Archive for October, 2010
2010/10/01 Leave a comment
When I started out in photography, there was no digital, there was no Photoshop. There was film and your local lab. So, to get those great B&W prints which had excellent contrast and depth, you used filters.
The most common filters for B&W landscapes was yellow, orange, red, and a polarizer. There are varying uses for these filters, but I’m particularly interested in their effect on the sky, so that’s what we’ll go over.
Yellow has a very mild darkening effect. So mild in fact, I never really used it for that. Orange has a noticeable darkening effect, and red has the strongest darkening effect. A polarizer also has a strong darkening effect, but is really effected by the angle from the sun that you’re shooting. With the colored filters, this is less of an issue. Reason being is that polarizers work best at a 90 degree angle to the sun. The colored filters, on the other hand, will have similar effects given that the color of the sky doesn’t change that much. So, if you were shooting at 180 degrees from the sun, you’d get a similar effect if you turned and shot 90 degrees to the sun assuming that the sky is a similar shade of blue.
So let’s compare what these filters do. Below is the base shot. No filters, shot on aperture priority, and simply converted to B&W in Abobe Camera Ram (ACR).
The following shot is with the orange filter. We see that the sky is a little darker than the base image. You may also notice that the trees are a bit lighter.
You can also stack filters. In this image we stacked the orange filter and a polarizer. Rotating the polarizer for maximum darkening effect and you get the shot below. The sky is even darker, and some of the foliage is ever-so-slightly darker due to the polarizer blocking the reflected light from the leaves.
Next I shot with just the red filter. Here the results are darker than the orange filter, but lighter than the orange+polarizer. The contrast in general also seems a little less.
This next shot is with the red filter and the polarizer, adjusted for maximum darkening effect. As you can see the sky is definitely darker. Darker in fact, than the orange+polarizer shot. This would be expected since the red filter has stronger darkening effect. One other thing I noticed comparing the orange and red shots with a polarizer, is that in the red+polarizer shot, the roof of the church is a tad lighter in color. I can see this since the roofing is brown with just a hint of red tone to it.
This last shot is with the polarizer only. The sky is lighter than the red+polarizer and orange+polarizer shots, but the roof and foliage are noticeably darker. This lends to the shot feeling a little flat and not as dynamic as some of the others in this comparison.
One thing you should note is how the shutter speed decreases as you stack these filters. Make sure you use a good tripod, or else your shots might turn out blurry.
In retrospect, I think that I prefer the results from the orange+polarizer shot the most. The red+polarizer is a bit too much, and the red alone doesn’t have enough contract for a really punchy B&W.
I hope that I’ve inspired a few of you to go out and try colored filters for your next B&W session. These filters are pretty cheap, and can really bring your photos to the next level.