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Thread: GND Filters vs HDR

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    The Commander mikew09's Avatar
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    GND Filters vs HDR

    Fellow AP-ers. I have been carrying around a set of grad filters for maybe 3 yrs. Used to do a fair bit of landscape (not so much now) but stopped using them about 18 months ago in view of HDR. HDR can capture the dynamic range and can be processed to not reflect that of a HDR image but with more benefits than that of toying with Grad filters - personal observation only.

    Like most of us I am forever looking for more space in my bag for my kit and out of interest have two question:

    1. How many use Grad filters over HDR and visa-versa?

    2. Why or would / do you choose one option over the other?

    Very interested to hear feed back on this topic.

    Cheers,

    Mike
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    its interesting, I dont know how far HDR software has come in the last few years but from the images I have seen It can be difficult to get good HDR images if anything is moving in the frame (water movement?)
    Most HDR processed images I have seen are usually overdone and are bringing out all the detail in the shadows and making the image look flat. However high dynamic range does not need to be super crazy DR, it could simply be pushing the shadows and trying to recover highlights from one image, getting it closer to what the human eye may have seen in the scene. I never had much sucesses with HDR software and found grad NDs produced much more pleasing results.
    I would be interested to see what the latest software can do anyway.

    heres a picture i took with some grads, I like the image as it still retains many of the shadows in the very dark areas of scene but has brought out the details in the highlights and some texture in the foreground

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    The Commander
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    Yea - I hear what you are saying in view of over cooked HDR images. Put me off HDR in the early days and I just never got it. I used grads for a while but hit a glitch when I had a lens that wouldn't take the lens frame mount ring.

    The software is much improved I think but I am drawn to Grads again aas a trial with the purchase of my 5d3 tis last week. This did bring me to this post that are they just taking up room in my bag or is there a place for them or are grad filters just becoming old hat.

    Nice photo by the way, I am sure I have seen it before, maybe on AP sometime.

    Thanks for the input :-)

    - - - Updated - - -

    Here is an example of two HDR images I have done - I am not sure they look obviously HDR - I have achieved the same result with a grad and mirror lockup shots
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    can't remember Tannin's Avatar
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    Grads for me, because I'd far, far rather carry around a couple of little filters than waste endless hours indoors in front of a computer messing with HDR software and wishing I was outdoors. Much easier to get a natural-looking result too.

    (PS: To my eye, #1 looks near enough to natural, #2 looks like HDR.)
    Tony

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    Yea Tony, I cant dispute that. Definitely takes longer to process a HDR image than filtered if the goal is to get a natural look. Grads 2, HDR 0, so far the grads have it, looks like I will doing a compare against grad / HDR on the 5D3 if this is an indication of the outcome of my thread.

    Thanks for your time Tony.

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    Your images are not too bad, I think in number 1 you probably could have got similar result just pushing shadows in photoshop rather than doing a HDR process, the 2nd looks a bit HDR-like. I found that the HDR software I used damaged my images and the image quality. If you are using high quality sensor like in the 5d3 and a high quality lens it seems crazy to let the software manipulate/destroy the quality. (once again speaking from the software that was around 2 y ago - might be better now).

    What lens could not take grads? 17mm ts-e?

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    can't remember Tannin's Avatar
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    Cheers Mike. One disadvantage of using filters is lens compatibility. (This applies mostly to CPLs as opposed to grads, but there is some relevance.) If you have various different filter ring sizes, it can get difficult and unworkable to carry (and buy!) enough of the right size filters to suit whatever lens you have. I deal with that by only buying, so far as is possible, lenses with a particular filter size. My standard (and probably the most practical one, certainly in the Canon world) is 77mm. My 10-22, 24-105, and 100-400 all take 77mm filters. For landscape work (which is mostly what you want filters for) these are my three most-used lenses. (Perhaps alongside the Tokina fish which can't take filters at all, and the 60mm macro for which I have a smaller filter.) So, in theory, one 77mm filter does the lot. In practice I carry two shared between the three as that's easier and quicker.

    I ponder, from time to time, replacing my main landscape camera (5D II) with a 5D III and swapping the 5D II over to wide-angle duties. (Replacing the 50D.) If I do this, I'll most likely buy a 17-40/4 rather than a 16-35/2.8, and one of the reasons I favour the 17-40 is that it too has a 77mm filter ring. (The 16-35 has a much larger front element, which would be a pain to use a filter with. Apart from anything else, to be practical, a filter needs to fit in your shirt pocket!)

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    Yep, good point. That is something I am quickly discovering with the 5D and the noise and IQ is well beyond my expectations - just loving teh camera. I bought the Canon EF-S 10-22mm lens maybe 12 months ago. It does have the rim on the front element for a lens hood but it must have a different fitting as the holder for the filter just doesnt seem to sit right with the screw on ring.

    The point you make about quality sensor and lens is valid. 5D3 FF with L glass does seem a bit senseless using HDR over grads for landscapes. I will be doing my first landscapes with the 5D3 this weekend and grads - be interesting against the 50D that has served me so well.

    Thanks for the insight.

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    Photo Bizarro nimrodisease's Avatar
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    When you say HDR, you mean using a HDR application yeah? I would suggest that if you try manual blending in photoshop then you will find that you can completely avoid any loss in image quality, and have much greater control over the end result.

    I think, if there is a definite line in the image where it transitions from light to dark (a horizon for example), then a GND is the obvious choice. However if the composition is a bit more dynamic and there is light and dark happening in different places throughout the frame, then exposure blending is probably a better option.
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    As Keen As Mustard NikonNellie's Avatar
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    I think that I may have missed something over the years I have been doing photography. I use the filters to take the images and then I take those images into my HDR software (Photomatix) and have a play with them until I get the desired effect. I usually blend three images together. I find using the filters gives me a better result for the skies. I don't run all my landscapes through Photomatix , sometimes I just exposure blend in PS.

    I thought using the two together (filters and HDR software) was the usual thing to do.
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    http://steveaxford.smugmug.com/ Steve Axford's Avatar
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    It all depends what you are photographing. If it is basically flat landscapes, then a grad filter may be easiest, and maybe the best. For things without a nice straight line horizon, then I'd go for HDR (by HDR I mean manual blending or HDR software plus correction). Here's one I took earlier which was done with HDR software plus manual blending a reapplying a gamma curve (not as much work as it sounds).

    Don't know about using both, but as long as you get good results Nellie. I guess that's the point with any method - as long as it works for you.


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    Never use HDR. Tried a couple of times, but couldn't get the result I wanted. In my kit I have a 10 stopper, a ND500 and a CPL. I seem to get reasonable results with these.
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    Ausphotography Veteran MattNQ's Avatar
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    The problem with hdr is you can't move anything when changing settings to bracket your shots. Trying to align images can be a pain later if you moved the camera.
    I find that GND's free you up move more and simply take a single shot - which is handy if you are very close to splashing water, or don't have time/space to set up a proper tripod.

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    This is an interesting discussion now and I am pretty surprised how many different a angles there are on shooting landscapes etc.
    i didn't get out on the weekend due to much needed rain ;-) but will soon. In view of what I have read in replies I will add a little more.

    Probably one one thing that did drive me more to hrd at times was lack of ability to recovery info / details in shadows with the 50d. Don't get me wrong but the 50d can be very unforgiving in shadows etc with noise, used to drive me insane in landscape shots so was always very mindful of it. This week weather permitting will do a test shoot with grads, HDR and process both with blending, hrd software and the grad photo with shadow recovery and post the results. HDR is a lot of work and be good to move away from it. The 5d may very well change my process here.

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    can't remember Tannin's Avatar
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    I think you are on the right track there, Mike. The 50D (and the 7D also) does struggle with noise in shadows, more so than older, lower-resolution models like the 20D and even (to a lesser extent) the 40D. There is a vast gulf from 50D & 7D to the larger format models (I've used 1D III, 1D IV and 5D II, but have no reason to think that any of the FF models would be different). I understand that the latest APS-C Canons (60D, 70D) are also improved, but I haven't tried them. The 5D II in particular is amazingly good with noise, and I'm told that the newer models are even better.

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    Yea - the 50d is a great camera and has served me well in all but low light situations. I learnt a lot from the 50d and I would say if I had of started with a 5D or 1D series I would not have learnt as much about exposure, noise etc.

    had a walk around lunch break with the 5d3 today and it really does overwhelm me - just love it. Was worth the 4 yrs it took me to finally get enough cash to buy one.

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    I have a CPL in my kit, but no real GND filters. I'm currently overseas and taking a lot of shots of dark foreground and light sky or sunsets. What does everyone think of shooting RAW and just using the file to duplicate in different exposures via lightroom or camera raw for HDR? In failing that idea, I have thought about it a little and can't do much about it right now, but I was thinking of just using my raw files and then using a gradient exposure filter within camera raw before loading the image into Photoshop.

    Does that sound alright or am I on a different page?


    I would eventually like to get some GND filters as I think it is best to get as much right in the original shot with minimal processing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by teylward View Post
    I have a CPL in my kit, but no real GND filters. I'm currently overseas and taking a lot of shots of dark foreground and light sky or sunsets. What does everyone think of shooting RAW and just using the file to duplicate in different exposures via lightroom or camera raw for HDR? In failing that idea, I have thought about it a little and can't do much about it right now, but I was thinking of just using my raw files and then using a gradient exposure filter within camera raw before loading the image into Photoshop.

    Does that sound alright or am I on a different page?


    I would eventually like to get some GND filters as I think it is best to get as much right in the original shot with minimal processing.
    if you have lightroom you can easily set-up an exposure gradient, or use fill light and recovery sliders to bring out shadows and highlights from a single image. If you did shoot raw it will be much better, but yes if you added a grad it would help to reduce processing and give a better quality final image without too much pushing and pulling :P

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    Photo Bizarro nimrodisease's Avatar
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    I use graduated filters in Lightroom ALL the time. It's certainly a valid approach, the only challenge is getting the correct exposure in the shadows whilst not blowing out the highlights completely. It won't work in very high dynamic range situations.

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    Ausphotography irregular Mark L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nimrodisease View Post
    the only challenge is getting the correct exposure in the shadows whilst not blowing out the highlights completely. It won't work in very high dynamic range situations.
    So why not bracket, merge the photos and work on that?

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