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.
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