Make effective use of filters
Learn how filtration can add extra punch to your seascapes
Technical filters comprise polarisers and neutral density graduated filters (‘grads’). Polarisers reduce reflections from non-metallic surfaces and are an excellent tool for seascape photography, as they cut through distracting glare on the surface of the sea and wet rocks, restoring the natural colour saturation of the scene.
Grads control contrast and prevent bright skies from overexposing. ‘Hard’ transition grads are the most useful for seascapes, which tend to have level horizons. However, when the horizon is broken (by a cliff, for example) ‘soft’ grads give a more natural result. ‘Reverse’ grads – which are strongest at the transition zone and then fade gradually towards the top of the filter – are useful at sunrise and sunset, where the brightest part of the scene is on the horizon.
Neutral density filters are mostly used for creative effect. They allow extended shutter speeds and have densities available from one stop to 15 or more. Exposures of a few seconds will blur the motion of waves while maintaining the texture of the water, exposures of 15 to 30 seconds will render the waves with a misty appearance and exposures of a minute or more can smooth the sea completely, giving it a glassy surface.
Right above Controlling contrast
graduated filters darken bright skies and prevent them from overexposing. ‘Reverse’ grads are useful for
sunrise and sunset shots, when the brightest part of the
scene is the horizon
Right Neutral density filters
extreme long exposures aren’t always necessary; here a threestop nD filter generated an exposure time of four seconds,
blurring the motion but still keeping some texture in