the harder gets the transition. But how hard or soft the transition is, depends also on the brand (I have heard). I use a formatt Hitech set, so Lee might be different. Nevertheless, I recommend a soft one. Or a set of both hard and soft.

sent on June 03, 2012 (22:46)

Thanks Ziphius,

Very valuable feedback. I opted for Cokin's P-series filter set, which has a wide array of filters and mechanisms for less than the price of a single ND grad Lee Filter. I figured this set would tide me over temporarily, and allow me to build up enough skill until I actually warrant the use of Lee Filters. Lee Filters also seem extraordinarily hard to get nowadays - apparently there's been some tie up with the manufacturing.

So we'll see how it goes - the filter set will give me a lot of things to try and play around with, so I'm quite excited. Interestingly, Cokin didn't differentiate between hard and soft transitions, but I saw that you can use a technique called "feathering" where you shift the filter up and down slightly (when holding the filter in your hands in front of the lens) to purposely blur the transition and make your own "soft" transition. Sounds pretty neat, but we'll see how practical it is. ;)


sent on June 04, 2012 (1:57)

When I was faced with what I had to choose with ND Grad, then I was in the same situation, I wanna have the best with reasonable price - complete set with soft & hard edge. Then I chose the brand Hitech or Formatt (made in UK). So far, I am happy with it. I have a complete 85mm set, with 1, 2, 3 and 4 stop - all soft edge, and also a wide angle filter holder. The filters are made from plastic, it is quite good for beginner like me. It gives a little magenta cast (just take in a RAW, for easy photo correction), especially the 4 stop.

I normally use 1 and 2 stop, for natural-look landscape, and the others for more dramatic-look. I would suggest to buy 2 stop for everything, if you wanna try NG Grad, wheather you like it or not.



sent on June 05, 2012 (11:21)

Congrats to your new equippment! I hope you have much fun with it - shouldn't be too hard at the Grand Canyon to have fun and take amazing images! Looking forwards to seeing some of them here at Juza's!
I read about a fire in the Lee filter factory already a year ago: It was used to explain the immense back order on Lee grads at that time. It stopped me from ordering a Lee filter... I made the same decision as you did: Better a cheaper filter that I can use now than an expensive filter that may (or may not) arrive in months... Strange to hear that they haven't solved the back oder problem, though.

I use formatt resin filters, too. Yes, I have an image series where I do see a color cast. But I took literally thousands of images where I can't see any discoloration. Under what circumstances do you experience a color cast? I know, it is easy to fix in post processing but I would like to find out in what situation you can expect a color cast. So far, I have no clue...

sent on June 08, 2012 (1:32)

Hi Ziphius,

The magenta cast mostly occurs when I use bigger stop, start from 4, either with my ND or Grad ND. Friends of mine said it is not too obvious in Lee filters, or Singh Ray, or even Hoya. But however, I like this Formatt, because it suits me (my wallet MrGreen ), since I am not specialist in Long Exposure photography. Appreciate your share. Thanks.



sent on June 08, 2012 (9:19)

Hi Budi,
Thanks for your input! I have seen reports of magenta colorcast on Lee filters, too. I guess if you try hard enough, you can complain about anyting... I haven't experienced a correlation between exposure time and color cast, but maybe it was just not visible because of the motifs. I often stack two Grads to get the effect of a ND and it works well most of the time... I agree, the Formatt filters offer good bang for the buck!

BTW how did you get a link to your website in the signature? I want to link to mine, too!

sent on June 08, 2012 (12:28)

Hi Ziphius,
It's easy, just write down your link, then you highlight it before clicking URL button above. MrGreen

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