Master Landscape Photography Using These Filters

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In landscape photography, shaping ambient light is much more complicated than in other photographic disciplines, so in order to add even more drama to your photos, you should let the filters do the trick.

Filters must stop being a mere accessory to become a fundamental tool.

How? Reading the following article. But first, take note of this other very complete article in which you will find everything you need to know to photograph incredible landscapes.

Why use filters in landscape photography?

Landscapes are the stage where endless majestic works of nature become protagonists. On many occasions, the curves, the colors, the rhythms and the lights and their contrasts come together in a scene that is worthy of being portrayed, but in others, not all these factors are always aligned so that you can capture that unique moment. .

An excellent way to master your raw material (light) in landscape photography is by using filters that allow you to model it to your liking when taking photos.

Currently, with the advancement of computer tools and thanks to the possibility of working directly on the computer with digital negatives (RAW) as if you were doing it at the moment of taking it, the use of filters in landscape photography has lost its some ground.

Now: Are you a photographer or an editor?

While it is true that neither of the two options is exclusive of the other, few things are more satisfying for the photography lover than obtaining a photo, as close to the final photograph as possible, the instant after pressing the shutter. It is in your camera, as an extension of your ideas, where the magic happens and, although the contributions that the editing tools have given to photography are incalculable, the ideal is that you spend more time in front of your camera than at the computer.

Through the use of filters in landscape photography, you will not only take your knowledge to the limit, acquiring new photo after photo, but also, the technical quality when taking the photographs ends up being translated into the quality of the resulting photographs. It is a process of continuous improvement that forms a virtuous circle: experience, knowledge, quality.

In addition, there are certain effects that are impossible to achieve on the computer without altering the essence of the original photograph, but that, with the use of a filter, are possible without even clicking.

And while quality filters are not cheap, getting one of them will be a great investment.

Having a photograph as similar as possible to the final photograph obtained directly from your camera and without the need to retouch it later on the computer, is a pleasure that is difficult to explain. Try it!

The magic is in your hands.

The use of filters in landscape photography

Although there are many types of filters available on the market for you to use in each of your photographs, below you will see those that are mostly used in landscape photography:

The polarizing filter

Polarizing filters are used in landscape photography to increase contrasts, saturate colors and also to reduce reflections that occur, for example, on the surface of a lake when photographing it.

This type of filter is ideal for when you want to highlight, for example, the contrast between the clouds and the sky, or between the sky and the ground, although most landscape photographers use them mainly to eliminate reflections from non-target surfaces. such as lakes, rivers, drops, or any other type of surface that reflects light.

The question that you are surely asking yourself is why get one when I can correct the photos on the computer?

Although it is true that the level of contrast or saturation in your photographs can be easily processed on the computer if you shoot in RAW or digital negative mode, eliminating brightness or increasing transparency will be very complicated.

Important: the maximum polarization effect is obtained when the light that falls on the scene does so from the side, that is, at 90 degrees. If you use this type of filters when the sun is in front or behind you, you will not see any effect.

Keep in mind that, to achieve correct metering and exposure, you must take into account that polarizing filters “darken” the scene, that is, they take away approximately 2 diaphragms since they absorb the light that is reflected to the sensor and attenuate it a little. bit.

Top: no filter.  Bottom: with polarizing filter. Top: no filter. Bottom: with polarizing filter.

The Neutral Gradient Filter

This type of filter is very popular among landscape photographers as it allows you to compensate for the contrasts between very light areas such as the sky and very dark areas such as the ground. How? The glass of this type of filter is divided into two halves: a dark part that degrades until it joins the other that is completely transparent. In this way, it is possible to balance the exposure in the shot without leaning towards light or dark tones.

You can find this type of filter in two versions: square and round. Square glass filters require you to place a filter holder in front of the lens to hold them. Round filters are screwed directly on the lens and although they may seem more practical, they are actually much less versatile since the gradient will be fixed, unlike the square ones that you can adjust in height depending on how you are framing your photos.

These types of filters are ideal for achieving spectacular effects both on the ground and in the sky of your photographs, intensifying the colors, degrading the tones and allowing you to obtain amazing exposures that are impossible to achieve in any other way. They are excellent for conveying and reinforcing the messages and feelings of your landscape photography.

The gradient of these can not only be neutral, but you can also find them in different colors. Have you ever wondered how they get those pink skies at sunset? There are certain phenomena that do not occur naturally but are induced by photographers using filters, for example, pink or blue color gradients, in order to add greater spectacularity to the photographs.

In addition, the gradients in each of the filters are not the same, so the compositional possibilities are multiplied.

Pink gradient filter. Pink gradient filter.

Neutral Density Filter

Neutral density or ND filters are responsible for converting the silky effect in your photographs of rivers and seas. These types of filters are widely used in those situations in which the movement of water or clouds can, through a long exposure, turn you into an extremely attractive silk or mist.

How does it work? The glass of these filters is made in a neutral gray tone so it does not affect the color of the photographs but what it does do is “remove light” from the environment, that is, it darkens the scene without affecting the colors present in it. This decrease in the “amount of light” that reaches the sensor is what allows, through a long exposure, to achieve such attractive effects. In conditions of excessive light, it would be impossible for you to be able to make a long exposure without one of these filters. So, even if you lower the ISO sensitivity and stop down as much as possible, it is unlikely that you will be able to achieve shutter speeds slow enough to achieve this effect (shutter speeds less than 20 seconds).

Landscape photographs taken with a neutral density filter are not only limited to river and sea photography, since you can also use it with almost any subject. The really important thing is that, whatever the reason you choose, it is enhanced by said effect. Try to photograph clouds, people, the movement of trees, etc., you will be surprised at the results you will be able to obtain and the sensations that your photos will be able to transmit.

I recommend that, so that you can get the most out of using this filter, you take 5 minutes to read the following article: “How To Get The Silky Effect In Your Photographs Of Rivers?”.

Although the quality of the crystals that you are going to put in front of your lens must be the best possible, that does not mean that you cannot innovate a little and make some homemade filters that allow you to obtain surprising results. Do you want to know how? Reading the following article: “DIY Photography: How to Assemble Homemade Photographic Accessories”.

Silk effect in your photographs of rivers and seas. Silky effect in your photographs of rivers and seas.

Ultra Violet Filter

Ultra Violet (UV) or Skylight filters, as their name indicates, are filters that were designed to absorb ultraviolet rays, although common photographers use them constantly placed on their lenses, not to achieve any effect but to protect the images. Front lenses from bumps and scratches.

You probably also use it for the same purpose, although I recommend that you do not. Thanks to the new technologies introduced in the manufacture of lenses, the front lenses are protected with a protective coating that protects them from dust and scratches. You don’t need to place a filter in front of your lens, since more than protection, what it will really do is reduce the quality of your photographs (any glass placed in front of a lens will reduce its sharpness).

What you really need to protect your lens is its lens cap and be careful. In any case, if you have suffered an accident or want to know how to act in the event of an accident, I recommend that you take a look at the following guide: “The Complete Guide: Cleaning Tips for SLR Cameras”.

In any case, the use of an ultra violet filter is recommended if you plan to go to the top of a mountain where the incidence of these rays is much greater. So that these do not alter your photographs.

You can also use them to achieve stunning fog photography. How? Once the UV filter is placed on your lens, fog it up using steam or Vaseline. In this way, with a little practice, you will be able to emulate a thick and overwhelming fog. In this case, the UV filter will be very useful to avoid wetting the front lens of your objective for its protection.

Photograph made with an ultra violet filter. Photograph made with an ultra violet filter.

The filters that I just mentioned are not the only ones. There are a large number and variety of these available on the market for you to experiment with when taking your landscape photographs.

The use of filters in photography in general and especially in the discipline of landscape is a great field for experimentation. Dare to take your imagination to the limit! You will be amazed at what your mind is capable of.

Excess light compensated with an ND filter.Excess light compensated with an ND filter.

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