Tech Tuesday…Graduated ND

Once we have established that there is a problem with a straight exposure, like here in this image from Mt Hood, we need to determine what tools we have at hand to remedy the problem. Late one afternoon I was at Mt Hood photographing the reflection and my blinkies were telling me the snow on the mountain was blowing out…

I also knew that the reflection would be a couple of stops darker than the mountain and sky so, I had two issues to deal with. I could dial in minus exposure compensation but, that would darken the whole scene and I didn’t want to darken the foreground in the process so that was not an option in this situation. Evaluating the scene…bright mountain and sky with a darker foreground reflection and knowing the tools I had to work with, I reached into my bag for the solution, a Lee 3 stop, soft graduated neutral density filter…

Holding the edges of the filter in my left hand and moving it up and down until the graduated area fell across the treeline on the horizon, I clicked the shutter and “viola”, I now had the image I wanted with detail in the snow, a darker sky and a well exposed reflection…

Yeap, it was that simple. No tricky exposure steps, simply hold the filter in front of your lens, close to the glass (remove your lens shade to do this) and your camera will deal with the exposure. The key to using a graduated ND filter is that you need a fairly straight line between the bright and dark areas. It does not have to be a horizontal line; it can be diagonal or any angle as long as the line is straight. I don’t go out without a graduated ND filter in my bag. There is a difference in quality and neutral color between brands. I use a Lee 4X6, 3 stop, soft graduated filter. I like the over sized filter when working with wide angle lenses and the Lee brand is the most neutral I have found. As a second choice, I would go with the HiTech brand.

Tech Facts: Image captured with Nikon D2X, AF-S 17-55mm, on Lexar Digital Media. Lee 3 stop, soft graduated ND.