Adam Barker

Shooting with a Grad ND Filter

Adam Barker
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Some of the best places to shoot landscape photographs are in the state parks across the country. Wasatch State Park in Utah is one of the most beautiful. In this video, landscape photographer Adam Barker takes you there for tips on creating a memorable image with a grad ND filter.

Adam finds what he calls a “layered scene”: yellow aspens in the foreground, snow-covered pine trees with shaded layers in mid-ground, and distant mountains under a bank of white clouds. “This is a long lens composition,” he explains. “I’m putting the color in the bottom of the frame and taking advantage of the ridge line and sky in the background.”

There is no need for a polarizing filter. Instead, Adam hand holds a 4-stop soft step grad filter over the lens. This brings out the detail and balances the sky light. He shows you how to tilt the filter at an angle to match the contour of the transition of the ridge line reaching into the background. In mountain scenics, you are always working with angled lines: treetops, valleys, mountains, and clouds.

Adam stresses the use of various ND filters so you can create three-dimensional depth in the detail and color of your landscape images. Since so many scenes in nature contain a greater range of light than your camera can record, graduated neutral-density filters should be a staple in your camera bag. Grad ND filters are generally used to darken a background that’s significantly lighter than the foreground. Common examples are sunrises and sunsets with bright skies and foregrounds in shade, or mountain scenes where a snow-covered mountain is much brighter than the foreground.

Travel in the mountain valley with professional shooter Adam Barker as he shows how to use these lens filters to enhance a scenic photograph in Wasatch State Park.



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