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Author Topic: Graduated Neutral Density  (Read 6530 times)

Eagle Eye

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Graduated Neutral Density
« on: July 07, 2011, 09:21:31 PM »
So I made a claim in a recent post that Lightroom 3's capabilities essentially negate the need for carrying a graduated neutral density filter.  Perhaps a premature assertion.  I'd be curious to hear from the forum on the matter and I'd rather avoid the 'purist' argument (though I do respect it).  I'm interested more in whether landscape photographers and the like have found the graduated neutral density feature on Lightroom as technically effective as I have.
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Graduated Neutral Density
« on: July 07, 2011, 09:21:31 PM »

Canon Rumors

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2011, 09:31:39 PM »
I do not find the feature in lightroom to get anywhere near what a proper grad will do. The problem with grads is you need 2-3 of them at least, for various situations. I also use a reverse grad from time to time.

I think grads do a better and more natural job, however the cost benefit ratio may be off for some.

I use Singh-Ray grads by the way.


« Last Edit: July 07, 2011, 09:34:32 PM by Canon Rumors »
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dr croubie

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2011, 10:19:01 PM »
I was asking myself that question earlier in my head after reading a different thread on Cokins and holders.

one thing that i thought of is that if your sky is really bright, and your subject is really dark, you can either:
- expose the sky to just below full-blowout, and boost the brightness of the dark bits in Post Processing (less detail though).
- expose the dark bits nicely, but once the sky's blown out to full white, no PP can get any detail back.
- bracket exposures and combine them in PP (never done it, but i presume it'll take a bit of time)
- grad-nd will expose the dark bits nicely, stop the sky from blowing out, but my guess is that it works best only on straight-line horizons? what if you've got a mountain peak or two?
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neuroanatomist

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2011, 10:30:44 PM »
I think grads do a better and more natural job, however the cost benefit ratio may be off for some.

I agree.  The post-processing route involves more sacrifices (loss of detail in the shadows and/or highlights and extra shadow noise for a single-shot process, or ghosting if anything moves, e.g. from wind or waves, with bracketing/HDR).

- grad-nd will expose the dark bits nicely, stop the sky from blowing out, but my guess is that it works best only on straight-line horizons? what if you've got a mountain peak or two?

That's one reason Craig mentions needing several ND grads - for a straight horizon you want a hard egde, for an uneven horizon you want a soft edge, and then you need different densities depending on the situation.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2011, 11:30:52 PM by neuroanatomist »
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Eagle Eye

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2011, 10:45:23 PM »
I definitely understand what you're saying with loss of detail.  I'm wondering if I just haven't used the L3 feature enough, since I've never lost enough detail to really notice, but then again, we're essentially talking about one to three stops of light.  I don't have my filters anymore to do a side by side comparison.  Would someone mind posting a pair of images, one with the grad nd and one with post-processing?
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neuroanatomist

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2011, 11:27:18 PM »
Would someone mind posting a pair of images, one with the grad nd and one with post-processing?

Fortuitously, this very topic came up in a recent dPS article: Comparing Gradient Neutral Density Filters To Lightroom Gradient Tool.  The author's conclusion was that, "...using tools in the computer after the fact is not a replacement for making sure data is captured correctly to begin with."
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motorhead

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2011, 06:44:34 AM »
I have nothing against post processing and admit I enjoy it. But I struggle to make sky/clouds to seamlessly "fit" if I try and merge two exposures of the same scene.

Our brains are much cleverer than we think! Without knowing exactly why, subconciously we can tell when its not right.

I have the same problem when viewing many HDR's, they look false and are rejected out of hand mentally, even though otherwise they might be very good compositions.

I use a series of three soft edge Cokin grey grads, but I think if or when I replace them I will go for the harder edged versions.   

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2011, 06:44:34 AM »

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2011, 07:14:47 PM »
The only way to get something close to the quality of using a graduated ND would be to bracket the shots and combine in PP later. Blur the edge and all that jazz. Otherwise you will be losing a lot of light data one way or the other (or you wouldnt be needing to use gradation in the first place). Lightrooms is not even a close replacement if you arent bracketing (unless the scene is very even - in which case graduation is pointless anyways).

pinnaclephotography

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2011, 08:58:46 PM »
I think a combination of physical neutral density filters and their digital equivalents can make a suitable middle ground in terms of expense and encumbrance in the field.

If one operates with a simple set of 3 filters (probably a 2-stop varient of soft edge ND, hard edge ND, and a reverse GND), one can avoid the hassle of having to stack too many filters simultaneously and dealing with any probable color cast issues.  My method is to use enough physical filters to avoid clipping the channels and get the exposure in each zone of the shot reasonably close to what I want the final result to be and then a bit of post processing filters to handle the finishing adjustments.

The two shots below were completed with the hybrid method I described.  Oh, and both are single exposures.

Crashing Cape Kiwanda [explore 9/22/10] by posthumus_cake (www.pinnaclephotography.net), on Flickr
I used a 2-stop GND to control the wave exposure and avoid clipping the highlights and used filters in post process to adjust the sky.  I would have prefered a second physical filter for the sky, but I didn't have one with at the time.


The Mountain by posthumus_cake (www.pinnaclephotography.net), on Flickr
I used a 2-stop GND to control sunset highlights and digital filters in post process to adjust the sky and mountain exposure.

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Chewy734

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2011, 09:18:54 PM »
beautiful shots Matt!

pinnaclephotography

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2011, 09:47:03 PM »

ronderick

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2011, 10:53:08 PM »
A bit off the topic here, but in case anyone's interested...

Kenko-Tokina bought Cokin Filters:
http://www.ephotozine.com/article/kenko-tokina-acquires-cokin-filters-16915

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neuroanatomist

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2011, 11:49:48 AM »
A bit off the topic here, but in case anyone's interested...

Kenko-Tokina bought Cokin Filters:
http://www.ephotozine.com/article/kenko-tokina-acquires-cokin-filters-16915

They bought them, but apparently they still haven't paid the bill for Cokin's website hosting....
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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2011, 11:49:48 AM »

ronderick

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2011, 11:31:53 PM »
A bit off the topic here, but in case anyone's interested...

Kenko-Tokina bought Cokin Filters:
http://www.ephotozine.com/article/kenko-tokina-acquires-cokin-filters-16915

They bought them, but apparently they still haven't paid the bill for Cokin's website hosting....

mmm... my gut feeling tells me that Cokin product will soon become a part of the Kenko-tokina website.

PS: Hopefully the acquiring of Cokin will make their products more accessible to local consumers.
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Stu_bert

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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2011, 07:46:24 AM »
Concur with Matt and Neuroanatomist. You use filters when DR is too great. Post processing cannot bring back detail which the sensor has not captured. However, there are times where I don't get the filters quite correct in the field, and I definitely tweak in LR. Finally, there are times where filters won't work and you have to blend or HDR.
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Re: Graduated Neutral Density
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2011, 07:46:24 AM »