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David Ruby

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Coming into work this morning I got the pleasure of enjoying a wonderful sunrise over the foothills. It got me thinking that I've often wondered what the best way to capture that WOW would be with Black and White film. I'm assuming that using fitlers would be necessary to render the subtle oranges, pinks and blues.

Does anyone have any experience with this? What filters would help? Thanks.
 

Donald Miller

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David Ruby said:
Coming into work this morning I got the pleasure of enjoying a wonderful sunrise over the foothills. It got me thinking that I've often wondered what the best way to capture that WOW would be with Black and White film. I'm assuming that using fitlers would be necessary to render the subtle oranges, pinks and blues.

Does anyone have any experience with this? What filters would help? Thanks.


Filters of like color render same color in the scene lighter in contrast to opposing colors. Filters of opposite color (on a color wheel) darken this same color. Thus if you have a red in your sunrise then red (23, 25, or 29) would render the surrounding green objects (trees for instance) darker in contrast to the red of your sky.

Orange would have the same type of effect except it would not be quite as pronounced as the red.
 

RAP

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I used a #8, light yellow, on this image at Cape Cod.

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The rising sun was just to the left of the frame. It served to clear the haze, give more seperations in the sky and clouds, darken the sand and enhance the cloud reflections.

You need to be careful not to over filter. Shooting towards the sun in morning or sunset light can be very contrasty so too strong a filter will just make it more difficult to preserve the mood.
 
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David Ruby

David Ruby

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RAP,

I think you need to be my mentor!! That image is amazing (as well as others on your site. You must be a "cloud" guy like me eh? I don't know what it is, but I've always been drawn to clouds. My mom tells me stories of picking up film from the grocery story only to find out that I got a hold of the camera and filled the role with cloud pictures. I've struggled to get good clouds with B&W though. Not that I don't love them in color, but I'd rather print them myself and I don't do color.

Thank you for sharing.

I have a light yellow filter for my TLR, as well as a new orange filger that I just got, but haven't really tested out yet. I need to start experimenting.
 

Deckled Edge

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As a confirmed cloud person, you must be aware that color filters for black and white film photography work differently in different situations. They are most effective in direct actinic (from the sun) light. They are more effective when blue sky is filtering the light on the scene, and less effective when clouds are filtering the light in the scene. So much so, that on your best cloud day, you might be hard pressed to see much difference in "color" rendering. You will still get the benefit of haze reduction.
Similarly, the filter factor is also variable, based upon sky color and subject color. It will take some practice and some hopelessly thin and hopelessly bullet-proof negatives to learn this fact. As has been stated above, it is best to go easy on the filters and reserve the strongest ones for those rare occasions when they produce the most realistic changes, not the most garish ones.
The only thing you can photograph is light, so start with great light. Don't try to manufacture it with a filter.
 

RAP

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David,

I have been very busy lately and just saw your response. Thank you for your kind words. Yes I do enjoy clouds in my images, as well as water. I think they add additional dimensions and moods to images.

Their are varying factors that will determine strength of filtration to darken skys; near cities where air pollution is higher, stronger filters are needed to darken the sky. The higher the sun in the sky, the weaker the filter. What is under the sky will determine the filter, rocks, buildings vs trees, foliage, water. In b&w photography, to over filter with too strong a filter can ruin a mood and is the most common mistake.

The best way to learn is by experience and keeping good records of what and how you photography. Exposure, filter factor, type of filter, placement of values on the zone system scale, lens, film and speed, development, etc, will determine the final outcome of the photograph.

I do not know if Zone VI through Calumet still sells exposure record notebooks but they are very handy. Or you can go to Ansel Adam's book on the Negative and there is a form there you can copy.
 
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