The “Old School” Graduated ND Filter

It is easy for digital photographers to get lazy out in the field — “Oh, I can fix it digitally, later. . . .”

There is nothing necessarily wrong with that approach, but I like to try to get it right in the field, preferably all in one shot. And sometimes that takes a few tricks.

Take the image below I just photographed.

A long exposure can give a nice abstract feel to an image. Using a polarizer slows down your shutter speed about 2 stops helps give you that longer exposure. Combined with a small aperture and low ISO, I had a nice long 30 second exposure to really abstract the water on the lake.

But what about the sky?  It is a lot brighter than the darker foreground here and will overexpose.  I could shoot it in two different exposures and add in the properly exposed sky later, but I’d rather get it one shot.

So I pulled my 3 stop Graduated Neutral Density filter out of my bag and held it over the lens to bring down the light in the bright sky and equalize the exposure.  Voila – you get the image all in one shot. A little more work up front, sure, but worth it to me. (And less work on the computer, later!).

Sean Fitzgerald

Dock at Sunset on Bitter Lake