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