CunoCyn 3:58pm, 12 May 2012
I want to get a set of Graduated ND filters.

I cannot afford both a hard and soft set (0.3, 0.6 & 0.9 in each set) so which would you recommend if you had to chose one only?

I'll be going to Rathlin Island in a few weeks, so I might have a chance for some coastal shots with flat horizons. However where I live in Wales (inland), there are lots of mountains and hills, so the horizons aren't flat..

Please give me your best suggestions!
stubbsy709 7 years ago
Go individual and get a hard and soft 0.6. I found 0.6 the best for general landscape work and hardly ever used a .3 or .9
Martin on Flickr 7 years ago
I'd do as above but hard and soft 0.9 instead. I got 0.6 first and never use it unless I stack it with the 0.9 for dramatic effect. I can't see you ever needing 0.3 so a set seems a waste.
Merijn Geurts 7 years ago
Buy the hard set!

Why?
You can use the GND's as ND filters.
If you slide down the darkest piece in front of the lens you got a total ND.

So if you buy the ND hard set you have:
three Hard GNDS
'Variable' 1 to 6 stops ND
runningcrow Posted 7 years ago. Edited by runningcrow (member) 7 years ago
I use my 3-stop (0.9) hard-step GND far more often than my 2-stop (0.6) soft-step GND. To me, the hard step is more useful than the soft and the 3-stop is more useful than the 2-stop.

Some GNDs have a color cast - you might be able to correct the color on the computer.
Hbie 7 years ago
Depends what you are shooting, the sea can be quite light so 2 stops is often enough for the sky. 0.3 I would not use apart from stacking with a 0.6. Hard for sea and soft for hills/mountains. I would look at Hitech unless you can afford Lee.
Matthew Singer 7 years ago
It also depends on the lens you're using. Hard lines rarely show up using longer focal lenghts, but with shorter lenses and small apertures, you might begin to notice that edge a bit more. Thus I bought a soft edge for use with the 10-22, but it doesn't have much effect at the 22 end. I've also noticed that digital cameras respond differently to light than film where a 2-stop GND was sufficient when I was shooting Velvia, it's barely enough to retrieve detail on my 50D, so I went with a 3-stop. But occasionally 3 stops is too much too, so you can't win them all.

So, if you shoot ultra-wide, I'd recommend a 3-stop soft edge. But I'd also suggest you get as 3-stop and a 2-stop hard edge for 1) the longer end of a zoom lens and 2) a lens of naturally longer focal length.
Steven Christenson 7 years ago
You're asking about the only case where a GND makes sense to me - a crisp, straight division between the light and dark areas. Otherwise HDR (bracketed exposures) makes more sense, and presents no additional opportunity for glare, flare, reflections or color cast - oh, and nothing else to carry.

You can turn a hard GND into a soft one, by moving it up and down while shooting.

I used to swear by my GNDs... but that turned to swearing at them when I had to fix problems with "strangely darkened treetops or mountain tops".

You can also try black carding as a method to control exposure though admittedly this only works when you can get a longish exposure.
Hbie Posted 7 years ago. Edited by Hbie (member) 7 years ago
HDR often looks unnatural and has weird colours and is not much use if you ahve moving objects. GNDs are very useful to stop skies blowing out esp. in long exposures. Some interesting comments Matthew. It is generally recommended to use soft for wide angles and hard for longer FL. One guy on Flickr who does a lot of coastal images uses a Lee 0.6 hard I think, remember the sea is often lighter than the land so 2 stops is often enough. To complicate matters further you can also now buy reverse GNDs from Hitech which are darker at the centre and lighter towards the top, as often the lightest part of the sky is near the horizon on a clouldy day. Yes dark card can work on long exposures just beginning to use that.
Do you use a UWA like a 10-22, if so you will need a 100mm wide filter.
You learn something new every day on this site. By 'black carding', do you mean that you're using a piece of card in front of the lens to mask part of the frame during the exposure? Never thought of that, though I suppose you would need some very dark ND filters to get a long enough exposure.
Hbie 7 years ago
Yes, you use a black or dark card over the light part of the image usually the sky for part of the exposure. I usually use a 10 stop ND + plus a polariser sometimes, so an exposure of 30secs + is possible. The good thing about black card is you can alter it during the exposure. As for moving a GND up and down I would be very careful as you will move the camera/lens unless you have a very smooth holder.
Steven Christenson 7 years ago
As for moving a GND up and down You don't need the holder. Hold the GND at (not hard against) the lens barrel. You need a solid tripod for this. The holder is another liability.

HDR often looks unnatural and has weird colours and is not much use if you ahve moving objects
That depends on how deftly one renders HDR. Most tools do look like crap if not handled well, but the Hand HDR technique I learned from Harold Davis has won me international competitions. Moving objects are a problem for any exposure, regardless whether it is one exposure or more. Increase the ISO sufficiently and it's possible to get 3 bracketed exposures in about the same amount of time as a single exposure with a GND.

Of course HDR doesn't solve all problems.
Hbie 7 years ago
You are correct if HDR is done correctly it is fine, I saw some prints by a Scottish photographer which did not look like HDR, when asked how he did them he said he said he took 9 exposures, 1 stop apart and then use Photomatrix. Yes holding a GND would work but I would not want to hold it for long.
Hbie 7 years ago
Next time I go out I will experiment with HDR and image stacking and black card. The problem with black card getting 2 stops is quite a large proportion of the exposure and accuracy of the placement. For long exposures a GND is still a good item to have esp. if you want some cloud movement, also if to add 2 stops that can give you the length of exposure you want, from 15 secs to 1 min.
My most used filter is a 0.9 soft edge Hitech.
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