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JEvans

Polarising Filters

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I suspect that many of you may not be great fans of using filters in the field.  I have a polarising filter for my Panasonic which I have used from time to time with variable results and several graduated neutral density ND filters which I hardly ever use.  Instead of using grad ND filters,  generally my technique  has been to take multiple or bracketed exposures and then obtain a composite image using editing in Lightroom/Photoshop.  For polarising filters, I do not think that there is a suitable way to simulate these in either LR or PS. 

I have recently been following a guy called Thomas Heaton on Youtube,  who has an excellent reputation for his landscape photography.  He is an ardent user of Lee filters, using a combination of 6 and 10 stop grad and neutral density filters in combination with a polarising filter mounted at the front of the Lee filter holder.  Some of his images are really stunning.  Whilst I am quite happy to edit in LR/PS, I quite like the idea of putting more effort into getting it right in the camera as far as possible. Below is an image of mine taken at my local beach using a 2 stop grad, a 6 stop ND filter and a polarising filter. I like the result but it is a bit of a fiddle using a filter holder and adding all the filters in.

So my question is : Do many of you use grad, and standard ND filters and/or polarising filters and if so, why.

_20140130-4 A3 Colour Print.jpg

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Love the fluid movement of the sea .

 

I use ND filters to get motion blur in time-lapse and with water too on stills. I agree in principal that getting good information in camera is better than in post. Most certainly some effects like motion blur, just cannot be done in post.

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I suspect that many of you may not be great fans of using filters in the field.  I have a polarising filter for my Panasonic which I have used from time to time with variable results and several graduated neutral density ND filters which I hardly ever use.  Instead of using grad ND filters,  generally my technique  has been to take multiple or bracketed exposures and then obtain a composite image using editing in Lightroom/Photoshop.  For polarising filters, I do not think that there is a suitable way to simulate these in either LR or PS. 

The above sums up my thoughts pretty well. I feel I can do all that neutral density filters offer in my image editor. Polarising filters are the only ones I own because I can't reproduce that effect easily in an editor. Not having neutral filters does mean I cannot create movement during the day as many do, but in practice I never seem to have a desire to do that. 

I have recently been following a guy called Thomas Heaton on Youtube,  who has an excellent reputation for his landscape photography.  He is an ardent user of Lee filters, using a combination of 6 and 10 stop grad and neutral density filters in combination with a polarising filter mounted at the front of the Lee filter holder.  Some of his images are really stunning.  Whilst I am quite happy to edit in LR/PS, I quite like the idea of putting more effort into getting it right in the camera as far as possible.

Did you really mean to say  "I quite like the idea of putting more effort into getting it right in the camera"  Surely you didn't mean to say using filters is the right way, but using an editor is wrong. Did you mean - you want to get closer to a completed image at the shooting stage perhaps? :D

Below is an image of mine taken at my local beach using a 2 stop grad, a 6 stop ND filter and a polarising filter. I like the result but it is a bit of a fiddle using a filter holder and adding all the filters in.

 

I may have told this story before, but I was on the stone jetty at Narrabeen near Sydney a year or so ago watching a photographer trying to add filters to his lens. The sea was washing over the jetty every so often. (that 7th wave perhaps) He was struggling to get the filters out of the bag and add them to the lens and right at that moment he didn't need them anyway as the sun wasn't even up yet. I am sure he had been told this is what photographers have to do.  He got into a real state,  and eventually to be able to get the filters out of his bag (which seemed huge to me and onto the lens,  he risked putting the bag on the ground. 

At a crucial point, he had to quickly stop trying to get the filter into the holder and while holding the filter in one hand. He grabbed his tripod to steady it, just in case this 7th wave was slightly stronger, and with the other he just got his bag off the floor when about 3 inches of water rushed over the jetty. Yes, it's an extreme example and how many times would we be in a situation like that. What it does do is highlight that using these filters is great in ideal situations and in theory, but they can be a pain in the backside too.   They also slow you down to a crawl. While the filter user is locked in one or two positions I am getting images from several locations, especially in the golden hour when time maybe short.

So my question is : Do many of you use grad, and standard ND filters and/or polarising filters and if so, why.

Bracket and blend is my way even when hand holding.

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I like the image and the movement is just about right to create foreground interest. You do have a noticeable curve to the horizon on the left side and I am not too sure about the colour balance. On a personal note it's a little too green for my tastes and I immediately thought of a more powerful mono 

snap580.jpg

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The only filter I use is a polarizer these days and I keep this on the front of my landscape lens.

I agree with Barry that fiddling around with filters when lighting and time are critical is a pain.

I find the gradient filter in ACR very useful and very simple to use and the beauty of it is that you can go in and change it later if you decide you don't like it. I look at some of the filter effects on slides I took during film days and wish I could the same to them.

I think though you have got a very nice image of your local beach using the combination of polarizer and ND filter and doubt you could have achieved the pleasing effects you have by any other method. Thanks for posting and raising the topic for discussion.

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I have tried using filters but to be honest just can't seem to get on with them. They are just too much hassle as far as I am concerned.
I like others tend to make adjustments in post production. I have had reasonable success in simulating the effects of a ten stop ND filter in Photoshop by taking a number of photographs ( maybe as many as 10) and by using Scripts and Median the non moving parts of the image remain sharp and the water, if that is what you are taking appears blurred.

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16 hours ago, Barry said:

I suspect that many of you may not be great fans of using filters in the field.  I have a polarising filter for my Panasonic which I have used from time to time with variable results and several graduated neutral density ND filters which I hardly ever use.  Instead of using grad ND filters,  generally my technique  has been to take multiple or bracketed exposures and then obtain a composite image using editing in Lightroom/Photoshop.  For polarising filters, I do not think that there is a suitable way to simulate these in either LR or PS. 

The above sums up my thoughts pretty well. I feel I can do all that neutral density filters offer in my image editor. Polarising filters are the only ones I own because I can't reproduce that effect easily in an editor. Not having neutral filters does mean I cannot create movement during the day as many do, but in practice I never seem to have a desire to do that. 

I understand that Barry and everyone has their own favourite subjects and techniques. You can certainly do without grad ND filters but it is a little more difficult to simulate a 10 stop ND filter. But as I like long exposures under the right conditions, I have two ND filters, 6 stop and 10 stop. Not sure how often I would use a polariser though.

16 hours ago, Barry said:

I have recently been following a guy called Thomas Heaton on Youtube,  who has an excellent reputation for his landscape photography.  He is an ardent user of Lee filters, using a combination of 6 and 10 stop grad and neutral density filters in combination with a polarising filter mounted at the front of the Lee filter holder.  Some of his images are really stunning.  Whilst I am quite happy to edit in LR/PS, I quite like the idea of putting more effort into getting it right in the camera as far as possible.

Did you really mean to say  "I quite like the idea of putting more effort into getting it right in the camera"  Surely you didn't mean to say using filters is the right way, but using an editor is wrong. Did you mean - you want to get closer to a completed image at the shooting stage perhaps? :D

Yes that is what I meant : try to get a better image in camera and reduce the time spent in front of the computer.

Regarding the image I inserted, it has done quite well for me.  The jpeg file was obtained by exporting the original print file from Lightroom so the colour profile is perhaps not very accurate.  Maybe that explains the green tone.

One of the reasons for posting this was that, although I have a polarising filter, it is a 68mm version for my Panasonic GX8 and is no good for my Nikon lenses.  My grad and ND filters are Cokin 100mm and I have a holder.  But you cannot use these with a polarising filter unless you use a Lee holder with adapter ring for a 105mm polarising filter which is expensive.  So before taking the plunge, I thought I would test the water here on the forum and see what others are doing.

 

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I use the Lee holder and 10 stop filter, 3 soft grad filters and a heliopan circular polarisor which is fitted to the Lee holder. I have tried the technique of bracketing several shots also. I have a 77mm hoya circular polarisor but find it is dark and acts as a 3 or 4 stop filter giving bluer colour and slower shutter speeds. The heliopan similar to Mr. Heaton,'s is far better and much more see through than what you probably have now. The soft grads are resin not glass so can get scratched easily if not careful, as I found to my cost one day on a Yorkshire stone wall. Luckily the scratch was low down in the clear part so you can still use the filter most of the time. I find that bracketing can be a faff sometimes, especially when there is movement in the scene, as marrying up after and masking off takes a bit of time. Luminosity masking as per Jimmy MacIntyre also takes some time getting your head around.

The thing about filters, the same as software, is knowing when to use them and how best to use them, to get the most out of the view in front of you. I prefer the filters because it does slow you down, makes you consider the light on the subject and you get a satisfying feeling of enjoying the hobby, the landscape, and a cracking image in camera, that you know is not going to need much tweaking with software. Once the chosen filters are slid in the slots and it is the right combination, not much faffing is needed just slight adjustment. Watch for changing light conditions but most of all enjoy it. Even if you pay top dollar for a polarisor to fit the Lee and you find you don't use it after a year, I'll bet someone is willing to take it off your hands for not much less than you paid out. It might cost 200 + but it is a good piece of glass that does a good job. 

The reason why Tom, Mr. Cornish and Mr. Noton use them is because the software tweaks after are minimal. Tom also says the polarisor is probably his most used filter. Admittedly they probably get their filters for nothing but I think they are a worthwhile product. 

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Thanks very much for all your comments. Much appreciated. 

Tinion 45. Your comments echo my thinking but I am still not sure. Just watched a You Tube video from a respected professional saying that he stopped using polarisers a long time ago. So I have managed to borrow a Lee holder and 105mm polariser and am going out to do some experiments of my own.

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A puddle or some still water with light reflecting off it should prove a good test to show the filters worth. See the effect on blue skies if you can find some up your way. 

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It sure is interesting, but being the sceptic I am, I need much more evidence. Are you guys sure you’re not being suckered into chasing equipment as a way of getting better results.

The juries out, but can be swayed if the evidence is there. 

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It’s an interesting conversation which in my opinion there is not a right or wrong way, its whatever works for you.

 

I want motion blur, it can be done post, but it’s a pain, needs complex selections and often just does not look quite right.

 

I also want good bokeh effect, again it can be done post, and even in some camera processing, just does not look quite right.

 

I don’t use grads, but I do use neutral density filters to get the appitures and shutter speeds I need. Either way, you faff around with the filters or faff around on the computer.

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On 20/01/2018 at 12:58 PM, Barry said:

It sure is interesting, but being the sceptic I am, I need much more evidence. Are you guys sure you’re not being suckered into chasing equipment as a way of getting better results.

The juries out, but can be swayed if the evidence is there. 

There is perhaps an element of being suckered, particularly as these filters cost an arm and a leg to purchase. The evidence is that they do work, though one or a few of the myriad of other filters on offer are perhaps gimmicks, or require to be used once in a lifetime. I will bet there are a lot on here who have purchased Cokin filters in their past photographic lives. The software route might be a little bit cheaper and a little more difficult to master, until you make that other extra purchase of a Mr. Beckham tutorial to satisfy the learning curve. 

We are perhaps all guilty of the marketing hype where photography is concerned, at one stage or another, but we pays our money and we makes our choice. If you need more evidence, how many second hand Lee filters do you see offered on line, compare that with second hand cameras online. OK there are bound to be more cameras, but you would think there would be at least a few filters. To my mind the filters we are talking about, are a once in a lifetime purchase.... but wait we said that about Colin filters! 📷💷💶🎲

 

 

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Sorry John couldn't resist a comment on the Wild Photographer. I get that way sometimes  :P

I agree entirely with Morturn. There's rarely a right or wrong way with anything and many techniques can't be re-created digitally. With Graduated filters we need to keep in mind they were designed to combat the contrast issue in our photographs. They will work very well in seascape or landscape photography and so does exposure bracketing. They don't work very well in other situations and it's why choosing the right time of day and light is so important. Having said that, it's not always easy when you're out and about with family or friends to be in the right place at the right time and any gadget that allows some progress is fine with me.  

I agree that exposure bracketing comes with a learning curve, but it also offers far more accuracy than a filter and your camera can do this already and at no extra cost. However, if the filter system improves your images, then I say go with what works for you. The filter will bring the image into a better exposure range to then begin the manipulation process, but you're still going to need that too.

For me personally, I know that if I used a graduated filter it would get in the way of my shooting style and I would soon lose interest. In addition I would still be doing much what I do now in ACR, so I take the view, lets cut out the cost, the carrying of the filters and the issues of use. 

All I am doing is pointing out that the camera shop, like the fishing tackle shop is packed with expensive gear, that suggests you will never be complete without some of it in your camera bag. In some cases that will be true, in others not true, or at least debatable :D

  

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Tonight, I took my son with his drone to Currimundi Lake for some aerial sunset images.  It never turned out as well as we hoped, but we shot some images and even tried a few multi image stitches, more of that later.

The sun had gone down 15 minutes before and as we retrieved the drone a lady turned up with an SLR on a tripod and a graduated filter that looked the size of my patio doors. 

What would a graduated filter do at that time in the evening?   I think it was a complete waste of time and trouble given that the lighting was the best it had been all day since just before dawn. 

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I think that some people just do stuff on automatic polite, because they have been told it the right way to do it. It's the difference between knowledge and understanding  

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Well a set of very interesting views with some for and some against.  I have now had the opportunity to go out and do some real world experiments with ND, grad ND and a polarising filter.  Following these experiments (obviously not very scientific!), I have come to these conclusions regarding my photography.

 Grad ND Filters : Don't see much point in lugging these around as I can get just as good results in LR/PS with a minimum amount of fuss.

ND filters : Yes you can simulate the effect of these filters by taking several images.  But for long exposures, the number of images you need to take to achieve the same results is rather large.  Although I do not take many long exposures, there are some conditions in which they give attractive results, at least to my eye. I include two images below.  18_Jan20-19  was taken without a filter(1/30th. F10) and "21_My Partner is here somewhere " with a 10 stop ND filter (30s, F10).  .  To my eye the filtered image is more attractive. So I will buy a 10 stop ND filter.

Polarising filters : Here I find myself in a bit of a dilemma.  For general landscape photography, I do not see much benefit.  My test shots show increased detail in the sky and perhaps more saturated colours.  Also if it is hazy, the polariser gives a clearer image.  But I can achieve the same result in LR/PS quite easily.  What I cannot achieve is to remove reflections and there are situations where this might be desirable.  I attach two further images with and without a polariser. Yes the filtered image has the reflections removed and I can see into the water.  But actually I prefer the un-filtered image.  To my mind it is more realistic.  So shall I buy a polarising filter?  Well I might but not just yet.  I will assess how many times in the next few months I think I might have used one and then decide. 

 

18_Jan20-19.jpg

21_My Partner is Here Somewhere.jpg

18_Jan22-01.jpg

18_Jan22-02.jpg

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Thank you J for taking the time to post your lovely images and for everyone's point of view on this subject. 

I have  polarising filters and many graduated neutral density ND filters, even star filters, Cokin filters and holders for 2 size lenses. I acquired all this in the purchase of my canon Mark 11 camera. Quite a few years ago now, I experimented with all my goodies for a couple of weeks, slowing river water, seascapes, clouds, I managed and understood how to do it but unfortunately my down fall was inexperience of camera technique a little hit or miss:(. I am planning doing it all over again at some point with the knowledge I have now:) 

Barry made a tutorial on filters in his Camera Craft set of tutorials, at this point I wanted to get all my kit out and have another go, I will in time, then I'll know if its for me. I don't like the fiddling and carrying it all, but as Morturn commented in post mine just doesn't look right or realistic enough:o

 

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Doreen,

From my perspective, it is definately worth experimenting with nd filters to get long exposures. I also would not be against experimenting with grads: they do make a difference but you can easily get the same result in LR/PS. There seems to be quite a large number of professional photographers who swear by polarisers and who produce very good work. But I remain to be convinced. I am pleased that this topic generated so much comment. After all we learn from each other.

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Maybe I should have another go with LR/PS too. I am put off with the fear of cheating, When is a photograph not a photograph. Just had a pano image of mine using topaz impressions which I really love sent away to make a canvas print, I have it on the wall in my lounge. My daughter and family visited and commented on the image. "You haven't painted that mom", she looked at my signature. I explained it is a photograph I had taken with an added  textured filter added. "OH thats cheating"  :o  

Yes she's a fine artist.

 

 

 

Scotland Panorama .jpg

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