View Full Version : I've gotten into a b&w filter rut?

John Kasaian
11-Jun-2008, 08:40
I generally don't like heavily filtered landscapes and my own useage of filters are predicated on employing filters to record visual elements which the film has a difficult time with. As a result though, it seems that I've become fixated on using just two filters---#11 and #21---or no filter at all. The rest of my filters languish unused, even the #8 (except on the f/9 G Claron, for some reason I haven't yet determined---#8 just "feels" right to me on the "G") and #17 (which at one time in the distant past I regarded as a "magic bullet"--no kidding!)

About heavy filtration, I realize that the #11 and #21 are fairly strong by comparison to, say the #8, but the effects seem more natural to me, while something like a #25 nearly always seems to be "over the top."

My concern is that maybe I'm just getting too lazy---the daylight filter factor for both #11 and #21 is 2-stops so it is easily remembered ;)

My question is--is this a normal thing? Do any others out there find themselves "stuck" on either one or two filters for nearly every shot where a filter is employed?
I'm just curious:confused:

11-Jun-2008, 08:50
They probably just work well with your film and the way it responds to your subjects. I never use my yellow/green, but I do use the orange from time to time. For the most part though, I don't use any filters unless there is something very specific that I want to control. What types of subjects are you working with?

- Randy

Brian Ellis
11-Jun-2008, 08:54
I've always followed John Sexton's advice and used filters very sparingly in b&w photography, mostly to separate tones that otherwise would merge and occasionally to darken (but not blacken) a blue sky. So I guess the rut I'm stuck in is no filter at all most of the time. But as to your situation, there's really only four filters typically (I think) used in b&w photography - yellow, orange, red and green - and because of the effect of red on foliage I seldom find it useful. That leaves three so I wouldn't think using two most of the time is too unusual, orange is my most used filter and green next. A polarizer technically isn't a filter so I haven't mentioned it and while I have a blue filter I don't think I've ever used it. Obviously others may use different filters or use filters differently than I do.

11-Jun-2008, 09:16
I would agree to use filters sparingly, however for B&W, I think most people agree that a mild yellow filter more faithfully reproduces the feel of the blue sky that you see. (from what I've read anyway). Me, I usually like a bit more dramatic than that, so I find myself shooting with a medium or dark yellow filter (sometimes combined with a polarizer) and even a red filter. I go through phases though, sometimes I like dark dramatic skies and strong tone separation, sometimes I like a smoother image with more gradual tones.

Mark Sampson
11-Jun-2008, 09:35
The #17 filter must be a magic bullet- I'd never heard of it, and it's not listed in my Kodak Wratten filters book. Personally I think a #6 is very useful, allowing for some tone in humid Eastern skies without overpowering anything else in the image. As far as being in a 'rut', well, your pictures will show you if that's the case, better than any of us can.

Eric Leppanen
11-Jun-2008, 11:08
My primary problem when shooting B&W is sky management: not blowing out the sky while adding exposure to open up shadow areas; improving tonal separation so that the tops of buildings or landscape features retain strong, distinct outlines against a sky background; etc. As a result I usually find myself using two filters: #21 for architecture, and #16 for landscapes (less impact on foliage than the #21). I have yellow, green, blue and red filters but rarely use them.

Ole Tjugen
11-Jun-2008, 11:38
Most of the time I use no filters at all. I've found that this gives adequate sky/cloud separation anyway - as long as I stick to FP4+. Other films require a light yellow filter to give the same result, so that's what I use when I remember both to bring it and to use it.

This sometimes worries me a little, since I have just about every conceivable filter - somewhere.

Ron Marshall
11-Jun-2008, 13:05
For about 80% of my b/w shots I don't use a filter. Then it is about 10% #12, 5% #21, 5% #11.

Polarizer I count separately, because for b/w I often use it with the #12.

Gary L. Quay
14-Jun-2008, 04:05
I made the mistake of using a red # 25 filter most of the time for many years because I like the drama of the images it produced. I have notebooks filled with proof sheets from my hasselblad and a red filter. When I finally bought a view camera, and built my own darkroom, however, two things occurred to me. 1) Most of the images I had previously chosen to have enlerged were archetectural, as opposed to landscapes. This seemed odd, since I spent most of my time shooting landscapes. 2) When I started enlarging my landscapes in the darkroom, I found them stark, and unnatural.

At this time, I'm still testing which filters look best under which situation. I generally shoot the same images with at least two, possibly three filters, and match them up on a proof sheet to see which one looks best.