On using my Reverse-ND-Pink-Yellow-Polarizing-Grad Filter and how it saved my bacon

filtersI was on the road for three weeks living out of the back of my beat up 66 Impala wagon. Whilst traveling  the rugged Alberta back country, I came upon an interesting sight. Wow! As if by magic the clouds parted giving me a spectacular view of an old broken down fence. Gorgeous! But WTF?  The light was almost impossible to shoot under so I reached into my over-filled gadget laden camera bag and reached in for my best friend, my Reverse-ND-Pink-Yellow-Polarizing-Grad Filter.

Fingers trembling I attached it to the front of my expensive Nikanon L-Series Apochromatic Ultra Lens. Mounting it on my three ounce carbon-graphite multi-fluid headed tripod, I had my assistant place the camera close to my face and focus for me.

OMG! WTF! It was fantastic. The filter had saved my bacon! Colors became more vivid. Blown highlights darkened, under-lit shadows filled as if by magic. Eeek! It was magic. And there’s more.

The bald spot on the back of my head began to regrow hair. My under inflated tires on the Impala filled up. The old 283 engine stopped burning and immediately came to a smooth idle.  My cell reception got better, the phone rang now my wife and I are back together again.

What a GD filter! Oh yeah, and the puppy that ran away three years ago mysteriously appeared in the back of the wagon, now house trained and holding a copy of today’s paper in his mouth.What a GD filter! I love it! I love it!

Excuse the attempt at sarcasm and humor but there is another photo blog out there that I often visit. It’s not a blog in the true sense but more a biography/photo product endorsement website. Professional photographers, amateur photographers, in fact it seems that anyone who submits pictures and a description of them gets on the website, no matter how bad the pictures. What does this blog sell? You guessed it, filters.

There’s nothing wrong with getting your name out there to reach a larger audience. There’s nothing wrong with advertising to sell a product. It’s all part of business or starting a business and getting name recognition but some of the photos on there really need the use of your imagination to pretend that the filters helped the image at all. They are just plain boring and unremarkable photos that don’t look like a filter would help or hurt them.

An example? How about a closeup of plants and flowers taken under overcast skies. Colors and contrast in open shade aren’t going to be helped as much by a $200 filter as they will with a little correcting in Photoshop.

Maybe I’m being too practical? Maybe I remember having filter upon filter in my camera bag when I first started and remember hardly ever using them. It was then and is now a waste of money. Money that would be better spent on a trip actually taking photos. A lot of photographers don’t get this.

Photography buffs are notorious gadget collectors. Not just amateurs, professionals too. I personally know people who shoot for a living and they have to have every new thing that comes out for their Nikons or Canons. There is a positive in that. You can usually get this equipment off  them at a greatly reduced price after the novelty of owning it wears off. :) It’s their money to throw away.

It’s been my experience that it’s 90% photographer, 10% equipment that makes a successful image.  To read this advert-blog you would be led to believe that it is the filter that is responsible for making the image work.

Look closely at the images. Maybe a third of them actually improve the photo. Don’t go rush out and buy this “L” series lens or “Three Stop-Reverse-Grad-Pink-Orange-Super-Duper-Polarizer” thinking your images are going to take a quantum jump forward in both creativity and qualilty.

I picked up a bunch of quality filters earlier in the year. A few sit in my camera bag. They just sit there. I tried them  and except for very special situations they will only gather dust or end up in my basement. Only one gets any kind of semi-regular use. From experience I have found that even it can both help or hurt my images.

A little common sense when looking at these endorsements could save you hundreds of dollars. Like the old saying goes, it’s not the tools but the craftsman using them that make the difference.

Spend your money wisely and use common sense when you read these things. They are not the be all and end all of landscape photography. It is YOU that makes the difference, not a very expensive unused gadget.

Happy shooting,


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~ by Dan Jurak on August 21, 2009.

5 Responses to “On using my Reverse-ND-Pink-Yellow-Polarizing-Grad Filter and how it saved my bacon”

  1. Phew….for a minute when I first starting reading I thought you got sucked into that vortex of gearheads! Was glad I didn’t quit reading in disgust. ;-) There are 2 filters that I will always have. A circular polarizer and a ND filter. That’s it. Ever.

  2. Roberta, you know like I how much equipment is over-rated when it comes to taking photos. Sadly so many ppl don’t realize it and spend a fortune. Their photos stay pretty much the same. I hoped maybe someone might learn what I did thirty years ago at less cost.

  3. Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, :)

    A definite great read.. <a href="http://wiki.hudson-ci.org/display/~bill-bartmann&quot;


  4. I don’t own any of these $200 filters but the blog and marketing hype for sure makes me want to try and see what all the fuss is about.

    Like Roberta, I do enjoy my polarizer and solid ND.

  5. @ Stephen, I bought a few of them when I first got back into photography after reading a few glowing testimonials on various websites. It didn’t take long for them to find their way into my basement. They’re not totally useless but for me they have a very limited use.

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