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December 10, 2008

Yosemite 2008

We're back from Yosemite, and man what a fun trip that was! Going to Yosemite is cool enough, but going with a bunch of good friends is just the icing on the cake.

So I got the chance to use some neutral density gradient filters on some of the shots, and all I can say is..WOW. I need to learn a lot more about how to use them properly but I was amazed at the difference they make.

Here are some examples. Note that I set the white balance equal on all images, and set the tone curve to flat just to make sure everything is processed the same. I didn't try to optimize the photos beyond those two things.

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The first image is without the gradient filter, and the second is with a 3 stop soft filter. Both are nice images, but being able to balance the tones between the reflection and the sky allows me to bring up more detail in the trees and foreground. Oh and as a side note, the hard/soft designation refers to the transition between the dark and light portions of the filter. A hard filter has a relatively abrupt transition, while a soft transition is more gradual.

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Here's the same situation. All processing is the same, the first is no filter, the second is with the filter, in this case a 3 stop hard filter. You can see in the first image I exposed for the sky, so the valley detail was kind of lost and too dark. But by using the filter, I could stop down the sky enough to bring up the details in the valley.

I certainly need more practice with these filters, but I am really encouraged about the possibilities for using them. They do have some drawbacks though. You have to spend the time to set up and place the gradient line where you want it, and you have to spend the time to meter carefully in order to get a good shot, but overall I am really very pleased with them and am looking forward to using them a lot more. The ones I'm using are resin based, so scratching may also be an issue in the long run.

The filters I'm using are Lee 4" x 6" resin filters and the Lee Filter holder system. I bought mine from Calumet Photo. I read somewhere (I don't recall where at this time) that 2 and 3 stop in hard and soft transitions are your best bet for a starting point. You can always add more filters later if you feel you need them.

December 06, 2008

We're here!

We've arrived at Yosemite...well, actually we arrived last night, but, today we'll start moving about the Valley. The general plan is to explore the valley floor a little, then hike up to Mirror Lake, then explore the valley floor a bit more. It's about 4000' elevation here, so those of us who are used to sea level, are likely going to feel some effect of the altitude, so today is an easy day. Tomorrow will most likely be Glacier Point, Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, and some other spots.

The drive in was pretty smooth, just a few idiots who like to drive 60mph in the left lane, or worse, cut in front of you THEN drive 60mph. It's kind of to be expected though.

Hopefully I'll have some amazing/dazzling/wonderful pictures to show you, but...don't hold your breath. ;)

Time to wake up my roommate and join everyone for Breakfast...