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6.9 - Graduated Neutral Density Filter

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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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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 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!.