Before you head out to take photographs in high mountain country this spring, check your filter collection to be sure it includes a polarizing filter. What filter collection?
If you have a camera that allows you to change the lens — a single lens reflex (SLR) camera -- specialty filters will improve the quality of your photographs. Check out this list of have-to-have filters before your next expedition.
Commonly used for landscape pictures, a polarizing filtermakes the blues of Montana’s big sky "pop." In fact, it increases the colorsaturation of your picture so that all your colors will be brighter. Use it to control reflections onwater or snow. Keep in mind that polarizers generally do not give the desiredresults when the sun is directly overhead, and light is naturally polarized at sunrise andsunset. Since polarizing filters absorb about two stops of light, removing them in low light conditions conserves precious light resources during the golden hours of the day.
Graduated neutral density filters allow you to reduce the exposure reaching a specific part of your picture. For example, if the sky is too bright and is going to be washed out, a graduated neutral density filter allows you to reduce the brightness of the sky without affecting the color or the foreground. Rotate the filter 180° and it will reduce the glittering brightness of snow in the bottom of your image, allowing you to retain details and textures that might otherwise be lost.
Want to explore the wonderful world of macro (close-up) photography? Save yourself from carrying additional weight by using a two-element close-up filter on a lens you already own. It’s a great way to add versatility to a telephoto lens, and still get great close-up images. Using one of these filters on a telephoto lens blurs out visually distracting backgrounds and offers a fairly long working distance from the subject – useful for bugs and other creepy crawlers that you may not want to get too close to.
For creative softening effects, the pocket sized Lensbaby is a complete lens designed to give you full control of what is sharp and what is not in your picture, a big advantage over a soft focus filter. By bending the Lensbaby, you can easily shift the focal point to any area of the picture you choose. Make a tiny spot go sharp, while everything else softens. There is a great close up kit for the LensBaby that allows you to shoot true macro. Try it with early spring flowers, water droplets or ice crystals. There’s one to match all popular camera mounts.
Ultimately, the best way to learn what imaging accessories will help you get the quality of pictures you want is to take pictures. When something doesn’t work, go back to your camera store or camera club to find a solution that will get you past that particular problem. Experimentation is the best teacher. So, head on outside, with your camera and lenses ready to go, and keep taking pictures.
This tip was written with the expert assistance of the staff at F11 Photographic Supplies in Bozeman. Read other tips at: www.f11photo.com. Jenna Caplette is a writing coach and aspiring photographer who teaches 1,000 words: Writing from Photographs at F-11