1. mrjmt

    mrjmt

    Messages:
    46
    Edit My Images:
    Yes
    I'm returning to photography after a long break.

    I mostly shoot landscape stuff, particularly focused on panoramics.

    Years ago, my trusty set of ND grads went everywhere with me, they reduced post processing time significantly and simplified the process of producing a well balanced panoramic.
    Now, with the more common use of HDR techniques and generally better PP software, is there actually still a need for the humble ND grad?
    As I said I'm just returning, so far I've got hold of a used 500D body, a Sigma 30mm F1.4 prime and a red snapper tripod. Pretty basic stuff but I've got a new baby so very little spare money and I just remind myself of how pleased I was with the results from my 400D years ago so I'm happy with the level of kit.
    I'm trying to decide what to pick up next, aside from a panoramic head, whether to go for a set of ND grads as before, or just to undertake more PP work. It doesn't take long to apply a gradient filter in lightroom to bring the sky down, but I always liked the balanced look of even my RAW files with the ND grad filter.

    So, to cut that short, ND grad or HDR or LR or something else?
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
  2. DG Phototraining

    DG Phototraining Woof

    Messages:
    4,349
    Name:
    Dave
    Edit My Images:
    Yes
    Having never used an ND Grad I'd go with the 'something else' idea

    HDR, Exposure Blending or simply the Dynamic Range of modern DSLRs makes them virtually redundant in my book. Seascapes I can see a point in them but for everywhere else (that's not flat) their effect is usually on somewhere you don't want it so some PP is needed to take it off again

    With limited resources I'd suggest you spending the spare cash on more days out shooting instead, or maybe an 85mm too (which I use a lot in landscapes) so you can shoot baby mrjmt nicely too :)

    Dave
     
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  3. stevelmx5

    stevelmx5

    Messages:
    9,000
    Name:
    Steve
    Edit My Images:
    No
    I’d suggest that there’s definitely still a place for ND. With the best PP in the world you can’t recover blown highlights so it’s worth getting it right at the start.

    Also, with regards to the dynamic range of modern sensors, the body you’re using isn’t the latest and even the newest sensors will run out of dynamic range so I think you’d be best using the filters. You don’t need to spend a fortune on Lee etc, just pick up a set of Cokin/Kood for <£50 and keep them in your bag.
     
    Gyles, raathistle, Wayne Els and 2 others like this.
  4. LostInSpace

    LostInSpace

    Messages:
    112
    Name:
    Ryan
    Edit My Images:
    Yes
    Given the capabilties of PP software, I find myself using multiple HDR files (either the HDR file from the camera or the individual -/0/+ exposure shots to create an HDR file) and creating the panorama from them. I'll use a polarise as required, but only tend to use ND Grad's for specific non pano shots - I find it easier (less fiddling around in the field) to do the HDR/bracketing than getting filters out, keeping them clean etc and more often than not the composition doesn't permit the use of ND Grads.
     
  5. newbie1

    newbie1

    Messages:
    1,031
    Name:
    Tim
    Edit My Images:
    Yes
    +1 for budget ND option. Also valuable when there is movement (trees, flags etc) which I find can be a pest when combining bracketed shots. I’d rather spend a bit longer in the field to put the filter on.
     
  6. Dryce

    Dryce

    Messages:
    225
    Name:
    Andrew
    Edit My Images:
    Yes
    I think that you should use what you're happy with. There are photographers who consistently get good results and use ND grads - and those who use PP.

    Personallly I think decent square filter systems are too expensive for what they are and just hassle. I stopped carrying my square filters over a year ago. I had stopped using them. I can't think of any occasion where I've missed them.
     
  7. seaodyssey

    seaodyssey

    Messages:
    1,187
    Name:
    Pete
    Edit My Images:
    Yes
    Newbie is right, you can't take multiple shots if something is moving in the picture. You can also use 2 nd grads together to make a reverse nd grad which is usefull for sun rise/sets. Also don't forget about a polarising filter, which can't be replicated in PS.

    As money maybe tight you can do without and spend it going nice places as Dave mentioned

    Pete
     
  8. gad-westy

    gad-westy

    Messages:
    5,839
    Name:
    Graham
    Edit My Images:
    No
    I would say they are absolutely not needed but I do use them. I enjoy the process of taking images almost as much as the result so where possible I like to do as much as I can at the point of capture. Still use them for shooting slide film too.
     
  9. woof woof

    woof woof

    Messages:
    18,143
    Name:
    Alan
    Edit My Images:
    No
    Apart from when needing to reduce the shutter speed I haven't used an ND for years and now that my cameras can shoot at 1/8000 or faster I use them even less.

    About not blowing highlights, I can't say that I've seen a use for ND's for that (other than to reduce the shutter speed) but I have used variable ND's for that but I find scenes that suit their use few and very far between as hills, trees and buildings etc often get in the way.
     
  10. stevelmx5

    stevelmx5

    Messages:
    9,000
    Name:
    Steve
    Edit My Images:
    No
    The point about blowing highlights is using a graduated ND so you can balance exposures between sky/foreground etc. If you’re shooting the whole scene with the same light levels across it then a grad won’t do anything.
     
    newbie1 likes this.
  11. ancient_mariner

    ancient_mariner

    Messages:
    9,347
    Name:
    Toni
    Edit My Images:
    No
    My feeling is that they belong to the time when digital camera sensors had poor dynamic range, and the artifacts and faults a grad would cause cause were an acceptable trade off at the time. Barring very exceptional circumstances, I don't feel they have any place in modern digital photography except for creatively darkening anything that sticks up into the graduated area of the filter.

    Having said that, I like a screw-on 10 stop for long exposure work, but that's a completely different thing.
     
    Craig_85 likes this.
  12. mrjmt

    mrjmt

    Messages:
    46
    Edit My Images:
    Yes
    Ah, so in theory as the dynamic range of sensors has improved, it should be possible to bring back highlights better than in the past, as the information is there now whereas before it would have blown out?
    Does this still apply in the case of my 500D?
     
  13. newbie1

    newbie1

    Messages:
    1,031
    Name:
    Tim
    Edit My Images:
    Yes
    The dynamic range can be found at dxo mark. It generally reduces as iso increases. At low iso dxo reports the same 11stops range for 400d and 500d. On this basis you wouldn’t see an improvement. I’ve not used either so can’t comment from first hand experience.
     
  14. woof woof

    woof woof

    Messages:
    18,143
    Name:
    Alan
    Edit My Images:
    No
    An ND will allow you to use a lower shutter speed. That's the only filter I've used with any regularity. My point about grads is that unless you're shooting something with a line across it, like a sea scape, the grad is going to darken anything such as trees, hills, buildings etc that encroach into the lighter part of the scene, the darkened part of the grad. I find applications for grads few and far between.
     
  15. GreenNinja67

    GreenNinja67

    Messages:
    3,530
    Name:
    Terry
    Edit My Images:
    Yes
    Once the highlights have blown it doesn't matter what age of sensor you're using, all the information has gone. Period.

    I used to use ND grads but now I've sold them I may have to invest in another set (Lee Seven 5 or the cheaper alternative as I'm now M43) or try the bracketing route. It's movement that will screw up the bracketing though.
     
    Gyles, ancient_mariner and stevelmx5 like this.
  16. stevelmx5

    stevelmx5

    Messages:
    9,000
    Name:
    Steve
    Edit My Images:
    No
    As you say, an ND and a Grad are completely different filters for different subjects. If I’m going out to shoot landscapes/seascapes, a few Grads will always be in my bag, even just to rescue a lifeless sky. You don’t need to use them all the time (like an filter) but I’d always rather have one in my bag than not.
     
  17. horrocks

    horrocks

    Messages:
    2,313
    Name:
    Toby
    Edit My Images:
    No
    I would say that Graduated filters aren't necessary, as it is so easy to apply a grad in PP.

    However, I have come to realise that the effect isn't quite the same. I would agree with some posters above that there is definitely a place for them in your kitbag.
     
  18. ancient_mariner

    ancient_mariner

    Messages:
    9,347
    Name:
    Toni
    Edit My Images:
    No
    Apart from the ancient Nikon-based Fuji cameras that allegedly could recover over-exposed highlights, I am not aware of any digital camera that can save lost highlight detail. What they can do is retain detail well in shadow areas, so that lifting shadows will balance the exposure and provide a reasonable image. This is the opposite of negative film, but very much like slide film, if you can relate to that.
     
  19. Alan Clogwyn

    Alan Clogwyn

    Messages:
    7,192
    Name:
    Richard Alan Jones
    Edit My Images:
    Yes
    No allegedly about it, they could recover several stops, in fact the best way to use them was to expose so that the shadows were bright as the mid day sun and pull the whole lot down in post. This was the result of accidentally shooting wide open at iso 1600 in the mid day sun on an s3. Had I been shooting at the same Exposure but ISO 100 then the bright part of the sky would have recovered too.

    s3org.jpg

    s3-5.jpg
     
  20. ecoleman

    ecoleman

    Messages:
    4,499
    Name:
    Elliott
    Edit My Images:
    No
    That sky is still blown out and way over exposed
     
  21. mrjmt

    mrjmt

    Messages:
    46
    Edit My Images:
    Yes
    Interesting discussion so far, some great points. I'm taking it all on board. It'll be at least a month until I'm in the position to buy anything. My new panoramic head should arrive this week so I'll get busy shooting away with it and see if I feel that I still need the ND grads.
     
  22. Unlocker

    Unlocker

    Messages:
    538
    Name:
    Danny
    Edit My Images:
    No
    A few points:-

    There are soft grads for hills etc.!

    You are more likely to need ND Grads with Canon sensors as they have a lower dynamic range than most of their similar competition

    If you shoot without filters, expose for the highlights and ‘pull your shadows back 5 stops’, if your highlights are 100 ISO then your shadows are 3200 ISO! That’s not for me!

    With higher MP sensors, resin filters can reduce your sharpness by 15-20%, so it might be worth your while investing in glass grads instead!

    In a nutshell, use grads, expose correctly and spend more time in the field and less time in front of a screen!
     
    seaodyssey, newbie1 and stevelmx5 like this.
  23. Gyles

    Gyles

    Messages:
    225
    Edit My Images:
    No
    Format Hitec 67mm are pretty good for the money. Selling mine to fund Lee’s or Haida.
     
  24. Jase

    Jase

    Messages:
    898
    Edit My Images:
    No
    He didn't say it wasn't read what he said:

     
  25. riddell

    riddell

    Messages:
    279
    Name:
    Paul
    Edit My Images:
    No
    Absolutely I still use them.

    For a start I've never seen any automatic HDR software that doesn't output an awful, amateur looking photos. Though you can of course achieve excellent, high end images by manually doing thing in photoshop.

    And therefore its much quicker to shoot right in the first place, and it also eliminates any errors such as movement in the tripod.
     
    newbie1 likes this.
  26. Harlequin565

    Harlequin565

    Messages:
    2,921
    Name:
    Ian
    Edit My Images:
    No
    Yep. Still using them here. I also use HDR techniques as and when. The main failure of bracketing is when I have movement (I like trees and wind moves them) in a scene, and a strong desire to spend as little time as possible in PP. There's good HDR software out there that allows you to deal with ghosting but another app and another step in my workflow is not as much fun as messing about in the great outdoors. I'd rather be out taking pictures than behind a monitor. Sometimes though, the grads won't go hard enough, or the horizon is crinkly and I don't want shadows where the grad is going to put them, so I bracket. I'd always rather have the option though.
     
    newbie1 likes this.
  27. CScottMcQueen

    CScottMcQueen

    Messages:
    2,230
    Name:
    Scott
    Edit My Images:
    Yes
    Yes, I still use them and sometimes, even stack them... but to be honest, not very often.
     
    Gyles likes this.

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