View Full Version : Filters in the Southwest

Bruce E. Rathbun
17-Jun-2001, 10:58
I will be shooting with 5"x7" Tri-X next week in southwest Colorado. Of concern is the choice of filters. I will be in Canyon De Chelly on a side trip. I have seen many shots both in color and black & white in the Canyon De Chelly area. Any thoughts on filter choice for black & white? I first thought that a yellow filter might help to increase the seperation. Then I read in one of Ansels books that he wanted to use a #47 blue filter but did not have that filter at the time. He used a #58 green. I do not wish to be too picky about this but any thoughts would help. Thanks for the help.

Jeff Buckels
17-Jun-2001, 12:08
Hi Bruce: I've been living in New Mexico since '75. I've never done a lot of landscape stuff, but I've done some, and you always hear a rule of thumb that green is the default filter, at least when you're shooting real desert scenes (like Canyon de Chelly). 'Course, all the usual stuff applies -- I mean, shooting C. de C. in way warm late light isn't the same thing as shooting in ice cold mid-day light .... -jb

David F. Stein
17-Jun-2001, 15:42
DO you want to sustain conventions or create new ones. I've never seen a black sky but I guess they must be out there in New Mexico, because I see them in pix after pix. I would use the 81A, 81B, 81C filters for color to ward off high altitude "blues."

Richard Boulware
17-Jun-2001, 16:38
I grew up in the Minnesota, Iowa area and the high humidity there is quite difference than here in the Colorado/New Mexico area where I now life. Filter wise, out here in the dry west, skys can get intense deep blue. My experience is that for B&W a standard orange filter here in the west is equal to a red 25 or even 29 in the humid midwest. That midwest humidity screens out a lot of the deep, outer space deep blue so common out here. A little bit of sky darkening filter goes a long way out here in the dry....deep blue sky country. Today visibility is at least `100 miles, as I can see Pikes Peak like is was just a mile away...clear and crisp. A red 25 would produce a near infrared kind of shop, and a 29 would guarantee it, hands down.s Good luck. Hope these thoughts help.

William Marderness
17-Jun-2001, 16:52
A blue filter will open up the shadows and darken red colors in the rock. Ansel wanted to do both in the situation you describe. Since he used a green filter, he darkened the reds, but did not get the shadow detail he had hoped for. Use a blue filter if you need more shadow detail and want to draken red lines in rock.

17-Jun-2001, 21:46
Eastern photographers please heed this thread. As a kentuckian who just returned from my first trip to the AZ desert I can testify to the importance of this topic. The light there is fundamentally different and needs to be experienced. I was completely unprepared for the difference and this kind of thread would have been very useful before my trip. My view of Weston, Adams et. al. changed when I saw the light they worked with. These filter and light issues become central concerns out there. Remarkable heavy light.

Bruce E. Rathbun
17-Jun-2001, 22:52
I do need to clarify one point. My original question was related to effect that the filter will have on the values of the canyon walls in the southwest region. Jim brought up an interesting point concerning the quality of light. Living in Indiana my standard filter for working with the sky is a 25. This filter will for the most part give the look of a western sky that was shot with a heavy yellow filter. Any suggestions as to what filter would give the sky a nice contrast with the clouds out west? I was thinking that a 23A would work but In I am not sure. That might be too strong. Again I thank everyone for the input.

John Bailey
17-Jun-2001, 23:31

As another flatlander from Indiana, I am not used to the difference in quality of light one sees in New Mexico and the West. I just got back from NM (and a special thank you to all the recommendations and suggestions from the LF community when I posted a question recently about NM!) and it is a different world of light. Not having been there in a few years, I immediately noticed the quality of light and the saturation even at mid day-let alone during early morning and late afternoon. I was shooting color in Sante Fe, so a polarizing filter was important. After this recent experience, my recommendation would be to take several filters (assuming you have them, can borrow them or can afford them). When you get there, your filtering decisions might change.

Enjoy Canyon De Chelly and where ever else you end up. By the way, I understand Sante Fe is having a photo event July 7 to July 15-sounds like a good reason for me to return!


John Bailey

John Bailey
18-Jun-2001, 01:19
Pardon me, I noticed I spelled Santa Fe wrong in two places in my prior post.

John Bailey

james mickelson
18-Jun-2001, 16:51
Remember that in the red rock country, the normally blue lit shadows are now red lit from the reflections of the red sandstone so a blue filter will have the effect of rendering the shadows darker. A red filter will decrease the contrast of the red rocks and a green 58 will offer the best overall contrast in the red rocks. A blue filter will render all skies blank white. And a polarizer will help cut down on all that refected specular light from the myriad silicon sand grains in the rock effectively cutting through the haze. James