Those who’ve shot with me or joined one of my workshops know that I’m far from a traditional landscape photographer. I barely touch a tripod, my camera is commonly found on the floor of my van beside my feet and I like to travel with the least amount of gear as possible. One thing I’ve always been reluctant to leave behind though is a set of lens filters, mainly some ND’s and a polariser.
Neutral density (ND) lens filters and circular polarisers (CPL) serve multiple purposes. You can think of ND’s as being like sunglasses for your camera lens. By dimming the light entering your camera, slower shutter speeds can be used to capture the correct exposure. There are various reasons why you might want to do this but for me, it’s always been about capturing a certain effect with water flow or clouds.
My favourite time to be out with my camera is during golden hour, the hour of light surrounding a sunrise or sunset. During this time, shadows are more pronounced, different hues appear in the land and sky and of course, the light itself is much easier to control in camera rather than in post-processing.
ND Lens Filters
My preferred shutter speed for fast moving water is around 1/5s but often the ambient light might be too bright to get this shutter speed without overexposing portions of the scene, particularly if an even slower shutter speed is desired. This is where the ND lens filters come in.
In the image below, with the sun already risen, to get a shutter speed slow enough that renders the water movement right in this scene, I had to close my aperture right down to f/22 which is not ideal as the clarity of your lens is significantly reduced at such narrow apertures. Using the ND4 lens filter cut out some of the light, allowing me to shoot at my optimal aperture of f/11 and maintain the 1/5s shutter speed.
Leading lines are a great way to draw the eye through a scene. The beauty of the ocean is that the water itself creates its own lines, especially when shot at slower shutter speeds. This is demonstrated in the image below which was shot with a 2-second exposure at f/16.
Polariser Lens Filters
When it comes to shooting water and forest cascades, I always recommend using a polariser lens filter. Not only are colours more vibrant but most importantly, a polariser will remove distracting glare from the surface of water, foliage and wet rocks.
With visual art, transitioning the eye through a scene is critical. This is best achieved by creating various transitions throughout an image. One of the strongest is the transition from darkness to light. A CPL lens filter helps remove distracting whites within a scene, particularly in the foreground thus assisting in the visual transition. You can see the effect in the before/after below, as well as an image I titled ‘Refuge’.
The best way to grow and improve your photography is by experimenting and using your camera as much as possible. I’ve always used photography as a medium for self-expression and equipping yourself with some lens filters opens new creative possibilities, allowing you to grow and improve your photography, whatever direction it may take you.
Keep wandering, exploring and getting out there. – WP
Born and raised in the coastal town of Wollongong on the east coast of Australia, Will Patino first picked up a camera in 2012 and soon made photography his full-time profession by the end of 2014.
With a passion for capturing atmospheric and evocative landscapes, Will’s work has been displayed in the Smithsonian Museum, licensed by Apple USA and followed online by thousands across the globe. Having traded the ocean for the mountains, Will and his young family now live in Te Anau on the South Island of New Zealand. Hosting photography workshops locally and across the globe, Will continues to push his creativity and the bounds of modern landscape photography as he captures fleeting moments in remote locations.
Will photographs using Gobe Lens Filters.