Friday, September 24, 2010

Neutral Density Filters and Why You Need Them

If you've ever tried to capture a sunrise or a sunset and just couldn't keep the image from being "blown out" no matter how much you adjusted the exposure compensation, then you have already recognized the need for neutral density filters.

When you're presented with such wide tonal ranges introduced by that big brilliant orb we call the sun (or any other bright light source), a neutral density or graduated neutral density filter is a necessity. While they come in many shapes, sizes and price ranges, I've opted to leverage the Cokin 4x6 Graduated Neutral Density filters.

Relatively inexpensive, the kit that I purchased includes 3 graduated neutral density filters ranging in darkness from 1 to 3 stops with half of the filter being clear and then gradually darkening. That way you can simply look through the viewfinder and hold the filter in front of your lens at a position that gives you a nice gradual transition from light to dark - a benefit you can't easily realize with the screw on filter types. It's also easy to "stack" them to increase the effect. I'm sure there are advantages to the more expensive versions, but I've been entirely happy with the Cokin brand.


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