I'm going on ANPAT 13 to northern Arizona. I was thinking of buying some Singh Ray grad neutral density filters or just sticking with bracketing and using HDR to bridge the light differences. I've done HDR previously and have never used grad neutral density filters. I will be shooting with a D4, probably with a 16-35 f4 and a 24-70 f2.8. The trip is in three weeks so if I am going to go with the Grad filters, I need to start to learn quickly. Any suggestions? If I go with the Grad filters, which ones? Or has the HDR technology made it today's choice?
#1. "RE: Grad Neutral Density or HDR" | In response to Reply # 0Chris Platt Nikonian since 30th Sep 2012Tue 10-Sep-13 05:26 PM
I like HDR, but still prefer to use ND filters when possible to preserve a more natural look.
Similar locations - top with graduated ND filter, bottom three shot HDR. I may have monkeyed with the HDR too much.
Attachment#1 (jpg file)
Attachment#2 (jpg file)
Visit my gallery.
#2. "RE: Grad Neutral Density or HDR" | In response to Reply # 1
#3. "RE: Grad Neutral Density or HDR" | In response to Reply # 2walkerr Nikonian since 05th May 2002Tue 10-Sep-13 08:52 PM
I personally like grad filters, but part of my preference admittedly has to do with ingrained practices over a long period of time. For Arizona, which has clear skies and little diffused light, I'd probably get a 3-stop hard and a 2-stop soft. The first would be for early morning shots with a well-defined, fairly level horizon and the 2-stop soft is a good generic catch-all. Today's cameras have enough latitude that you can usually make up any differences in post-processing if you shoot raw.
There is another technique that you should also consider: exposure blending. With this, you don't use grads, but you also don't use an automated HDR program. You make a couple of shots, sometimes three, that are at different exposures, layer them in Photoshop and then use masks to reveal or hide different portions of the images. It's more time-intensive in post-processing than when you use grads, but it's not that bad, and it works great for ragged horizon lines. It also avoids the "look" of HDR, which sometimes comes across as unnatural. It pretty much looks like grad filters were used.
As for me, I use grad filters the most, digital blends next and then HDR after that (which isn't too often). I usually use HDR only when I want a specific look rather than containing the tones of a scene.
#4. "RE: Grad Neutral Density or HDR" | In response to Reply # 2Chris Platt Nikonian since 30th Sep 2012Tue 10-Sep-13 11:05 PM
It was a 2 stop hard grad. I'm apt to go with a 2 or 3 stop because I tend to use them only when the sun is in the scene. With the wide dynamic range of the late generation cameras, it is very easy to pull up shadows and push down highlights in post when there is a narrower EV range in the scene.
Visit my gallery.
#5. "RE: Grad Neutral Density or HDR" | In response to Reply # 0
I like to get the shot "almost done" in-camera, with really very little time for post-processing and for really learning it.
I shot with ND grads since my film days and HDR is very hard to make look natural, for me.
Blending is another option as Rick Walker has mentioned.
Someday, when I learn to use masks ....
I mostly use the 2 and 3 f-stops soft edge Hitech and/or LEE filters.
Have a great time :-)
JRP (Founder & Administrator. Mainly at the north-eastern Mexican desert) Gallery, Brief Love Story
Please join the Silver, Gold and Platinum members who help this happen; upgrade.
Check our workshops at the Nikonians Academy and the Nikonians Photo Pro Shop
#6. "RE: Grad Neutral Density or HDR" | In response to Reply # 0
I agree with the others that ND Grads give you a certain natural look that while can be achieved with HDR doesn't always turn out to look the same. The particular issue with HDR is the movement of clouds. As you take the series of exposures clouds move and this impacts the final blended product.
I use all of the three techniques mentioned - grads, blending, and HDR. Which I decide to use ultimately depends on the situation. Some situations almost require HDR because of an uneven horizon with fine details jutting out into the sky. Other situations are so well suited to using grads that it is almost a no-brainer. One technique that I use often is to hand hold my grad and shift it up and down rapidly in front of the lens during the exposure. This help quite a bit to hide the filter transition - especially when shooting those uneven horizon shots. It takes a little practice but it does work. Speaking of practice, I recall when I first started using grads that it took me a while to get the hang of it. You certainly don't want to head out on the ANPAT before practicing with your new grads.
esartprints.com Ernesto Santos Photography
Get my new e-Book "Churches of Texas"
#7. "RE: Grad Neutral Density or HDR" | In response to Reply # 0
If you want to try before you buy anything, I have a very complete set of grads in the Cokin "P" size that I seldom use now that I have the next largest size. I will be bringing them along to ANPAT just in case anyone wants to experiment. I also have an extra Lee Foundation Kit for anyone who wants to try the 4x6 size.
#8. "RE: Grad Neutral Density or HDR" | In response to Reply # 0
I appreciate all of your comments and suggestions. I think I will get a couple of grads and hopefully have a week or so to do some experimentation, before going on the firing line at the ANPAT. I'll try and shoot enough different ways so that something comes out ok.
Thanks to everyone. The Nikonians has been my best photo investment.
Jim and JRP, see you in a few weeks.