The South West and California Graduated Neutral Density

Discussion in 'Nature' started by matthew_newton, May 7, 2008.

  1. This is a 'curiosity' question. My wife and I are hoping that in 1-2 years we can
    take a nice week long trip (on our own) to France before we have a second child.
    That being said, with the exchange rate as dismal as it is and money not being
    terribly plentiful we might change our minds and go to either the south west for 8-
    10 days (Grand Canyon, Arches and Canyon lands, Bryce, Zion) or possibly go to
    California (San Francisco, Muir Woods, Yosemite).

    So that being said, especially for the South West to capture some big sky sun
    sets/sun rises what would be my best bet for graduated neutral density filters. I
    have none at the moment and I have never used any. I am thinking with the
    (mostly) flay horizon, at least with the grand canyon and some of the Bryce
    scenary that a 2-stop hard filter (Cokin P-121) would be best. Or should I go with a
    3-stop hard (Cokin P-121F)?

    If we were to go to California, especially some place like Yosemite should I go with
    something that is a 2-stop soft instead...or should I not even bother in Yosemite
    because of the extremely broken up horizon line.

  2. 3 stop would probably be better. I still blow the sky out with my 2 stop. Realistically, a set of 3 (1, 2, 3 stop) would be best so worst case, you can stack the 1 + 3 to make a 4 stop, which might be necessary depending on what effect you are going for.

    2 or 3 stop soft edge would probably be useful in yosemite too... you might just have slightly darker mountain tops.
  3. I have just began learning about graduated ND's myself. I have read that the Cokin filters are not very good. Singh Ray are the best (based on what I have read) and the Lee and Hitech have better reputations than the Cokin, but are more affordable than the Singh Ray. Lots of old post here. Use the search button in the upper right. The Lee holder is very good from what I read, but the Cokin "P" holder is much more popular (and cheaper). Some talk about vignetting with wide angle lenses and there are wide angle mounts for use on these lenses. Whether or not you need one, who knows. Just pointing out that it is an issue for some. Wish I could be of more help, but as I said, it is new to me as well. Just passing on what I have read over the last few weeks. Check out this link below. Lots of info in it.
  4. You might be surprised at just how few and far between flat horizons are in the
    Southwest. That is largely a myth posited by folks that have not been there.

    As for Cokin filters, why would anyone put one in front of a high quality lens?
  5. Matthew, I live in southern California, and shoot in the desert, mountains, and along the coast all of the time. I have a set of HiTech filters: 1,2, and 3-stop soft- and hard-edged filters and adapters for my various lenses. I use the 4"x6" sized filters versus square. Also, I have come to the conclusion that a 2- or 3-stop reverse ND grad filter needs to be added to my kit; and to my knowledge that Singh-Ray is the only source. The Singh-Ray reverse grad is pricey, but I think well worth it. Good luck; and I think you'll enjoy the west. BTW, I'd avoid Yosemite between Memorial Day and Labor Day - it can be a real zoo! Cheers! Chris
  6. I used a .6 Lee GND soft on this shot.
  7. Mathew,
    I concur with the earlier comments.
    Consider 4X6 graduated ND filters if your using a large diameter lens and want to place the horizon at the extreme edge of the frame. Another approach now days is to shoot multiple bracketed images on a tripod to account for sky and forground exposure and then blend them into a balanced exposure using Photoshop CS2 or CS3.
  8. I'm just building my filter collection and have a 2 stop soft HiTech. My next will likely a a 3 stop hard (but I'm close enough to the coast that flat, including ocean, horizons aren't unusual for me) and I'm not sure that I wouldn't also suggest that a 3 stop soft might have been a better first choice.

    I seem to recall reading an article that discusses that a 2 stop soft on an APS-C size sensor might not give enough variation in the space available and while I haven't used mine all that much, I don't think I'd argue against that position.

    Of course, if you can afford them a nice range of softs and hards would be nice.
  9. I guess it might help to say that I am using a film camera, so the HDR or stitching wouldn't work to well for me. I'll take a peak at 4x6 filters.

    Thanks everyone.
  10. I'll chime in and echo other's recommendations. I have 2 GND's: a 2-stop soft and a 3-stop hard, both HiTech brand, and they seem to cover the bases for me. I've used my 2-stop soft for desert sunsets, where I want the desert vegetation to still come through in the exposure. I use my 3-stop hard more frequently than the 2-stop soft, however. I would think the 3-stop hard would be nice in the Grand Canyon because the rim is mostly flat. I've used the 3-stop in Zion, where you have sharp shadows being projected onto the sandtone cliffs at sunrise and sunset, since you are down in a canyon. And the 3-stop hard is indespensible at the ocean.

    I hate to be a filter snob, but I recommend a HiTech over Cokin. I have a Cokin GND, but once I bought those 2 HiTechs, I've never used my Cokin. It's an issue of color cast, which the Cokin tends to impart.
  11. hey ross,
    how did you go about figuring your exposure?
    i am fighting that right now and am heading into the mountains where there will be lots of snow and dark granite.
  12. I carry a 2 stop hard, and 3 stop soft and hards, although for my style of photography, I don't use them that much. I used a 2stop hard in this image

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