Improve Your Landscape Images By Using Split Neutral Density (ND) Filters
Often when taking landscape pictures, you'll realize the sky is significantly brighter than the landscape. This could ensure it is almost impossible to keep detail in the landscape without the sky being overly glowing, and to keep detail in the sky without the landscape being overly dim.
One remedy to this problem is the split neutral density filter. This really is a filter which can be placed in front of the lens. While the other half is dark, one half of the filter is clear.
Commonly, you'll put the dark section of the filter over the sky to darken the sky, while the clear section is placed over the landscape. After that you can expose correctly for the landscape and don't have to worry about the sky being too bright.
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Split neutral density filters come in two varieties - graduated border and hard border. Graduated edge means that there's a soft transition between the soft and dark sections of the filter. Since the transition appears more natural when compared to a tough edge, soft edge or graduated split neutral density filters are normally preferred for landscape photography.
Hard border split neutral density filters are more useful when shooting a photo with a well defined horizon that forms a solid line. The split line of the filter can subsequently be put along this line. They may be especially useful when the sun is on or simply over the horizon.
Both hard edge and calibrated split neutral density filters are available in a range of strengths: ND0.3 = 1 stop
ND0.6 = 2 stops
ND0.9 = 3 stops
The bigger in difference between the brightness of the sky and also the landscape, the more powerful the filter you'll desire to use.
Although split neutral density filters are available as glass screw-in filters, most photographers prefer a Cokin P or similar 'slot-in' based filter system. This allows you to easily rotate the filter and move the filter up and down, placing the dark section of the filter exactly where you require it.
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The key benefit of split neutral density filters over software procedures of equalizing exposure in a photo is that you could see the result when you shoot the photo. In addition, it saves on the work involved with software options that are based.
The disadvantage, though, is that split neutral density filters work best where the horizon is clearly defined. You will realize that the top of the item will be darkened while the bottom will not, when you have items, for example trees in your image, that are both below and above the horizon. This really is the primary problem with split neutral density filters, and in situations like these a software solution to managing the exposure could possibly be preferable.
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