Split Neutral Density Filters
This week’s product recommendation is a must have for any serious landscape photographer, even in today’s digital age! I want to stress that I did not receive any products to test for free or even a discounted price. I paid for them and have used them extensively on every trip I do. I want my gear recommendations to you to be un-biased and come from use in the field…..not because someone is giving me a free sample or is paying me.
The must have I am talking about this week is the split neutral density filter. While some people recommend exposure blends now, I find using the filter is quicker than doing an exposure blend and allows more time in the field instead of behind the computer! There are cases when I will do an exposure blend but 99% of the time, I use the filters. The 4×6 size is the minimum you should get and will fit almost all of your needs. This filter allows you to balance the foreground of a scene with a sky that is much more brilliant tonally, as in the example below from last week of Montauk Point Lighthouse. I used a 3 stop, soft edge, Singh Ray Split Neutral Density Filter to balance the wonderful colors in the sky and open up the shadow areas on the beach and allow the scene to be more balanced.
I do not recommend the hard edge split neutral density filters because they tend to leave a much harsher line that is very noticeable in the final image especially when you have objects protruding unevenly into the sky. I also do not recommend buying the holder! You can gently hand hold it in front of your lens by one corner. This allows you to move it slightly up and down during the exposure and further minimizing the gradation line you often get with Split Neutral Density filters.
In my bag I currently have the Singh Ray 3 and 2 stop, soft step, Galen Rowell ND Filter in the 4×6 size as I often find myself stacking them. I have also used the Lee Filters Split ND filters with excellent results but switched a few years back after I scratched them. Do not use the screw in filter types! The split of the gradation is in the middle of the filter. You seldom find yourself in that situation while shooting in the field and the 4×6 size allows you more flexibility on where you place the gradation.
If you look at my website galleries you will see that most of the daytime images were done using a split neutral density filter and I consider it a must have for any landscaper!