For those who are into landscape photography, there is something which is a very important asset in their gear accessory known by the name Graduated Neutral Density (ND) Filters. The landscape of nature many a time has a greater range of light which the camera cannot encompass on its own. Managing light has been one of the biggest challenges in photography and this is where these filters come into their element.
What ??? Graduated ND filters are used to darken the background of a frame which is considerably lighter than the foreground. Hence the filter is basically is divided in to two sections wherein one section which is of neutral density; transitions into the other half section which is the clear section either abruptly or gradually depending on the kind of filter. They are called neutral because the dark part should not make any colour difference or induce a new colour cast into the scene.
These filters are hence known as hard edge filter (in case of abrupt transition or soft edge filter in case of gradual transition). The usage of this filter allows for horizontal transitions to be subtler thereby enabling the enhancement of the sky, balancing the luminosity of the sky against the luminosity of the terrain.
Where & How ??? There is phenomenal application range for these filters but then there are specific rules of how these can be applied to a frame in order to recreate the image as close as it was to the actual one seen with the naked eye and I will be discussing on this in a separate article.
Who??? There are many manufacturers which manufacture these filters like Tiffen, Cokin, B&W, Hoya, Formatt-Hitech; making these filters is also an art because of the intricacies involved. I have been an ardent admirer of the Formatt-Hitech brand when it comes to filters and hence when I decided to make the transition to ND filters, the choice of brand was the easiest. This article deals with my impression of the grad. ND filter which I use, known as Firecrest ND Grad filters.
Why??? The firecrest is a state of the art product from the Formatt stable wherein instead of using a resin based material which is the followed norm in the industry, a rare earth metal coating is applied onto the glass through an electrolytic process thereby creating hyper neutral grads. The filters are made from 2mm thick Schott Superwite glass with the multicoating bonded in the middle to increase scratch resistance. Firecrest filters are neutral across all spectrum including UV, visible and infrared.
1. Colour neutrality. Extremely colour neutral, which means a great deal for those who are doing long exposure frames.
2. Dimensions. Super slim, 2mm is really setting a industry benchmark.
3. Fragility. They make the cut when it comes to putting them inside your cluttered camera bag and travel over rough country.
1. Pricing. These are expensive compared to other products in this domain.
2. Availability. Not readily available especially in India and have to be imported.
3. Carrying case. Huge, thus very a bit of a bother when stored with other filters.
So, if you are into landscape photography and wish to replicate the beauty of nature as seen by you, I am sure that graduated ND filters are a vital accessory and the Firecrest Grads from Formatt-Hitech will be a valuable asset to acquire.