Over the years I have used many filters on my various cameras. When I first started out in film, and all the way through Art college and Uni, I had a set of Cokin filters… this was the small square A set, and I quickly upgraded this to the P series to get a bit more size. Cokins were good, they did the job for college; I scratched them, dropped them, sat on them, forgot them…
The various grads and ND filters opened up a new world of styles and looks to the images I was shooting, and I continued to work with these until I went into digital years later.
With digital came Photoshop and I quickly fell into the trap of creating all my effects in post-production. I soon forgot about filters in the name of the ‘shooting fast and post later’ style of shooting.
As my lenses changed over the years and I went full-time, I grew a substantial collection of pro glass and started shooting more and more around f1.2 – f2 to create the look I wanted.
Without filters I was hitting ISO 50 / f1.2 / 8000’s which doesn’t leave much room to allow for effects when you hit the camera limits. Quite often this would still blow highlights or you would have to sacrifice aperture and ‘the look’ to get a shot. To continue shooting f1.2 – f2 on those sunny days I found I had to start using ND filters and faders etc to slow the whole thing down again.
I was shooting more and more landscapes, watersports, and I started shooting the ‘Motion project’, a collection of images from the streets of the world, with human emotion and influences. The ND filter really helped here, but only at the wide apertures. If I went up to f11 – f32 the fader created an ‘X’ effect through the images. As you worked your way to smaller apertures the effect got stranger…NOT cool!
Then a few years ago I discovered the Lee filters 10 stop/big stopper. This was a great filter for big landscapes and long exposures. I was lucky and had a good example of the filter (they can vary slightly) but it still produced the well known Blue and Purple colour cast. Colour correction can minimise the ‘Big Stopper’ look, but sometimes nothing works.
Last year I was discussing landscapes with a friend of mine at Smugmug, and I mentioned the colour cast issue, and they told me about a great UK based manufacturer called Formatt-Hitech and their Firecrest 16 ND…Sorry? What? Did you say 16 stop? This sounded interesting …. I mean, 16 stops!!??
And that’s not all! The Firecrest 16 is made to have NO colour cast. You can find all the Tech shiz here: <FIRECREST>
So I contacted James Stamp and arranged to test the screw-in version of the Firecrest 16 and it was fantastic! Long exposure in seconds became minutes very quickly. I probably need to start writing more or maybe get some books to read between exposures, because 30 minute exposures are not uncommon and if you check out the exposure charts you could in theory expand this into days! Seriously!!
I soon realised the screw-in filter would need to be replaced with the drop-in version just for ease of framing and focusing, so I opted for the ‘Ken Kaminesky’ kit and a few extras:
Firecrest ND 3.0 (10 Stops), Firecrest ND 1.8 (6 stops), Firecrest ND 0.9 (3 stops)
Firecrest Soft Edge ND Grad 0.6 (2 stops), Firecrest Soft Edge ND Grad 0.9 (3 stops)
Firecrest Multicoated Circular Polarizer, Aluminum Holder, Adapter ring, Polarizer Ring, Ken Kaminesky Booklet, Filter Pouches
I have to say, this kit is the Bolihocks! I have reversed the screws and use two filters with the circular polariser. I generally use either two grads or an ND plus ND grad depending on the lighting and effect I’m after.
I find the filters are really useful not only for landscapes, but also for studio work, pit lane and track shots. The tracks always need a little sky attention in the arty shots and an ND grad helps there. By using a standard ND I can keep the shutter speed at a 15th easily and a wide aperture – this is helpful for creating long artistic and atmospheric pans.
Sometimes for speed in the pit lane, I will hand hold the filter to enable me to change the filter or effect very quickly on the fly. An ND filter is standard in pit lane to keep the aperture wide and the subject isolated.
Set up is simple for long exposures etc.. with the Formatt Hitech aluminium filter holder attached to the camera lens and the Polariser ring mounted to that. You simply screw the Firecrest Polariser to the ring mount, then slide in the Firecrest 16 Square Filter followed by a Graduated filter for the sky… Calculating stop totals and exposure times is a whole other matter. One I will go into another time. 🙂
Capturing the effect in camera saves on the processing afterwards. Using the ‘neutral’ filters from Formatt Filters range has been a game changer for me.
If I get time I will still post process the filtered images, mostly when I’m not tied to deadlines. I find post processing the ‘filtered’ shots is even better when you really work those exposure zones, much better than the old ‘shoot and Photoshop’ method.
When used on Fuji glass you get the dynamic range of tones and sharpness combined, to produce epic quality images full of emotive atmosphere.
If you haven’t tried them, check them out here>> www.formatt-hitech.com
Various samples can also be found here on my facebook page:
Stay shiny! 🙂