Horizon / strip / center ND filter for sunrise / sunset soft grad or hard edged?

zzffnn

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I am getting a horizon / strip / center ND filter for sunrise / sunset, mostly at beaches, but will use it for mountain (tops) too (where there is no defined horizon). I currently only want to get one first. Should I get a soft grad strip ND instead of a hard edged one?

My concerns are (this is where I would highly appreciate your kind advice):
1) will a hard edged strip ND reveal uneven dark bands in some photos (where there is not defined horizen)?
2) will a soft grad strip ND be too wide (such that it overtly darkens clouds above it and mountains/ocean under it)?

This Kase one is the soft grad strip ND I would get:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/prod...w_100cgnd12_100x150mm_4x6_center_grad_nd.html

This Haida one is the hard edged strip ND I may get:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/prod..._4x6_100x150mm_red_diamond_horizon_nd1_2.html

Stephen Elliott has used the Kase one with his E-M1 mk2 and Oly M 7-14mm:
https://flic.kr/p/WbEf7K
My lenses for this application are 4/3 version of Oly 9-18mm (72mm filter thread) and Pana 14-140mm (62mm filter thread), cameras are E-M1 mk1 and G85.

I already have two 100mm square filter holders, two 100X150mm 3-stop reversed grad ND filters (which I found is good enough to be used as normal GND at 9mm focal length, upside down), a 6-stop solid ND, a 3-stop solid ND and a few polarizers.

I think my reversed Grad NDs are too soft in gradients, such that they won't work well to replace a strip ND. This is why I wonder whether or not a soft grad strip ND would be too wide (such that it overtly darkens clouds above it and mountains/ocean under it)?

Would a m4/3 sensor coupled with a 72mm thread 9mm lens see grad ND filters differently than a full frame sensor with 72mm thread 18mm lens?

Thank you very much!
 
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archaeopteryx

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1) Yes. 2) Yes. It's rare that the scene, focal length chosen, and filter gradient match up especially well. So the operative question is whether the grad reduces the overall deviation from the desired exposure profile to be worthwhile. I used a soft grad briefly and sold it several sensor generations ago because it wasn't accomplishing anything which couldn't be done more easily and more effectively with tone adjustment in post on any of the scenery I was photographing. But some folks---case in point---prefer physical filters, either because they just like them or because the filters do well enough for the subjects at hand. You'll likely get better answers to your questions given a more specific indication of the latter.

This is why I wonder whether or not a soft grad strip ND would be too wide (such that it overtly darkens clouds above it and mountains/ocean under it)?
Unless you find some rather linear mountains the filter profile is unlikely particularly successful as a match. Did you mean overly rather than overtly?

Would a m4/3 sensor coupled with a 72mm thread 9mm lens see grad ND filters differently than a full frame sensor with 72mm thread 18mm lens?
Zero order approximation: not really. First order approximation: I suspect it depends on the lens and f/stop used more than sensor size. It appears one of the lenses you're asking about is the Olympus Zuiko 9-18 (the 43 version, not the M.Zuiko). Is the 135 alternative a specific lens or is this a hypothetical comparison?
 

zzffnn

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Thank you, @archaeopteryx .

What did you mean by "a more specific indication"?

Sorry, I don't have a specific photo in hand or a specific composition in mind to show.

But I suspect that my reverse GNDs (with the non grad side having a hard edge) can be used in some some scenes that require a hard edged strip ND, though they would not be ideal.

I know tonal adjustment in layers can accomplish what I wanted, if I do post processing with a good software and lots patience.

But I don't really have that much time/patience, nor a good (expensive/subscription) software to work in many layers. I have done 2 layers in Paint and achieved reasonable result, but did not enjoy the time I spent in processing. I can resell the filters later on, to recover my cost (if I don't need them anymore); but I would not be able to recover my investment in software or time.

I meant overly. Sorry for my late night typo.

Yes, I am using non-M Zuiko (4/3 version, not m4/3) 9-18, many times at 9mm, wide open or slightly closed down. The 135 alternative I referred to was a hypothetical one.

I would ask B&H how wide that Kase soft grad strip ND is and compare its darkened width with my reverse grad ND.
 
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zzffnn

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B&H (seller) said both strip NDs have about the same width of dark bands of about 50mm-55mm wide, but the Kase GND strip has a narrower dark band in comparison (with lighter fading graduation, as expected).

I am leaning heavily towards the Kase, for use.

Any other comment would be highly appreciated.
 

archaeopteryx

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I don't really have that much time/patience, nor a good (expensive/subscription) software to work in many layers.
Layer based approaches aren't required. If there's interest, a couple starting points might be the ongoing darktable filmic and local tone mapping discussion as well as the recent gamma/tone curving thread here. Or stay with the decision to buy a grad. Whichever you like.
 

zzffnn

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Thanks, I searched around but could not understand most of the discussions found. Is there a dummy guide with videos / photo processing examples / for tone curving, using cheaper softwares that are easier for beginners?

I have downloaded GIMP and LightZone before but have not really used them. I did not GIMP to be beginner friendly.

I found this discussion difficult to understand (as I have not learned the basics): https://www.mu-43.com/threads/gamma-correction-is-anyone-using-that.108020/#post-1371150

I could understand part of this thread and wonder if there is a similar guide somewhere for darkening the sunrise highlights: https://www.mu-43.com/threads/pulli...space-and-paint-shop-pro.106948/#post-1352446
 
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zzffnn

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I like the above dummy guide for tone curving (especially how he optimized the opposite tones). I tried it on my own images and like the effect (my FastStone Image Viewer software has the basic tone curving tools), especially on colorful images an human skin.

However, I would still get the strip GND filter and use it together with tone curving. For some of my overexposed images, I think a ND filter is still helpful.
 
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