Lee Hard ND Grads

For years and years it's been said again and again get it right in camera and don't rely on photoshop.
I will be showing you an example of what I achieved using filters to take away the hard work in the editing stage.
I will also include the picture with the filters on and a picture without.

Here is the picture I took of Brighton's West Pier in East Sussex, UK.

This picture was taken at dusk just as the light levels where dropping and the colours appearing in the sky.
I set up my Nikon D300s onto my Manfrotto tripod and attached my Hahnel cable release.
I put on my lee adaptor and 100mm square filter holder onto the end of my Nikon 16-85 lens then composed the shot.
I knew this was going to be a long exposure shot using my Hitech pro stopper which is a very dark filter and holds back 10 stops of light so I needed to make sure everything was set up before sliding this filter into the holder.
After composing I focused manually as when the filter is in place you cannot use auto focus as its too dark and the lens will just keep hunting.
I put the camera into manual then chose bulb mode as the exposure will be over 30 seconds.
I dialed in f/11 to increase my exposure time and then used a custom white balance I have stored in my camera for using with my Hitech Pro Stopper to reduce the colour cast.

I will be doing a you tube video soon on how to do a custom white balance in camera to use with the Hitech Pro Stopper so keep popping back.

I chose my Lee 0.6 Hard Grad to darken the sky and balance it more with the foreground.
I slotted in the Lee 0.6 Hard Grad into the filter holder and whilst looking through the viewfinder I moved the filter up and down until the line of the dark part of the filter was resting on the horizon.
This also bought out the colours making this a more pleasing picture.
The Lee 0.6 held back two stops of light in the sky.
After everything was set up I placed my Hitech Pro stopper into the filter slot closest to the lens which also stops light leakage due to a foam gasket.
The Hitech pro stoppers extra 10 stops helped me get an exposure of 116 seconds giving me that surreal look with a nice smooth water surface.

Here is a side by side comparison of this shot with and without the filter

As you can see above with the Lee 0.6 Hard ND grad the results are much more pleasing with a better overall exposure and a deeper and more colourful sky.
This saves loads more time in the editing stage and gives a better feeling of achievement by getting it right at the picture taking stage.

Here are my three Lee Hard ND Grads
From the picture you can see the difference between these three filters from the lightness of the 0.3 to the darkness of the 0.9.
The 0.3 holds back 1 stop of light.
The 0.6 holds back 2 stops of light.
The 0.9 holds back 3 stops of light.
The top of the filter is obviously the bit which darkens the sky with the bottom of the filter being totally clear and will not affect that part of the picture what so ever.
As the name suggests these are Hard grads with a defined line between the dark and clear parts of the filter and these are good for pictures with a nice flat horizon.
You can also get soft grads where the transition between the dark and clear parts are not so defined.
These filters are a lot more forgiving if not placed correctly as the transition is not as noticeable between the dark and clear parts.
The soft grads are probably more suited to pictures where there are lots of things on the horizon like hills or buildings.
I used my Hard Grads on my west Pier picture as it didn't matter to me if the structure was very dark as the silhouette would have still been recognisable.

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