View Full Version : Yellow filters for B+W snow recommendations

John Kasaian
15-Nov-2003, 18:49
I expect to start taking pictures of snow scenes by the end of the month---the 203 Ektar will be married to a graphic "C" board good and proper this weekend and from the cannibal box, I exhumed a 33mm series VI slip on adapter and got it to fit on the Ektar. Rummaging further, I found a K2 Series VI, but no other yellow filters. What I'm wondering is, what does the current school of thought consider an adequate yellow filter for snow? Ansel Adams, I believe, councils on the use of the K8 in his books. What will I gain using a darker, or lighter yellow filter with snow? I want the chrystalline structure of the snow, drama in the sky, and evergreen foliage and trunks that will show definition well. Will the K2 help or do I need to find a darker yellow one on....(gasp!)...ebay? This may sound like a dumb question but I don't recall ever using a K2, in fact I wasn't even aware that I owned one! I've always favored either the K8 or No. 16 Orange, but I don't have any of those in a Series VI mount. Thanks for any and all ideas!

15-Nov-2003, 20:28
I nearly went out of my mind yesterday, looking for a 33mm adapter for the 203 Ektar. I know there's one here somewhere (stuck on another lens, I think), but dammit I can't find it anywhere. Finally said to hell with it and used my 210 Dagor, which has a Series 6 adapter stuck on it so tight that it'll never come off. Unless you're shooting in the high altitude light of our western mountains, I think a K2 should probably keep the snow from burning out your negatives. Sounds like a good place for a Polaroid.

Tom Perkins
15-Nov-2003, 20:34
John, I live along the Eastern Sierra, and for anything at my altitude (4,500)or higher I have found that the K2 is more than adequate. It does provide some texture to the snow, but there are many times when the sky is fine without any filtration, and the use of no filtration can make it easier to carry a sense of light, although this is a matter of taste. At this altitude, the darker yellow will darken the shadows and skies considerably; it is more practical for increase of contrast in fairly flat light. I wouldn't know how to handle it at lower altitude, probably go with the deep yellow. Good luck. Tom Perkins

Alex Milne
16-Nov-2003, 00:47

I agree with Tom. I use the K2 and have found it to hold the texture and scintillations in snow in most situations. Whether high altitude or sea-level. The bigger issue in my mind is always which zone to put the snow in??!!!

Best of luck.


Doremus Scudder
16-Nov-2003, 01:43

I am of the same opinion as Alex. Snow is white, i.e. colorless, and the use of a filter of any color will have little effect on the rendition of the evenly-lit portions. However, at high altitudes there can be more UV light, which can cause the snow to be exposed a bit higher than the meter reading. Having a film with good detail holding capacity past Zone VIII is helpful. A light yellow filter (6 or 8) will cut the UV but might darken the shadows somewhat.

The choice of filter comes into play when you are dealing with sunlit snow and clear blue skies, since all the shadowed areas on the snow, including the micro-shadows under the individual grains of snow and ice are lit with light that is predominantly blue. Using too strong a filter (to darken the sky a lot for example) will also darken these blue shadows. How luminous the snow appears often has to do with how these shadows are placed and how much micro-contrast there is in textured areas. Too much contrast often appears harsh. I've had good luck many times with no filters at all, or just a polarizing filter. Placing the shadows high (Zone V or higher sometimes) also preserves the luminous quality of sunlit snow. At any rate, unless you really need to darken the shadows, I would caution against using too strong of filters in bright sunlit situations. However, in hazy situations, you may need an orange or even a red filter depending on what effect you are after.

There is no correct filter for snow. You need to know how you want the scene rendered tonally, be able to meter and visualize to see how it will be rendered in the "Normal" case and then apply the filters and Zone System tools to achieve your desires. Practice and some creative bracketing will help.

Good luck

John Kasaian
16-Nov-2003, 07:16
This forum is great---it sounds like less filtration is what I've needed all along---thank you all!

Peter Collins
16-Nov-2003, 12:46
What's a "K2" in terms of designations like No. 8, 11, 16, or three-digit coding like 090 for Wratten 25A?

More helpful would be knowing where to find a table of equivalences in numbering/labeling for this guy. Any help?


John Kasaian
16-Nov-2003, 14:17

I really messed up here! For some reason, my Wratten K2 looked much lighter yellow than my Lee No.8 filter. According to Kodak's Professional Photoguide, which has a section on B&W filters they are one and the same animal. Perhaps the wratten gel in the series VI faded a bit over the years? That might be possible since it came with a bunch of stuff in a Kodak 16mm Cine camera case with a receipt from the Brooklyn Navy Yard dated 1947---or, maybe its just the 18%"grey matter" in my ol' noggin thats faded!

Heres some equivalents courtesy of Kodak: K2=No.8, G=No.15, A=No.25, X1=No.11. The three digit equivalents are...are...I have no idea. Maybe Bob Solomon could help since one of the products he represents is, I think, Heliopan or B+W. FWIW, Kodak's Professional Photoguide also gives wratten filter factors for use with specific(Kodak of course) films

I recall Simmon's Using The View Camera also has a table of filters, but then it seems as though my "recall" might need to be recalled.


Robert A. Zeichner
16-Nov-2003, 14:35
A Wratten K2 is virtually the same as a #8. A #9 is barely deeper, but my favorite filter of all, the Wratten G is darker yet and is equivalent to a #15. That said, the reason you use a yellow or dark yellow or Orange filter when shooting snow is to darken the tiny shadows cast by the snow particles as light strikes the scene at an angle. Without a filter, the shadows which are pretty bright and rich in UV just blend into the highlight areas creating a blocked out result. With a filter, the UV is trapped and the snow now takes on some textural qualities which result in the highlights looking like, well, snow....fluffly, grainy, powdery, whatever you might call it. The darker the filter you use, the darker the shadows will be rendered. Keep this in mind when there is green foliage in the scene. The temptation to use a red filter would certainly work to make the snow appear to have textural detail, but it will also render greens as dark, almost black in some cases, an effect you might want to avoid. All the above is true for shooting white clapboard buildings as well as white cement or cinder block structures.

James Venis
17-Nov-2003, 09:48
This is a little tangential to the original question, but I wonder if Mr. Scudder would comment on how he determines exposure when using a polarizing filter.