Using Filters for Fantastic Photographs

The evening of Monday 18th June saw a fascinating talk by Eddie Ruffell who is managing Director of Lee Filters. As may be expected his talk was about the use of filters in photography and it was very informative. Eddie started by looking at the reasons why we use filters. He compared the eye to the camera and showed how both respond to light with the camera sensor being less than perfect. There were graphs showing sensitivity to various colours for the eye, film, and digital sensors.

The talk then moved on to practical situations where filters can be of use, particularly the use of graduated filters. One of the main areas was to balance out the extremes of light and dark as sensors do not have the same dynamic range as the human eye (although sensors for video are improving rapidly). One interesting point he made was that he advocated the use of manual exposure mode as the automatic metering system will try and compensate for the filter being present, thereby negating some of its effect. All Eddies talk was illustrated with many practical examples showing the image with and without the filter, making it abundantly clear to the audience how the use of the filter was enhancing the image results. Eddie went on to discuss polarising filters, both linear and circular. Again there was a lot of valuable information such as when using multiple filters, the polarising filter should be the first the light hits i.e. the front most filter. Another nugget was that is you are using any auto exposure mode then the circular polarising filter should be used rather than a linear one. Again many examples were shown displaying dramatic differences between with and without the filter. Interestingly, the effects of the polarising filter are extremely hard to replicate in image processing software such as Photoshop.

In the second half Eddie turned his attention to the use of strong neutral density filters, such as their own Big Stopper. There were some very effective examples with particular emphasis on the effect on images of water due to the increased exposure times. However not all the examples were of water and it was fascinating to see how the use of a Big Stopper can change the appearance of clouds. In the case of both clouds and water it can allow the viewer of the image to focus on the parts of the scene the photographer wanted to be prominent. For some photographers the Big Stopper was too much so Lee Filters developed the Little Stopper which didn’t increase exposure times as much and then later on developed the Super Stopper which gave increased exposure time even over the Big Stopper! Eddie used striking examples of the use of each of the filters and certainly made a clear case for their use.

The evening was concluded with a look at some specialist filters such as the stripe, enhancer and various black and white filters. In all it was a very informative talk ably presented by Eddie and showed what could be achieved with the simple application of various filters. Certainly the interest from members was shown at the break and at the end in asking questions and examining the various samples Eddie had brought along. It looks like more members will be using filters in the future.

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