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  • Graduated ND Filters - do you use them?

    I'd be interested to hear from anyone who uses Lee, Cokin or similar graduated ND filters.

    I've read a few articles recently where photographers have waxed lyrical about the benefits of such filters and how they deliver the required results (normally holding back the sky to balance exposure) much faster and easier than any post-processing method (e.g. merging bracketed shots).

    Trouble is, the kits are quite expensive just to trial so do the pros, semi-pros or advanced amateurs lurking on here think they're worth the outlay? I know they've been around for years (like me) but they're something I've never been tempted to buy before.

    I have to be honest though, I've had more than one landscape ruined by an over-exposed sky, even after using Stephen's tip of under-exposing by one stop (which definitely helps in a lot of cases).
    Stuart R
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/fred-canon/

    Life is an incurable disease with a 100% mortality rate

  • #2
    Re: Graduated ND Filters - do you use them?

    Originally posted by StuartR View Post
    I'd be interested to hear from anyone who uses Lee, Cokin or similar graduated ND filters.

    I've read a few articles recently where photographers have waxed lyrical about the benefits of such filters and how they deliver the required results (normally holding back the sky to balance exposure) much faster and easier than any post-processing method (e.g. merging bracketed shots).

    Trouble is, the kits are quite expensive just to trial so do the pros, semi-pros or advanced amateurs lurking on here think they're worth the outlay? I know they've been around for years (like me) but they're something I've never been tempted to buy before.

    I have to be honest though, I've had more than one landscape ruined by an over-exposed sky, even after using Stephen's tip of under-exposing by one stop (which definitely helps in a lot of cases).
    I had an extensive Cokin set about 25 years ago but not any more. I think a ND graduated set would be very handy, alongside a polariser, in the gadget bag. I may have to invest in one now you mention it!

    Ian
    Founder/editor
    Digital Photography Now (DPNow.com)
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    • #3
      Re: Graduated ND Filters - do you use them?

      Originally posted by StuartR View Post
      I'd be interested to hear from anyone who uses Lee, Cokin or similar graduated ND filters.

      I've read a few articles recently where photographers have waxed lyrical about the benefits of such filters and how they deliver the required results (normally holding back the sky to balance exposure) much faster and easier than any post-processing method (e.g. merging bracketed shots).

      Trouble is, the kits are quite expensive just to trial so do the pros, semi-pros or advanced amateurs lurking on here think they're worth the outlay? I know they've been around for years (like me) but they're something I've never been tempted to buy before.

      I have to be honest though, I've had more than one landscape ruined by an over-exposed sky, even after using Stephen's tip of under-exposing by one stop (which definitely helps in a lot of cases).
      Stuart, using an ND grad is arguably the best way to go with landscape photography, though its not necessarily the universal panacea, and many might argue that as you may well be using a tripod anyway, multiple exposure bracketing is easy and much cheaper. Also for relatively small differences in exposure the underexpose ploy is pretty dammed easy if you are confident with you software to be able to correct the dark areas.

      I have what could be called the Rolls Royce of systems by Lee. You will love their system Stuart You literally have to build the filter holder yourself, but the quality is undeniable, and they give you a nice brass screwdriver to do the business I bought the Hard ND Grad kit. I've never been sure whether I did the right thing and should have gone for the Soft kit. This refers to the level of graduation. Anyway, maybe one day In a moment of madness I will get the Soft kit. Frankly you need to be a bit mad to buy the Lee set, they are EXPENSIVE.

      However you do get more for your money than say the Cokin system. I compared the two and felt the Cokin was a much poorer quality, the mount was very plasticky and the actual filters were really not as good. I had read that the filters were not true Neutral Density but has some grey in too. Not sure of the truth in that, but iirc the filters were square and therefore didn't offer so much vertical adjustment in the holder as the Lee ones which are much longer 15x10cms. Lee set comes with 3 filters 0.3,0.6 and 0.9. The 0.9 is the darkest, though because there are several slots in the holder it is possible to double up if you wanted.

      I have to be honest and say that I haven't used them as often as I would have liked. This is mainly because they are fiddly to use. You really don't want to be using them if you are in a rush. The camera needs to be tripod so you have both hands free to fiddle with the filters, even getting them out of the special box is a skill IMHO you need to focused on what you are doing and go out with the intention of doing some considered work. Its absolutely no good going out with the family and expecting to use them You need time to yourself, and of course thats the best way to enjoy your photography anyway.

      I can though show you some examples of photos taken using the Lee filters.




      Stephen

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      • #4
        Re: Graduated ND Filters - do you use them?

        I have a Cokin set but haven't often used it. I keep forgetting about it and think it's stuffed away in a cupboard in the campervan.

        I recall Stephen getting the Lee filter system about the same time I got my Cokin set, which was a prezzie from one of my sons. Stephen remarked my cheaper Cokin was probably a "graduated grey" rather than a true graduated ND. I dunno as know nowt about the Lee system.

        What I do know though is that 7dayshop currently has a whole load of filters on special offer, including screw-on graduated grey filters for 5-80 along with grad blues, CP, UV,skylight etc in all sizes for about the same price.

        I grabbed a selection recently, including a graduated grey, when we each bought new 49mm lenses and were having a 'marital debate' over who should have what - now that we each have our own K10D and pretending we're sharing my lenses.

        I haven't tried the graduated grey yet - but I have remembereed to shove it into my kit bag now you've raised the topic.

        Here's the link for the 7dayshop offers. Could be worth a try before you splash out on anything else.


        Pol

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        • #5
          Re: Graduated ND Filters - do you use them?

          Originally posted by Stephen View Post

          I have to be honest and say that I haven't used them as often as I would have liked. This is mainly because they are fiddly to use.
          You beat me to it and posted whilst I was still typing. I realise your Lee filters are the bees knees - but it might be rude not to grab one or two of the 7dayshop current special offers.

          Pol

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          • #6
            Re: Graduated ND Filters - do you use them?

            Originally posted by Pol View Post
            You beat me to it and posted whilst I was still typing. I realise your Lee filters are the bees knees - but it might be rude not to grab one or two of the 7dayshop current special offers.

            Pol
            I've been looking Pol, they are certainly bargains. However I can't really get my head round a screw on Graduated filter. Grad filters really need to be adjusted vertically without compromising the composition which you would have to do with a screw on so far as I can see.
            Stephen

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            • #7
              Re: Graduated ND Filters - do you use them?

              Originally posted by Stephen View Post
              I've been looking Pol, they are certainly bargains. However I can't really get my head round a screw on Graduated filter. Grad filters really need to be adjusted vertically without compromising the composition which you would have to do with a screw on so far as I can see.
              I use a couple of grad filters, I bought from a company in Luton. They are screw on and rotate as needed, trouble is its not that easy to see the difference in the view finder: solution a white mark with Tipex on darkest edge on the rotating part of the filter mount.
              Screw on filters are more convenient to use as the camera can be hand held if required, but if you change the orientation of the camera you need to remember to turn the filter, the white make comes into its own for quick and easy change.

              Be sure to buy Neutral density rather than grey or any other colour as an unwanted colour cast could result.

              Patrick

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              • #8
                Re: Graduated ND Filters - do you use them?

                I hope this doesn't sound like a completely ridiculous question Could you use a non-grad ND filter slid down only enough to cover say the sky? If so would this not have the same effect as a properly fitted hard grad ND?

                jo

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                • #9
                  Re: Graduated ND Filters - do you use them?

                  Originally posted by jojo View Post
                  I hope this doesn't sound like a completely ridiculous question Could you use a non-grad ND filter slid down only enough to cover say the sky? If so would this not have the same effect as a properly fitted hard grad ND?

                  jo
                  You could, but there would be a danger of 'seeing' the edge of the filter. Also there would literally be no Grad effect. The hard grad filter does not have a definite line where the ND part starts and the clear area finishes. There is in fact some feathering along the line, it is just a greater degree of feathering in the Soft versions
                  Stephen

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                  • #10
                    Re: Graduated ND Filters - do you use them?

                    Hi,
                    In my film days I used Cokin filters and a circular Polarizer and some close up screw on diopters,X 1-2 and 3. The graduated ND set was always superior to the Grad Grey in my opinion. I still have them for my film camera but the screw on's are to small for my digi camera. And yes they do work.
                    Catch Ya Later
                    Tinka

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                    • #11
                      Re: Graduated ND Filters - do you use them?

                      Originally posted by Pol View Post

                      I recall Stephen getting the Lee filter system about the same time I got my Cokin set, which was a prezzie from one of my sons. Stephen remarked my cheaper Cokin was probably a "graduated grey" rather than a true graduated ND. I dunno as know nowt about the Lee system.

                      I haven't tried the graduated grey yet - but I have remembereed to shove it into my kit bag now you've raised the topic.

                      Pol
                      I have to jump in here Pol, not nit picking, just trying to be helpful! TRUE ND filters are gray, see the explanation [ame]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutral_density_filter[/ame] and [ame]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graduated_ND_filter[/ame]. The problem with the cheaper ones is that they may not be a true gray, thus introducing a colour cast.

                      Roger

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                      • #12
                        Re: Graduated ND Filters - do you use them?

                        Originally posted by rogleale View Post
                        I have to jump in here Pol, not nit picking, just trying to be helpful! TRUE ND filters are gray, see the explanation HERE and HERE. The problem with the cheaper ones is that they may not be a true gray, thus introducing a colour cast.

                        Roger
                        No problem, Roger, I'm absolutely sure you know a lot more about these things than me so thanks for the links.

                        Pol

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                        • #13
                          Re: Graduated ND Filters - do you use them?

                          Thank you very much (as ever!) Stephen

                          jo

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