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Two Filters

Buy a Polarizing filter and a graduated neutral density filter.

If you have a point-and-shoot camera, check with me before you purchase the filters.

Polarizing Filter

Have you ever taken a picture of a landscape with a deep blue sky—and when you looked at the photograph—the sky was a pallid blue or white?

A Polarizing filter will keep blue skies dark.

Below, the Polarizing filter darkens the sky making the clouds stand out.

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Without Polarizing Filter

Click Photograph to Enlarge

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With Polarizing Filter

Click Photograph to Enlarge

This filter also reduces glare off of water, foliage, and other surfaces.

Above, note how the field toward the right side is a more vibrant green with the Polarizing filter.

Both Photographs, Side-by-side

Spin It!

Polarizing filters spin.

Look through your viewfinder as you revolve the filter.

The Polarizing affect will change as you spin the filter.

Where's the Sun?

When using a Polarizing filter to darken a blue sky, the affect will be strongest when the sun is to your left or right.

The effect is weaker when the sun is behind you.

The Polarizing filter doesn't darken the sky if the camera is pointed in the direction of the sun.

What Does the Filter Look Like?

A Polarizing filter is gray in color.

Once you screw it on your lens (carefully and not too tightly), the front part of the filter revolves.

As you spin the filter, you can see what it does.

Diameter

Buy a filter that's the same diameter as your lens.

Look at the inside surface of your camera's lens cap. Usually the diameter of the lens is printed there, such as 67mm.

Do You Have More Than One Lens?

If you have more than one lens, buy a Polarizing filter that fits on the largest diameter lens.

You can attach it to your other lenses using adapter rings.

Circular or Linear?

If you have an autofocus camera, purchase a circular Polarizing filter.

Linear Polarizing filters are for manual focus cameras.

Circular Polarizing filters cost about $50 to $60.

Manufacturers

Go to Filters.

If you buy the Cokin neutral density filter, below, consider buying the Cokin P164 Circular Polarizer Glass Filter.

The Polarizing filter attachs to the filter holder described below.

Three Cautions

1) A Polarizing filter blocks about one stop of light.

So, remove the filter if it’s not needed, especially indoors.

2) Skies are not evenly Polarized.

Therefore, when you’re using a wide-angle focal length, a sky may show uneven lightening and darkening.

3) As mentioned, use only one filter at a time.

Because Polarizing filters are even thicker than other filters, be sure to remove other filters to prevent the darkening of the corners of your photographs.

Graduated Neutral Density Filter

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Click Photograph to Enlarge

If you're a landscape photographer, consider purchasing a graduated-neutral-density filter.

The filter darkens all skies—not just blue ones—like a Polarizing filter.

In the above photograph, I'm holding the filter away from the lens so you can see it.

When using the filter, it is held against the lens.

Or, you can buy a holder that screws onto your lens.

Note how the filter gradually fades from dark to clear.

You position the filter so that the dark area of the filter blocks the bright sky.

The filter above is a two-stop graduated neutral density filter (also designated by .6 or 4X).

The shaded portion of the filter blocks two stops of light.

The photograph below, with the filter positioned properly, is more the way the scene was when I was standing there.

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Click Photograph to Enlarge

Cokin

I use a P-series Cokin 121M filter.

The P-series filters are very large, 85mm x 85mm, allowing you to move them more freely on the front of your lens.

The 121M filter blocks two stops of light (.6, 4X, or ND4).

If you want the holder for the above filter, get a P series filter holder that has the ring that fits the diameter of your lens.

However, as mentioned, many photographers hold the filter against the front of the lens instead.

There are other brands of graduated neutral density filters.

Go to Filters.

How to Set the Exposure

The exposure is set for the foreground, without the graduated neutral density filter being in place.

There are several ways you can set the exposure.

Manual Exposure

Use the Manual (M) exposure mode.

When doing so, fill the viewfinder with the foreground when you're measuring the light.

Set the exposure.

Then, recompose the scene in the frame.

The light meter will now "say" that the exposure is incorrect.

Ignore the light meter.

Position the filter.

Press the shutter release.

Autoexposure Lock

Use autoexposure lock to set the exposure for the foreground area.

You can use P (Program), A or Av (Aperture Priority), or S or Tv (Shutter Priority).

Nikon DSLRs

Look for the AEL button.

It's near where your right-hand thumb can reach it.

When you press and hold the AEL button down, the exposure is locked in.

Fill the viewfinder with the foreground.

Press the shutter release slightly to turn the light meter on.

Recompose the scene in the frame.

Position the graduated neutral density filter.

Press the shutter release.

Go to Autoexposure Lock.

Canon DSLRs

Fill the viewfinder with the foreground.

Press the shutter release slightly to turn the light meter on.

Look for the button with an asterisk icon.

It's near where your right-hand thumb can reach it.

When you press and release asterisk button, the exposure is locked in until the light meter shuts off.

Recompose the scene in the frame.

Position the graduated neutral density filter.

Press the shutter release.

Go to Autoexposure Lock.

Software

You can also use software such as nik Color Efex Pro!.