gradient nd vs PP

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by barleymalt, Sep 2, 2010.

  1. barleymalt

    barleymalt TPF Noob!

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    So a friend of mine, who's a hobbyist photographer told me buying a GND filter is a waste and shooting only one exposure in raw and simulating the the filter in PS can be equally effective. What do you all say to this?

    I have a trip to Cyprus coming up and I really want to capture those sick mediterranean sunsets/sunrises this time but don't want to stretch my budget any further unless I have to. Any thoughts?
     
  2. LittleMike

    LittleMike No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    There are some shots taken with a grad nd that simply can't be done with pp, unless you HDR it. In several cases, your friend is right. In others, he is not. If your sky is blown out, you won't be able to regain all of the detail. If the ground is too dark, you will introduce noise when you lighten it.

    If you choose to get a grad nd filter, I would suggest something like the Cokin line of square filters. These allow you to adjust where the horizon line is, rather than always having dead center like you would with the screw in filters.
     
  3. bazooka

    bazooka No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I agree with Mike... for many landscape shots, you either must have a GND, or you must take multiple shots and tone map them later. In my opinion, it's much easier and looks more natural to use a GND. It's so much more rewarding to have a great shot right out of the camera isn't it?
     
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I agree with LittleMike. Sometimes it can help you get a shot that you just wouldn't be able to get with a single exposure. But on the other hand, you can certainly do a lot to simulate the effect with P.P.

    And yes, if you do get one, get a square one, not the round ones.
     
  5. Scatterbrained

    Scatterbrained Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Just because there is a GnD filter in PS/LR doesn't mean it will replace every instance where one is needed. Your sky only needs to be overexposed by one stop to be blown out beyond saving.
     
  6. barleymalt

    barleymalt TPF Noob!

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    Yeah thats what I thought. He said exposure adjustment with raw is practically lossless but it didn't make much sense to me. Guess I'll head down to the shop and pick up a few Cokins. I like spending time post processing so that isn't really the issue but I'm not a huge fan of HDR for shots that need to look natural.

    Any recommendations on grade? And should I get soft or hard edge? I'm thinking soft because I'll probably be using them for uneven horizons as well as straight ones. Will a soft edge be obvious if you shoot say a sunset over the sea?

    I'm also considering buying a CPL but the good ones are outrageously expensive. Will a < $50 filter get the job done or are they just not worth it?
     
  7. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    It's hard to know what you will want/use the most.

    I love to shoot mountains, and Grad filters really don't lend themselves well to that. But if I had to use one, the soft transition would be better. Yes, a sunset over the sea would probably work best with a hard edge, but a soft gradient to the sky isn't a bad thing either.

    I would certainly recommend a CPL filter. I don't have super expensive ones, and they work well enough for me. Some people swear by the $200+ ones...but who knows.
     
  8. JG_Coleman

    JG_Coleman No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I would say that your friend is more incorrect on the whole issue than he is correct. Having extra latitude in the RAW file for making adjustments is awesome, no doubt. But the best photograph will always be had by taxing that latitude as sparingly as possible. When people start thinking, " I can just use the Grad filter in PP...", that's when they start ending up with once-in-a lifetime shots that have crummy, irreparable skies because they took a gamble that they could pull back detail in PP. It's not that, on occasion, I don't pull back highlights from the RAW data... but I rarely rely on it because there's really no sure-fire way to definitively say exactly how much can be reclaimed.

    HDR is a great way to deal with skies if a Grad ND isn't being used... but this relies on there being a bare minimum of movement in the scene to produce a truly good HDR photograph. For me, even a shred of ghosting is just not acceptable... That means that in situations when the wind is blowing around trees or plants, or there are moving animals or people, or when the clouds are moving fast in the sky... an HDR will show unsightly flaws without a whole ton of extra editing (i.e. pulling the HDR-processed shot back into Photoshop with the original exposures in layers and tediously masking off portions of the photo... and even this doesn't always work out).

    Grad NDs are still indispensable tools, in my opinion. And, as bazooka mentioned, it can be rather fulfilling to tame a huge dynamic range in a landscape entirely within the camera... knowing that you've nailed the shot. Whereas with reclaiming detail in PP or merging HDRs, you never really know for sure that you were successful until you're back home off-loading the shots from your memory card.

    I use the soft-grad filters, as most of the landscapes I shoot have uneven horizons. The soft-grads do a great job of feathering the gradient over a relatively wide area of the frame. They are also a bit more flexible... capable of being employed creatively in unusual situations to hold back a tad bit of light in a corner of the frame or balance the light from a sun-lit gorge cliff with shadowed side of a gorge. Hard grads are more dedicated to flat horizons and aren't good for much else... though for sunsets over the ocean, they would indeed be preferable. Nonetheless, soft grads can handle the job... and they are much more versatile overall.

    As far as a CPL, I used to use a real cheap $20 Sunpak CPL from Best Buy. Despite the moans and groans of nay-sayers, it worked just fine. I now use slightly more expensive Tiffens (abt $40, if I recall correctly). The Tiffen is better... no doubt... but not by all that much. A $40 to $50 CPL should do you alright...
     
  9. barleymalt

    barleymalt TPF Noob!

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    Wonderful! Thanks for the great info guys. Hopefully I'll have some sick shots to post here when I get back!
     
  10. HikinMike

    HikinMike No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I don't own GNDs and I prefer bracketing several shots ahead of time and hand-blend them together using Layer Masks in Photoshop. :mrgreen:
     
  11. Phranquey

    Phranquey TPF Noob!

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    What focal length are you going to be shooting at? Most retail stores carry the Cokin "P" series filters & holders which will not work on a wide angle lens.... You will get black fringes on your photos because the wide angle is catching the sides of the protruding filter holder. I had to go with a "Z" series in order to use it on my 10-20mm.
     
  12. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    Unfortunately a GND filter will still not help with a very bright grey sky. Sometimes a graduated blue filter may be the only answer or substituting the sky in post.

    skieur
     

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