Why I love to use the LEE Seven5 filter system!

RSP - Reinhold Staden Photography - Morning Flow
RSP – Reinhold Staden Photography – Morning Flow

My decision to focus on landscape photography and the acquisition of the LEE Seven5 filter system for my Fujinon lens lineup – have severely changed my photography workflow.

The most relevant change:

Composing images using the filter system actually requires the use of a tripod. You can use it without, but I would not recommend it. Read on and you will see why.

Setting up my photography gear – tripod, Fuji XT-1, filter holder adapter, filter holder, grad/effect filter and may be a Little/Big Stopper (and a cable release for long exposures) requires some time and effort.

Finding a composition to justify this time and effort is another essential aspect in my workflow.

This approach introduced something new: to NOT take a photograph. No random, instant shots anymore. Biggest change ever!

After setting up my gear it takes a while to compose the image in the view finder / live view screen. The X-T1 has the big advantage to support a high resolution image view in the electronic view finder and the live view screen.

Now it is time for my first action. Determine the aperture. For „normal“ landscape photography I use the f5.6 to f8 (the maximum is f11) range (sweet point) of my lens line up. I determine the optimal focus point for the shot. I never use f16 or f22 to increase depth of field. I rather take two shots using f5.6 or f8 (one focused on the foreground and one on the focus point / background and align / blend these 2 images in Photoshop).

Set your camera to M (Manual) mode (don’t forget this as I did on my first try) and insert the graduated ND or effect filter into the holder. You will see the result immediately (or not if you have not set the camera to M) in the EVF / Live View (if you own a camera which supports this). If you shoot seascapes a 0.3, 0.6 or 0.9 HARD graduated filter could be the right choice. (they reduce the light by 1 – 3 stops and balance the light difference between sky and landscape). If you have objects which lean into the sky (horizon) you could use a SOFT graduated filter. The difference is easy to explain. The HARD one has a well defined transition between dark and transparent the SOFT one has a soft transition between these areas. If you use a HARD filter and you compose a castle at a hill leaning into the sky and clouds, the light reduction will be seen on the upper parts of the castle. A SOFT filter will not create this effect. So your composition determines the usage of a HARD or SOFT filter.

For long exposures I currently add a Big Stopper (10 stops) into the filter holder. It has to be placed into in the first slot in the holder, so the foam on the back covers the lens and avoids light leaking from the side into the lens. But details of long exposures will be subject to one of the following posts.

RSP - Reinhold Staden Photography - Endless
RSP – Reinhold Staden Photography – Endless

This new workflow reduced my OUTPUT per shoot to 5 – 10 images, sometimes less. Before, I easily reached the 100 shots limit of which I deleted 95, not because of technical imperfection but of meaningless and mediocre compositions.

This in my major benefit of using the new filter system in my workflow.

I have no relation to LEE and there are other (cheaper) alternatives to consider. This is my personal view of why filters can change the workflow of photography.

Can all of this be done in LR and PS in post? Some of it certainly (except long exposure). But if the sky is burnt out, you will not be able to recover. And if you meter the sky, your foreground will be very dark. New cameras have a dynamic range which let you recover a lot of details. Or you use HDR. Or… But I rather start with one (maximum two) „balanced“ image(s) and do some „fine-tuning“ in LR and PS.

All of this adds factors to one important personal insight regarding landscape photography: where to go next and when (very early, late in the evening) is the key to cool images. The gear just helps to capture these magic moments in the best way. And I will have to spent much more time in this field!

Stay tuned for more insights of my curved and steep way up to professional landscape photography!

PS: I hope some of my writing makes sense. I have to practice writing photography content in English too. Smiles. Reinhold

My current components of the LEE Seven5 filter system

RSP - Reinhold Staden Photography - LEE Seven5 - Adaptor
Lens Adaptor (58mm) for 14mm and 18-55mm
RSP - Reinhold Staden Photography - LEE Seven5 - Filter Holder
Filter Holder
RSP - Reinhold Staden Photography - LEE Seven5 - ND Grad 0.6 Hard
ND Grad 0.6 Hard
RSP - Reinhold Staden Photography - LEE Seven5 - Big Stopper
Big Stopper (10 stops)

© RSP – Reinhold Staden Photography

September 2016

36 thoughts on “Why I love to use the LEE Seven5 filter system!

    • You should, Sherry. I know you will love it. ZEN photography. It’s like a meditation session each time. Very relaxing! But don’t bring anybody with you. They might fall asleep watching. Smiles. Reinhold

  1. The first picture is like two seperate photos in one, very nicely done, but I really love the last one and I can understand why you like those filters. I would love that kit too.

    • Thanks, Lena. Good to hear that. I read about your camera “problem”. Have you ever considered to buy a Fuji X100 (old but excellent for most purposes). I just bought an adapter for mine to fit the LEE filter system. And… it works beautiful. But… it has a fixed lens and no interchangeable lenses. I saw other photographers creating miracles with this little beast. Check it out. Smiles. Reinhold

      • I have very little knowledge about different cameras and what I would like best. I have read a little bit about some different once but I think it is really hard to get a real feeling without being able to test them. I will check it out, thank you very much for your tip Reinhold. I hope you have a great Sonntag!

    • @ Sue,
      come to Norfolk and we can practise together. Chillbrook convinced me to get a tripod, Lee Filter holder set and a remote for D800. After reading this tutorial I need to get the Big Stopper. So far I only got the hard grade 0.9 in the kit for the wide lense, I seem to be missing a lot of fun. 🙂

      • I also had to learn that the big stopper is just changing the shutter speed and is not changing the balance between sky and landscape. At least in bright sunlight. In this case an additional ND grad would have done the trick. In daylight you need f16 or f22 (+ the big stopper) do get a soft sky and water like glass. I usually get the effect with 15-30 seconds. But if I have to use f16 or f22 I get a sort of round shade like a vignette. So I wait until the light gets softer and I can use f8 to f11. But I think it depends on the lens as well. I can recommend to try it again. Once you are in it… it is difficult to let go again. Have a nice evening, Sue. Reinhold

  2. Beautiful image! Thank you for the instruction. I bought a set and a lens adopter a month or so ago, but I haven’t tried it yet.
    This post helps a lot and a wonderful motivation for me to use it. Thank you so much, Reinhold! 🙂

  3. Love that you are taking us through your process, and I understand your excitement as you learn to use new equipment that is taking your photography to a different level. I am feeling the same way now that I am FINALLY shooting and processing RAW files. I feel the same way though about getting as close to the best picture you can out of camera and leaving as little as possible for post processing. It is why I purchased a reflector kit to shoot portraits this weekend instead of relying solely on the software to adjust for under exposed faces like I did in my last post. Great results you are having with your new system. Can’t wait to see more as you progress and become more and more comfortable with it!

    • You are right, Sheila. Brings you back to the main subject. Photography. And if you start post processing with an already “balanced” image, it is much easier to optimize the result. I saw that you changed to RAW. Good decision. Getting the best image in camera is key to any further steps. I tried to “save” some of my images in post in the past. Does not work in most cases. So we will see what the next weeks will offer on both sides. I am very interested to see your work. Take care and have a good time. Smiles. Reinhold

  4. Beautiful captures, Reinhold! The second one is my favorite. And thanks for sharing your knowledge and you experiences with the new gear. Have a great weekend and keep on shooting those super special images. Cheers, A.

  5. We also invested in a set of LEE filter and are really enjoying using them. Still a lot to learn but they are opening up new opportunities for sure. After having used it for a while we have the same experience with regards to the number of photos we come home with, it has decreased. But I think we generally end up with higher quality photos than before:)

  6. Very nice post of the Lee filters. I haven’t used mine too much yet. I need to go out by myself where I can do it. Going out with my camera club is fun but there is no such thing as “me time” when 26 other people are walking around asking questions! LOL. I like your results and am looking forward to trying mine out more!

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