View Full Version : B&W filters for urban shooters

Paul Metcalf
24-May-2010, 17:26
Hey urban shooters -
Do you use any filtration for B&W? I'll be doing some handheld 4x5 with my Linhof in NYC at the end of May and was wondering if I should bring any filtration. I'm thinking a polarizer for any shots with sky, possible a yellow for same, but was wondering if any filters (e.g. light blue) would help with non-sky shots (but under a blue/sunny sky) in keeping details in shadows? Maybe just a skylight filter? Obviously I need to keep the shutter speeds up and not get too complicated. I'll be using a Kodak Ektar 127mm with a Kodak Series VI hood (thanks to another post) so looking at using the drop-in filters for that. Advice?

Walter Calahan
24-May-2010, 17:51
A standard yellow filter will help. Keep your rig simple.

For looking up with drama, you might add a red filter to your bag.

David de Gruyl
24-May-2010, 19:10
I don't go anywhere with out a yellow filter, but for shadows... you don't want one.

Urban shooting, by its nature, involves lots of shadows and little sky. Unless you are somewhere else, of course. I would have a yellow filter with me, but probably not use it often.

I have no idea where to get filters for series VI, but I suspect KEH does (used).

24-May-2010, 19:24
I keep a K2 on the Crown, and a Polarizer and Softar #1 in the camera bag.

Richard Wasserman
24-May-2010, 20:12
I think a polarizer is going to eat up too much light. My favorite B&W filter is a yellow-green, but hand-held in the city I probably wouldn't use a filter at all. What film will you be using?

24-May-2010, 20:31
Ive not shot urban photography with my Crown yet, but with my 35mm SLR or MF folder I generally dont use a filter for hand held shooting in the city. You will want all the light you can get, yellow/orange/red will add too much contrast and darken the shadows, blue filter will darken skin colors. A skylight filter wont harm but Im not sure it will do much good either, and a polarizer will be difficult to deal with if you are moving around and not composing on the ground glass.

If I bring something its a red filter for a chance of a dramatic sky shot.

24-May-2010, 21:23
Orange, lt. & medium yellow, #11 green, yellow-green, red and Pol. Don't discount portraits where the #11 might come in handy. Series filters should be easy enough to find.

Paul Metcalf
25-May-2010, 06:48
What film will you be using?
FP4+ if enough light (@ 64), and TXP (@160).

Didn't think about skin tones with blue filter, good call. Was just thinking of opening up the shadows.

I think I'll go sans filters, but maybe carry a light yellow (K1/K2). Series VI filters are pretty easy to find, getting them really dirt cheap is part of the challenge (and fun).

Thanks all.

25-May-2010, 07:23
In the urban environment I generally shoot nekkid, because of the shadows. For landscape work I'll use a Yellow or Orange filter. I have a Red filter but it doesn't see the light of day much.

Brian Ellis
25-May-2010, 07:42
If you edit in Photoshop you can basically duplicate the effect of all standard b&w filters except a polarizer. In fact you can do better because you control the effect. I used to carry a full complement of b&w filters - yellow, dark yellow, orange, green, and red plus polarizer. Now I only carry a polarizer.

I think you'd find a polarizer useful even if you use Photoshop. You'll likely have reflections from windows, metals, etc. in an urban environment that you might want to minimize, plus you can use the polarizer to darken skies to much the same effect as a yellow or orange filter, depending on the angle of the light source. You'll lose a couple stops though so you'll probably want to use a 400 ISO film such as HP5+.

25-May-2010, 08:07
All the straight edges in a city makes my 2-stop GND filter very useful.

Sometimes, I’ll “reverse” it for a sunny boulevard running below a shaded fašade.

Other times, I’ll align it “sideways” against a building’s vertical edge (to preserve the bright sky alongside it). Also, a glass building may be much more reflective than an adjacent one of stone.

And plenty of “modern” architecture challenges you w/ diagonal lines…