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11-02-2011, 08:05 PM   #1
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GND filters: How to use?

Hi. I thought I had figured out the answer to my sunset woes of either having a beautiful sunset and dark foreground or having a visible foreground and a blown out sunset--graduated neutral density filters. So I bought some cheap cokin style filters off ebay and tried them out tonight. And what I found was the same as without the filter (though I did like the effect that some of the filters had on the color of the sunset): if I metered on the sunset, my sunset was beautiful and the foreground was dark. Or if I metered off the foreground, then it was properly exposed but I lost my sunset. Which is exactly the same result as I always got without the GND filter. Am I metering wrong? Is it because the filters were cheap? Is there anything else I need to know about using them other than slipping the filter into the holder and trying to orient it so that the top half of the lens has the colored part of the filter and the bottom half is clear. I thought it was going to be that simple to get wonderfully exposed sunsets. Anybody know what I'm doing wrong? Jim

11-02-2011, 08:54 PM   #2
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Have a read at this: Using Graduated Neutral Density Filters

Then practice, practice, practice. Or just give up like I do and try fixing exposure in photoshop, then spend hours on google on how to do it. T_T
11-03-2011, 08:03 AM   #3
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If you are using a digital camera, you can do a lot better by bracketing exposures and then a non tone mapped HDR (it's the tone mapping that gives the cartoon effect, not the HDR).
11-03-2011, 12:12 PM   #4
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The difference between the sky and ground at sunset is probably on the order of, oh, I don't know, 5-10 stops (WAG) while your filter mignt be only providing only 2-3 stops of compensation. So it might be helping, but still not darkening the sky enough to liminate the need for PP if you really want to lie and say the ground is as bright as the sky (a common enough lie to want to tell). There's really no getting around the fact that the difference in brightness is huge, and some amount of PP will probably be requierd in order to create a convincing and effective lie.

Last edited by Marc Sabatella; 11-05-2011 at 08:15 AM.
11-03-2011, 12:32 PM   #5

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You don't have the advantage of compressing highlights in digital as with film and Wheatfield's advise would do the trick. But a GND can help knock off a few stops as Marc noted.

Here is a BW film using a 2-stop GND that captured the sky nicely as well as detail in the shadow which the shot was metered for. Granted BW film has excellent DR and highlights are compressible which doesn't equate well if your camera is digital.

Last edited by tuco; 11-05-2011 at 02:10 PM.
11-03-2011, 05:24 PM   #6
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tuco, nice pic! Thanks for the replies. Marc especially, I didn't know we were talking about that many stops difference. That explains what I'm seeing. In some shots I can convince myself that the result is a little better, but if I'm only correcting for 2 stops, then I'm not getting much improvement. I didn't spend much money on the filters, but I still wish I had know this before I bought them. Live and learn (I hope)
11-05-2011, 08:16 AM   #7
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Note I was just guessing on the number of stops, but I do suspect that it's a lot.

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