blog by

rob kircher

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Enabler

I've always heard that family can be the worst enablers and I found out today that its very true.

Thanks Mike... I really appreciate it...

Mike was gracious enough today to let me play with his latest photography toy a Cokin filter system. That's right it doesn't take much to excite us but the results of this filtering system are absolutely wonderful.

To explain maybe I should back up a little.

I've been complaining lately that the only free time, as little as there is, I have to get out and shoot seems to be from mid morning to mid afternoon and most times on days just like today, gray and cloudy. This doesn't make for the best light for photographs. You almost always wind up with near white skies and harsh shadows and colors. Well the other day Mike sent me a couple of photos shot on a cloudy day and I was intrigued at how cool they looked. None of that blown out sky or harsh color.

Well today mike and I meet out at Great Falls MD and I got my chance to try out the filter.

Wow!!! So very cool.

Mike attached the holder and slipped in a 2 stop graduated Neutral Density filter. This filter basically gradually darkens from clear at the bottom to 2 stops of grey at the top. The idea is if I adjust the filter properly I can reduce the exposure of the sky by 2 stops while maintaining the proper exosure for the lower part of the image and thereby avoiding that white blown out affect you'd have with out the filter.

Lets see how it works.
This image was taken without the filter. Notice the completely white sky. No cloud detail whatsoever.

1D Mark III w/ 17-40L f/4 1/200s, f/7.1, iso 200, 22mm

Now with the filter in place. Check out the cloud detail. Yes that's actualy the sun behind the clouds. Couldn't even see the sun in the first image.

1D Mark III w/ 17-40L f/4 1/200s, f/7.1, iso 200, 22mm

And an even more dramatic example. In this case I shot, at Mikes advice, in portrait mode to capture more of the sky. Lowering the exposure just a bit realy darken up the sky for a really dramatic look.

1D Mark III w/ 17-40L f/4 1/400s, f/7.1, iso 200, 21mm

Pretty damn cool if you ask me. Makes shooting on a cloudy day worth it.

The other very cool thing about this system is it allows you to stack up to 3 filters for varying effects. Imagine stacking a graduated orange filter with the same graduated ND filter. If adjust properly from a fairly boring sky you could create an interesting sunset.

Of course, although new to me, none of this is really new. This filter system has been around for ages use long before computers and Photoshop.

But the fact is, I find it sooo much more rewarding to create a cool image by using the filters than taking that image into Photoshop and doing it in the computer. As Mike said today, this most likely comes from our pre Photoshop roots in photography. He may very well be right; I just find it much more rewarding to do the upfront thinking and creating the image in camera than manipulating the image in post.

Here are a couple more images done with the filter..

1D Mark III w/ 17-40L f/4 1/80s, f/8, iso 200, 20mm

1D Mark III w/ 17-40L f/4 1/250s, f/4.5, iso 200, 24mm

In any event, I have to thank Mike for turning me on to this cool set of filters and more importantly showing me that I now have to go out and spend yet more money so I can be as cool as he is. ;-)

For more on the filter system visit Cokin Standard and Pro Holders


  1. "I have to thank Mike for turning me on to this cool set of filters and more importantly showing me that I now have to go out and spend yet more money..."

    Heh-heh! I do what I can!

    Think of it as simply doing your part to help jump-start the economy. ;^}

    Seriously, good shots. Looking forward to Glen Echo.

  2. We have to hit Glen Echo at night when they open up the ball room and the lights are on and there's people milling about.