Did you know that ND (neutral density) filters can dramatically improve your landscape photos! CameraStuff is now stocking professional Haida filters that have been specifically designed to enhance your photographs. Read this article to learn about ND filters and how you can upgrade your skills!
About Haida: Haida premium filters and accessories are made to last several years in the field. Haida’s square filter series include their own brushed metal cases with moulded foam padding inside. The quality of the filters are on par with many other professional brands, such as LEE and Cokin. Haida also has the option of optical glass filters that are specifically made to maintain optimal image quality.
Solid Neutral Density (ND) Filters
An ND filter is used to reduce the amount of light entering your camera. This allows you to use wider apertures or slower shutter speeds (longer exposures) than normally required. For example, slowing down the movement of running water (see below) or to use wider apertures when a flash/strobe is used.
In the examples above, you can see the dramatic change an ND filter can add to your images. The photographer used a much slower shutter speed to blur the movements of the water. Without the ND filter, the image would’ve been too overexposed.
In the above example, not only is the movement of the water blurred, but so is the movement of the clouds; both effects adding more drama to the image and less distraction.
In the above example an ND filter and long exposure were used to create the “running water” effect. Without an ND filter, the photo would’ve been overexposed due to the long exposure and bright sunlight.
Graduated Neutral Density (ND) Filters
This filter is designed to reduce the exposure of a selected area. The graduated filter is particularly useful to reduce the brightness of harsh skies or to create motion blur with moving clouds. A Haida graduated ND filter is typically rectangular, as opposed to square. A rectangular design gives you a bit more playroom to move the filter up or down to match the the filter with the horizon within your photograph.
“Many times, as a landscape photographer, you face situations in which the dynamic range of the scene is too wide. Our cameras, even the most advanced ones, cannot cope with this problem. You can bracket your shots, of course… but this implies some problems: HDR software tend to introduce noise; moreover, the local contrast of the edges tends to be a bit washed out. This is the reason I always prefer to have a good shot straight into the camera! To achieve this result, I use Haida GND filters with soft edges.”
For the shots above, I used a GND 0.9 Haida filter (soft edge), to darken the sky, maintain the correct exposure on the beach, and keep a great local contrast in the rock in the water” – Review by Tommaso Di Donato
Square Filters vs. Round Screw-in Filters
A square (or rectangular) filter system is a bit a more versatile and multi-use than round screw-in filters. A square filter can be adapted to fit many lenses. That means you don’t need to buy a new filter for every lens you want to use. Haida’s square filter systems also make it a lot easier to stack individual filters. For example, using two different solid ND filters and a graduated ND filter at the same time.
A square filter system requires three parts: adapter ring, filter holder and filter.
An adapter ring is what connects the lens to the filter holder (see below). Adapter rings come in various sizes (example, 52mm, 58mm, 67mm, 82mm etc.). Each one is designed to fit specific sized lenses. A lens with a filter size (⌀) of 62mm, for an example, needs to be matched with an adapter ring of 62mm. A lens’ filter size is normally specified on the front of the lens. The adapter ring screws onto the front of a lens; just like a normal round filter.
A filter holder is used to secure the filters in place. To use a filter holder, simply slide it onto the adapter ring on your lens. Most filter holders can accommodate up to three individual filters. That means you can stack multiple filters for different effects and densities.
A square (or rectangular) filter is the last component you need to add to the system. To use a square filter, simply slide it into the filter holder. A graduated ND filter can be moved up and down to match the horizon of your photo.
Different square filter systems:
Not all square filters systems are the same. Larger square filters, such as the Haida 150mm filters, are designed to be used large wide-angle lenses (example, a 14-24mm lens). There is a good reason for this: When using smaller filters on large wide-angle lenses, a bit of vignetting may occur. The vignetting is a result of the filter holder getting in the way of the photo. To avoid this problem, a larger filter system is required.
Recommended filter systems for lenses:
10mm to 20mm: 150mm-series filter system
24mm to 35mm: 100mm-series filter system
50mm and above: 83mm-series filter system
A round filter screws directly onto the front of your lens without the need of any additional holders or rings. Round filters are therefore far simpler to use than square filters but may lack the same versatility. A single round filter can be adapted to be used on a variety of lenses but a step-up or step-down adapter ring may be required. The problem with round filters is that there isn’t a huge variety of graduated filters and different ND filters available. Additionally, a round graduated ND filter cannot be moved up and down to match the horizon of your photograph.
If you want a bit more variety and options, than a square filter system will be a better investment. If you’re not that serious about landscape photography, then a round filter system will be more than adequate for you.
Different ND and F-Stop Filters
Every ND filter will have an indicated ND number (example, ND0.6 or ND3.0 etc.). The higher the number, the denser the filter. The ND number also correlates to the amount of f-stops reduced in light. A single f-stop will reduce the light by half. See the chart below to see what ND number correlates to what f-stop reduction.
ND0.3: 1-stop reduction
ND0.6: 2-stop reduction
ND0.9: 3-stop reduction
ND1.2: 4-stop reduction
ND1.5: 5-stop reduction
ND1.8: 6-stop reduction
ND2.1: 7-stop reduction
ND2.4: 8-stop reduction
ND2.7: 9-stop reduction
ND3.0: 10-stop reduction
…..and so forth.
The use of different ND filters will depend on the photo you want to create and the circumstances you found yourself in. For an example, if you want to really enhance the “running water” effect of a slow moving stream, then you’d need to use a much denser ND filter and longer exposure. For faster moving streams you’d need a slightly shorter exposure and less dense filter. It will also depend on how bright the overall lighting conditions are. The brighter the sunlight, the denser the filter will need to be. Professional photographers tend to own numerous ND filters. Filters that can be stacked to create different densities.
Glass filters vs. Plastic filters
Not all filters are created equal. Cheaper plastic filters are known to slightly reduce image quality (lack of sharpness) and colour shifts. Glass optics, however, are engineered to maintain the original quality of the image. There is normally a big price difference between plastic and glass filters. If you want pristine and optimal quality, then glass filters are necessary. However, if you’re working on a budget, then plastic filters will do the trick. A bit of post-processing may be required to remedy the photograph’s lack of sharpness or discolouration.