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When the skies are bright and the grounds are dark...

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by mesmerized, Jun 5, 2019.

  1. mesmerized

    mesmerized TalkEmount Regular

    Mar 26, 2014
    Hello there,

    I wanted do ask how you handle these extreme light conditions where you want to avoid blowing out the skies and at the same time you need to make sure that the ground is exposed properly? Is there any other way than getting ND filters? Do you always use HDR for scenes like that?

    If using ND filters is the way to go, then... what filters would you recommend? I don't really want to buy a frame with square filters... but is there any other alternative?

    Thank you!
  2. bdbits

    bdbits TalkEmount All-Pro

    Sep 10, 2015
    Just so you know, there are screw-in ND filters. They are probably not quite as high quality, and not as popular because then you need them for each lens thread size you have or mess with step up/down rings.

    But to more directly respond, personally I have never gotten along with HDR. Used tastefully, it can be a great solution though. You'd need to bracket at capture time, and most (all?) current Sony camera have auto-bracketing features. If you are willing to live with JPEGs there are some in-camera options that are similar to HDR. What I mostly do though is underexpose and pull up the shadows in post. It is much easier to recover shadows, and nearly impossible to recover blown highlights. So I shoot to protect the highlights I want to preserve and adjust for the rest. I have read that Sony sensors are particularly adept at preserving shadow details even when heavily underexposed. Seems to work for me most of the time.

    Which is not to say you won't want some ND filters. Particularly if you want to do long exposures in daylight, it is pretty much a requirement. I have no recommendations for which ones, but I will say the screw-in filter I had was handy. But I recently sold it along with a lens, so I should pick something up and will also be interested if anyone has recommendations.
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  3. fractal

    fractal TalkEmount Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jun 17, 2014
    Southeastern PA
    The newest Sony sensors are amazing at pulling shadows. Unless this is for a pro job, I expose for the sky and then pull the shadows in post.

    Otherwise, you can just bracket 2 shots together.
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  4. pellicle

    pellicle TalkEmount Veteran

    I agree with the idea expressed above that the sensors now have sufficient tonal range to handle this, but do make sure you dis-engage your e shutter for this will reduce the bit depth.

    I've got a friend recently doing some "graduated tint" shots just in photoshop *because* the sensor has enough range by itself (unlike slides, which were dreadful despite the fascination with them back in the scanning daze (over negs)).

    One of the first images I took with my A7 was this one, to exactly test the range available to me, this is the OOC JPG:
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    which indeed blew the red channel but was able to be restored because in RAW it didn't ... just the Sony Cameras rendering of the JPG

    This is what I got with a quick snapseed rendering on my tablet doing a bit of tone mapping and highlight recovery.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Which demonstrated to me a few things:
    1. the amazing dynamic range of these cameras
    2. while I already knew from 10 years of working with RAW that blinking highlights in the extra depth (height) on the histogram you can get on the Sony sensor is in excess of what you can get on any sensor I'd previously used, lending itself to good highlight recovery
    3. DNG conversion by Adobe allowed older RAW converters (say, ACR 4 and earlier) to get much better conversions than the ARW file directly
    Now as to "proper" exposure, I guess if you wanted to force the foreground to look like it was a bright day then you're going to be getting some noise, but to me that's not "proper" because to me it doesn't reflect what I saw. The lighting in that situation did mean that the valley foreground was dim, but not the inky black created in the OOC JPG.

    I could have probably squeezed it up an entire stop more (giving the shadows less noise, just like I used to do with Neg) and if you were using a modern highlight recovery system you may well have been able to get more from that. I should try it with another RAW editing system (I've had excellent results with RawTherapee btw).

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  5. Tipton

    Tipton TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Jan 30, 2016
    Rae Leggett
    I do a lot of handheld sunsets. I frequently bracket by a stop on either side of "proper" exposure. And i frequently discard two of the bracketed photos because I can push/pull enough in post to get a good photo.

    I have also used filters. Now I mostly use them when I want a "flowing water" effect.

    My interest in photography was rekindled at the height of the HDR fad, and I followed that until I decided I liked having shadows.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2019
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  6. mesmerized

    mesmerized TalkEmount Regular

    Mar 26, 2014
    Thanks guys.

    I'm wondering... is it better to get a screw-in grad ND filter or a regular one (by regular I mean without gradation) ?
  7. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 12, 2012
    Ashland, OR, USA
    Given the dynamic range latitude my A7RII's sensor provides, I haven't used a ND filter for at least a couple of years now. And I'm no fan of the HDR "look." My goal is almost always, as @pellicle@pellicle mentions, to try to reproduce what my eyes saw. And since my camera still allows for the use of the Play Memory apps, even flowing water doesn't require a filter. So I've got a stack of them here, gathering dust. :rolleyes-20:
    • Informative Informative x 1
  8. cheeks69

    cheeks69 TalkEmount Veteran

    Jan 24, 2017
    The only time I use ND filters is when I'm doing LE otherwise Graduated filter or as Rae said "bracket by a stop on either side of "proper" exposure" is the way to go, works for me. Although you can get some details out of the shadows in post the noise is annoying to me.
  9. Richard Crowe

    Richard Crowe TalkEmount Veteran Subscribing Member

    Sep 14, 2018
    Quite often, just using a CPL will darken the skies (if the sun's angle is appropriate) enough to even out the dynamic range of the image...
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