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Old July 7th, 2013, 07:31 PM
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Are Graduated Neutral Density Filters Obsolete in the Age of HDR?

Photography has a very limited range of exposure latitude. Overcoming that limitation has long been a challenge for outdoor photographers. But has the preferred method of extending exposure range shifted with advances in digital photography? Are Graduated Neutral Density filters now obsole....

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Old July 8th, 2013, 02:45 PM
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Re: Are Graduated Neutral Density Filters Obsolete in the Age of HDR?

No I think the opposite. I have a Nikon D800 and it still lacks enough dynamic range to handle shooting a sunrise or sunset. For a long time Cokin type drop in filters have been back ordered and Z-pro size filters were hard to find. Now they are much easier to find and in stock most everywhere.
After years of living with the P size and not being able to shoot wider than 20mm without vignetting I have upgraded to the Z series.
There are also several new ones on the market. One the reverse ND grad that starts light, then dark and then light on the bottom with the darkest area a third way down from the top. Made for sunrises and sets with the brightest part of the scene is in the upper third of the composition.
The bottom line if like me and you don't really like doing HDRs and don't like setting in PhotoShop for hours replacing a sky then they are invaluable.
I think ND grads are selling fine.

Last edited by cosmonaut; July 8th, 2013 at 02:52 PM.
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Old July 8th, 2013, 05:49 PM
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Re: Are Graduated Neutral Density Filters Obsolete in the Age of HDR?

Frankly, I was looking to shoot down any contention that GNDs were passť....but the author clearly states cases for the 3 major methods of dealing with contrast range exceeding sensor capability, one of which clearly is use of a GND. Like so many other things in life, there is no "one size fits all" to a GND. It is convenient and very effective at reining in differences especially if the transition is straight (but not necessarily horizontal....just straight. One of the things I struggle with is positioning of a GND, especially stronger ones (ie +3) when there are things (trees typically) projecting up into the ND zone. They can be Post Processed to lighten but......! Merging exposure versions of a photo has its own compromises, not the least of which is the tediousness of doing so.

Re Reverse GNDs, I have a question. Whereas with a GND, ie upper (usually!) 1/2 being the designated ND and the lower 1/2 clear with a transition zone (wider = "soft", narrower = "hard") between the 2, the RGND has a clear bottom, sudden/hard transition to full ND, and then a tapering off to minimal near the top. With a traditional GND, I not only can rotate the GND but can slide it up/down to optimally place it along a horizon, ridgeline, treeline, shoreline, etc. My issue, although not having worked with one, is that the manufacturer determines the TWO transitions, ie clear to full and then full to lesser above...defining the effective width of the full band of ND. That band is seen differently by different lenses, ie wide angle vs telephoto and aperture used. Short of having MANY RGNDs and/or sunrises/sunsets of similar effect, how does one deal with the myriad of needs? I've thought of "opposing", ie flipping one, 2 GNDs such that the overlapping ND zones aggregate to form the strongest ND area AND are adjustable width, ie amount of overlap. As an example, a +2 (flipped) and +3 overlapped would provide a +2, +5, and +3 zones. Effectively opening 2 stops would give a "net" 0, +3, and +1 BUT with the aggregate zone defined/adjustable by user.
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Old July 8th, 2013, 06:05 PM
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Re: Are Graduated Neutral Density Filters Obsolete in the Age of HDR?

I am not sure how well the reverse grad works. I do believe the upper portion of the filter falls off less than the lower. I would imagine it would work better on larger lenses and wide focal lengths.
I do think filters are getting more popular and not less. I know there is a lot more available now than there ever has been.
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