Flip­ping grads!

Rod Law­ton shoots sun­sets us­ing grad­u­ated fil­ters… the wrong way round!

NPhoto - - Special Feature -

Use a neu­tral den­sity grad­u­ated fil­ter up­side-down to en­hance your sun­sets

Grad­u­ated fil­ters are a land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher’s best friend. You can use them to darken bright skies that might oth­er­wise be over­ex­posed, and they come in a range of strengths to cope with dif­fer­ent light­ing con­di­tions.

The prob­lem is, they are quite crude in their ef­fect. The top half of the pic­ture is dark­ened, the bot­tom is left clear and the only real con­trol you have is how far up the pic­ture you place the grad­u­ated sec­tion. This is fine for most land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy, but sun­sets are a spe­cial case. You’re try­ing to tone down the rel­a­tively nar­row strip where the sun is, not the whole sky. A grad­u­ated fil­ter strong enough to con­trol the sun will usu­ally leave the sky above much too dark.

Some fil­ter mak­ers pro­duce ‘stripe’ fil­ters which have a dark­ened strip in the cen­tre only. But there is a way to achieve a sim­i­lar ef­fect with­out having to buy an ex­tra fil­ter.

All you need is two grad­u­ated fil­ters. In­stead of us­ing them to dou­ble the fil­ter ef­fect, you turn one of them up­side down so that it over­laps the first to pro­duce the darker ‘stripe’. As long as you use the weaker fil­ter up­side down, the sky will still be dark­ened rel­a­tive to the fore­ground.

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