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Thread: ND grad filters advice please

  1. #1

    ND grad filters advice please

    I was looking to get some ND gradual filters for colour landscapes and noticed that Lee do a hard and a soft version, my question is, on what occasion would you use hard as opposed to soft?

    To my small mind I would have thought you always would want soft so it looks as natural as possible.

    P.s is it worth getting the set of three different densities or do you generally only use one strength for landscape work?

  2. #2

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    Re: ND grad filters advice please

    Hi Dave,

    hard edged ND grads can be very useful with seascapes for example, where the horizon is straight and well defined.
    I have got both soft and hard ND grads (Lee), but only 0.6 and 0.9 as I would not need the 1 stop version very often. 0.6 is my most used one.
    I couldn't tell which one (soft or hard) I use more often.

  3. #3

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    Re: ND grad filters advice please

    Generally, if you aren't shooting in the conditions described by Aender, you could probably get the most bang for your buck with the soft set. The 2-stop soft is my most-used filter, but the one stop is also very useful in those conditions where I'm shooting Velvia and the exposure of the sky is just out of the film's range.

  4. #4
    Glenn Mellen
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    Re: ND grad filters advice please

    I have both soft and hard gradiant ND's... a three filter set of soft Lee filters (.3, .6, .9), and a two-filter set of hard HiTechs (.6 and .9). The reason for the HiTech hards instead of the Lee... their hard isn't quite as hard a gradiant as the Lee. The softs are used all the time (especially the .6)... the hards infrequently (only used for flat horizons).

    It's well worth buying the 3-filter set of at least the softs. They can be doubled up if more effect needed. They can be doubled up with one effecting sky and another darkening foreground. They can be used for more than simply darkening skies (like vertically darkening one side of a scene).

    If one doesn't want to spend so much at one time... as Ben notes, the 2-stop soft will most likely be your most-used filter, and would be the one I would start with.

  5. #5

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    Re: ND grad filters advice please

    Quote Originally Posted by anchored View Post

    It's well worth buying the 3-filter set of at least the softs. They can be doubled up if more effect needed. They can be doubled up with one effecting sky and another darkening foreground. They can be used for more than simply darkening skies (like vertically darkening one side of a scene).
    This is a very good point that I wish I would have realized a long time ago.

    One other thing you should know is that when you are shooting lake reflections, you can use one of the grads to darken the reflection (probably a 1-stop) if you have applied 2 or 3-stop ND filtration to the sky. You don't want the reflection being brighter than the sky that is being reflected - a physical impossibility.

    Grad filters are a lot more flexible than many realize, by hand holding and moving the filter during an exposure, you can lessen the effect of the grad line if such a thing bothers you. Some people even use a black card to dodge the bright parts of a scene during longer exposures - I haven't tried this, but I have heard it works pretty well where a grad filter doesn't quite work as well.

    Bottom line, don't limit yourself to just having the grad filter in a fixed position in the holder - experiment.

  6. #6
    Still Developing
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    Re: ND grad filters advice please

    Quote Originally Posted by anchored View Post
    If one doesn't want to spend so much at one time... as Ben notes, the 2-stop soft will most likely be your most-used filter, and would be the one I would start with.

    Bear in mind that larger formats need harder grad edges typically. Using grads for horizons, even 'lumpy' ones, I still use hard grads. Joe Cornish regularly uses 'Very Hard' grads which can be custom ordered from Lee..


    Tim

  7. #7

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    Re: ND grad filters advice please

    I'm with Tim. I use my soft grads much less often than my hard grads even in the mountains.

    I usually recommend a 2 stop and 3 stop in both hard and soft edges. If money is tight, Hitech is the best value in my opinion (and is what I use).

  8. #8

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    Re: ND grad filters advice please

    I am one of those that uses the black card method for long exposures. I typically make a double exposure using the black card during a long exposure to darken a sky for example and then expose the sky to what I want on the second shorter exposure. Its pretty easy with a little experimentation to get used to it. You can hold the card in front of the lens after focussing (with the lens open) to see how much of the lens you need to shade during the longer exposure and obviously, keep the card moving the same as you would with a split ND filter. Nice thing about this technique is you can keep your compendium attached to deal with glare issues during this technique.

  9. #9

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    Re: ND grad filters advice please

    I agree with Aender, the hard is best used when there is a well defined transition between areas; like sky to sea. However, when using transparency film, I only use a .3 and .6; I've found the .9 to be overkill. The 2 stop (.6) is my most often used one.

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