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Filters For Landscape Photographyby TJ Tierney

Summary: Photography lens filters provide a wide variety of functions and effects, many of which are not suitable for landscape photography. Lens filters that are suitable include neutral density filters, polarizing filters, and warming filters, as well as filters specifically designed for Black and White film. Used as outlined below, these filters will enhance the final image.

t's time to spice up your landscape photography with filters.

Filters are used in photography to bring back an image to the way our eyes have perceived the original scene. Some times it's not possible for our cameras to record an exact scene - so we have to rely on the manufacturers of camera products.

Filters also help us to create mood in our images and bring out the best in a scene. A small selection of filters is well worth packing when heading off for a trip. They don't take up too much space and will definitely add a bit of spice to your images.

Filters work by being placed in front of your camera lens. You can also place several filters in front of your camera at any given time.

Lets take a look at the most important ones to use.

Neutral Density Filters (ND): Neutral Density filters will certainly help you with tough exposures. These filters work by cutting down the light that reaches your lens. These filters come in a variety of strengths with the most popular being 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9 - these filters will help with exposure without affecting colour.

One half of these filters is dark and the other is completely clear. They basically work by reducing brightness. The different numbers stand for the amount of brightness they reduce - 0.3 ND reduces light by one stop - 0.6 reduces light by 2 stops - 0.9 reduces light by three stops.

Lets say you arrive at a high contrast scene, - you take a light reading of the sky and get an exposure reading of F/22 at 1/8 second; you take a reading from the ground in front of you and get a reading of F/22 at 1 second. This is a difference of three stops of light. You need to reduce the brightness of the sky. By using the 0.9 ND you will reduce the light in the sky by three stops without affecting the light hitting the ground in front of you.

Polarizing Filters: A polarizing filter should be top of the list - a polarizing filter can be used with colour or black and white and is probably the most important filter on the market today. The polarizing filter will also darken the blue sky to give it a strong rich colour. It will make mist stand out and can be also used to give fast flowing water a misty effect. This filter is most effective with side lighting.

Warm-up filters: In overcast conditions, don't put your camera away. This is an ideal time for you to switch your attention to landscape detail. On an overcast day images often appear cold and dull. Try using a warm-up filter. These filters will remove the dull effect that you get shooting without the sun.

The 81-series are the best choice and will give your images an extra bit of life. An 81A warm-up filter is ideal to use in adding extra warmth to low light images.

Filters for B/W photography:

Just because you use black and white film it doesn't mean that you can't use filters - there are several filters for B/W photography. The polarizing filter is one of the few filters that work for B/W and colour photography. It will help to darken shades of grey in your final print.

The red filter is one of the most popular. This filter will darken the sky giving your image more impact. The most common red filter is the number 25. Filters for B/W work by transmitting light of its own colour, and holds back light of the other colours.

There's a large amount of filters available; These are the most important filters for landscape photography. There are also several filters on the market today that will do very little for your photography. Colour graduated filters should be left at home or placed in the bin - colour graduated filters work by creating un-natural colours, destroying your final print.

About the Author TJ Tierney. Award winning Irish Landscape photographer. If you are looking for more photo tips visit To view some of his images visit his on line gallery @

Call Of The Wild Photo Comments:

As mentioned in the article, lens filters can be combined. For example, when shooting an autumn scene of trees with water in the foreground, you could use a red "intensifier" filter for enhancing the fall colors along with a polarizing filter to reduce glare in the water.

There are two very important considerations to keep in mind, though, when combining filters:

First, lens filters reduce the amount of light hitting the film or digital sensor and affect your exposure. If you use a separate light meter, or your camera doesn't use through-the-lens metering, you'll need to compensate by using a wider aperture (smaller number f/stop), a slower shutter speed, faster film (or equivalent ISO setting, for digital cameras), or a combination of these.

Second, stacking lens filters that screw on to the lens and each other can cause a vignette effect. If not too sever, the vignette can be cropped out of the picture in the darkroom or imaging software. If you can see the shadow in the corners of your viewfinder, the vignetting may be too pronounced to crop out of the shot.