Why ND grads are not always necessary for landscapes

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by CraniumDesigns, Jan 6, 2010.

  1. CraniumDesigns

    CraniumDesigns TPF Noob!

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    ND grad filters are good to have for landscape, essential really, IF you're not very good at photoshop, or dont wanna spend a lot of time in photoshop in post-production, or you absolutely HAVE to capture the image in one exposure.

    however, im pretty experienced with photoshop, and i prefer to spend more time behind a screen than behind a camera, because when ur taking pics, ur light is constantly changing. if u spend more time behind a computer, when u HAVE the time, u can take many more comps IN the field.

    my process is this. i usually leave my filters in my bag, use AEB, and fire off various exposures back to back with the amount of stops i want. sometimes it takes firing 2 AEB sets, but thats ok.

    this allows me to take many more shots, take many more comps, and combined the elements from various shots that i like. maybe the sky is good in one, but the land sucks. so i grab the land i like from a brighter exposure, and mask em together in PS.

    95% of the time i never use filters. filters are cool, but they take more care, more time, and they only offer a straight line, which in most cases is not what your landscape will have, unless its an ocean scape. often times the dark part will darken a mountain u may not want that dark.

    basically, u can do all the things a filter can do, and much more, using just multiple exposures and photoshop.

    the ONLY time a ND grad is ABSOLUTELY needed, is when u HAVE to get the shot in 1 exposure to capture movement of something. for that reason i still own a set of soft and hard ND's, 1, 2, and 3, stops of each.

    good to have, but not necessary at all most of the time if you know photoshop.
     
  2. Shockey

    Shockey TPF Noob!

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    Or you can use a tripod with a graduated neutral density filter, take it right in camera and you are done.
    Of course if you enjoy doing all that work in Photoshop, rock on..to each his own.
     
  3. CraniumDesigns

    CraniumDesigns TPF Noob!

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    yes, a tripod is a MUST for landscape, and you have to use one when ur taking multiple exposures of the same scene. i prefer not to use grads though. this requires getting the filter placed right, picking the right filter, etc... this takes a lot more time and when ur working at sunset or sunrise and the light is changing so quickly, u can lose the opportunity to take more comps.

    also, because a grad filter is straight, it may darken parts u dont want dark, like mountains that break the horizon.

    so, unless u need to capture the action in one shot, if you're decent in photoshop, i feel u can produce much better images NOT using grads.

    i'm just speaking from my own experience. i have lost out on other comps because i was spending too much time aligning filters, cleaning em off, etc... i want the highest quality possible in my images, so i dont mind spending more time in photoshop if it means my image will perform better and sell better.

    plus it's cheaper, doesnt take up space in your bag, etc...
     
  4. patrickt

    patrickt TPF Noob!

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    Since I switched to digital the only two filters I use are a polarizing filter, frequently, and a ND, not graduated, occasionally.
     
  5. CraniumDesigns

    CraniumDesigns TPF Noob!

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    yeah, i often use a circular polarizer, unless im shooting into the sun, as its not really effective in that situation.

    i also have a 10 stop ND filter that i LOVE for taking long exposures during the day.
     
  6. CSR Studio

    CSR Studio TPF Noob!

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    I don't use a ND filter for landscapes. I usually use a polarizer.
     
  7. Heretotherephoto

    Heretotherephoto TPF Noob!

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    Out of curiosity can this photoshop method be done in Elements 8? I know it has a new feature where you can combine two images for the purpose you described above but I have not seen anything about masks yet in the book. I'm only about halfway through the book though.
     
  8. CraniumDesigns

    CraniumDesigns TPF Noob!

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    not sure. never used elements. just CS4.
     
  9. CSR Studio

    CSR Studio TPF Noob!

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    Why do you think ND filters are essential for landscapes?
     
  10. CraniumDesigns

    CraniumDesigns TPF Noob!

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    they're not. i only use/need em 5% of the time.
     
  11. Arch

    Arch Damn You! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Well personally i prefer using ND Grads, i do also use exposure blending, but i think sometimes using just photoshop can make an image too sterile and emotionless.

    This can depend on what you are going for too, if its for a good balanced exposure on a bright sunny day an exposure blend would be fine, however in some of my more moody landscapes an ND grad has given me the best results.
     
  12. CraniumDesigns

    CraniumDesigns TPF Noob!

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    to each his own. exposure blending is effectively the same thing as using an ND grad. u just end up doing more work behind the computer, and not in the field. i can usually create the same mood exposure blending as i would using a filter, as long as their isnt crazy movement in the shot. just depends on how good the user is at layer masking and blending.

    i just want newbies to know their options, and give us more seasoned landscapers something to think about for the future. i just prefer the flexibility photoshop offers. i'd rather have 3-4 full frames of raw data at different exposures levels to work with, than one full frame and run the chance of that one frame being off once i get home. but ive been using photoshop for years as a web designer, and its just where i feel more comfortable.
     

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