Landscape Photography Equipment: Using [Three Stop] Reverse Neutral Density Filters
A bit of background on ND (Neutral Density) filters.
Imagine having a camera and not being able to fully capture beautiful sights such as a sunset or sunrise. The difference in brightness between the sky and foreground is an age old impediment to capturing images on a camera, whether on conventional film cameras or a modern digital equivalent.
Indeed, the dynamic range that a modern camera can capture can sometimes catch us out, often for many landscape photographers there are limitations to the scenes a camera can capture, whatever the chosen recording medium. However, there are filters specifically designed to remedy this shortcoming.
Neutral density filters, or ND filters as they are more commonly known, enable the photographer to prevent essential detail from being lost in their images.
Having an ND filter in place enables the photographer to adjust the amount of light hitting the camera sensor, the ‘clipped’ areas of the image are reduced to within the operating range of the camera sensor. Effectively the graduated ND filter is acting to balance the intensity of a bright sky with that of the foreground.
Often when shooting without an ND filter the image contains large area’s of clipping, white or dark area’s with little or no detail. In other words, the image contains dead pixels, there is simply no coming back from this.
Introducing the Reverse Neutral Density filter.
Although traditional ND graduated filters work well in most situations, shooting into the sun at sunrise or sunset can still be problematic. Many landscape photographers using a traditional ND Grad grumble about skies being unnaturally dark, employing a simple remedy of ‘flipping’ the filter, reversing the direction of the graduation .
However reversing the filter like this often leads to noticeable distortion lines, and even more grumbles in the world nature and Landscape Photography! Reverse ND Filters have been designed to eliminate this flaw, reducing the intensity of filtration in the opposite direction to the regular graduated ND filter.
When using a ‘slot-in’ filter system the perfect positioning of the horizon is possible through adjustment of the filter in the holder. By moving the filter, the photographer is able to regulate the amount of light necessary to capture that perfect shot. No more worries about blowing those highlights or losing that beautiful foreground detail.
Imagine trying to capture a beautifully captivating sunset, you check your histogram only to be rewarded with blown highlights and a foreground lacking in detail. It can be a little disheartening. But with a Reverse ND filter, capturing the scene as you first imagined is almost always achievable .
The only real drawback to using a Neutral Density filters is almost all are designed to operate across a flat horizon. In the case where additional elements infiltrate the foreground or background, they will also be subject to filtration.
Luckily silhouettes do not pose such a problem, but care is needed not to lose any shadow detail. More often than not though an ND filter can enhance those contrasting shadow areas. Landscape Photography can really come to life after using one of these filters.
This type of filter doesn’t help you compose the shot, nor will it open the shutter for you! And they won’t get you that perfect shot time after time. However, combine one of these filters with some good old practise and practical experience and you’ll go a long way toward capturing your imagination.
Reviews of one of the leading companies range of Reverse ND Filters will attest to the build quality and results that can be achieved by using one of the their filters. Its probably safe to say those reviews laud their range of Reverse ND filters for all the right reasons.
Now its time to get outside and shoot some more, have fun!