- ViewDrogheda.ie launched
- Irelands newest Canon Pro Centre
- A wedding at a beautiful location….
- Podcasts I like….
- Mid-Louth Camera Club Exhibition 2012
- Some Basic Filter advice….
- Write down those photo ideas…
- My Apple Life
- Tips for shooting Panoramas
- Ballydowane Cove, Waterford
- A quick visit to Salterstown
- Tips for shooting Seascapes
- A quick visit to Clogherhead…
- Just about happy…..
- The Arctic light
Monthly Archives: January 2012
As you may be aware I shoot a lot of landscape and architectural photographs. For landscapes I'd say I use filters in 95% of my shots to balance exposures and/or control shutter speeds. With architectural (especially exteriors) its roughly the same. To be honest both forms of photography are very similar in setup.... from timing to equipment how one sets out to take photos of a beautiful seascape or a modern piece of architecture are very alike. What I will try to explain below is, what filters are what, what they do to your images and advise on whats best for your camera system. I'll speak almost exclusively about Neutral Density filters and just tip on polarizers towards the end.
I'll start by explaining all the terminology. Ok so there are basically a few different types of filters. Neutral density filters themselves come in 3 different variants (that I am aware of). A plain full neutral density filter is one where there is no gradation across the width of the filter. So from top to bottom of the resin/glass it will be a neutral grey. They come in either square or rectangular slide format or circular screw in types. Why do they call it neutral you might ask....? Theoretically they are a neutral grey and shouldn't cast any colours across the area of the image they are used upon. In reality most ND filters cast some amount of colour but with some being much more 'neutral' than others. I've tried a few different types starting with Cokin that give a purple/pink tone to B+W which give a brown/orange and finally to Lee (where I remain) that give as neutral a colour balance I have seen so far with maybe a very very slight blue cast on heavier grads. Of course all casts are removable in post processing if shooting RAW but it can get tricky when using graduated filters where they only effect part of the image. These graduated filters are exactly that... graduated from grey to completely clear. They come in a few different types.... hard graduated, soft graduated and reverse grads. Hard graduated filters fade from dark to clear quite quickly. Upon measuring they fade in around 8mm. Soft graduated filters on the other hand fade much slower across the frame. Upon measurement they fade in around 30mm. The other type of filter is a reverse ND filter (or stripe filter) which has a dark central portion. All these filters are available in various formats, colours, materials and intensities. This intensity is general measured in F-stops but is also sometimes measured as optical density or percentage transmission. Have a look at the table below (from Wikipedia) for various densities and what they equate to (Lee write the optical density on their filters) ....
|ND||FRACTION||OPTICAL DENSITY||F-STOP||% TRANSMITTANCE|
One question that I am always being asked by fellow photographers is 'What type of filters should I buy...??? Hard or soft graduated'. I always answer this question based on my own personal experience in using the Lee system. I have both hard and soft and soft ND filters and have used them for both landscape and architectural photography. Personally I have found that on a 35mm equivalent digital sensor (5d or 5d2) that the hard grads work best. I find that the graduation from grey to clear to be about enough when used on both wide angle and short telephoto lens. In terms of usage I would say I use the hard grads about 85% of the time. Grads in general would have less of an effect on a cropped sensor as technically the graduation would be happening across a greater area of the frame. If using soft grads on a cropped sensor on a wide angle lens the effect of the graduation would be so gentle that one might nit see the effect of its use on the image. As a basic test I measured the size of the front element glass on the front of my Canon 17-40L, a fairly typical and popular wide angle lens on both full frame and cropped Canons. It measures approximately 55mm.Considering tolerances of the sensor etc I'd say around 50mm of that is used. If using a soft grad on a full frame 35mm camera you'd be left with around 10mm above and below the graduation. In use I have found this to be just about useable on full frame but the effects when using anything under a 2 stop grad are hard to see on the finished images. On a cropped sensor the effect of the soft grad would be even less pronounced. So on that basis I would always recommend Hard Graduated filters for 35mm equivalent DSLR cameras (full frame or cropped sensor). Lee themselves give similar advice....
Now I will list a few reasons why one should use neutral density filters......
- To purposely slow your shutter speed for a specific effect eg. blurring water, motion blur or to make moving items (like cars or people) disappear
- To decrease your depth of field on very bright days. If you want to use an aperture of f1.8 but the shutter speed ends up being over the maximum of your camera you can lower that shutter speed by reducing the amount of light coming into your camera with an ND filter.
- You might use a grad filter to balance the exposure in a scene where there is a big dynamic range across the frame.
There may be a few others but the ones above are the reasons that I use ND filters anyway...!!!
Of course there are Polarizing filters as well and while technically they are not ND filters they do reduce the amount of light coming into your lens by between 1.5 and 2.5 stops. So the effects listed above would also be achieved. Polarizers can also enhance colours in blue skys and vegetation by reducing the amount of glare and reflection. This reduction in reflection can be used to great effect when shooting in shallow waters where there are nice rock formations just below the surface. Also useful for reducing reflection in glass...! If shooting skies ensure you shoot at the best angle - for nice blue skies move around so that the sun is at 90 degrees to the subject - anything more or less and the saturation is reduced and the effect wasted. Be careful using them on extremely wide angle lens on blue sky days as some parts of the sky will look overly saturated and false. To be honest I generally use polarizers for reducing reflection and haze as the saturation effect I can almost mimic in post processing. Vignetting can also be an issue on wide angle lens so try to use slim versions. Circular screw in versions are generally easier to use and easily available therefore more popular.
Ok shit I am babbling again.... This was supposed to be a short post..... I hope my advice (ramblings...????) help someone when choosing or using filters. I may expand this post in time to speak more about the usage of ND filters but for the moment I'll leave it as is...! I'll finish by giving you a few links for further info and advice.....
Basically I have a head like a sieve...! I'm often walking along listening to my music, or sitting looking out the window of the bus, daydreaming, when suddenly, in jumps an idea for a photograph into my head. Pretty soon after that the idea jumps right back out again. That was until a very talented friend of mine mentioned to me that he had the same problem but sorted it very simply. He kept a small notepad with him at all times and when those fleeting ideas entered his head he jotted them down...! So I copied him and have been doing it every since. Recently I've started doing it on the iPad and iPhone instead and its synced with all my other Apple devices as a constant reminder that I have work to do. Haha..... So there.... no more excuses for being a numbskull like me...!
Firstly many apologies for the massive gap in my blog. I've been fairly busy at work and at home and kinda lost interest for a while. I have a few ideas in my head for future posts..... Anyway I started typing this post in early October so here go's.....
October 5th 2011 was a sad sad day for me and any other Apple product users out there. Steve Jobs death whilst somewhat expected due to his recent illnesses was still a big shock to everyone. His vision and drive where unrivaled and ultimately unique. He drove everyone around him to be better, not just those that worked with him but everyone that used his beautifully designed products. I found out about his death as I was eating my breakfast and struggled to hold back the tears.... tears for someone I never met but I felt like I knew so well...! For any of you who havent already seen his Stanford commencement speech made in 2005 please watch it below... I challenge you not to let it touch you in some way.....
Anyway lets get one thing out of the way.... yes I am an Apple fanboy... yes I am a nerd when it comes to my gadgets - and most of them are Apple..! Now thats off my chest I'll begin to explain my Apple life so far and how their equipment has adjusted and enhanced the way I work and live.
It all started around 18 years back when I went on work experience to McGarry Ní Éanaigh Architects. I was there for a week and was using Microstation on a Macintosh IICX. It had a 16Mhz processor and a hardisk of 40MB.... yes thats MB not GB....! At the time it was a pretty dam good machine and it drove 2 monitors... a 13 inch colour monitor and a 19 inch greyscale one. Compared to the PC's I had used in college beforehand it was very very fast and I found it really easy to get around. It cost around £3500 and that was without monitor, keyboard or mouse....! At the end of the week I was pretty much converted to Mac but new it would be a good few years until I could afford my own. As it happens I was also asked back on a temporary basis a few weeks later. I'm still temporary 18 years later. hahaha. So throughout my years in McGarry Ní Éanaigh I used everything from this IICX, various PowerMacs, G3, G4, G5's, G4 Cubes, MacMinis, XServes, iMacs from the very first one to my current 27inch Core i5 beast...!
Eventually I saved enough money to buy my own personal Mac at home and bought a G4 Cube. I bought it because at the time it was the cheapest way to get a Mac with a G4 processor. It was a beautiful machine and revolutionary in its design and size but it wasn't without its faults and ended up being one of Apples failures. Over time I needed more power and lusted after the PowerMac G5 from the day it was released. Again it was a crazy expensive machine but having a dual-processor and room for an extra harddrive and loads of Ram I thought it would fulfill my needs for my new hobby - photography....! The thing is with every new camera I bought the bigger the file size got and the more storage, ram and power was needed to process and store these images. The G5 did the job perfectly for around 4 years but I had upgraded everything I could and hardrives where beginning to fill so it was time to move on. Being a tower based machine I decided to make the logical jump to a MacPro. I got a nice one off eBay - new with dual quad core chips and a shite load of ram. Happy days. I nickname it 'The Beast' as it literally eats everything I throw at it without any issues...!
In the middle of all this I was now secretary in Mid Louth Camera Club and was running a lot of the digital workshop nights. A laptop was essential for this stuff so I bought a Powerbook G4. I got lucky with this one... I happened to be in PC World in Dundalk and I noticed they had the wrong price on it and they never noticed. Saved over €500 on that one...! Nice.... hahahaha...! I had that for nearly 5 years before for software incompatibility reasons I upgraded to the machine I am typing this post upon.... The MacBook Pro has been my base for nearly all communications, presentations and general day to day use. For the serious processing I still rely on the beast...! Recently I've had a few issues with the MacBook Pro but having purchased an extended warranty (from Ebay for really cheap) I'm confident that it'll be back to normal in no time at all. Basically with the Apple Extended Warranty I make a quick phone call or website visit, get a Case ID and drop it into my local Apple repair centre. Easy and simple...
Of course now that I am working in Dublin I have to make that bloody commute every day. Until a couple of months ago I was was hauling the laptop up and down the motorway. Every morning and evening I pushed onto the bus hoping to get the the back seat where there is a little bit extra space. Why...???? Because my laptop wouldn't open completely in the other seats. So I bit the bullet and offloaded a lens I didn't use much and bought an iPad 2. It was going to happen eventually as I am known for my love of gadgets and to me this is the ultimate. To say I love it is an understatement. When they where first released I did question how they would fit into the Apple lineup and doubted their success. But for someone travelling/commuting (with a bad back...!) its perfect. With every software update it improves too. Yes I also have an iPhone.... I queued to get the first one, second one and now the iPhone 4. I'll wait a while before getting the iPhone 4s but only because my contract isn't up until January. Now with Netflix being available in Ireland for all my devices it makes using the iPad especially even sweeter.
Speaking of Netflix.... I also have an AppleTV. Every weekend I sit back put the feet up and watch a movie or 2 with the missus. Until I got the AppleTV 2 I would make a 10 mile roundtrip to my nearest Xtra-Vision and rent 2 movies to cover 2 nights viewing. Now I save on the petrol and just rent the same movies off the AppleTV. Netflix has made it and even better device with loads of older movies and interesting documentaries at my disposal...!
So thats where I am at with Apple. I'm a happy camper so to speak. Without Jobs at the helm I reckon the next few years could be really interesting.