ND filter

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    An example shot of the efficacy of a grad ND filter (gradutated neutral density filter).

    As you can see, the bottom of the filter is clear, the same exposure as my foreground grasses and trees. Towards the middle of the filter (graduated), it darkens to a (neutral) gray. The lovely blue sky peeking out is what I wanted, but the foreground is perpetually shadowed by these giant cliffs. Unfortunately, the filter darkens in a straight line and the notch does not. In darkening the sky, it also darkens the lower cliffs to near black, losing all their wonderful color. Now that I am better at combining exposures in PS, I would take the shot with the filter in place to ideally expose the sky and upper cliffs and take a second shot to expose for the middle red cliffs, layering them in to the final shot for the best of both worlds.

    I took this both to show the power and the limitations of the grad ND, and find it very effective at doing just that.

    Here endeth my Photo Tip o' the Day. :)

    CarlosBravo, HunPolka, tarotastic, and 600 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    View 20 more comments

    1. xx Nemo xx 76 months ago | reply

      is that 2 stops grad. ND filter?

    2. Matthew L. Collins 75 months ago | reply

      Thanks friend. This pic really helped me.

    3. cuegeee 74 months ago | reply

      Perfect shot!

    4. .Bala 73 months ago | reply

      Love the illustration!

    5. Heather Green Photography 73 months ago | reply

      Very cool shot, great info, thanks!

    6. Lars Kehrel 73 months ago | reply

      great place!!!
      zion - no HDR!

    7. moliecht 72 months ago | reply

      I start wondering, how I could survive so far without this filter..
      Thanks for posting.

    8. tfebbo 67 months ago | reply

      Excellent description and demonstrating of the benefits and pitfalls of the ND filters! Thank you very much!

    9. HanaP227 66 months ago | reply

      thanks for the lesson.
      i love your photos!

    10. Joe Ted 79 58 months ago | reply

      If you was to focus on the cliffs and use spot metering would that keep the clours and details in the cliffs ? and maybe up the exposure ?
      Just a question as I'd like to think that could work because then all my forum reading etc might be paying off lol.

    11. murphygb 58 months ago | reply

      excellent example!

    12. Pedro d'Anjos 57 months ago | reply

      Beautifully explained and shown.
      Thank you for this wonderful tutorial Sara.

    13. flytrue2 52 months ago | reply

      excellent location for this tutorial, nicely done!

    14. EspressoTime 52 months ago | reply

      Great shot, was just about to shop for one :)

    15. lionclawz 48 months ago | reply

      Thanks for that!!!

    16. wrldflckr 42 months ago | reply

      excellent example, thanks!

    17. horacekenneth 35 months ago | reply

      love it, thanks for the explanation

    18. coldfused 28 months ago | reply

      How does PS know when you combine the shots to remove the darkened cliffs?

    19. Sara Heinrichs (awfulsara) 27 months ago | reply

      Luckily, I am smarter, sometimes, than my Photoshop. ;) It's all about a good mask. If you bracket exposures, like I would do for this scene, you will end up with (at least) 3 layers with (at least) 3 different exposures - foreground, cliffs, and sky.

      I would apply layer masks to the cliff and sky layers and fill em with black. Choose the brush tool, set to white, zoom in, select your cliff layer and paint em in on the mask. Select your sky layer, and paint it in. Zoom way to in clean up your edges so you don't have halos, merge your layers, and you're done.

      Photoshop has HDR merge tools (and other programs do too) but I have never found that I get the result I want any other way than doing it myself. Don't like the programs thinking for me - I know how I want it to look. More work, sure, but a better quality result in the end.

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