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Hi All

A few weeks ago I took the plunge to purchase some Lee Filters, having been very dissappointed with the cheapo Cokin filters I bought to try out the whole concept. As Bruce predicted, the Cokin Neutral Density grad filters are anything but neutral, giving a horrible magenta cast to the photos.

At the time I was in WE, I also purchased an ND soft grad set with the necessary filter holder and adaptor ring, but they were out of stock of the hard grad set. Typically, I have found more use for the hard set which I don't have, than the filters I have, but WE have now been out of stock, with many people on back-order, for a few weeks now. They claim that Lee are having trouble making them....

However, I got fed up waiting today and spoke directly to Lee Filters. They do not have a manufacturing issue, but as each filter is hand made, orders are typically on a 4-6 week lead-in, and so WE simply didn't order enough in time. Lee kindly gave me a couple of names of their other stockists, one of whom I contacted and the filters I want are now on their way to me as we speak.

For reference, the two companies mentioned by Lee are:



Prices are comparable with WE, so it may be worth keeping these guys in mind if you need anything that WE don't have, or as a price check for WE.

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Having watched Bruce with his filters at Horsey on our last ramble, I plumped for the cheaper Cokin filters to have a go. They proved a point, but as I said above, the results were far from perfect.

Until purchasing the filters, I had relied on applying grad filters in Lightroom2, which can enhance over exposed skies no end, and bring up cloud detail you just can't see with the naked eye. The problem with doing this is that if the overexposure is too high and there are some areas which are blown (ie pixels at max 255), there is no way of recovering any detail at all.

My problem now is learning when to use what density of filter. I will have 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9 ND grads in both hard and soft transition, but it is how you know which density of filter to use which still baffles me. I suppose it is down to experience being able to determine if you need 1, 2 or 3 stops of reduction on the exposure, so I can forsee a lot of guff being shot before I get the hang of it :lol:

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Robert White are excellent, and I have bought most of my Lee stuff from them. Highly professional service.

If in doubt about which ND grad to use, always try a .6 (2 stop) first. That is the one you will use most. My .6 hard gets most use, followed by the .9. I don't often use soft grads. The purist way to work out which one to use is to use a 1 degree spot meter to take spot readings from average tones in the sky and the foreground and work out the desired ratio. In the absence of a spot meter, either try a couple of different shots with different filtration, or guess - if you're using Lightroom for post production you can always correct any slight errors. As Mark says, the key is to hold back any burning out so that you have the latitude to work with in the RAW file. I would not advocate getting a spot meter - it takes years to learn how to use them, and take it from me, learning how to expose and use grads "properly" does your head in. A bit of experimentation works wonders in these digital days. With transparency film you either got it right to within 1/3 of a stop or you wasted a shot (£5 down the drain with large format film) - now you can play around at no cost.

Grad positioning can be tricky with SLRs until you get used to it - of course it's easier with a view camera where you can see exactly where the line in on the 5x4" screen, or a medium format camera where the image is still pretty large, but with a DSLR you have just a small viewfinder. One approach is to use the depth of field preview button, and then slide the grad up and down until it looks right - or if you aren't confident with the DOF preview just try squinting with your viewfinder eye as you move the grad - squinting is often a good way of seeing tones because you are no longer focusing on detail. Remember you're watching for the tonality being correct, so the sky and the foreground have a natural looking ratio. If you have live view on your camera this is a good time to use it - you will see the tones changing as you move the grad up and down.

When you become more experienced with grads you will be able to use them to smooth out tones all over the frame - for example with this one where I had one 3 stop hard grad at the top going down to the waterline, and another 1 stop soft one coming up from the bottom to deal with bright hotspots on the water - click on the image to view full size to get a better idea of what I'm on about. I hope you can't see the joins where the grads end! It's amazing how infrequently you can see the line where a hard grad goes across, even if you are using a very small aperture (this was shot at f32 2/3).


I haven't had a chance to look at any of the articles that you linked Perry, but I would take Ken Rockwell with a pinch of salt.


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Thanks Guys. I'll check out the links later Perry, and as always Bruce, your helpfulness is much appreciated.

If you have live view on your camera this is a good time to use it

Now I've got it, I was wondering what use it would be! :grin:

I had one 3 stop hard grad at the top going down to the waterline, and another 1 stop soft one coming up from the bottom to deal with bright hotspots on the water

Thats a very good point. Now you've mentioned it, it does seem rather obvious that if the sky is getting overexposed, then the reflection of the sky is also likely to be too bright. I hadn't really thought about that before, but that is why the stems of the small reeds coming out of the water are so distinct and not just silhouette I should think.

Time to play methinks :naughty::naughty:

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