Friday, November 09, 2007

There's more than one way to use your graduated ND filters

Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, landscape and wildlife photographer Rick Walker enjoys leading photo workshops and producing his popular podcast program, The Image Doctors. While he's versed in using the various Singh-Ray Filters in his bag, Rick sent these images to help illustrate some of the clever ways he uses his Singh-Ray Graduated Neutral Density Filters. We'll let Rick briefly describe how each of these images was captured:

Photo 1 -- "This coastal scene was taken on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. As with most outdoor scenes involving interesting light, the contrast range was high. I almost instinctivly reached for my most-used Singh-Ray ND grad filter, the 3-stop hard-edge, to balance the range of light between the shadows and the sky and to draw out the great colors in the tidal zone." (Nikon D2X with 17-55mm lens.)

Photo 2 -- "Capitol Reef is an under-appreciated National Park in Utah with gorgeous scenery and geological distinction; the combination makes it a great photographic destination. This photo was taken using a Singh-Ray 3-stop hard-edge ND grad filter with my Nikon D2X and 17-55mm lens."

Photo 3 -- "Some natural lighting situations are very contrasty and require extreme filtering to get natural looking results. In the case of this dune field in Death Valley National Park, I stacked a Singh-Ray 2-soft-edge and a 3-stop soft-edge ND grad filter in tandem to get a total of 5 f-stops of gradient filtration. Interestingly, I positioned the dark gradient areas of the filter pack on the bottom of the frame rather than the top to control the very bright foreground. Valuable lesson: Singh-Ray ND grads don't always have to be used with the dark sides up! " (Nikon D100 with 17-35mm lens.)

Photo 4 -- "This shot of the coastline near Redwood National Park illustrates the value of the Singh-Ray 1-stop hard-edge ND grad filter. In situations such as this, where the scene is evenly lit by a late afternoon sun, the 1-stop ND grad filter can subtly enhance tones and colors in the sky without looking unnatural. I find one-stop filters particularly useful when shooting film, although I also use them frequently for digital images, too. ND grad filters can be a great way to darken and enhance a sky with wide angle lenses since they don't produce an uneven exposure over the wide expanse of sky. This scene was photographed with my Pentax 645n, using Fuji Velvia 50 and a 45-85mm lens."

Photo 5 -- "A single ND grad filter isn't always sufficient, and when shooting a scene that has both a brilliant sky, as well as a bright reflection, I've found that sandwiching two grads in opposite orientations works well. In this photo taken in the Grand Tetons at sunrise, a Singh-Ray 3-stop hard-edge ND Grad was placed over the sky, and an inverted 2-stop soft-edge ND Grad was used to hold back the reflection in the water, leaving the trees in the middle unfiltered. In addition, a Singh-Ray Polarizer was used to remove glare from the surface of the water to further enhance the quality of the reflection." (Nikon D2X with 17-55mm lens.)

Rick also mentions that he is in the process of making more and more use of the larger Singh-Ray 4x6 ND grads -- in place of his Cokin P-size grads -- for quicker, easier use while handholding, especially with wide angle lenses. Those of you interested in knowing more about Rick's podcast programs can go to: -- an iPod is not required to listen to the programs; any computer or device that can play MP3 files will work. His website is

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent article and wonderful illustrations.