77 — Neutral density filters — Graduated neutral density filters — Interview with D. Wiggett

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #77 fea­tures an inter­view with Dar­win Wiggett where we talk about neu­tral den­sity fil­ters and grad­u­ated neu­tral den­sity fil­ters. Dar­win explains why we use these fil­ters and how to use these fil­ters effec­tively. We dis­cuss hard edge ver­sus soft edge, phys­i­cal ver­sus soft­ware fil­ters, we even talk about reverse grad­u­ated neu­tral den­sity fil­ters. For new­bie pho­tog­ra­phers that have just hatched, Dar­win goes over polar­iz­ing fil­ters as well.

Left - Screw on neutral density filter. Right - The Cokin system

Left — Screw on neu­tral den­sity fil­ter. Right — The Cokin system

Left - Lake with no filter. Right - Lake with polarizer and-2-stop hard edge grad. Notice how much poppier this shot is. The grad reduces the shyd intensity. The polarizer removes the waters reflections thus saturating its colours.

Left — Lake with no fil­ter. Right — Lake with polar­izer and-2-stop hard edge grad. Notice how much ‘pop­pier’ this shot is. The grad reduces the sky’s inten­sity. The polar­izer adds con­trast to the clouds in the sky and inten­si­fies its colour. It also removes the water’s reflec­tions thus sat­u­rat­ing its colours. ‚© Dar­win Wiggett

Left - Tire with Polarizer and-2-stop-hard-grad. Right - Tire with Polarizer plus a 2-stop-hard-edge grad and-a 5-stop solid-ND filter. Note the movement of the foreground brush. This was achieved by using the solid ND filter to get a slow shutter speed

Left — Tire with Polar­izer and-2-stop-hard-grad. Right — Tire with a Polar­iz­ing fil­ter plus a 2-stop-hard-edge grad and-a 5-stop solid-ND fil­ter. Note the move­ment of the fore­ground brush and the soft­ness in the clouds. This was achieved by using the solid ND fil­ter to get a slow shut­ter speed. ‚© Dar­win Wiggett.

The effect of a polarizer on its own. Left - No polarizing filter. Right - The circular polarizing filter lets you see through the water by eliminating the waters reflectivity.

The effect of a polar­izer on its own. Left — No polar­iz­ing fil­ter. Right — The polar­iz­ing fil­ter lets you see through the water by elim­i­nat­ing the water’s reflec­tiv­ity. With the reflec­tions removed, the colour is much more sat­u­rated. ‚© Dar­win Wiggett

Links /resources men­tioned in this podcast:

Seven Rules for Effec­tively Using a Polar­izer
Fil­ters, hold­ers and vignetting: build­ing a fil­ter sys­tem that works with your lenses
The Ter­rific Triple Threat
Fields of Gold (or was that blue?) Three Cam­era Fil­ters all Dig­i­tal Pho­tog­ra­phers Should be Using
Fil­ters for Out­door Pho­tog­ra­phy
January’s macro or close-up assign­ment on the Photography.ca forum
Cokin fil­ters at B&H (Dis­clo­sure — Aff links — help sup­port our site)
Singh-Ray fil­ters at B&H
Lee fil­ters at B&H

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Thanks to jack­la­bel, AcadieLi­bre and Mars observer who posted a blog com­ment about our last pod­cast. Thanks as always to every­one that sent com­ments by email about our last pod­cast. Although ALL com­ments are appre­ci­ated, com­ment­ing directly in this blog is pre­ferred. Thanks as well to all the new mem­bers of the bul­letin board.

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You can down­load this pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast directly by click­ing the pre­ced­ing link or lis­ten to it almost imme­di­ately with the embed­ded player below.


  1. admin says:

    No wor­ries mate — we all have to learn some­time :)

    Glad you are using it NOW at least. I use mine 99% of the time on 100% of my lenses when I’m shoot­ing out­doors dur­ing the day, regard­less of sub­ject mat­ter. Thx for the comment!

  2. Eliezer says:

    This was an excel­lent pod­cast. Thank you very much. I started using the polar­iz­ing fil­ter all the time as you are doing. You are right, when I use my sun­glasses with polar­izer lens every­thing looks much bet­ter. So there is no rea­son why I should not use the polar­iz­ing fil­ter in with my cam­era. It was a shame on me not using them more ofter before. My cam­era is a Canon 5D Mark II with plenty of ISO room. The lenses that I use the more are 70–200 is f2.8 and 50mm f1.4 which are really fast. I have no excuses for not using the polar­iz­ing fil­ters all the time.

  3. Bjoern says:

    Hi Marko,
    great pod­casts. I enjoy them very much. And this one about the nd fil­ters came just right cause I was think­ing to buy one. Manly for video shoot­ing with my 7D but now I know to use the hole advan­tage also for pho­tog­ra­phy.
    I also found an inter­est­ing link from fxguide.tv. It’s episode #74 and they are talk­ing also of ND fil­ters and com­pare dif­fer­ent brands. Enjoy.

    Greet­ings from ger­many,

  4. Fortytwo says:

    Very inter­est­ing and clear pod­cast! I’ll be point­ing peo­ple to this one for sure!

    One com­ment though: You’ve talked about the vignetting that occures with the Cokin P sys­tem. The reg­u­lar P holder pro­duces vignetting at 18mm or lower on a crop cam­era. How­ever, Cokin also has a wide angle holder for the P sys­tem. This plas­tic holder will only hold one fil­ter at a time (instead of 3), but is usable for wide angle lenses all the way up to 10mm (on a crop cam­era).

    Thought I’d mean­tion it. I’m not a Cokin sales­per­son by the way… :P

  5. Jason says:

    Very inter­est­ing and infor­ma­tive pod­cast. I think I will make a lot more use of my polar­is­ing fil­ter which until now I have hardly used.

  6. Bambi says:

    Marko and Dar­win
    thanks so much for this post. It made so much sense to some­one like me who is very new to SLR. Def­i­nitely will get one of these to add to my kit!

  7. admin says:

    That’s a great idea F8! I’ll try to do this next interview!

  8. f8&Bthere says:

    Excel­lent pod­cast Marko! Great guest, very con­cise info, very inter­est­ing, fan­tas­tic tips– I didn’t want it to end. Do you think you might in the future inter­view a guest and have a brief ques­tions from the sub­scribers kind of seg­ment (by email or forum post of course, not live call in)?

  9. admin says:

    Thanks for that Zenon — but what does “Also the tips on J0K 3E0” that mean?

    Thanks for that tip Jack — makes per­fect sense to me.

  10. jack label says:

    Great post Marko, ND fil­ters are very use­ful for many things, i have seen an archi­tec­tural pho­tog­ra­pher using it to remove peo­ple from the scene, since the day was soso, and there were some peo­ple walk­ing by the build­ing, he used ND fil­ters to make such a long expo­sure that all mov­ing peo­ple sim­ple didnt record in the final image.

  11. Zenon5940 says:

    This is the MOST inter­est­ing (for me ) pod­cast you ever did. Thanks a whole lot for the very use­ful infor­ma­tion. Also the tips on J0K 3E0

  12. admin says:

    Thanks muchly for the com­ments Jas and MVT!

  13. Dar­win & Marko,

    One thing is for cer­tain there is no sub­sti­tute for a ND fil­ter to help you get those shal­low DOF shots on a bright sunny day.

    Great pod­cast Marko!



  14. JAS_Photo says:

    Great stuff, Marko. It really helps to sort out all my ques­tions. Prior to this pod­cast, and after dri­ving the sales­per­son crazy with ques­tions, I bought a Singh Ray LB warm­ing polar­izer. One step in the right direc­tion. Thanks too, for all the links to Dar­wins web­sites. Ha! Ha! Now the next thing I am going to drive you crazy with is about expos­ing to the right.


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