There are many articles on using graduated ND filters to balance the exposure between the sky and the land, and whilst some of them are very good and actually informs the audience how to go about selecting the right strength graduated ND filter, there are several out there stating the “go to” is a 2 stop hard edged filter, which simply isn’t right.
Okay, there are times when the 2 stop hard edged graduated ND filter is the best type of filter to use, but you shouldn’t instantly get this filter out of your bag when taking a landscape shot because there will be many times when this filter simply won’t give the desired results.
When I was out on a landscape photography trip with the local camera club I witnessed a victim of the “2 stop hard edged graduated ND filter is the go to filter” first hand. It was a cold and dank day, the clouds were thick and heavy in the sky and they were dark grey in colour, i.e. it was a typical day in the North of the UK. One of the new club members set up their tripod and camera, attached a filter holder to the lens, slid in a 2 stop hard edged graduated ND filter, took a few shots and was then disappointed with the results. Yep, this member said the image didn’t look right, and I had to agree.
The 2 stop graduated ND filter was too strong and the already dark clouds were rendered even darker, which was totally unnatural. In all honesty, a graduated ND filter wasn’t needed for a balanced sky and landscape (that’s how dark the sky was) however a weak ND effect didn’t look unnatural or too far from what was in front of us. When I asked the member why they had used a 2 stop ND filter the response was “That’s what the internet says is the best graduated ND filter to use”.
Form the response it was clear the photographer didn’t understand how to calculate the strength of filter to use or when to use the filter. Yep, this person had blindly followed some advice from the internet, which subsequently turned out to be incorrect.
So the moral of the story is to think about what you are trying to achieve before you automatically attach a filter holder to the end of your lens and add a filter. Is that the right filter to use? Do you actually need to use a filter at all?
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.