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Nature and Landscape Photography

Lesson 6 of 27

Filters for Nature and Landscape Photos

John Greengo

Nature and Landscape Photography

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

6. Filters for Nature and Landscape Photos

Lesson Info

Filters for Nature and Landscape Photos

let's talk about filters and the filter that you should have if you don't already is is the polarizing filter the polarizing filter is something that we cannot digitally manipulate later on this is something that we can only do in the field and what the polarizing filter does it essentially effects reflections is what it does so let's take a look at what it's doing here we are at horseshoe bend in arizona and when you put a polarizer on you mounted on and you can continue to spin it and change its position so let's change the position of this by giving it a rotation of about ninety degrees and notice the water notice how the water just got a lot darker let's go back to the beginning minimising polarizer and noticed the reflections in the water we're seeing reflections of the clouds and we're looking at this water at about a forty five degree angle which is where we're going to have the maximum impact let's go ahead and spin that polarized we're around again and go to the maximum impact...

and now we've reduced the reflections coming off of that water and so this is going to be very helpful here is a short video clip up but the skagit tulip fields of me turning the polarizer on my lands and you'll notice how much impact it has stopping those reflections bouncing off the edge of those tulips you get much more saturated colors spent a lot of time up but not re near this summer this is without a polarizer and this is what the polarizer at maximum effect and that is a huge difference in my opinion looks like it's washed out a lot of haze in the air and that polarizer just cuts through that do you get those really nice blue skies and nice contrast on your image and so it's a very very valuable filter that you're just not going to get by faking things in photo shop or any other program in the amazon this gigantic leaf it's about four feet in length this is without a polarizer and there's a lot of light streaming through the canopy of the forest causing a lot of white reflections on the surface of the leaf let's go ahead and add a polarizer to it we block off those reflections and you can see the difference between not using a polarizer and using a polarizer right on it and so you're often going to get a little better contrast in situations where you want some contrast so you'll notice the log on the right hand side it's a little bit damn that's got nice and very very dark and our leaf really stands out on it and so this is a polarizer that I used to think that you would just use out on bright sunny days but I found that you can go into the forest and use it and it really takes a lot of those reflections off of the vegetation so that you can see the true color and saturation that is in all those plants and leaves but you do have to be careful because you shouldn't always use a polarizer because sometimes you want those reflections they're part of the shot there part of the composition and this is something that you can very easily do you pull the polarizer out you don't even need to put it on the camera you could just hold it up to your eye and give it a ninety degree turn and spin it back and forth and you can see how much impact it's gonna have on your subject according tto which direction you're pointed and that's one of the key things to know about the polarizer is where are you pointing at and where is the sun because polarizer works with very strong directional light here we are down in zion national park let's add a polarizer and you can see there's a huge difference between not using a polarizer and using a polarizer can you see where the sun is hitting the mountain it's hitting it at a ninety degree angle and this is where you're gonna have the greatest impact with the polarizer I know that some people who aren't very familiar with polarizer sze will say well I put it on and I didn't see any difference well in some locations depending on which direction you are pointed and where you are pointed it may have an impact or it may not it's one of those things that I still need to take out of the bag hold it up to my I give it a twist to see how much impact I'm goingto have but the more you use it the better you'll start learning about how much impact it has any time the light is coming from your side so the son is off to your left shoulder or off to your right shoulder that's a good time when that polarizer might be very very effective in giving you that really deep dark saturated blue sky as well is getting a little bit better colors in the rest of your subject probably the biggest difference I've seen was down in monument valley shot a picture without a polarizer and I added a polarizer and I honest to goodness folks I have not photoshopped this image I have not increased the saturation is just simply a polarizing filter on the lens and so it could have a huge impact now I like to shoot a lot of test shots to show it working or not working at delicate art this is a good example of how not to use a polarizer and what I've done is I polarised the top left of the image but not the right hand side of the image and that's because I'm using a very wide angle lens that sees a very wide swath of the sky the sun is coming from a little off screen to the right and you cannot polarize the sky shooting at the sun or directly away from the sun and so I I'm going to show you a whole bunch of bad photos here of where I have misused a polarizer and it was actually a little disappointing because I could find a number of these situations where have is polarizing part of the sky way too much you shouldn't do it in madagascar had polarize the sky just around this tree which kind of has an interesting look to it but it's a misuse of the polarizer I suppose you could I probably should as an artist I should just simply say I meant to do that and I like it and that's that's what I wanted to dio I'll be honest with you folks that's a mistake that was that was a bad bad job on my part over polarising this guy and that would be very hard to fix in post processing and so you do have to be a little bit careful in general I have found that you I need to stay away from the ultra wide lenses with the polarizer tze and so moderately wide lenses to telephoto lenses they have a really good impact on many of the telephoto lenses and so typically once I get below twenty four millimeters it's very rare that I will ever use a polarizer so twenty forest kind of that break point for me where I will still use it if it works in that situation be aware though that by adding the polarizer you are changing your exposure it is reducing the amount of light how much about two stops it varies from filter to filter and how it is how how it has turned on your camera for that particular shot so don't just figure out your exposure and then add a polarizer and take the picture you're gonna have to compensate for that polarizer on there ah further note on the polarizer especially with those wide angle lenses I talked about those sixteen thirty five wide angle lenses they're very nice the thickness of the polarizer matters there are normal polarizer tze and there are slim polarizer tze and slim polarizer sze we'll make a lot of sense to me because there's less materials but they cost more money and they've taken off some of the front threads and this is to reduce the chance of the netting or seeing the corners of those filters while you are shooting with that ultra wide angle lens and so if you do get an ultra wide lands you should probably be safe and get a slim polarizer is a little extra money but it's the right polarizer for that type of lands so slim ones for any lens that goes below twenty millimeters is probably a safe bet but if you want to know for sure you're gonna have to put the polarizer on that lands and do a few little test to see if you ever see that under any focusing circumstance if you do happen to own one of the longer lenses three hundred millimeters and up many of the lenses from many of the manufacturers will have a special slot that you have a much smaller polarizer rather than buying a gigantic one to put on the front of the lens you actually put it behind the lands drop it in and just have a little spin dial and this is I wish all lenses were like this and just almost had them built in it makes it very very easy to work with and so polarizer sze very important tohave now the other type of filter that I have is the graduated neutral density filter and this goes by a lot of nicknames a lot of times we'll just call it a grad filter or a split neutral density filter or a variety of other little acronyms within them but were generally talking about a filter that is darkening on the top half and doing nothing on the bottom and here is how you're supposed to use them you put a ring on your camera you put a filter holder and then you put the filter in there and you you'll notice these they're square filters or rectangular and that's so that you can adjust him up and down because you're going to try to do is you're going to try to match the darkening area with where the horizon skyline is now a lot of times I found it much quicker and easier just simply hold the filter in front of the camera cause I'm just taking a couple of shots I will use the bracket if I'm going to be taking a large number of shots and the camera's gonna be set up for a long period of time but if I'm just gonna be taking two or three shots I'll often pull it out and just hand hold it because I'm often switching between a couple of different filters I might want to shoot this one for a little bit and then I might want to shoot with this one for a little bit and then I'll keep cleaning cloth close by and I'll clean it and if they're good quality filters they shouldn't scratch I used some glass ones and the ones that I use I rarely hear anyone else using and I don't know why but I find the glass quality is really high quality the color of the density is very neutral and if you're interested tiffen make he's really nice glass filters they're good quality they're available through many many different outlets and I've been very very happy with so here's the concept and why you want to use them is basically is there's a huge brightness difference between the ground and the sky and so in this case we got some nice with wild flowers in front of us and there's a wonderful sunset going on in the background doesn't that look like a wonderful sunset lets take another exposure at a completely different shutter speed so that we can see some nice clouds and color in the sky and I want the best of both worlds I want the flowers in the foreground and I want the sky in the background so I set my camera up for the flowers because that's the clear part of the filter and then I'm going to take that filter and I'm going to drop it down off the top and I'm going to darken the sky and so I can get the dark sky and the lighter ground all in one shot now there are ways of doing this with multiple shot techniques and blending them later on but it's so nice to be able to get it straight in the field on a raw image especially if there's anything moving you can get it in one shot and so this is a very standard technique when you have something in the foreground and something in the bright sun in the background there two very different exposures for that and the on ly way to bridge that gap is with that graduated neutral density filter it's going to be very very helpful anytime you're photographing the sky in the land at the same time and in landscape photography there is a lot of that type of photography here's a three shot siri's where I shot with no filter to stop indy and the three stop indeed and it's gonna hold that detail into the mountains now the two filters I've talked about are the polarizing filter and the split neutral density filter would I ever use them at the same time possibly it's not very often in this case I'm in olympic national park and there's a lot of reflections coming off those ferns and I want to kind of get those down and be able to see that true green saturation in the ferns so I'm going to use a polarizer so let's polarize the right hand side of the screen all right so there's you can see a pretty big difference between polarized and un polarized but it's the background that is just a little bit brighter I want your eyes to stay on the ferns in the foreground so I'm going to add a graduated neutral density to darken the background a little bit and so have a polarizer and a graduated nd to just slightly tweak the colors and the brightness to get where I wanted for this photo and so there you can see three different examples from start to finish making these subtle little adjustments and this is kind of nice because done it's in camera there's no post processing and you get to see your results in the field all right with these neutral density filters they're available in many different levels or stops I own a to stop in a three stop and I'm very happy and I have no desire for more filters you can get him in one stop but frankly if it's on ly one stop that you need you can actually do that in post production very very easily it's not very far I'd like to use it to stop in a three stop because that's kind of far to try to fix things fix things in post when you're doing that in post production what you're doing is you're taking pixels that are dark and you're trying to brighten them up and if you do that to too much of an extent you're going to get noise and it's not gonna look good in the photograph and so there's a limitation of how far you can push that range and so I find that if you were going to buy one filter you're going to invest and try and split neutral density I would probably say that to stop is the place to go I think that's a nice middle ground it's going to be very very useful there is also the options with some manufacturers to have a soft and hard graduation so how quickly does it change from clear to dance and the ones that I have are kind of medium and they're very general purpose I found them to be very very useful in a variety of situations so this is goingto compress the tonal range so that you could get the shot in one picture now I'm not going to talk about hdr photography that is a whole section that could be put in here it's not in this class for two reasons number one I ran out of space there is just no place for it in the class and secondly this class while a lot of technical factual information it's a little bit about personal style and I don't shoot hd are and I don't shoot h d r for a couple of reasons the first and most important reason is I really don't think it's necessary and I don't see the need for it I'm getting fine landscape shots without shooting hdr I know some people feel like they need to shoot hdr or they like the look and that's perfectly fine uh different strokes for different folks and with to stop in the three stop andy it pretty much covers pretty much everything I want to shoot the uh little gripe that I have with hdrs I find that a lot of people are using it as a crutch trying to photograph in bad light situations and they're like well it's like it's not really good but I'll use hdr and I'll fix it that doesn't really change the quality of the light if you came back when it was the good light you wouldn't need hdr well yeah but I want to shoot it right now and so it is an actual too old that I have seen used very very well to solve a lot of problems but it's not the way I work so we're not going to see it in my class and the advantage of this over hdrs if there's anything moving in the frame in hd are there capturing several shots and that flower could be blowing back and forth between all those shots and that is going to be a nightmare to fix up in the final shot so that's where one of the reasons why I used the graduated neutral density filter and I do have another filter to talk about but let's just take a quick couple of questions okay john quick couple of questions where to start what is the next filter they're gonna be talking about the neutral density felt an intro density yeah people are just looking to understand all those different one so that's great that that's coming you mentioned earlier previously mentioned that you use protective lens filters instead of the lens caps can you tell us again what brand it was that you recommended it's a german brand called b plus w and one of the things that I like about them beyond having really good quality glasses that they're mounted in a brass ring and I like that over the aluminum rings because if aluminum ring is a softer metal and when you put it on the lands it can cross thread it can get bent on there and I very rarely have any problems with filters getting stock and you know one of the most frustrating things you will ever see is a landscape photographer trying to get a filter off in the field while the light is changing and if it's stuck on there it's just like that is one issue I do not want to deal with out there and so a slightly better quality filter alleviates that problem completely in my mind now can you just let me just don't back quickly say I do like the b plus w there are some other high end filters out there it's not the only one but it's one that I found that they make a lot they're in a lot of different locations and so if you have a favorite brand you don't need to write me a letter telling me I didn't promote your brand they're out there I understand it we're not going to go into all of them all right sounds good how about um can you you mentioned that that you did so just confirming and do you get do you find that you get a scholarship to using a polarizer I find a very minimal color shift it's really almost imperceptible to tell because it is it is changing the density it's changing the light coming in and there's no doubt that there's going to be a little bit of a color ship but it's not even enough that I need to make a correction on okay the filters that I use are pretty good quality and they're very very neutral in that sense but when we were back you were showing us some images is when the question came in where you were at the desert and it turned kind of from not so orangy to the rock being more orangy do you consider that change if you want to get technical that's changing more of the saturation okay that color but that that's could be interpreted as changing the color okay think and it does have a great impact on the saturation in some situations okay fantastic and then could you again explain the difference between the circular pope polarizer and a normal polarizer are they different and if so what is different oh boy ok so where's myself box get a cell blocks out here uh cuba so back in the day before digital back in the day before auto focus we had polarizer is that we bought for our cameras and we put him on and then these manufacturers came up with this idea auto focus arlen's and they had a device in the lands that used a polarizing filter to help the lens focus and when you put a polarizer on the front of your lands and there is a polarizer to focus your lands they if you can imagine the kind of blank themselves out and no light could come in and they were also using the special filter from eatery and so is potential that with a traditional polarizer you would block the light for the meeting system and block the light for the autofocus system and that was true at one point and just for curiosity's sake I took a traditional old fashioned polarizer out and I tested it with a bunch of modern at least at the time cannon and nikon cameras to see if it blocks the meeting system or the focusing system and it had no impact at all and that's always kind of felt like a little bit of a conspiracy theory to me because all these manufacturers were saying well that's standard polarizer that's twenty five dollars you need to buy the fifty dollars polarizer because it's a circular polarizer and it's the way the material is put on it's not the shape of the filter polarizer in general are all circular so that you can scream on your lands but on top of the fact that they're circular they're known as a circular polarizer and it's the way the polarizing material works on the lens a little hard way need to get into an optics physics of optics class to explain all this but they both work in the same way they're both going to reduce reflections and for the most part if you walk into a camera story you look a tte filters online they're pretty much all going to be circular polarizer but from my testing the traditional polarizer seemed to work quite well with the modern cameras it's just that the manufacturers have stopped making them now there might be a problem and here's where I don't want to get myself into trouble is there might be a problem with the polarizer the old school polarizer you choose in the particular camera that you have because I haven't tested it and so if this is something that you can put your hands on and test I would have no problems using a traditional standard polarizer as opposed to a circular polarizer great thank you for that okay one war because that too different people asking it do you stack would you stack the uv filter if you used one with the polarizing filter on top of that I never stack a polarizer on top of the uv filter I have a little case I'm gonna show it to you that I stick all my polarizer is in and when the polarizer comes out the uv goes into that spot so there's a perfect little spot where you can take it in and out in that case and out of that case and so I never do that that's a very lazy technique you're not putting on enough effort you need to take off the uv and put on the polarizer a lot of times you're using the polarizer for the whole length of time it's like now is the time to use the polarizer so it's not very often it's on and off on and off on and off possible but it's not often and so generally it's like ok sun's up trying to put the polarizer on or I'm in this environment but the polarizer on and then several hour later you're turning your taking it off now in order to get the polarizer and the split neutral density you have to stack those filters there's no way around it but you want to try to keep that number of elements tow a minimum great thank you all right john let's keep running through this okay keeping a move on here the next type of filter and this is one of those bonus filters it's not the first on the vilest it's the neutral density filter now just to clarify we previously talked about the graduated neutral density filter this filter is neutral in color over the entire area and it's circular so you can just put it on your lands now we're going to use this so that we can shoot at slower shutter speeds or preferred shutter speeds or possibly to get shallower depth of field which is why a lot of people who shoot video have neutral density filters but let's take it out to the rivers and show why we might want to use this now in this particular case we could start off one hundred twenty fifth of a second at five point six and if we wanted to slow down that river we would slow our aperture down to f thirty two and we would move a corresponding number of shutter speeds on the other side so that we could get a nice slow shutter speed so there you go nice slow motion of the river now the problem here is that we're in f thirty two and lenses are not as sharp it f thirty two as they would be at se f eleven or sixteen which is where I would prefer to be sharpness wise and we don't need f thirty two for depth of field f a f eleven would do this image completely fine so let's take out our neutral density filter and let's add it in if we had a three stop filter and we put it on it's suddenly going to get dark so now we need to compensate how should we compensate well this is where we might back off of our apertura couple of stops to get back to our sharper apertures around f sixteen and this is where we then go over to the shutter speeds and then let in the corresponding amount or the correct amount of light and now we've gotten too uneven slower shutter speed if we have a four stop filter we can go to a slower shutter speed and this goes on and on depending on how big of a indy filter you have how many stops and the one that I have the one that I used that I'm pretty happy with is six stop indy filters now I could do a four second exposure nice and long at f sixteen which is a really good aperture to be out of this I don't want to be at f thirty two how much of a difference is there between not using it and using it there's a subtle difference there is a difference here you can see at a quarter of a second and let's go back to the final image using the six top indie at four seconds and you if you have these indie filters it gives you the option to choose what you like best if you don't have it you can get pretty close to the same effect by just stopping all the way down but it's going to be a very sharp image with a slower shutter speed a couple of examples that I shot using this indie filter was able to really slow the river down the river really wasn't flowing that fast and the indie filter definitely helped out normally I don't shoot and I don't recommend shooting water moving under bright sunshine it just doesn't look very good and it's hard to get really slow shutter speeds but using a six stop indy filter I was able to slow my shutter speed down to one full second to get the movement in the water and from another angle using that slow shutter speed this is about a one second exposure and if you want to get really slow shutter this is probably my favorite waterfall that I've ever photographed it's called tangle falls it's up in jasper national park up in alberta just cascading over several different layers and I wanted to get the longest shutter speed possible but still retain really good sharpness this is a six second exposure and it's thankful to that indie filter that I had on the camera now there are several indy filters out there and the way that they rate them in how dark they are is a little confusing and so here's a little graft to help you out the main thing you want to know is how many f stops are you going to change and so the range is generally up to six you can go up to tanning you can go beyond it if you wanted to photograph the sun for instance if you're doing an eclipse and they're often raided in optical density so point three is equal to one stop and then you just factor up from there sometimes they have filter factors to x factor means it lets in half assed much light you need to double the exposure and that's one stop of light and so there are some variable ones out there that the video photographer's really liked to use because according to exactly the light levels they would do that if you're shooting video look at the variable nd filters you're probably gonna want to get those because they're very versatile for shooting video this class is not about shooting video and if you're specifically looking at landscape photography you probably don't want one of the variable ones often because they have a little bit of a color shift when they do change and so for most people if you just want to slow the rivers down you want something at least two stops in my opinion I think it's better off to be at around three or six I met six and if I could do it over again I would do six again I think it's the perfect amount if you really want to do that for the waterfalls now with all these filters how many do I normally take out with me I usually take my two graduated indy filters I'll take two or three polarizer tamarack makes this really nice little case that I stick in my camera bag it's about the size of the lands and then I pull it out and stick it on my belt and I have the filters right there fingertips whenever I want to use them all right I'm gonna come on up and join you while we've got a question here from john yes my question is regarding techniques for me eatery through a neutral density filter since turns your scream pretty much black it can it can get very very dark and so very frequently I will shoot test exposures and so I will just set it up get it as close as I can shoot the test shot and look at my history graham in the image on the back of the screen teo get a judge of how close that first estimate wass and so that's one of the beauties of digitalis is test shots I test shots all the time fantastic okay could you discuss the oh no wait that question we already talked about two do you use step up and down rings for filters and we had a couple of people asked about that so in case you're not familiar if you have two different lenses say sixty two and seventy two you could get a step up ring that takes you from sixty two so that you can use seventy two millimeter filters on them and the idea with them is to save money because polarizer zehr kind of expensive and you don't have to buy him in every size you by him in the largest size and then do step up breaks so at one point I did you step up rings when I couldn't afford polarizer is for each lens and then I would just said you know what I'm getting tired playing around all these little rinky dink rings I just want a polarizer for this land's especially when I had two different lenses that I basically wanted to go back and forth and it's bad enough switching lenses now try switching lenses and filters and step up brings every time you want to switch back and forth like I'm missing shots right and so I have one polarizer for each size lands and in one case because I have a number of seventy seven millimeter lenses I actually have to seventy seven millimeter polarizer sze which is kind of nice is a backup just in case the first one gets broken because these things do drop things happen toe I have a backup but I really prefer to have a polarizer for each different size I don't mind moving one from one leads to the other but having to kind of switch all the other things just it takes up too much time and you start missing child all right geoff cutler had the same question as you john about howto focus when I've got those dark nd filters on that we do have a question can you talk a little bit about linear versus radio polarising filters well actually we did get a chance to talk about the circular versus linear polarizer radio is circular I'm well I haven't heard that term that's not a term that is normally used in the camera industry okay and so that might be their term and I okay want to interpret what they're saying but you're safest buying the circular spore circular polarizer sze but I found that the other ones often work test him to be sure okay fantastic how about cleaning air filters we talked about cleaning earlier of the lens of the cleaning your filters do you oh yeah absolutely the little micro fiber cleaning cloths you know the ones that are my glasses but they're in all the camera stores that sell for five bucks or something like that I just don't know where they go somewhere out there there are hundreds of my cleaning class because I keep buying them and losing them they don't know they're stuck tucked in corners of bags but I gotta bring three with them with me every time I go out because I'm little this one

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Beautiful landscapes are all around us – they are a joy to experience, but a challenge to capture in a single photo. In Nature and Landscape Photography, you’ll learn the essential tools and techniques for taking photographs that reflect the splendor of landscapes and the captivating details of nature.

In this class, award-winning photographer John Greengo will use illustrations, animations, and photographs of destinations from around the world to teach you the thought process behind great nature photography. You’ll learn which gear is suited to the environment you want to shoot and how to plan for ideal light and composition. John will help you master exposure and focus so you get a better shot in camera and improve your edits by taking you through hands-on photo critiques.

From complicated cameras to challenging environments, several obstacles stand in the way of you taking a photograph that reflects the landscape as you see it. This class will help you take nature and landscape photographs that reflect your unique perspective.

This course is part of the landscape tutorials series. 

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Composition Keynote

Equipment Keynote

Exposure Keynote

Focus Keynote

Light Keynote

Subject Keynote

Timing Keynote

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Thomas Hamlin

Most of nature's beauty has been photographed by lots of people over the years. However, nothing compares to actually visiting famous places, buildings, mountains, etc. and taking your own photographs. John Greengo provides the necessary equipment information, photographic principles, and techniques in a manner which inspires you to put in the extra effort to take the best nature photographs that you can with the gear that you have. His unique illustrations, actual real life photographs, and easily understood explanations are top notch. I highly recommend this outstanding course. I have several of John Greengo's photography courses, and I highly recommend them all. His vast experience with film and digital photography, gained through traveling and working with some well known photographers, gives his courses a unique perspective.

a Creativelive Student

I love this course, John. It is one of my all time favorites. First of all I loved your effort scale. I knew as soon as you went through the scale that you are a guy that I want to listen to. To me, the effort part IS the fun part of photography. When you asked the question about one wish ... the first thing that came to my mind was that I wish I had more time for photography. I like the technology, but I do not wish for any special powers. To me, that would take the challenge away. Photography is wonderful because every subject challenges the photographer to get the angle right, the light right, the settings right ... I love that challenge. I think you do too, John, and that is why this course is so special. The attention you pay to every detail comes from the drive you have to meet the challenges with every thing you've got. That is why your class is so special. Your work ethic is exceptional. SandraNightski

a Creativelive Student

While delving more thoroughly into Nature and Landscape photography in a smaller format, John Greengo provides us with an amazing companion to his outstanding courses Fundamentals Of Digital Photography and Travel Photography. Here he gives us another necessary treatise to study before packing our gear and heading out in a car, a plane, a boat (or just for a long hike), and it’s as entertaining as the others. Thank you again John Greengo and Creative Live for these expert and brilliantly illustrated programs. I just hope you keep finding more subjects to photograph and provide the instructions for.