Singh-Ray Filters: Galen Rowell Graduated Neutral Density Filters
Singh-Ray Filters logoGalen Rowell Graduated Neutral  Density Filters

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Galen Rowell's Graduated Neutral Density Filters

Galen Rowell ND Grad Filters
Above (L to R): hard step 3 f-stop
and soft step 2 f-stop.
  • Developed with renowned nature photographer Galen Rowell
  • Allows you to seamlessly "hold back" bright sky 1,2, 3, or 4 f-stops to balance foreground exposure
  • Available in "hard step" or "soft step" types...see photo at left
  • Absolutely neutral in color with superior optical integrity
  • Made from CR-39 Optical Resin
  • Long 84x120mm filter (P-size) allows adjusting for any horizon position
  • Also available in four other sizes
  • Custom sizes and densities available upon request

  • Galen Rowell ND Graduated Filters
    Add to Cart P size (84x120 mm) Qty:

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    Add to Cart 66 X 100 mm size Qty:

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    The Benefits of Galen Rowell's
    Graduated Neutral Density Filters

    Photo  Galen Rowell/Mountain Light Photo  Galen Rowell/Mountain Light Photo  Galen Rowell/Mountain Light
    Without Filter With Galen Rowell Graduated ND Filter

    Outdoor photographers have discovered the importance of using graduated neutral density filters for landscapes to capture greater detail whenever a scene combines a bright sky area and a somewhat darker foreground.

    The more critical and professional the photographer, the more important and profitable it is to use Singh-Ray Graduated ND Filters. Designed in cooperation with Galen Rowell, these filters are widely used by leading nature photographers for superior performance.

    Singh-Ray grads are totally color-neutral to avoid color bias. In our standard 84mm width, they mount easily in a "P-size" holder and are a generous 120mm high to allow you to position the zone of gradation exactly where you want it, even with wide angle lenses. Most other slot-mounted filters are too short to handle horizons positioned near the top or bottom of your photo.

    Singh-Ray Graduated ND Filters are available in two "soft-step" and two "hard-step" models. The soft-step models are suited for scenes with no distinct boundary between light and dark zones. The hard-step models are preferred for scenes where sky and foreground areas are distinctly separated, usually at the horizon. Both the soft and hard types are offered in two- or three-step density gradations.

    The use of graduated ND filters is explained in the instruction sheet provided by Singh-Ray. When held up to the scene, you can easily see where these filters shift across their field from clear to neutral density. When mounted on your camera's lens, however, it's less obvious how to position the filter to deliver the expected exposure control at the right place within your transparency. When looking through the viewfinder, you won't clearly see where the density shift will be on the exposed image -- until you make use of your camera's depth-of-field preview control to close down the lens aperture. It's often helpful to view the changing effect in your viewfinder as you close down the aperture step by step.

    It's easy to meter the foreground and set the exposure (manual mode) for the scene before sliding the filter into position. Then while the preview control holds the lens aperture in the close-down position, move the ND Grad up or down to position the ND graduation effect where you want it (you may need to turn your filter holder slightly to match your horizon line, too). As you move the filter, the graduation will become much more apparent.

    Despite the higher cost of the custom hand-crafted Singh-Ray Graduated ND Filters, they are your best investment for professional results on this type of shot.

    Each Graduated ND Filter includes a protective padded and lined optical pouch.

    Daryl Benson Reverse
    Neutral Density Graduated Filters

    Photo copyright 2003 Markos Berndt
    With Singh-Ray Reverse ND Graduated Filter
  • Daryl Benson Reverse Neutral Density Graduated Filters help balance foreground with bright horizon
  • Singh-Ray Strip Filters subtly "hold back" a bright horizon allowing more detail in foreground and sky above
  • 120mm length allows you to position horizon anywhere in your frame
  • Filters fit Cokin™ "P" holder, other sizes available
  • Ultraviolet filters and color graduated filters also available
  • Full customization of size, density, calibration and other properties is just a phone call away -- 800-486-5501

  • Daryl Benson Reverse ND Grads

    Add to Cart P size (84x120 mm) Qty:

    Add to Cart 4x6 in. size (100x150 mm) Qty:

    Add to Cart X-Pro size (130x185 mm) Qty:

    Add to Cart 6x6 in. size (150x150 mm) Qty:

    Add to Cart 6x7 in. size (150x170 mm) Qty:

    Add to Cart 6x9 in. size (150x225 mm) Qty:

    Add to Cart 66 X 100 mm size Qty:

    Add to Cart 75 X 120 mm size Qty:

    Add to Cart 84 X 84 mm size Qty:

    Add to Cart 75 X 90 mm size Qty:

    Photo Copyright Darwin Wiggett Photo Copyright Darwin Wiggett Photo Copyright Darwin Wiggett
    Without Filter With Singh-Ray Reverse ND Graduated Filter plus Singh-Ray Warming Filter

    Daryl Benson's Guide to Reverse
    Neutral Density Graduated Filters

    Filters are to photographers what adjectives are to writers. They help inject color and a personal style to what is being communicated.

    Photo copyright 2003 Markos Berndt

    Photography is a great medium for the communication of ideas and visions. Unfortunately, this medium's translator (film) isn't. The problem is film does not see the same way we see. Our eyes, emotions and imagination can perceive and enjoy a warm colorful sunrise over a foreground field of dew laden wildflowers. Film on the other hand has no emotions or imagination and only sees light as levels of brightness. This scene that may move us emotionally, is only a narrow series of bright and dark light values to film. "Narrow" being the key word here. Film (for this example, color slide film) can see a contrast range between light and dark of about 3 to 4 stops maximum. Or the other hand, our eyes can perceive a contrast range in excess of 10 stops. In this example the dawn sky could easily be over 5 stops brighter than the foreground of wildflowers.

    This large difference in brightness between the sky and foreground is beyond film's ability to see and record. Regardless of the metering system you have in your camera or employ manually, you cannot capture that image or film . . . without a little creative help.

    That help comes in the form of a filter. To be more specific, a Graduated Neutral Density Filter. These filters help reduce and balance the contrast range in a scene to a level that then can be recorded on film. These filters come in varying densities and rates of transition, clear at bottom with varying percentages of neutral density starting at the middle and increasing in density toward the filter's top.

    If you are unfamiliar with graduated filters and their use, I suggest reading the information sheet written by Galen Rowell, or contacting Bob at Singh-Ray for any technical assistance at 1-800-486-5501

    Like any tool however, standard graduated filters do not work their magic in every situation. One problem I continually ran into was shooting into the direction of the sun right at sunrise or sunset. In this application you have a dark or backlit foreground coupled with an extremely bright horizon. All graduated filters regardless of density or rate of transition go from lighter to darker in density, which is actually the reverse of what's needed in this case. A seemingly simple solution would be to physically turn the filter upside down and position the top edge of the filter over your lens parallel with the horizon. Unfortunately, regardless of lens or aperture used, the filter's physical edge bends, reflects or distorts the incoming light. This leaves an unwelcome bard of light or distortion on the image.

    The solution to this problem came in a phone call to Bob Singh. With an explanation of the problem and a little experimentation we developed some filters, that, like all graduated filters, were clear at the bottom, however at their horizontal middle started very abruptly with either a 1, 2 or 3 stops of neutral density and then graduate to 1 or 2 stops towards the top of the filter. These three reverse graduated filters have solved many tough lighting situations. Used either separately or in combination with one another, depending upon the scene. I've been able to capture many unique images that before now were beyond my equipment's ability to record.

    Working Example

    Say you've chosen a composition of shooting east into the sunrise with a field of wildflowers as your foreground. First meter the foreground and then the sky just above the horizon in your composition. In this example let's say the exposure difference between the two areas is 4 stops. Using the depth of field preview control (see tips), position a 3 stop reverse graduated filter over your lens putting the abrupt edge of the neutral density level with the horizon. By now exposing correctly for the foreground, the sky will only be overexposed for approximately 1 stop (well within the exposure latitude of any film). It's been my experience that slightly overexposing the sky will generally yield a more realistic-looking final image, if that's your intent. If you too closely balance the sky and foreground exposures, an unrealistic image will "usually" be the result. I emphasize "usually," as I am sure you're all aware this is photography we are talking about, not rocket science, there are no rules or formulas. Let experimentation, creativity and personal taste guide your use of these tools.

    This example is common in terms of exposure difference between sky and foreground and if you can only afford one of these filters, I would recommend starting with the 3 stop reverse graduated filter.

    Tips and Advantages

    The image area being filtered will change according to your aperture setting, with the smaller apertures yielding a greater percentage of area covered by the filter. However, this is not visible when viewed through your lens if it's wide open. Use the depth of field preview control you (hopefully) have on your camera. This will better help you to visualize and position the filter for its desired effect.

    These filters work best with flat or regular horizon lines. Any subject passing from the foreground through the horizon into the sky will also end up being filtered. If that subject is in silhouette however, this will not be a problem.

    Wide angle lenses, because of their inherent greater depth of field (particularly with smaller apertures), will deliver a more pronounced and noticeable graduation than longer (50mm and up) focal lengths. My personal preference, however is with lenses in the 17 to 28mm range.

    All of Singh-Ray's graduated filters are physically longer than they are wide. This advantage allows you more control over how much or how little graduation you want to use without worrying about the filter's top or bottom edge vignetting into the image. I use the Cokin "P" size filter holder which works well with all the lenses I use. Your personal choice will not be a problem as Singh-Ray can custom make the filters to fit ANY holder or lens (call for details and pricing).

    As the name suggests, all Singh-Ray neutral density filters are "neutral" in terms of color bias. This is often a problem with other graduated filters (particularly the lower priced ones) which often tend to distort or exaggerate the colors in a scene.


    Like any creative tool, the Reverse ND Graduated Filter will not solve all your photographic problems. However, with some imagination, creativity and experimentation, they will greatly help expand the possibilities of what you can successfully translate from your mind's eye to film.

    -- Daryl Benson

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