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Into the Great Outdoors: Filters that take your landscapes to the next level

There is a massive selection of filters on offer to improve your landscape, seascape and cityscape photography. They can range from simple circular polarisers that screw onto the front of your lens to professional kits that hold various combinations of ND and Graduated ND filters.

We are spoiled for choice these days when it comes to adding creativity to our shots with filters, but there are types of filters that in our opinion are hands-down the best filters for landscape photography. 

Before we reveal which filters are our pick for “Most Valuable Player” though, let’s briefly go through some of the different types of filters available and what they do.

Ultra-Violet (UV) Filters

Most photographers are familiar with UV filters, they are used primarily to protect your lens and were originally designed for use with film cameras, because photographic films are sensitive to ultra-violet light which can cause haziness or fogginess.

Luckily UV light doesn’t affect image sensors like it does film, but UV filters are still incredibly useful as your first line of defence against drops & knocks.
A UV filter that has done its job protecting a lens from damage.
They range from $15 AUD for an After the Fact filter to $300 AUD or more for a high quality Manfrotto or Hoya filter.

The more expensive filters boast multi-coatings that reduce glare and ensure maximum light transmission, they are usually worth spending more on if you’ve already splashed out on a nice high-end lens.

Polarising Filters

These shady pieces of glass are strong contenders for the title of most useful landscape filter, they essentially work like sunglasses for your camera and make your scene darker by reducing glare and minimising reflected light. Polarising filters are incredibly useful in landscape photography.

By reducing the reflected light that enters your lens, the vibrancy as well as colour saturation can be increased to make the colours pop in leaves, grass and foliage. They can also be used darken the sky to bring out more detail in clouds.

Polarisers are perfect at boosting out the colours and increasing the vibrancy of a scene.
Circular polarisers can be rotated to adjust the intensity of the effect and are best used with a 35mm equivalent focal length that is no wider than 24mm.

A shot taken with a polariser on a 14mm lens that demonstrates uneven polarisation.
When attached to wider lenses you may see an uneven darkening of the sky, this is because polarisers are the most effective at a 90° angle from the sun so the part of the sky that is at a 90° angle to the sun’s position will be darker than the rest of the sky.

Light Pollution Filters

Photographers who shoot astro and cityscapes could benefit from using light pollution filters like the NiSi Natural Night filter that reduce colour casts caused by mercury vapour, sodium and low CRI light sources. They allow you to shoot significantly more detailed images at night.

An image shot with and without the Nisi Natural Night Filter
The video below shows some comparison images shot with and without a light pollution filter.

And the Best Filters for Landscape Photography are…… Neutral Density Filters

Able to turn an simple landscape into an extraordinary piece of art, the humble NeutralDensity (ND) Filter gives you greater control over the exposure of your scene by evenly reducing brightness.

ND filters are ideal to capture flowing water or moving clouds as a milky smooth blur while the rest of the shot is sharp.
They can range from a subtle ND8 (3 stop reduction), all the way to an extreme ND1000K (20 stop reduction), that can give you the ability to capture ultra-long shutter speeds for surreal photographic results.

But it doesn’t stop there, Neutral Density filters come in all shapes and sizes for a wide range of different uses.

Variable ND Filters

Variable Neutral Density filters are very popular with videographers so they can fine tune the exposure of their scene, without breaking the 180° shutter rule. They also allow the use of fast lenses to shoot with shallow depth of fields without over-exposing their shot.

Drone ND Filters

If you’ve got a DJI Mavic, Spark, Phantom, or similar then you can check out the extensive range of Drone ND Filters that are available for your aircraft. Using ND filters help to control the shutter speed of the camera to produce smoother looking aerial footage and images.

Drone ND filters mean you can add a subtle motion blur to your aerial shots.

Soft & Hard Graduation ND Filters

Kits like the Nisi Advanced or Professional Filter Kits usually include ND’s in a variety of different densities to block different amounts of light but they also include graduated ND filters which rather than reducing the brightness of the entire frame, transition gradually from being clear to dark.

Graduated filters are usually rectangular which lets you adjust the line up the transition to match your scene. They are available as a soft graduation that transitions from clear to darker gently, or as a hard graduation that has a more obvious line of transition.

Adding some filters to your  photography kit can give you more creative options when shooting.
There are even reverse graduation filters that can be used when the brightest part of your composition is in the middle of the frame, making them a very specialised filter for horizon sunrise or sunset shots.

Inspired and ready to take your landscape game to the next level? Stop by a store or our website and receive a 15% discount across a selection of our ND and Variable ND filters! Be quick. Strictly while stocks last. Ends 1 May.

If you want to know anything more about filters and how to use them to take better landscape images, give us a shout on our social media channels!

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Shift Your Perspective

It is a universally acknowledged fact that we, as people, love to document the places we visit by means of photograph. This travel tradition isn’t just limited to checking out new states or countries.

No, no, we do this all the time now, thanks to social media. We can post our “Hi mom!” pics from anywhere, even our favourite coffee place up the street.

Because we’re all a little guilty of using our phone cameras more than our actual cameras, we’ve probably noticed a difference in the field of view between the two. If this annoys you, there are solutions to help you capture more of what you’re seeing.

One of them is wide angle lenses. They don’t have to be extreme to get the point across, either.

Essentially, they let you fit more into your field of view which can lend to better, more expansive looking skies and landscape shots. If you’re travelling, this is a nice little option.

Another significant feature is that they can make small spaces look bigger or truer to life. This is a much better way for real estate and interior photographers to capture a broader, more realistic view of an entire room for clients.

These are the kind of photos that get people interested in visiting your space or inspecting your properties, so that’s really something to keep in mind if you provide these services.

As a comparison, we shot the interior of a car because that’s nice and cramped.

On the left, 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens vs a 12mm f/2 wide angle lens on the right

We shot on an APS-C camera with a common kit lens and a wide angle prime. While the difference doesn’t seem like much on paper, you can see it in the pictures. The wide lens makes things look more spacious or further away. For a more dramatic comparison, here’s what a 28mm f/2 looks like next to the same 12mm f/2.

 Left: The 28mm f/2 lens becomes closer to a 42mm on APS-C.   Right: Still the same 12mm f/2 as above.

Yeah, this is way more noticeable. You can see that, even from the same angle in both photo sets, the space changes quite a bit as your field of view increases.

With this increase, however, there’s a conundrum; wide angle distortion.

This becomes very obvious when photographing humans with these lenses. Let’s just say they’re not ideal for portraits and leave it at that.

Most often, you might notice distortion around the edges of your image, especially when taking photos of things like buildings.

The nature of their optical design is such that, when pointed up or down, wide angle lenses can cause make vertical lines appear to pinch in at the top or bottom of the frame depending on how your camera is angled.

This is due to the convex curves of the glass elements. Light can’t enter the edges of a lens the same way it enters at the centre. So in exchange for the increased view, you lose a bit of clarity around the edges.

Enter the tilt shift lens.

These highly specialised lenses are all about perspective and sharpness. They come in a range of focal lengths, including wide angles.

Dang, is that lens broken? Nah, it’s just a Tilt Shift lens doing what it does best.  

As the name suggests, you can physically tilt and shift the optics within the lens, meaning you can setup your camera and make what seem like physical adjustments without actually moving it.

The shift function provides up and down, or side-to-side movements while keeping your sensor and focus planes parallel with the vertical object you’re trying to shoot.

If you’re wondering what the heck that looks like, don’t worry, we’ve prepared a diagram.

On the left, both focus and sensor planes are not parallel to the vertical buildings. On the right, they are.  

As you can see on the left, the sensor and focal planes are not aligned with the vertical rise of the buildings.  The top of the building could be distorted by the top part of the lens.

On the right, both planes are parallel with the buildings, but lens has been shifted upwards to put the buildings in frame using the sharper, central part of the lens.

So instead of composing your image by moving your camera around, you can do this by aligning it with the horizon and just shifting the optics up or down to get your ideal framing.

Once you dial in the perfect amount of adjustment, you’ll notice corrected vertical distortion and better edge-to-edge clarity. This means you can take advantage of the wide angle field of view to capture large structures in their entirety with better accuracy and sharpness. 

Here are some photographs we took with a tilt shift lens to show the difference it can make.

You can see what all of this looks like in the above images. The one on the left seems fine until you add some handy lines that show the verticals are actually at an angle. If those red lines were long enough, they’d eventually converge.

On the right, the lines are straight up and down. This was achieved by using the shift function on our Canon 50mm f2.8L Tilt Shift lens. Side by side, the difference is pretty significant.

Where these lenses truly shine, however, is in creating large scale prints of architecture or cityscapes. They let you capture beautifully sharp photos of buildings and structures without distortion to distract from your overall result.

Now, as you may have guessed, the shift function is only half of what these lenses can do. Stay tuned for our next instalment where we explore the strange and amazing tilt feature!

Want to talk tilt shift with us? Drop us a message on our social media pages

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