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GRADUATED ND FILTERS OR PHOTOSHOP??

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GRADUATED ND FILTERS OR PHOTOSHOP??

Postby DAVELA » Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:19 am

I want something better than the polarizer i am using for my mountain and landscape pix.
So i checked out how the cokin graduated filter system at the store.It seems like there are a lot of pieces you have to fiddle with:the filter holder,adapter,the filters themselves...Is there an advantage of using this system over photoshop?I dont really use photoshop much.Is it hard to learn for photography?Is it worthwhile or are graduated filters better?Thanks,dave



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Re: GRADUATED ND FILTERS OR PHOTOSHOP??

Postby maverick » Mon Dec 07, 2009 10:47 am

Hi Dave

Your polarizers main function are to cut glare for example on water, and darken your
skies when you are at a 90 degree angle from the sun.
Don't forget that you get light bouncing off rocks, flowers, and leaves to name a few
things that the polarizer would help cut the glare/light reaching the sensor.
It can also be used in some cases to get the silky effect when taking cascade of waterfall
pictures early or late in the day, of coarse during the day your filter would not be dark
enough to get the same effect.
This is probably really the only important filter that you cannot mimic in Photoshop or
any other software.
Adobe Lightroom 2 has a Graduated Filter Effect in it and it works pretty well.
You will get a lot of opinion on both sides about the ND Filters, and both have there
pluses and minuses.
Here are 2 articles on the subject: http://www.popphoto.com/Features/Filters-vs.-Photoshop
and http://wwwigaryluhm.net/bio/tips2.htm/
There are tons more so read up on it.
I prefer not to carry the extra weight, and do my work combining photo's taken at
different exposures in Photomax Pro or Photoshop, which does take longer but I do
not mind, at home.
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Re: GRADUATED ND FILTERS OR PHOTOSHOP??

Postby copeg » Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:27 pm

You will get a variety of opinions about gnd's, and both gnd's and hdr type blending can achieve similar results, so its hard to direct someone one way or another. Looking at each in turn, the advantages of filters is their ease of use, and you can (or at least I can) much more easily judge the final result on site through the eyepiece (or these days with digital on the image replay). The disadvantages of filters is that you are putting another piece of glass (or plastic) in front of an expensive lens, if its a cheap filter you may loose contrast and sharpness, and if the high contrast/low contrast difference isn't linear you can end up with problematic dark and/or light areas. Filters can get easily scratched, and raise the chances of lens flare. The advantages of blending is that you can bring high contrast scenes into a range more better representative to 'what your eyes saw', especially if that high contrast isn't defined by a single line across the scene that can be distinguished by a gnd. The disadvantage is that it has a higher learning curve, and it can be quite easily overdone. All this being said I personally prefer filters, but also have occasionally used post-processing blending. I choose each dependent upon the situation (I've taken a few photos which I could not have done by blending). To comment on the weight of filters: they are light, and you really don't need the extras of holders and adapters (handhold a gnd and you can even get better results by moving the grad line around during an exposure rather than having it possibly leave a stiff 3-stop line across the image).
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Re: GRADUATED ND FILTERS OR PHOTOSHOP??

Postby Hikin Mike » Mon Dec 07, 2009 2:38 pm

Can't really add any more than maverick and Greg already commented. I recently bought a CP because you can't duplicate that in Photoshop. I still don't own any GNDs, so I bracket my shots ahead of time and hand-blend them in Photoshop when I get home.

My latest image using 2 different exposures and hand-blended in Cs2...

Image
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Re: GRADUATED ND FILTERS OR PHOTOSHOP??

Postby maverick » Mon Dec 07, 2009 3:02 pm

I agree that there is a learning curve to photoshop, but in cases where you're horizon is
not straight, or you have tree's, or other objects which make a ND filter unusable then
exposure blending is the only way to go to get that realistic look, though you may have
to darken up the shadows with the Lasso Tool and Curve Adjustment, and add contrast.
It is best way of getting all of your tonal range, everything from your highlights to your
shadows, which may be otherwise limited by your camera, and the scene's dynamic range.
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Re: GRADUATED ND FILTERS OR PHOTOSHOP??

Postby John Dittli » Mon Dec 07, 2009 4:09 pm

Nice shot Mike!

After being a total advocate of ND grads for longer than I want to say, since going "digital" I have yet to even put them in my bag. The latitude of high end sensors is so great that rarely do I even find a scene that has too much contrast. In the rare instance that the latitude is too great, I do as Mike does (I think) and shoot two images (one for the highlights and one for the shadows and hand blend using the rubber stamp or clone tool in Photoshop.

Still, for film I think ND's are great (unless you shoot and scan two different exposures), but as someone mentioned, beware of over use. A classic mistake is to make the foreground (say in a reflection) higher key than the background; impossible in nature and a dead give away. When I see images like that I'm constantly wanting to turn them over! Of course this is assuming you want to portray the scene "accurately".

JD
Walk the Sky: Following the John Muir Trail
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Re: GRADUATED ND FILTERS OR PHOTOSHOP??

Postby Hikin Mike » Mon Dec 07, 2009 4:47 pm

Thanks John.

I actually use Layer Masks and generally use the Gradient Tool. If I need to re-fine an image, I use the circle brush with varying opacities/sizes/hardness. :unibrow:
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Re: GRADUATED ND FILTERS OR PHOTOSHOP??

Postby maverick » Mon Dec 07, 2009 5:06 pm

A little dodging and burning there HM.
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Re: GRADUATED ND FILTERS OR PHOTOSHOP??

Postby DAVELA » Mon Dec 07, 2009 5:20 pm

Thanks for the replies.

My main purpose is to filter out the harshness between green forest,meadows and snowcapped peaks.Usually the peaks come out all washed out/overexposed.So to compensate i adjusted the shutter speed to a faster setting.However this gives the darker foreground a darker and hazed look with reduced detail.
I guess i could avoid most of this problem if i took early morning/late evening shots with optimim lighting but sometimes time cant afford that luxury.Especially when in a new location that you are seeing for the first time and cant plan ahead for optimum lighting times.
I am using a nikon d70 with the nikkor 18-70lens and a polarizer.Its a sharp lens.
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Re: GRADUATED ND FILTERS OR PHOTOSHOP??

Postby Hikin Mike » Mon Dec 07, 2009 5:26 pm

maverick wrote:A little dodging and burning there HM.


Nope.
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Re: GRADUATED ND FILTERS OR PHOTOSHOP??

Postby Hikin Mike » Mon Dec 07, 2009 5:30 pm

DAVELA wrote:Thanks for the replies.

My main purpose is to filter out the harshness between green forest,meadows and snowcapped peaks.Usually the peaks come out all washed out/overexposed.So to compensate i adjusted the shutter speed to a faster setting.However this gives the darker foreground a darker and hazed look with reduced detail.
I guess i could avoid most of this problem if i took early morning/late evening shots with optimim lighting but sometimes time cant afford that luxury.Especially when in a new location that you are seeing for the first time and cant plan ahead for optimum lighting times.
I am using a nikon d70 with the nikkor 18-70lens and a polarizer.Its a sharp lens.


Even shooting at sunrise/sunset you may have to use a GND or bracket several shots in Photoshop.
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Re: GRADUATED ND FILTERS OR PHOTOSHOP??

Postby maverick » Mon Dec 07, 2009 5:43 pm

Take one shot correctly exposed for the highlights, and one for the shadows, then
combine them, and that will take care of your problem.
Just use your histogram to ensure you do not blow any of your highlights (overexposing)
or loose any shadow detail (underexposing).
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