Has software eliminated the need for filters in the field?

By Becky Chapman

When I started in photography, the in-camera exposure was one of the most critical aspects of the image. Now when I am out in the field shooting with other photographers, I hear “it doesn’t have to be a perfect exposure, you can always clean it up in post” all the time. So, the question arises, how perfect does the exposure need to be to make a beautiful image?

It used to be “processing time” was bringing the film to be developed. Now we are spending countless hours at the computer tweaking an image to get it right after the fact. The fact is that filters played a very big role in getting the exposure correct in camera and we spent our time in the field picking the right filters, adjusting exposure and figuring out what was needed to get it right. Since we can now achieve the same results with the software available, who wants to take all that time in the field?

You can certainly add creative filters in post, including colored filters, star filters, graduated neutral density filters and other compensating filters that we once had to use at the time of the shoot. There is still a lot to be said for getting it right in camera. Using a graduated neutral density filter in the field may keep you from having to shoot several frames for a HDR image. Using a color enhancing filter at sunset can give stunning results without having to play with it on the computer and it is very satisfying to get a fantastic image with minimal post effort.

There are still some filters that are an absolute must to have in your camera bag, especially if you are shooting landscape images. The first being a polarizing filter. When you are shooting any water images, a polarizer is crucial to remove the reflections and glare from the surface of the water. There is no amount of post processing you can do to remove a reflection from a stream when you are trying to get the detail of the rocks below the surface. That is something that, at the time of this writing, is simply not available once the image is shot.

A neutral density (solid) is also a must in my bag. If you are shooting a waterfall on a bright, sunny day, you are going to have a very hard time getting the water to get the beautiful wispy look you want even with the ISO dropped as far as possible with the fstop all the way down. ND filters also allow for very interesting cloud movement shots that are simply not possible as a single shot in camera.

I do like to have a split ND filter as well, although it is becoming less frequently used due to some limitations. With a graduated ND, you have the linear separation (even if it is graduated) and very often, your scene does not have a linear separation. If you are shooting a straight horizon, like at the beach shooting the ocean sunset, it is fine. If you are in the mountains or shooting a skyline, the linear nature of the filter is limiting. HRD processing is getting so much cleaner and less “crunchy” now, so that will typically be my choice in those situations.

When it comes down to the absolute musts, to me, the polarizer and the ND filters are the only ones I HAVE to have with me at all times. Creative filters are falling by the wayside as better software is released with the same effects that can not only be turned on, but also turned off if you decide you don’t need or want them. It is very easy to add color, starbursts, soft focus rings, and countless other creative effects. I will, however, continue to carry my filter systems in my bag to be used in the situations where software will just not cut it.

Whether you choose to use a filter in the field is a very personal choice. I still see people using them, but it is much less frequent than in the days of film and darkroom processing. So, if you are feeling nostalgic and want to see how it “used to be”, grab some filters and start playing!

This is the image directly OOC with only sharpening applied

This image had a graduated ND filter added in LightRoom added diagonally from the top left.

This is the same shot with the graduated ND filter, but also some of the local adjustments with the brushes and a graduated ND from the bottom right to increase the exposure in the rocks.

As you can see, the last image has addressed several issues with the original exposure that a simple ND filter on the lens would not have been able to address. This is a situation where an added filter on camera would simply not do the job that editing software can address.

Photo processing software is getting more powerful and can do many more things now that it could even a year ago. Who knows what is coming and what will be available to us in the future. For now, I will keep my polarizer and ND filters on hand and let the software address mostly everything else.

Becky Chapman is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

HDR = High Dynamic Range with One Image?

Author: David Huffman

Yes!  You can create a High Dynamic Range image with only a single exposure.

First, what is High Dynamic Range?  HDR, as it is commonly named, is a method to expand the dynamic range of the image so that more detail is captured in the deepest shadows and in the brightest highlights.  Digital cameras, no matter how good, cannot duplicate the full dynamic range of human vision.  So, using multiple images (in most cases) images are created at a range of exposure from normal to plus  and minus several stops of exposure and then these images are combined into one file image.  This type of image creation requires a steady tripod and many other techniques to assure that the camera is not moved or other adjustments made between exposures.

But what do you do if the subject is moving, yet you want to expand the dynamic range?  I use PhotoMatix HDR software by the company HDR Soft.  I find it easy and quick to use, and I can even expand the dynamic range of a single image.  The two accompanying photographs illustrate this clearly, where the splash of the sea on the rocks was obviously moving quickly, and cannot be captured in three separate exposures with identical precision. So I just use one exposure and the software to create the HDR image.

If you would like to try this, take any single image you like and download the trial version of the software.  You can try it for free, and if you wish to buy it, you can save 15% using the links on my website,www.HuffmanPhotoArt.com.  Visit the SAVE HERE page to get the special discount code.

David Huffman is a Volunteer Trip Leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops, Author and Educator.


Pinnacle Peak Hike: High Dynamic Range

Author: David Huffman
Photos Copyright David Huffman


Pinnacle Peak, a part of the McDowell Mountain Preserve in the north of Scottsdale, AZ, is a wonderful hike.  Located only minutes from the main part of Scottsdale, it is easily accessible and fun.  The trail is well-maintained, and you can choose to go the full distance for approximately one hour, or only go part way to the top.  On the way you will likely encounter many other hikers, and exercise-seekers, so if you’re taking pictures prepare for some interruptions.  I don’t let this deter you from a wonderful walk, as you will be getting significant elevation and a terrific view of the entire McDowell Mountain range in Northern Scottsdale around every bend.

On this particular day in late November, I chose to hike the trail because the weather was a little cooler and there were some clouds and overcast in the sky.  It may sound strange, but living in Arizona, plain blue skies all the time can be a little boring.  So the hike this morning caused some interesting landscapes and greater variety and modulation of the sky which I really appreciated.  I knew the contrast range could be quite high, from the bright sun and clouds to the deep shadows of the rocks, so for this particular image I chose to shoot three images at bracketed exposures from plus to minus 2 stops.

I shot the images in raw format, and upon returning home, I combined them using Photomatix Essentials software.  There are many controls in the software, yet it is easy to use. I decided to push the reality just a little bit over the edge, to make this seem a little more interesting. I hope you agree with me that the final image was worth the effort.  (The equipment was Nikon D810 camera, Nikkor 28-300 mm lens, no filter, normal exposure ISO 100, f/8, at 1/250th second, handheld with VR on.)

I encourage you to try new things, including high dynamic range imaging (HDR) to expand your photographic horizons.  You’ll also enjoy learning more at the Arizona Highways Photo Workshops, visit www.AHPW.org.  My website also offers inspiration and instruction, www.HuffmanPhotoArt.com.

Happy shooting!

A Walk in Sabino Canyon

Author: David Huffman


© David Huffman

Sabino Canyon, located immediately North East of Tucson, is a national park worthy of a trek for any nature-lover or photographer.   Many locals go there for a weekly walk.  There are multiple trails to explore, and the main road is about 4 miles and fully paved.  They don’t allow private vehicles any longer, but there is a tram that stops at 9 different points if you wish to get on and off.  The road can easily be walked in about 2 to 3 hours up and back, or just take the tram up (hill) and walk down as I did.  During the spring and early summer the river will flow and provide some good reflections but the later summer may not have any water at all.

I got a late start, one Friday afternoon, getting to the trail about 4 PM.  It was rather warm, about 96° that afternoon, which just goes to show that living in Arizona for 10 years changes your perspective on temperatures. Because I knew it was warm, I decided today I leave most of my photographic gear in the car, and took just one camera and one lens.  I chose a Nikon D810 and the all-in-one Nikon 28-300mm VR lens.  Some websites criticize this lens for sharpness, I don’t have any issues with it.  Using one long-range zoom lens, also means that I’m not changing lenses in the field and possibly getting dust on my sensor.  From experience, I found that I can shoot this lens critically sharp down to one 1/125th of a second, using VR, and my favorite aperture is F/8.  I also like to use a polarizing filter to enhance nature’s colors and darken the blue sky.

The first photo was taken using these settings, and the image was improved using DXO optics V. 10.  I added clarity, adjusted contrast and saturation slightly.


© David Huffman

The second image is an HDR image, a combination of 3 images with a range from -2 to +2 stops, then combined using Photomatix Essentials, a simple software program for blending images.  I chose not to exaggerate the image, but rather wanted to increase the contrast range to accommodate good detail in the sunlit mountain top and the shadows of the foreground.

You’ll find more images and information, including eBooks on travel and landscape photography on my website, www.HuffmanPhotoArt.com.  Try one of our Arizona Highways Photo Workshops to learn and share more photographic fun!  www.AHPW.org.

Happy Shooting!


What’s New in Adobe Lightroom CC

by Suzanne MathiaLR1

With the release of the newest version of Lightroom this morning I have been inundated with requests for information and updates. I will know more later today and will put all the new tools and enhancements through their paces.

Our upcoming Lightroom classes will be sure to include all these great new features.

What we think we know:

Lightroom CC is available as part of an Adobe Creative Cloud Photography subscription ($9.99 per month) or as the equivalent standalone $149 perpetual-license Lightroom 6 application. But the single purchase option won’t include syncing photos to Adobe’s mobile apps, such as Lightroom Mobile, Slate, and Voice. Adobe uses a smaller-footprint version of the photo file called Smart Preview for transmitting to Web and devices, so bandwidth and storage aren’t taxed unnecessarily.

Panorama – HDR – Face Recognition


Aside from some heavy duty lifting such as luminosity masks, layers, blending and content aware cloning and healing most of the trips to Photoshop were for Panorama stitching and blending multiple exposures – 32 bit image processing. Now they will be included inside Lightroom along with Face recognition

A video preview of Face Recognition
LR3I don’t have much use for this feature but I know a lot of people will like this. Come out with Bird or flower or rock recognition then we’ll be talking!
The Photo/Merge menu is where you access two more new tools: HDR and Panorama.

HDR Tool
Lightroom now lets you combine under- and overexposed versions of the same photo for a balanced result.

Adjustment/Refining brushes for the Graduated and Radial Filters

LR7You can fine tune and make local adjustments to gradients and the radial filter YEA!!!!!



You will now be able to time slide transitions to music and have Pan and Zoom effects



The most welcome update is the new improved speed up – up to 1000% faster?? That I would love to see.

One of the features touted in the listing is “performance gains” introduced by leveraging compatible graphics.
In other words, it seems the new version of the program will finally make use of your computer’s GPU (graphics processing unit) for faster performance, especially when editing photos using the Develop module.

Thats all I have for now – I will be downloading and playing with all these new features in the next few days and will post updates. I would love to hear your opinions, comments and little tricks you find.

B&H is offering $20.00 off the annual subscription fee for 2 days!

Suzanne Mathia is a certified Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop expert, an AHPW instructor and a frequent contributor to Arizona Highways magazine.  www.suzannemathiaphotography.com