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Fantastic Landscapes: Layering a GND Filter with Another Filter

Lens filters provide a quick way to correct brightness, add effects, and get amazing images on the spot. Learn about the techniques behind the following three images, which were shot with a graduated neutral density (GND) filter combined with another type of filter. (Reported by: Munetaka Hiroshima, Yoshiki Fujiwara, Digital Camera Magazine)

 

1. Soft-edge GND with ND400 filter

Blue sunrise in sea of clouds

EOS-1D X/ EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 16mm/ Manual exposure (f/8, 32 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto
Photo by: Munetaka Hiroshima


Filters used

Soft-edge ND8 GND filter

Soft-edge ND8 GND filter


ND400 filter

ND400 filter


What the filters do

Filter effects diagram

A: Place the transition edge of the GND filter so that it covers the clouds.
B: The GND filter evens out the exposure and retains the blue of the sky.
C: The ND400 filter lets you create a 30-second exposure that captures cloud movement.


Smoothing out the rays of the sun rising over a sea of clouds

Mesmerised by this vast sea of clouds that formed in the morning and extended all the way into the distant horizon, I wanted to find a way to capture how it seemed to lap against the mountain surface just like waves in the sea.

ND400 filter for long exposure, GND filter to even out the brightness

As the sea of clouds moved very slowly, using an ND400 filter and a 30-second exposure was enough to capture the movement. However, the ND400 filter alone was not enough to prevent the bright sun and the sky around it from becoming overexposed.

To overcome this, I held a GND filter in front of the lens to reduce the light in the parts with blown highlights. This allowed me to capture an image with even overall brightness on the spot.


Learn more about creating long exposures with an ND filter in:
Using Lens Filters: 2 Techniques from Professional Photographers
Slow Shutter Art: 300-sec Exposure for a Different View of the Sea

Filter technique: Adjust the GND with your hand to achieve transitions that look more natural

Holding GND filter over lens

The transition edge of your GND filter might look very obvious in certain scenes. Hold it in your hand and move it up and down during the exposure for more natural results. In fact, holding your GND filter by hand helps you save on the filter holder, both in terms of investment and your equipment load.

Tip: If you are worried about abrasions on your lens from sliding the GND filter around, you can attach felt to the edges of your lens, like I did.

 

2. Soft GND filter + Stripe filter

Poppy flower field in valley

EOS 6D/ EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 16mm/ Manual exposure (f/8, 2.5 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Cloudy
Photo by: Yoshiki Fujiwara


Filters used

Soft-edge ND8 GND filter

Soft-edge ND8 GND filter


A mist stripe filter

A mist stripe filter


What the filters do

Filter effect diagram

A: The mist stripe filter “adds mist” to the centre of the image.
B: The GND filter retains the colours of the sky.
C: The GND filter also makes the poppies in front look brighter.


A dreamy poppy field against the misty sky

Using a mist stripe filter gave a dreamy effect to this landscape shot at sunrise.

First of all, I placed a soft-edged GND filter over the bright parts of the sky to even out the difference in brightness between the sky and the poppies.

Then, while looking through the viewfinder, I carefully placed the mist stripe filter over the part of the image that I wanted to look misty. Placement is important: if the subjects in the foreground look misty, the perspective would look unnatural.

A longer focal length would make the white part of the filter appear denser, broader and more obvious, so I shot at 16mm, using the wide-angle perspective to enhance the sense of depth in the scene.


Filter technique: How a mist stripe filter works

Shot without stripe filter

A mist stripe filter has a translucent white stripe in the middle, which obscures details in the centre of the image to create a mist-like effect. It works best under the following conditions:

- Relatively flat scene
- No subject in front
- Suitable for shooting with a wide angle

If these conditions are met, you could achieve dreamy images like no other.


How about scenes with real mist? Learn some tips and techniques for misty landscapes here:
Camera Settings for Photographing Misty Streams and Rivers
Composition Tips for Making Mist Pop

 

3. Soft-edge ND filter + Colour filter

Flowing clouds over seashore

EOS 6D/ EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 24mm/ Manual exposure (f/16, 4 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight
Photo by: Yoshiki Fujiwara


Filters used

Soft-edge ND8 GND filter

Soft-edge ND8 GND filter


Blue GND filter

Blue GND filter


What the filters do

Filter effect diagram

A: Blue GND filter reduces blown highlights in the sun.
B: Blue GND filter makes the sky look bluer.
C: Grey GND filter reduces the brightness of the beach, ensuring that details are not lost due to overexposure.


A blue sky that adds drama to the sunlight peeking from between the clouds

One advantage of square filters is that you can stack them to layer their effects, which can make your images even more extraordinary. I like colour filters for the unique way that they enhance colours.

Here’s how I created this image:

Step 1: Place the GND filter so that the dark part is at the bottom. This lets you use a long exposure to turn the waves silky smooth and capture their movement.

Step 2: Layer the blue filter on top. This makes the clouds look thicker and the sky look a deeper blue, which in turn adds impact to the sunlight peeking out from between the clouds.


Filter technique: What to do if the scene does not have a perfectly level horizon line

Sepia-toned flowing clouds over seashore

Sepia-tinted shot

Using a different coloured filter changes the atmosphere of the shot, but depending on the colour, the transition can be obvious if the horizon in the scene isn’t perfectly level. I will usually blur the line by moving the colour filter up and down slightly during the exposure so that the transition line moves up and down against the horizon of the scene. (See Filter Technique 1)

 

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What else can you create when you layer filters? Share your shots with our community on My Canon Story today!

 


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Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Yoshiki Fujiwara

Yoshiki Fujiwara

Formerly a professional snowboarder, Fujiwara took the opportunity to embark on a second career as a photographer after retiring due to an injury. He has since won a number of international photography awards for his nature photography and cultural portraits. In 2019, he became the first Japanese person to win an award in the 'People' category of the 2019 National Geographic Travel Photo Contest. Besides providing photos for National Geographic, Fujiawa also contributes to camera magazines in Japan and abroad, and engages in a wide range of activities including books, talk shows, and company calendars.

http://www.yoshiki-fujiwara.com/
Instagram: @yoshiki_fujiwara

Munetaka Hiroshima

Munetaka Hiroshima

Born in Hokkaido, Munetaka was introduced to photography when he began taking photos of mountain peaks after joining a mountaineering club in high school. Since then, he has put his heart into capturing inspiring natural scenes, mainly of landscapes and starry skies but also of sunrises, sunsets and terrain. One of his images won in the Landscape category of the 2016 Nature’s Best Photography Asia Photo Contest.

http://hiroshimamunetaka.photo/