Scenic Light
 
Complete instructions for use are included in all of our field workshops.
Procedures for setting the ND Filter.
Controlling Contrast in the images
The Color Zone System
Many landscape images do not contain the optimum exposure range due to the high contrast and highlights in the image. Even in the modern design of the digital ccd chip the range of proper light is about 7 stops from pure white to total black,  Keep in mind that 7 stops of light does not mean the best exposure for the final output.  Granted some of these adjustments can be made in the digital darkroom with masks and layer adjustments.  However my own preference is to capture the absolute best image I can in the field and not rely on hours of time editing in the dark room.  Let me say that starting with the best overall image is still the way to create dynamic images.  I did not originate these processes but have refined them to obtain an image with only 1 or 2 stops of variance in the tonal range.  Thus called the “color Zone system” to attain an even exposure and to bring out details in the foreground.  Opening up the foreground while keeping the highlights well exposed is the key.
If followed correctly I promise a much improved image with vibrant colors and foreground details.  Here are the step by step processes.
 
1. Properly compose the image using a sturdy tripod.
 
2. Remove the camera from the tripod and set the metering to spot meter.
 
3. Measure the exposure in the foreground and the most important highlight of the background.
 

4.  Determine the stops of light difference between the 2 areas. For example if the foreground is reading 1/15 of a second at f22 and the highlight of the most important background is 1/120 second, the difference is 3 stops.

 

5.  Therefore you will use a 3 stop grad to bring the 2 ranges within proper exposure range.  The issue is wether to use a hared edge or soft edge filter.  In most cases I prefer to use the hard edge as it is the easiest to set to the horizon line.
 
6. Now place the camera back on the tripod and set the aperture to f22 returning the meter to matrix. IMPORTANT step.
 
7. Using the depth of preview button to stop the lens down and move the filter in the holder up and down until it is place on the horizon defined by the foreground and background.
 
8.  Now click the shutter.  You will be rewarded with an image that has excellent detail in the foreground as well as vidid color in the highlights of the background.  We have placed 2 images below to show examples of their use.
 
It may seem like a lot of steps at first, however with a little practice it will take only seconds to measure and adjust you ND filters for dynamic images.
 
 I  recommend the use of either the Sing-Ray or Cokin filter system with the ‘P’ size adaptor.  With this arrangement you can simply add an appropriate ring adaptor to fit all lenses only requiring 1 or 2 filters for all. One word of caution is that with the advent of the digital camera and it’s multiple factor you may find that lens as wide as 15-17 mm can cause vignetting.  If this is a large issue for you then you might consider the Lee filter system with is larger but more expensive and not as easy to use in my estimation.
 
 
The two images below taken at the same time in Arches National Park.  The top image has no ND filter , while the second has the ND fiiler placed at the horizon.  You can see the foreground is of equal exposure while in the top image the sky is completely washed out.  The bottom shot is of excellent exposure with detail and color in the sky and clouds.
 No Grad Filter With ND GRAD