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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hi-Tech Studio: Old-School HDR

Long before Photoshop was invented, photographers used graduated ND filters to balance a high-contrast scene. Today, they’re still sometimes the best tool for the job.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Here are a few selected grad ND filters that you might find useful for your photography.

The Singh-Ray Galen Rowell Graduated Neutral Density Filters (www.singh-ray.com) were developed in conjunction with the famous adventure photographer. The filters are described as totally color-neutral to avoid color bias, and they’re available in a standard 84mm width to work on a Cokin P holder. The Galen Rowell ND filters come in “soft-stop” and “hard-stop” styles. The soft-stop designs blend smoothly from dark to clear, and the hard-stop models have a distinct boundary between dark and light. They’re both made in 2-stop and 3-stop models.

HOYA (www.thkphoto.com) has a reputation for making excellent filters that cover all manner of effects. Its Half NDs are highly regarded screw-in-style filters that cover the gamut in sizes and densities. Among its offerings are the HOYA Center Neutral Density filters, which go from neutral density in the center to clear at the edge. These filters screw directly onto your lens, and they’re ideal for large-format camera use when the lens tends to create some vignetting. The Center NDs are made from two curved surfaces, one of which is neutral density and one that’s clear. This creates the gradual fade to the edge.

Tiffen Color Grad filters (www.tiffen.com) come in several colors, as well as neutral density. Available as screw-in-style Color Graduated Filters or “holder”-style rectangular Color Graduated Filters, the company makes options in every conceivable color, density and size. You can get a hard-edged transition or a soft-edged transition, and there are special-order attenuated gradients available as well. Tiffen is also unique in that it has translated its considerable history of optical filters into the digital world with the Tiffen Dfx V2 software suite of filters and special effects.

Heliopan (www.hpmarketingcorp.com) constructs its filters with Zeiss glass, and it has plenty of graduated ND filters to choose from in all manner of sizes to screw onto the lens, ranging from 19mm to 122mm. Available in any size you’re likely to need and in varying strengths, you’ll be able to find the model you need for your photography.

B+W is distributed by Schneider Optics (www.schneideroptics.com), and it makes a wide variety of screw-on graduated ND filters. Constructed from CR-39 acrylic for distortion-free light transmission, the B+W grad NDs have been popular choices for photographers for years. A rotating mount lets you angle the split however it works for your image. B+W filters come in 1- or 2-stop strengths and a variety of sizes.

Schneider Optics (www.schneideroptics.com) also manufactures and distributes a wide variety of Schneider branded rectangular and screw-on filters, which includes many different grad NDs and attenuators. Attenuators have no grad line and vary in density from clear on one end to maximum density at the other. The company recently introduced its Landscape Control Kit, which includes a modified Lee filter holder and a 4x5.65-inch, 2-stop soft-edge vertical graduated ND. This kit makes it easy for photographers to precisely align graduation to accommodate various compositions. The holder itself will accept two filters that can be rotated together.

Although primarily designed for the film and video markets, Formatt (www.formatt.us) makes graduated ND filters that can be useful for still shooters as well. They’re available in hard-edged and soft-edged models in a number of strengths. Formatt filters are holder-style, not screw-in filters, and they’re made in 85mm and 100mm sizes.


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