Graduated Neutral Density Filters or simply known as ND filters are an essential for every Travel or Landscape Photographer.
Why we need an ND filter?
All cameras have a dynamic range which is a range of bright to dark tones that they can record. This range is quite limited as compared to what the human eye can see. So if in a scene where the sky is really bright as compared to a darker foreground, the camera has a tough time metering the difference in the range of tones across the frame. Hence we either get a blown out or over exposed sky or an underexposed foreground.
The solution to this problem is a Graduated Neutral Density Filter.
The ND Filter can be simply mounted in-front of the Lens using a filter ring accessory which allows the user to rotate the ring or slide the filter up and down to adjust to the live view while shooting. The ND filter helps in balancing the exposure across the frame resulting in a more pleasant image. It also adds a touch of dramatic effect to the sky making the image look more interesting. And at the end of the day it also helps in reducing post-processing work load.
Which ND Filter to use?
Avoid opting for the screw-in type ND filters as there is no flexibility to slide and adjust and their use is limited. An external Filter with a lens adapter ring and a holder is the right choice.
Hoya, Marumi, Cokin, B+W, Tiffen, Lee etc. are some popular brands which offer high quality filters with variants available in different strenghts, also known as 'Stops'.
While some photographers choose to use HDR post-processing to overcome their camera's limitations, ND filters are fun to use, add that extra bit of technique to your shooting process, give you the flexibility to get a finished image within the camera itself and in most cases make that front end of your lens look awesome! Carry an ND filter on your next travel and you will never leave without one again!