Caffeine Priority: Filters and the joy of landscape photography
posted Saturday, October 8, 2016 at 7:46 AM EDT
Wake up with IR! Here's today's dose of Caffeine Priority...
As a reviewer, the gear I have in my bag changes frequently, but one constant is that I always carry filters. I consider them a staple of a landscape photographer's kit. Photographer Thomas Heaton, whose videos we have featured on numerous occasions, recently published a video titled, "Do We Need Filters Anymore?"
In this video, he breaks down the filters that he personally uses and then covers how necessary they are. Let's tackle polarizing filters first. I have discussed this topic before, but it is so important that it's worth covering again. Rather than just tell us how you can't replicate the effects of a polarizing filter in your photo editor of choice -- which frankly should be enough to convince you to have one in your bag -- Heaton shows various video samples of the real-world impact of a polarizer. There are situations in which not having a polarizer means you'll be going home without a good image. If you had to carry only one filter (thankfully this isn't a real restriction), it would have to be a polarizing filter. It is almost as essential to landscape photography as your camera itself.
What about neutral density filters, are they necessary? No, they are not. That doesn't mean you ought to go toss them out of your bag, however, but the effects of neutral density filters can be replicated in Photoshop. There are limitations to doing it all digitally though.
With all that said, Heaton still carries around several neutral density filters. Why? Every hour you spend in front of the computer screen, processing and stacking files to get the effect of a physical filter, is time you aren't able to spend capturing images. Using a filter in the field takes very little time. Beyond that, it's all part of the craft. As Thomas remarks, composing a shot, placing a filter in front of his lens and seeing his vision of the scene "come to life" provides instant gratification. While the effect of a filter may be able to be replicated in Photoshop, the joy of photography cannot.
You can leave your non-polarizing filters at home if you want to, but Thomas argues -- and based on my personal experience, I agree -- that there is something about doing as much in-camera as possible that is uniquely gratifying. Perhaps for other photographers, they get that same rush from working on an image in Photoshop, and that's perfectly fine. Ultimately, photography is about enjoyment. For me, that enjoyment requires that I carry filters in my gear bag.
To see more videos from Thomas Heaton, visit his YouTube channel. If you'd like to learn more about photography from him, he recently wrote an e-book which you can purchase on Amazon for just under $4 (it's free if you're subscribed to Amazon's Kindle Unlimited service).
(Seen via ISO 1200)