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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Accessories That Matter

Tripods, filters and other handy extras for enhancing your photography

Labels: GearBuyer's Guide

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Tiffen Tiffen Heliopan
For landscape photography, the most useful filters are polarizers and grad NDs. Polarizers can darken a blue sky so clouds stand out dramatically, eliminate reflections from nonmetallic surfaces like water and richen colors by eliminating the polarized reflections that dilute them.

There are two types of polarizers: linear and circular. The TTL autofocusing and metering systems in many D-SLRs won’t work properly with a linear polarizer, so you have to use a circular polarizer, which is more expensive.

Grad ND filters are half clear and half dark. They can be very useful with landscape scenes that include a bright sky area and a dark ground area. Position the filter so the dark portion covers the sky area, and you can reduce the contrast to something the film or digital camera can handle. Grad ND filters come in various densities and with hard and soft transitions between clear and dark portions. Landscape pros have full sets, but a 2- or 3-stop filter with a soft edge is a good “starter” filter. Graduated filters also come in colors, helpful for enhancing a blue sky or an orange sunset.

Neutral-density filters reduce the amount of light coming through the lens without otherwise altering it. If you’d like to blur a waterfall into cotton-candy ribbons by using a slow shutter speed, but it’s bright and sunny out, you can use an ND filter to cut the light enough to let you shoot at a slow shutter speed. ND filters come in a variety of strengths; especially useful are the variable ones like the Singh-Ray Vari-ND, which lets you apply two to eight stops of ND just by rotating the filter.

Hoya Hoya
The simplest filters to use are those that screw into the threads on the front of your lens. The major drawbacks of screw-in filters are that you need different ones for each different-diameter lens you have, or you can buy one that fits your largest-diameter lens and use step-down rings to attach it to smaller-diameter lenses. Another downside is that you can’t move the dividing line up or down with graduated filters.

With system filters, you buy one filter holder and use it with all your lenses via adapter rings. The rectangular filters all fit that holder, and can be slid up, down and sideways to position a graduated filter’s dividing line anywhere in the frame.

Top filter brands include B+W (www.schneideroptics.com), Heliopan (www.hpmarketingcorp.com), Hoya (www.thkphoto.com), Kenko (www.thkphoto.com), Kokonor (www.forcamerafilters.com), Singh-Ray (www.singh-ray.com) and Tiffen (www.tiffen.com). The Cokin (www.cokin.com) high-tech plastic filter system is a versatile choice for the budget-minded.


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