If you sspire to take ■ H linill^l great-looking landscape images, you need filters They are as essential a part cf your camera kit as your tripod, or even your memory card. Back in the day, film users would rely on a catalogue of filters to provide a range of effects, from tobacco tores to soft focus. While these kinds of effects can be digitally recreated, one critical one can't, and that's neutral density. Photographers recogrised that the sensitivity of film could not capture the same wide range as our eyes can see We typically see a range of around 24 stops, while your average 35mm film could cope with between four and seven stops. This meant that in a darkened room with a bright window, where we could see detail in both window and the room, the camera wou d end up with either the room in complete darkness or the window completely overexposed. Similarly, on a bright day, an apparently beautifi il view appears on the camera with either a whte sky or dark and shadowy foreground. By using a graduated neutral density filter, photograpners were able to even out the difference in brightness to levels the film could cope with and p*oduce an image in keeping with how our eyes see it. Your typical JPEG image captured on a digital sensor offers around the same dynamic range, if not less, than 35mm film -clow to the four <iop<; of transparency film

Therefore it is even more important in digital photography to even out the brightness. Raw files do allow an increased dynamic range that can stretch to as much as 14 stops but this still pales into insignificance in comparison to human eyes.

A solid neutrai density filter provides a slichtly different, but equally as important, role. By reducing the amount of light to the whole image it allows the photcgrapher to use longer shutter speeds in brighter conditions. This may be when a shallow depth of field, and therefore a large aperture, is needed, or when motion is wanted to be blurred severely for creative effect.

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