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05-05-2017, 03:02 PM   #1
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Assembling the Neutral Density filter team

I'm trying to gather together a decent setup for landscape and outdoor photography, and have decided on a filter holder trye solution for ND filters. I am aware that magic can be made in photoshop and lightroom but I got my camera to go take pictures more than to futz around pulling out highlights. Invest once and have done with, is the plan.

So for a starting setup, what would be a recommended group of ND filters to start with to cover as many bases as possible? I was thinking something like: 3-stop, 6-stop, 2 or 3 soft GND, and 3 hard GND. That would leave out a 10 stop for down the road if I really need one. I mostly hike in Arizona mountains and deserts but will be spending some time at the ocean later in the year. I'm not sure if a stronger grad ND would help for the strong Arizona sun during the day but was hoping to start without getting ten different filters.

Thanks for any input, there doesn't seem to be much consensus googling the issue of an all purpose ND kit. Reverse ND seems also something I might need but how many filters before one can't carry them all?

05-05-2017, 04:44 PM   #2
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Depending on what you are shooting, a 3 stop and 6 stop filter would be a nice start for landscape due to the sun/glare factors of the desert, and you could use them for longer exposures when you are near the ocean.
05-05-2017, 05:50 PM   #3
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Check out a variable ND filter. It is actually two linear polarizers that you can turn so they cross polarize, thereby acting as ND filters. I got it for the largest filter size for my lenses (82mm) and can hand hold it for the smaller lenses or get a step down ring. Here is a link to a Hoya on E Bay:

Hoya 82mm Variable ND Filter (0.45 to 2.7 (1.5 to 9 stops) #A-82VDY 24066055576 | eBay
05-05-2017, 06:51 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Cagey Beatrice Quote
I am aware that magic can be made in photoshop and lightroom but I got my camera to go take pictures more than to futz around pulling out highlights.
I think you will find that using filters in the field is a good tool but you will still need the 'magic' of PS.
QuoteOriginally posted by Cagey Beatrice Quote
Invest once and have done with, is the plan.
Good plan, there are lots of cheap filters out there but many impart more color cast than I like. And then you need to fix that in Photoshop, negating the reason you used the filter in the first place.

What holder are you going to use? I am not sure from your post if you intend to get screw on filters or square ones that go in an external holder. I assume square? I use a 3 stop, 6 stop and 10 stop ND. I also have a 2 stop and 3 stop soft gradual ND. I had a hard one but did not like the results except when the horizon was extreme flat, kinda rare for me.

My 3, 6, and 10 are all screw in filters and I much prefer them. To be honest I rarely use the GNDs anymore it is much easier for me to just shoot a bracket and blend them. If you have mountains or buildings in your shot you are going to have to fix those anyway.

05-05-2017, 07:20 PM   #5
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I use a 10 stop filter quite a lot. I have a 2 stop filter as well and I know there is a big gap so I am planning to pick up a 6 stop filter as well. It is worth investing in a good filter even though they are expensive. Because of that I first had to decide on my lens lineup and then get the filter that would cover all of them (using step up rings if necessary).

I picked up a GND just this week, but haven't used it yet. I sort of think that it might not be useful as I can apply it in PP, but then I shoot film quite a bit, so it might be useful after all.
05-06-2017, 01:19 AM   #6
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Nisi V5 is a basic holder that comes with a good polarizer. Nisi filters are top quality glass filters. If you're planning to make sunsets a reverse GND would be a good idea. I've selected my lenses for filter use so for now I use 52 67 and 82 mm B+W NANO filters.

And yes: exposure bracketing is a big resource for later PP.
05-06-2017, 02:56 AM   #7
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Reverse ND grad is good for sunrises and sunsets

05-06-2017, 05:46 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nass Quote
Reverse ND grad is good for sunrises and sunsets
In a pinch, couldn't you make one using two split ND Grads? For example, a 3-stop hard split mounted dark side up to darken the sky 3-stops relative to the ground. Then mount a 2-stop soft split dark side down, with the dark part going above the horizon. You'd get 3-stops at the top of the frame, gradually down to 5-stops above the horizon, then 2-stops below the horizon. You'd lose some light compared to a straight up Reverse ND that provides the same differentials, and less filters are probably a good idea especially if the sun is in the frame, but less to carry and buy.
05-14-2017, 08:04 AM   #9
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Also looking yo solve this dilemma having slide films in the fridge. I only have a couple in the 49mm range (smallest lens size I have), but would like to start shooting slides with the 645n.
05-14-2017, 09:51 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by BrianR Quote
You'd get 3-stops at the top of the frame, gradually down to 5-stops above the horizon, then 2-stops below the horizon.
I may be having a senior moment this evening but I cannot for the life of me figure that out. I get the 3-stop above the horizon. And I get the 5 stops at the horizon gradually going to 3 at the top. But how do you get the 2 stops at the bottom? Sounds like a good plan, I just cannot visualize it.
05-15-2017, 04:56 AM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
I may be having a senior moment this evening but I cannot for the life of me figure that out. I get the 3-stop above the horizon. And I get the 5 stops at the horizon gradually going to 3 at the top. But how do you get the 2 stops at the bottom? Sounds like a good plan, I just cannot visualize it.
You may be visualizing the 2-stop ND positioned with the lower glass edge on the horizon, cutting across the frame? I don't think that would work for the dimensions of most filters. A crude diagram may explain. 2-stop soft ND filter upside down on the left, 3 stop hard on the right, overlap in the middle to show the combined effect, and you'd obviously completely overlap the filters when shooting.
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05-15-2017, 07:47 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by BrianR Quote
You may be visualizing the 2-stop ND positioned with the lower glass edge on the horizon, cutting across the frame?
Yep. That was stuck in my head. Thank you for the visual, very nicely done.
I'm not sure if the bottom edge of the filter at the horizon would cause an issue or not. Might depend on the filter, but I will have to give this a try.
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