View Full Version : High Elevation Filters?

Dan V
8-Mar-2006, 22:56
I'm planning a fall trip to the Zion and Bryce areas and expect to shoot Velvia and Astia. What high-altitude problems can I expect and which filters should I carry?

Mark Stahlke
9-Mar-2006, 00:00
Be very carefull using polarizers at high altitude unless you like black skies.

UV can also be a problem up high. I don't know the elevation of Zion and Bryce but I don't think they are high enough for UV to be an issue. I might be wrong on that so it's best to be prepared.


George Stewart
9-Mar-2006, 06:37
I once saw a demonstration of various UV filters, using a strong UV-light source. All the filters appeared to be the same (optically-clear). Most of those filters had little to no effect blocking UV. One, the Tiffen 2A, blocked nearly all the UV.

When it came time for my trip to shoot color at high altitude, I purchased two 2A filters. What a difference! Having shot with many UV filters for many years, I've found none that performed like the Tiffen. My other filters for S/M/LF are B+W.

Joseph O'Neil
9-Mar-2006, 09:30
I don't shoot colour, only B&W, but I can tell you on B&W film, the UV effect - at least to me and my limited milage - starts to become noticeable starting roughly around 5 to 6,000 feet above sea level (ASL). I duno how high you will be in the Zion and Bryce areas, but anything near 8,000 feet and more it really comes to play.

One other warning - once you get 8,000 feet ASL, it gets hard moving around. IN subtle ways. I used to do some flying many moons ago, and i well remember, above 10,000 feet for more than 30 minutes, go on oxygen. Well, even close to that level, a whole day, hiking, moving about, it can wear you down real fast, and altitude sickness ain't pretty, so just use some common sense and take it easy if you feel a bit tired. because it can creep up on you real slow.

good luck

Warren Weckesser
9-Mar-2006, 09:42
From the NPS web page (http://www.nps.gov/zion/ParkProfile.htm):

Elevation : highest 8,726 ft (2660 m) Horse Ranch Mountain
lowest 3,666 ft (1128 m) Coalpits Wash

Richard Schlesinger
9-Mar-2006, 11:44
I just came back from a trip through Zion and Bryce. I shot only B&W with a #15 filter, which moderately darkend sky and added a bit of contrast. I did no hiking (it was very cold) and just walking from my vehicle out to the view point at the top of Bryce (I think the sign said 9000 feet) was too much. The wind was around 20 - 25 knots, temp. below freezing. Be prepared! Metal tripods and cameras are difficult in those conditions.

Neal Shields
9-Mar-2006, 13:48
I have a friend of mine that did some high altitude documentary filming and the color shift was so bad that they had to change the script that they wrote while filming, because some of the houses that they were describing as one color were a completely different color on the film and it was too late to go back and re-shoot. Of course no one watching the film knew the difference except the people that owned the houses. I suspect your exposure will also be off but not enough to matter.

He is now a fanatic on using a color temperature meter and color correction filters. I suspect you are see a marked shift toward the red if you don't correct it.

9-Mar-2006, 14:15
Red or blue? The higher you go the higher the colour temp. Isn't it?

Stephen Willard
9-Mar-2006, 20:48
I do 90% of my shooting between 10,000 and 14.000 feet. I very rarely use filters. On occasion I will use a Polarizing filter. I have never had the skies turn black on me. Of course. I do not use slide film, but rather, color negative film.

On some very rare occasions I have had a slight color shifting occur, but it was not noticeable to most who buy my prints.

Mark Volle
9-Mar-2006, 21:30
I have shot a lot of film at high elevations and tried a LOT of different filters. It depends a lot on the lens. Some lenses the UV filters don't seem to make any significant difference and others, it greatly reduces the glare, increases contrast and makes a nearly complete transformation.

Another caution, some light meters, in camera and hand held, respond with wildly varying readings under high UV conditions.

I have never had polarizing filters do more than what they appeared to do on the glass, but there are conditions where they can darken a sky too much and you may want to back off a little to less than the full attenuation it is capable of.

There are excellent, "real" UV filters like the B+W 415 "Strong UV Haze". I have also liked the Singh-Ray Hi-Lux filter. I can't guarantee what all it is doing, but warming and UV filtering render 8,000 ft landscape material more like sea level.

Aaron van de Sande
10-Mar-2006, 10:34
Make sure you bring lots of fluid. You dehydrate pretty quickly at 10,000 feet at 10% humidity. Dehydration rapidly effects your judgement.

Neal Shields
10-Mar-2006, 15:08
We are large format photographers that shoot pictures with film and heavy expensive cameras and lenses, when we could just buy a tiny little digital and stick it in our shirt pocket.

How much "judgement" do you think we have to effect?

Dan V
11-Mar-2006, 15:25
Thanks for everyone's input. I will check into the 2A and 415 filters. Mark, now you've got me wondering whether I should be concerned about my Pentax digital spot meter functioning properly at 8,000-10,000 feet.

Mark Volle
12-Mar-2006, 21:34
Dan, I don't want to send you off doubting your meter, there are enough variables without that.

I would try making a meter reading with and without the 415 filter in front of the meter. I think that there is enough glass in front of the sensor of the Pentax that there isn't much UV left at the sensor. Meters with little or no glass in front are more susceptible.

Rich Voninski
13-Mar-2006, 12:23
For my color work I have been using a Moose Peterson Polarizer which combines the 81A/B alongside the polarizer filter. It seems to really help at altitude with keeping the image from turning too cold.