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04-09-2007, 09:31 PM - 1 Like   #1
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Graduated ND filters - how to use them

The recent thread of grad ND's had a question about how to use them. I figured it is important enough to merit its own thread.

The following is a foolproof way of using these filters perfectly every time. You will be able to nail those Galen Rowell type shots every time.

Necessary equipment:
1) A camera that has DOF preview.
2) A filter holder with at least 2 slots to hold square/rectangular filters. It doesn't matter whether you use Lee, Hitech, Cokin, etc.
3) Cardboard or cardstock that matches the thickness of the slots in your filter holder. Hint: pizza boxes.
4) Tripod.

(For people who use Hitech or Lee filter holders and live in Western Canada: i) Go to Safeway. ii) Buy the extra large Milena's pizza. 3) Cook & eat pizza. Feel better? It's as good as the store bought pizza, isn't it? iii) Save the box - it is exactly 2mm thick.)

Step 2:
With the cardboard/cardstock cut out several squares or rectangles that match the size of your filters. When you use one up, you will have several more to draw on.

In the field and doing landscapes:
1) Mount the filter holder on the front of your lens.
2) Meter and frame the image the way you want on your tripod. Based on your metering, select the strength of the grad filter you want to use.
3) Focus and set your f-stop.
4) Now here's the important part. Take the piece of cardboard you have cut out and carefully slide it into the filter slot nearest the camera. Once you have slid it down partway, look through the viewfinder while hitting the DOF preview.
5) You want the cardboard to cover the field of view that the grad filter will cover - once you are at this point, simply take your grad filter and slide it down in the front filter slot until it lines up with the bottom of the cardboard.
6) Trip shutter. Congrats, you've nailed a perfect landscape.

The above looks messy and complicated when written out. But it really is incredibly easy. You will never, ever fail a shot due to misalignment of the grad filter.

Last thing:
Shhh. Don't tell anyone. Don't even think about it. This is the innermost secret of nature photogs who have been initiated into the rank of professional. Pizza is fattening anyway.


04-09-2007, 10:19 PM   #2
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You forgot to remove the cardboard!??!?
04-10-2007, 12:16 AM   #3
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I use about the same technique, however, I find that a post it note stuck on the filter at the transition point works well. Never used a piece of cardboard, but the post it note works well and you can use a filter holder with only one slot (wide angle holder).
06-08-2007, 02:05 AM   #4
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Thank you for describing the process. I've been trying digital blending a bit but I'm still curious about using actual filters so this will come in handy.

04-11-2013, 02:54 PM   #5
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Definitely worth a bump for us newbies. Thanks soooooo much George

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