08 May '19
Post Title

Do you really need ND filters for long exposure shots?

This is a question I've been asking to myself from a while, and especially after I saw this video from Thomas Heaton a few weeks ago, where he says that you can get away without ND and graduated filters, but you can't replace a polarizer, as the latter cannot be replicated in Photoshop unlike the other two. And I agree with him for the polarizer, and for the Graduated filters, which is probably one of the few times where I totally regretted buying them. I was excited about those at first, but after a while I realized that they were mostly useless, as you can achieve better results just using bracketing in your camera and using the graduated filter in Lightroom.
But can we say the same for Neutral Density filters? Can just take some photos and then merging them together in Photoshop achieve the same results as a proper filter?

Since I've been started to do long exposures a long time ago, I always used ND filters, first I started with very cheap Cokin filters, which were terrible, very easy to scratch as they were made with some cheap resin, they made any photo on the magenta side, and just forget about sharpness, that one goes straight to the bin. 

Then I tried a variable ND Filter, the Light Craft Workshop Fader ND Mk II, which it did sound fantastic on paper, but again it was just a waste of money, you can read more about it here and here).

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18 Jul '13
Post Title

Lee Graduated ND Filters: a quick review

In an era were the common people, and the common photographers as well, think that you can fix everything with Photoshop, talk about filters it might sounds a bit out of time, retro' if you like it, vintage if you are a feckin hipster, but while some filter can be easily replicated with Photoshop, obtaining the same result or even better, there are some filter that are irreplaceable, like polarizers and ND filters.
You can cheat as much as you want, but those two types of filter cannot be faked.
As I mentioned before, I bought the Lee Big Stopper a few months ago, and I absolutely love it. Quality is brilliant, and 10 stops of light reduction can turn any boring waterways to something amazing. But the problem when it comes to landscape photography, is that you never have an even exposure, you expose for the sky or for the foreground, is one or the other, you cannot have both.
So which options do you have? Well, with two exposures, you can merge them later in photoshop and give the illusion that it's one shot, I did it a billion of times, and most of them it gives a good results, some others not that good. So yesterday I went to one of the local camera shops (after comparing prices online, and when I see that the price is similar, I prefer to buy from local shops), and as I already had the Lee system, I bought the Lee Graduated ND Filters Kit (the hard edge as they are perfect for landscape as I always have a clear line of horizon) which has three different filters:

  • Hard 0.3 ND (-1 stop)
  • Hard 0.6 ND (-2 stops)
  • Hard 0.9 ND (-3 stops)

And just after work I went straight away on one of my favourite places in Dublin, Seapoint, a nice place just above Dun Laoghaire, and a few stops with the Dart from where I live, and I did some quick tests.

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26 Apr '13
Post Title

Light Craft Workshop Fader ND Mk II Review: Part II

Well, maybe is not exactly a part II, but is an extension of the previous article I wrote about this ND filter, the Light Craft Workshop Fader ND Mk II, very long name for a not that good filter IMHO.
Anyway, in the previous post I was saying that that filter is a big disappointment if coupled with my old, and now sold, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 HSM EX DC, while with another zoom lens I tried, a longer Sigma 17-50 I didn't have any big problems.
So today I decided to go out and do some extra tests with my brand new wide angle lens, the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L USM.
Now, bear in mind that all the three wide lenses I tried have the same filter size, 77mm, so we cannot really point at the filter size as one of the possible causes. But how it did perform with the Canon L(uxury) lens? Same as the Sigma 17-50 (which shares a very similar focal range) or like the Sigma 10-20?

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18 Apr '13
Post Title

Light Craft Workshop Fader ND Mk II Review

If you are getting into long exposure photography there are a few things you need to have: a sturdy tripod, a good wide lens, a remote shutter release and, unless you want to photograph only at night, a good Neutral Density filter.
For years I've been using a cheap but quite good Cokin P-System with Cokin ND8 filters. They are cheap, they add noise and decrease sharpness, but at the end they do a decent job for the price you pay, and for a while a ND8 filter was enough for me. Obviously I was forced to use them only in the golden hour, when there's still enough light but not that much, and in that case you can bring home great shots even with a simple ND8 filter, or, if you want, you can stack two of them, so you get 6 stops of light reduction, but the price to pay is very poor quality and a very heavy purple color cast, which in some case it might be fine, but most of the times is not.
So last november I decided to invest some money to get a better ND filter, and a few months early I was well impressed by the filter of a good friend of mine, it was (nominally) an ND400 (which is 8 stop light reduction) at his maximum, and a light ND4 at the minimum. I'm specifying maximum and minimum because this is a variable filter, which in many cases it's a cool thing.

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