/ exposure blending vs grad ND filters

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Stone_donkey - on 16 Jul 2013
I was considering getting some grad ND filters principally to bring a sky exposure closer to the ground exposure (no blown out sky) but am wondering if this can be done in the computer instead by exposure blending without photoshop - I have Lightroom and Elements 10? So it involves multiple exposures so no good if there's anything moving in the scene but for most landscapes this won't be an issue. What's the verdict of the landscape experts out there - ND grad or fiddle it on the 'puter?
Douglas Griffin - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Stone_donkey:

Some people (e.g. Hans Strand) don't use ND grad filters but expose separately for sky and foreground and then blend digitally later. Others (e.g. Joe Cornish - even when working digitally I believe) used ND grads.

The big advantage of digital blending is that you can apply this technique in situations where ND grads aren't absolutely ideal - for example, in the common situation where there are trees or hills on the horizon, you will end up with some or all of these being darkened by the use of an ND grad. This can be recovered later in Lightroom, however.

I use ND grads but am considering changing.
In reply to Stone_donkey:

There is a graduated filter in Lightroom, if you are shooting in RAW it dead easy to rescue the blown highlights,


Chris
radson - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:

Totes agree
Douglas Griffin - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:

If you use Lightroom's ND grad tool for this then as with an actual ND grad filter you'll also decrease the exposure of everything else above the line.

You can change the exposure more selectively using the Adjustment Brush tool.
Nicholas Livesey on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:
> (In reply to Stone_donkey)
>
> There is a graduated filter in Lightroom, if you are shooting in RAW it dead easy to rescue the blown highlights,
>
>
> Chris

I think this is a bit misleading Chris. Once those highlights are blown they are gone, you can't get them back. I shoot in RAW and use the lightroom grad filter to recover highlights but I think I would struggle without using grads in the field too. They give me that little bit extra in very high contrast scenes where the risk of losing shadow or highlight detail is high.

Just my thoughts on the matter )
In reply to Nicholas Livesey:
> (
>
> I think this is a bit misleading Chris. Once those highlights are blown they are gone, you can't get them back. I shoot in RAW and use the lightroom grad filter to recover highlights but I think I would struggle without using grads in the field too. They give me that little bit extra in very high contrast scenes where the risk of losing shadow or highlight detail is high.
>
> Just my thoughts on the matter )

Doubtless true. If it is a tricky situation I will expose for the highlights so there is plenty of info in there.


Chris

Stone_donkey - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Nicholas Livesey:
> (In reply to Chris Craggs)
> [...]
>
> I think this is a bit misleading Chris. Once those highlights are blown they are gone, you can't get them back. I shoot in RAW and use the lightroom grad filter to recover highlights but I think I would struggle without using grads in the field too. They give me that little bit extra in very high contrast scenes where the risk of losing shadow or highlight detail is high.
>
That was my thought (assumption) that one image (and I do shoot in Raw) wouldn't be able to cover both a bright cloudy white sky and a darker foreground (too many stops). I've used the graduated filter thingummy in LR once or twice and it worked quite well but the images weren't very challenging in terms of dynamic range. So it sounds like ND grads still have a role to play... but until I get some can anyone advise a workflow from LR to PS Elements to do the exposure blending?

Marc Elliott - on 17 Jul 2013
In reply to Stone_donkey:

For me getting it as right as much in camera is always my goal, and therefor when time allows will always use a grad of some kind. But I do find in the heat of a setting sun, or when the dynmaic range is too great to effectively grad I will then take a series of shots that will have the shadows and highlights covered, and then hand blend them together with masks and paint brush in PS.

This shot below is an example of this. 3 separate exposures, also shot at different apertures and focus points to maximise tonal, contrast, and depth of field.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/77468056@N07/9309066626/?v=1
Adam Long - on 17 Jul 2013
In reply to Stone_donkey:

I routinely use grads in the field, partly due to habit as I still shoot a lot of film, and partly because it means less work on the computer to get a natural looking result.

For blends I use a LR plugin called LR/Enfuse. I'm not an expert with it but combined with a little dodging and burning you get a very usuable result. Otherwise I've done it manually in PS by creating two layers and a mask which is basically a slightly blurred B+W negative of the original photograph.
Stone_donkey - on 17 Jul 2013
In reply to Adam Long: Great thanks, I'll take a look at that. For ND grads, am I right in thinking the most useful for me would be the 0.9 soft grad?
Nicholas Livesey on 17 Jul 2013
In reply to Stone_donkey:
> (In reply to Adam Long) For ND grads, am I right in thinking the most useful for me would be the 0.9 soft grad?

I use 0.6 and 0.9 soft grads if that helps ;)

Marc Elliott - on 17 Jul 2013
In reply to Stone_donkey:

A 0.6 hard grad is probably my most used grad, next to a 0,3... must admit I don't use the 0.9 that much.

I have both soft and hard... but find in all but the trickiest situations the hard gives the best result.
Dan Arkle - on 17 Jul 2013
In reply to Fish-rider:


That one is simply stunning Marc, good effort.

I do all my stuff without grad filters, mainly due to not having any. Most of the things I find it interesting to photograph do not have flat horizons. I hate pictures that have a light landscape with a tree/rock that is black at the top. Filter use, like most other techniques should be invisible as you view the photo - if you can see the filter then it looks wrong to me.

I'd expect they would be an ideal option for someone that shoots a lot of classic landscape.

For most quick snapshot type photos, I'll often do as Chris suggests and use lightroom's grads.
If I think the photo might have potential, then I'll bracket the exposures, which leaves me the option to do a proper exposure blend or HDR later.

chris fox on 18 Jul 2013
In reply to Dan Arkle:

2nd what Dan said, this is a beautiful shot.

I got some cheap but perfectly fine grads from here

http://www.premier-ink.co.uk/photographic/square-filters/p-type/-c-60_361_363.html

Pretty ok for a starter ket till you work out what you need. The sunset grad was a bit too extreme for me, i shot one in Dubai and t looked like a sandstorm was coming through !

I've also seen a youtube clip on combining 2 ND grads to balance out the sun at sunset (so upper and lower extremities are the clear glass) but as usual, when i need to find it i cant !

here's a quick youtube tutorial too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmPXdhinOs8
Marc Elliott - on 18 Jul 2013
In reply to Dan Arkle: Thanks Dan.
Marc Elliott - on 18 Jul 2013
In reply to chris fox: Thanks Chris
Marc Elliott - on 18 Jul 2013
In reply to Fish-rider:

Hi Chris.... here's an article and digram with the combinations to produce different levels of reverse grads.

http://www.onlandscape.co.uk/2010/12/ad-hoc-reverse-nd-grad-filters/

It may not preview as its a subscribed site..... Its produced by Joe Cornish and Tim Parkin, and worth every penny of the subscription though .
ads.ukclimbing.com
Adam Long - on 18 Jul 2013
In reply to Fish-rider:
> (In reply to Stone_donkey)
>
> A 0.6 hard grad is probably my most used grad, next to a 0,3... must admit I don't use the 0.9 that much.


What he said - I don't even own a 0.9. If I need one I'll stack the 0.3 and 0.6 (both hard), usually with the gradation slightly staggered.

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