Reverse ND grads explained

A colourful sunrise and long exposyre at Southwold Pier in Suffolk, UK

You’ve probably heard this before and chances are, you’ll hear it many times in the future; one of the best time to shoot landscapes is most often the period of time just after sunrise and just before sunset.

These times are known as ‘golden hour’ and despite the name, this period of time isn’t actually an hour in duration. At this time of the day the sun is close to the horizon, which means the area of sky close to the horizon is brighter than the sky at the top of the frame.

Filters for golden hour

ND grad filters are used to reduce the amount of light entering the lens at the top of the frame and graduate to no effect halfway down the filter. In other situations, these are perfect for maintaining brighter sky detail against a darker foreground, but at golden hour when the sun isn’t obscured by cloud, you’ll need a reverse ND grad to effectively capture sky detail and avoid blown highlights.

NiSi Filters 3 stop Reverse ND Graduated Filter

Reverse ND grads

When shooting with the sun close to the horizon the best filter to use is a reverse grad. These have a hard graduation in the centre of the filter that quickly graduates to the filter’s full strength and then a soft graduation to a reduced effect at the top of the filter.

This means light close to the horizon is blocked to reduce exposure, with the darker sky above less affected by the filter for a more balanced and natural looking result. Reverse grads often come in 2-, 3- and 4-stop light blocking densities.

Crummock Water Long Exposure Stack

How to avoid reverse grad problems

Reverse grads are amazing filters that make it easier to effectively capture some sunrises and sunsets, but they’re not without limitations. The most significant issue with them is the hard graduation in the centre of the filter.

This means that when you’re shooting anything but straight horizon, such as at the coast, some of the land or protruding elements such as trees will be underexposed by several stops.

When underexposure occurs there are two main options to overcome the issue: The first is to shoot one exposure without the filter and another with the filter and then blend the two together in post-production.

The second is to use local adjustments in Raw processing software to brighten up elements in the scene that should be lighter. But a great fail safe is to shoot the two exposures when on location, and then make a decision about how to process your images once you’re back home.

To check out my landscape photography click here

Take a look at my YouTube channel for editing tutorials here

Subscribe to this blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Landscape photography – timing is everything

Behind the scenes Sony Alpa A7RIII and Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ 263 CT

Timing is everything when it comes to landscape photography, so to capture landscapes in the best light possible you ideally need to be on location and ready to shoot before, during and after golden hour. Bur while sunrise and sunset are considered the best times to shoot landscapes, they’re far from the only options. Throw the weather into the mix and you may even find that conditions are actually better well after sunrise has taken place. And on a moody and cloudy day, you may even be able to get great results throughout the day.

Read moreLandscape photography – timing is everything

Frequency separation retouching tutorial

Frequency separation retouching in Photoshop tutorial

There’s always more than one way to achieve an effect in Photoshop, but why use anything but the best? And for portrait and fashion retouching, that’s frequency separation retouching to maintain skin texture. Check out the video and written tutorials below…

Read moreFrequency separation retouching tutorial

Moody landscape photography

The lone Buttermere tree at sunrise on a moody morning

Moody landscape photography is equally as popular as bright and colourful landscapes because let’s face it, the weather doesn’t always play ball when you’re out shooting. In this short guide we’ll take a look at some of the key elements of shooting moody landscapes, as well as an editing technique that’s guaranteed to make your moody landscapes more dramatic than ever before.

Read moreMoody landscape photography

Photography Workshops

A colourful sunrise and long exposyre at Southwold Pier in Suffolk, UK

Improve your photography skills with one-to-one or group photography workshops covering camera or editing skills. Whether you’re a complete beginner looking to learn how to use your camera, or a more experienced enthusiast who would like to enhance your skills with more advanced techniques, a photography workshop is the quickest and most effective way of learning. For more information see below or visit my one-to-one photography training page where Photoshop and Lightroom training options are also listed.

Read morePhotography Workshops

How to create sunlight in Photoshop

How to create sunlight in PhotoshopLearn how to create sunlight in Photoshop and add it to your landscapes, portraits or automotive shots. Sometimes a bright burst of sunlight can completely transform an image. But what can you do if the sun wasn’t out or in the frame? Add it yourself with this highly effective technique.

Read moreHow to create sunlight in Photoshop

How to remove lens flare in Photoshop

How to remove lens flare in Photoshop

How many times have you shot a killer image at golden hour only to find it practically ruined by ugly lens flare? Learn how to quickly and easily remove lens flare from your landscape images in Photoshop. This is an essential technique for all photographers who often shoot landscapes and cityscapes at sunrise and sunset with the sun in the frame.

Read moreHow to remove lens flare in Photoshop

Create surreal motion blur in forest shots

Misty sunrise at Delemere Forest in Cheshire

Learn how to apply a surreal motion blur to forest shots in Photoshop. This technique is hugely popular and can be applied in just a few minutes. All you need is a forest image, ideally taken in interesting lighting conditions, and you’re ready to go.

Read moreCreate surreal motion blur in forest shots

Camera kit I use for landscape photography

A long exposure of a moody and dramatic sunset at Hope Cove in South Devon

I often get asked what kit I use for shooting different photographic subjects, and one that comes up regularly is landscape gear. For this type of photography I like to keep things as light as possible because there’s often a lot of walking involved. And if I’m camping as well as hiking, I even take less kit with me – just the bare essentials. Below you’ll see my most essential kit, which is minimal to say the least. But why carry what you don’t need?

Read moreCamera kit I use for landscape photography

Boost contrast without increasing saturation

How to boost contrast without increasing saturation in portraits

How to boost contrast without increasing saturation. Adjustment Layers in Photoshop are powerful tools, but sometimes using them at face value doesn’t provide the best results. In this tutorial we’ll take a look at how a simple change of Blending mode can make a huge difference to an Adjustment Layer.

Read moreBoost contrast without increasing saturation