ND Grad filtersWhen photographing landscapes, especially during sunrise and sunset, the difference in light levels between the foreground and background (mostly sky) is often too large for the camera sensor to cope with. Fortunately, there are solutions to this problem.

The old fashioned way is to use ND Grad filters at the time of shooting. The bottom half of these filters is transparent, while the upper half is a neutral grey. They come in various densities (1-3 stops) and in soft-edge and hard-edge varieties. The soft-edge filters are useful when there is no obvious line between foreground and background (e.g. a mountain scene), the hard-edge filter is perfect for hard transitions, such as the horizon in seascape images. For this image of Lake Malawi at sunrise, I chose a 3-stop hard-edge filter.

In this digital age, it is also possible to take two (or more) photos at different exposures and blend them in Photoshop. My experience is that it is often difficult to blend seamlessly in Photoshop. I therefore still prefer to use ND Grad filters whenever I can.

Lake Malawi sunrise; Canon 1D Mark III w. 17-40/4 L; 2s at F16, ISO 100; Gitzo tripod with Markins ballhead; 3-stop hard-edge ND Grad filter handheld.