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What filters do I need for landscape photography? This is one of the more common questions I hear or see from fellow photographers.
I have my favorite go-to filter kit for landscape photography that I will share with you as well as some reasons to have lens filters in the first place.
What’s In My Filter Kit?
photo by Skitterphoto via Pexels
Filter kit can mean a couple of different things to different photographers, so let me clarify first what I’m calling a filter kit these days.
One photographer may refer to their various screw-in landscape photography filters as a filter kit. For instance, when I shot film, I carried around a pouch of my most used filters such as the polarizer, a red #25 and yellow #8 for B&W, an 81A warming filter to compensate for cool skylight when shooting color, plus a set of step up and step down rings.
The other definition of filter kit is something like the Haida M15 Filter Kit. In other words, a filter holder with adapters for various lenses and a mix of very usable filters for digital photography such as neutral density (ND), graduated neutral density (GND), and circular polarizer (C-POL) filters. This is what I usually mean now when discussing filter kits.
Why Use Lens Filters In Digital Photography?
Since we have so much post processing capability with digital photography, are there reasons to have lens filters as part of our gear?
There are good reasons to have lens filters for our modern DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. The one that jumps out at me is that you can’t post-process everything. Even with the marvelous programs we have available to us, some issues are better handled in camera.
This seems especially true with our landscape photography filters. While I might be able to use Lightroom or some other program to adjust for color balance and certain exposure issues, I find that if I limit my use of post processing to tweaks, as opposed to major changes, I get consistently better results.
Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova from Pexels
Additionally, there are some things that simply can’t be done after the exposure. Handling polarized light and attenuating the overall exposure value of a scene are two situations that require physical lens filters.
Landscape Photography Filters for Digital Cameras
So, let’s have a look at my current filter kit for landscape photography, the Haida M15 Filter Kit with several magnetic filters, a C-POL, and a couple of different GND filters, a 15 stop ND, and their specialty Clear Night Filter.
A great aspect of this system is the magnetic filter holder which makes changing and adjusting filters super convenient, quick, and allows for precise positioning. You change adapters for the different lens diameters, but you only need one filter holder and one of each filter type.
Circular Polarizer Filter
This is a large circular shaped filter that operates like any other C-POL filter does, in other words, you turn it around while monitoring your viewfinder or viewscreen to verify the effect. What makes the Haida filter special is the high grade optical glass and the magnetic mounting.
Not having to screw in a large filter saves a little bit of time but the convenience of not worrying about cross threading or smudging any of the surfaces is a real plus. Since I started using the Haida series of filters with magnetic mounting, I don’t really want to go back (though sometimes I still do, life of a photographer).
GND and Reverse GND Filters
These filters are why I got into the Haida system in the first place. Combining their rectangular shape with the magnetic mount system makes thes GND extremely versatile and useful.
I use this type of filter to balance out the extremes of light and dark in certain scenes without requiring me to spend hours on the computer for what I consider substandard results.
The GND 0.6 (2 stop) hard edge filter gives a hard but not instant edge between clear and ND. That plus the ease of positioning allows for precise placement of the filter, such as on an horizon or turned vertically for urban landscape uses such as against a building. A softer edge version is also made for all of the densities.
Reverse GND filters are best used in sunset or sunrise situations where you need extra density near the center third of the image, but they can be used anywhere with some creative thought. I tend to go a little darker on the density, the ND 0.9 GND (3 stop) is my usual choice.
Deep Neutral Density
I don’t know a better way to describe this style of filter. It is far denser than the typical ND filter for creating some very entrance effects.
A regular neutral density filter in the 2 or 3 stop range is invaluable when taking environmental portraits or for landscape photography in bright sunlight while wanting to use wider apertures for selective focus.
Haida makes a 15 stop ND filter, the ND 4.5, useful for extreme exposure time adjustment, like what you might want for a seascape, river rapids, waterfall, or for storm photography. Counting 15 full stops could take you from ISO 100, f/11, and 1/60 second to 17 minutes and change at f/16. Think what you could do with that!
Clear Night Filters
When considering landscape photography filters, we sometimes tend to think in daylight terms only. The Clear Night Filter opens up the world of nighttime photography for anyone that doesn’t have a dark sky spot in easy reach.
Why do you want this in your filter kit? Light pollution! Photographing landscapes near any moderate to large metropolitan area introduces a phenomenon known as light pollution or sky glow that adds an unnatural color tint, lowers contrast, and obscures all but the brightest stars.
Photo by Xain Sheikh from Pexels
Seriously, many city dwellers have never seen the Milky Way with their own eyes! Amateur astronomers have used eyepiece filters for decades, these Clear Night FIlters from Haida work the same way for your imaging. Try one out in the nearby countryside or even in your own urban or suburban neighborhood.
Another great advantage to any filter holder system is the ability to stack filters without vignetting the edges of your image frame. Plus, you can combine effects for truly interesting landscape images. The Haida magnetic mounting makes this process even easier.
What’s In Your Filter Kit?
Your filter kit for landscape photography will likely differ in a few key areas. It depends on what you intend to do. The reasons to have filters and use them in this digital age are numerous and include making files in camera that you won’t have to turn into a fictional work of art, but merely tweak the image file for best results.
I want to see what you’re using and the images you’ve made with them. Join our discussion forum and share!