How to Perfectly Capture Landscape Photos with Filters

Capturing the perfect shot with filters can be a challenging task, but it doesn't have to be. To start, it's essential to understand the fundamentals of exposure and how to use filters to achieve the desired result. Landscape photography can be tricky due to the differences in luminosity between the ground and sky. To improve your images, it's important to learn how to tackle this issue in its simplest form. Not all NDs are completely neutral and extreme NDs can add color nuances to your images, which will need to be removed during the editing phase.

The other option is to manually set a custom white balance for a more neutral outcome, so experiment with the camera filter to see what Kelvin value works best. For instance, the original Lee Big Stopper always gave a deep blue tone and, by setting a white balance of 10,000 K, produced more neutral images. However, be careful not to overpolarize as the effect can seem unnatural. Polarizers can reduce light by up to 2 stops and thus act like mini NDs. ND filters come in a range of powers up to 15 stops, so which one should you choose? The answer depends on the effect you want to create.

With a really long exposure of 30 seconds or more, the water will completely soften and lose its texture. This can be useful for simplifying a minimalist composition, as it eliminates distractions such as ripples on the surface of the water. However, if exposure is too long, clouds can also lose their texture and the sky becomes gray like a blanket. With crashing waves, it can be effective to use shorter exposures between 3 and 10 seconds as this will help retain the texture in the water, adding interest to the composition. And with waterfalls, shorter exposures are preferred as they improve their appearance.

With up to 6-stop filters, in most lighting situations you can measure and focus correctly with the filter in place. However, with denser filters, certainly those with 10 stops or more, the camera's meter and focus can have problems. Close-up filters reduce the minimum focusing distance of the lens and offer an economical alternative to dedicated macro lenses. They are usually sold in sets of different intensities from +1 to +10 diopters. If you're thinking of entering macro photography, infrared is cheaper than converting an old digital camera.

IR filters block all visible light and only allow infrared light to pass through the lens. A sufficiently long exposure will ensure that enough infrared light can penetrate the IR filter built into the digital camera and reach the sensor. These opaque filters make the viewfinder and live view obsolete so you'll have to compose and focus beforehand and adjust white balance, saturation and contrast at the editing stage. Slide the filter up and down into the slot in the holder to place the transition from transparent to dark in the correct position. This will allow you to better balance the brightness of the scene. You can turn the lens mount if you don't have a flat horizon or a clear transition in the scene.

Carefully position the filter so that it covers the sky and mixes with the earth, tilting it if necessary to cover the brightest part of the sky. By darkening the sky, a graduated ND filter allows us to obtain a less contrasting exposure of both sky and ground. In short, no serious landscape photographer should leave home without at least a handful of filters in their bag. The filters are made of different materials from simple glass to resin and optical glass with an anti-reflective coating. Calculate what filtered exposure should be and remember that each stop requires doubling exposure. The main advantage of using square filters is that GND filters are mainly available in this format. These filters are specialized but ideal for producing effects in-camera.

They are generally more expensive and have their densest section just above center to reduce light levels of a sunset low on horizon. This will give you an idea of how strong your GND filter must be to balance sky and foreground. In addition to minimizing glare and reflected light this filter also features subtle warm tone to enhance reds, browns and greens. To choose intensity of graduated ND filter you'll need understand difference in exposure between sky and foreground. This is especially important if you want connect filter to compact camera with retractable lens. The darkening effect on blue of sky is not even due physical principles behind operation of CPL filters. To illustrate effect of this filter on reflections in water I put some water in pan and photographed it with and without polarizer.

Because CPL filters usually reduce exposure by about 2 steps you can use them replace 0.6 ND filter. To get perfect landscape photos with filters requires practice but once you understand how they work you'll be able to capture stunning shots every time!.

Clément Vermeulen
Clément Vermeulen

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