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Filters - Which one is for me??? : UV, Circular Polarisers & Neutral Density filters Explained

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This is one of the most common questions we receive.  With a bit of insight in to what the main types of filters do and what they are used for, hopefully you will be able to make an informed decision after you've read this article. As always if you are still unsure and need some clarification, please shoot me an email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

I will start of with what i use most. I always carry 3 types of filters, some i use more then others:

Circular Polarisers


This is the filter i use most often.

A lot can be said about the technicalities of how they work but to keep this post brief let me head straight to the benefits of using one.

Polarising filters change the way that your camera sees and treats light. Particularly – when using one you’ll notice a change in how your camera sees reflections and glare. As a result it also has the ability to change the vibrancy of some colors in shots.

Let’s look at a few areas where polarising filters can have have the biggest impact:

  • Water – When shooting a picture of water adjusting your polarising filter will mean you see into the water differently, cutting out glare and even changing the colour of the water. For example when I was snorkelling off a boat off the coast of Indonesia a few years ago I took a series of photos using a polarising filter that made the water look crystal clear and a bright blue color. Without the filter the shots had nowhere near the same impact with a big reflection being picked up off the top of the water and a more murky color.
  • Sky – Similarly, the color of sky can change remarkably using a polarising filter. Rotating the filter you’ll see a blue sky change from a light pale blue color to a vibrant and deep blue color (depending upon where the sun is). A polarising filter can cut out a lot of the smoggy haze that is often in city shots.
  • Colour – Polarizing filters cut down the reflection that many objects have (even those that you might not think reflect at all). This makes the colors of some of these objects more vibrant. For example out in the garden you might notice foliage on trees looking greener than you would get without the filter.
  • Other Reflections – Shooting through glass can be a real challenge at times and using a polarising filter can definitely assist in cutting down distracting reflections or glare. Similarly photographing shiny objects (like a new car for instance) with a polarising filter will change the way reflections are treated.

Another benefit of fitting a polarising filter to your camera (or any kind of filter) is that you put an extra level of protection between your expensive lens’s glass and anything that might scratch or damage it. A UV filter is probably a more appropriate filter for protective purposes (they are cheaper and have less impact upon your shots when you don’t want the polarising effect) but a polarising filter is definitely more preferable to break or scratch than your actual lens.

Polarisers Change Exposure (Well... not so much now)

When you see a polarising filter you’ll notice that it looks quite a lot like a sunglasses lens.  The filter is dark and works by cutting our some of the aspects of light (similarly to sunglasses). As a result less light gets through to your image sensor and you’ll need to either use longer shutter speeds, a larger aperture or to beef up your ISO setting to account for this. The difference that you’ll need to account for is 1-2 stops. It’s for this reason that you won’t want to use a polarising filter at night.

....HOWEVER with the advancements in polarisers and in particular Hoyas range of PRO 1D and HD filters, they have been able to make the polarisers so up to 99% of light transmitted with there HD Series and approx 97% light transmission for the PRO 1D series. It is for this reason that if given the choice, i would choose a high quality Polariser (HD or PRO 1D) instead of one standard Polariser and one UV filter. You will save yourself money in the long run and will be able to leave your polariser on most of the time with out having to use a UV Filter.


UV Filters

UV Filters filter out the UV light that can cause a blueish haze on your pictures. They are most commonly used as lens protectors and serve this purpose well, with the added bonus of blocking UV light. A UV filter can be left on all the time as a lens protector/filter and it does not have any effect on how much light enters the lens.



The UV filter took the impact and saved this lens from going in the bin


Neutral Density Filters

One filter that is in the camera outfit of many professionals is the neutral density filter, or ND filter as it's better known. The filter is less appreciated by hobbyists and the reason it probably has little appeal is its looks - a plain, dull grey filter. Not colourful, no star effect, no gradation, no multiple image glass...just plain grey. And what does it do? Reduce the exposure? Hmmm I can do that with my's pointless! Well actually it isn't, and that's why the ND filter is a necessity for the professional and often found in the enthusiast landscape photographer's camera bag.

The ND filter may be plain grey, but it's a neutral grey so whatever light it lets through isn't affected in colour, just in brightness. So why would you want a filter that reduces the exposure when it can be done using your camera's shutter speeds or apertures? This depends on a few things. Firstly you may have a fully automatic camera. If so, the ND filter will give you a small amount of manual versatility. Or you may have been taking pictures in low light using fast film and then ventured out into bright sunlight where it was physically impossible to take a photo because your camera's fastest shutter speed was flashing, even though the aperture was adjusted to the smallest setting.

The ND filter will reduce the light and allow the shot to be taken. Using an ND filter in this way is not its primary benefit though. Have you seen those shots of waterfalls that look ethereal with blurry cotton wool water? Well the chances are an ND filter will have been used. Here the filter is used to reduce the shutter speed so that blur occurs. If you are out in a bright location the shutter speed will be at least 1/125sec and ideally you need 1/15sec or slower. So pop on the necessary ND filter and you'll gain the effect you're after.

ND filters come in a variety of ratings. The NDx400 or ND400 is my favourite, with 9 stops of light. This essentially means, to get a correct exposure, the shutter will have to remain open for much longer to achieve a well exposed image. I love this filter as it provides great effects on water, or any moving object.





Simply put, if i had to buy one filter only, it would be a good quality Circular Polariser first which cuts glare/reflection and still lets enough light through (Hoya HD or Pro 1D)


To view our range of filters, please click HERE

Last Updated on Friday, 02 March 2012 08:56

Panning Tips, Tricks & Techniques (That I Use!)

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In todays article, we are going to have a look at PANNING TECHNIQUES and what works for me. There are a lot of different ways to go about panning for many different situations, but essentially you need to find what works for you.

I went up to the Old Pacific Hwy on the weekend to take some panning shots of motorcyclists (I am a keen motorcyclist so i thought this would be a great way to demonstrate panning).



 - If you can put your camera (cannon) On AF SERVO , which is a mode that keeps adjusting the focus as you move the camera (even with the shutter held halfway down), it will make your life a lot easier

- Set your camera drive mode to continuous burst. This is allows you the keep shooting at your cameras maximum rate. NB: If you cant seem to shoot at a high enough rate, it maybe because you have Noise Reduction (high iso or shutter speed) as well as other in camera functions on. Turn these off and it should fix the issue.


- ISO is your friend! I know for certain situation, i like a particular shutter speed and/or aperture. You can adjust your ISO to get to your desired shutter speed and aperture

- Aperture or Depth of Field has little to do with getting a blurred background. A lot of people seem to think that if they use a larger aperture (smaller F/ number) then this will help create a blurred background, which essentially what we want. Depending on the subject, i will generally use an aperture of f/7 to about to approximately f/13. Depending on the size, of the subject and how far away you are from them, you may find that using a large aperture of f/2.8 you may not get the entire subject in focus.


- Shutter Speed is your main focus when panning to create both as sharp as possible image with a blurred background. Start off shooting in Shutter Priority Mode. Setting a the right shutter speed depends on how fast the subject is travelling, how far away from the subject you are and what focal length you are using. In these photos i was on the side of the road, approximately 4-10metres away. No matter how fast the subject is moving, i still follow the rule for shutter speed vs focal length to minimise camera shake. The rule being, if you are using a focal length of 100mm, then the shutter speed should not be any less then 1/100. If you are using a 70mm focal length then a shutter speed now lower then 1/70. Now this is only a rule, it CAN be broken. But start of with this as a guide. In this series of photos i was shooting at between 1/60 and 1/100


- Tracking the Subject: Say the subject is approaching coming from left to right. Start tracking the subject when they appear in view and try to keep the subject in the middle of the viewfinder and pan Smoothly from left to right, with out stopping or slowing down mid pan otherwise you will get a useless image. I generally start panning when the subject is in sight but only start pressing the shutter when they are at 45 degrees from me on either side ie \ | / (if that makes sense). Remember to keep tracking the subject even when you have taken your finger of the shutter.


- I am generally don't use a monopod or tripod for panning. Using a tripod things can get a bit tricky. Monopods are easier to use for panning. I am a little bit uncoordinated and depending on the day (how uncoordinated i am) i may have one hand on the camera body and shutter as normal and another guiding the lens. Sometimes i seem to have my left hand fighting against my right hand, where i am pushing the camera body one way and pulling the lens the other way. When im having an UNCOordinated day, i will try shooting with just one hand on the camera body and nothing guiding the lens (this depends how larger your lens is and what focal length you are using). Believe it or not, you do need a bit of coordination when panning. ABOVE ALL, Just remember to pan SMOOTHLY (constant speed) from left to right or vice versa.


- Your cameras viewing screen is SMALL and deceptive. You may think from looking at it, the subject is in focus. ZOOM as much as you can on viewing the image to confirm, you might be unpleasantly surprised. When I'm taking photos of bikes, i zoom in as much as i can on the viewing screen and as a guide, if i can see the writing on the side of the bike (Model, Name, Brand etc) then i know i have got in focus.



Here are a few photos i took on the weekend. I hope this can be of some help to you. If you have any thoughts, techniques and/or suggestions, please leave a comment.



This was shot at 1/60, f7.1 ISO 320 at 70mm (see the rule can be broken)





This was shot at 1/80, f8 ISO 400 at 70mm




This was shot at 1/80, f3.2 at 70mm. Notice how the rider is leaning quite a bit off the bike and is not focused that well (he is closer to me then the actual bike).

When using a large aperture and depending on how close you are to the subject (i was relatively close, a few metres), you may get out of focus areas of the subject as below.



As always: If you would like any of your photos added to our blog, please email me a bit about what you took and the photos. Alternatively (and probably easier) add them to our Facebook page HERE and we can link them to the blog!

If you would like to keep up to date with our blog, all things photography and products at our shop, sign up for the newsletter on the side of the page. I can also be contacted directly at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Have a great day!

Last Updated on Monday, 14 March 2011 16:08

How to clean your Camera Filters

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When it comes to camera filters, the rule of thumb is to clean them as infrequently as possible. Cleaning too often peels off the coatings and leaves the camera filters with the so-called “cleaning scratches.” Many photographers would agree that camera filters should be cleaned only when necessary and if dust, dirt, and gunk are especially affecting the quality of pictures. Though the cleaning process itself is easy, care should be observed, especially because camera filters can be easily damaged. To help you, here is a guide.

  • Blow off the dust and dirt particles. The most common tool for this is a bulb blower. Without creating scratches, the bulb blower can get rid off the loose particles from the filters. However, this does not remove oil, fingerprints, and gunk. Such dirt can be removed with a special cleaner.
  • Use a microfiber cloth. It is a special type of cloth that easily and quickly removes all dirt, dust, and gunk. Unlike towels, tissues, and other types of cloth, microfiber cloth does not leave any scratches because it is made of very tiny fibers that absorb all forms of dirt. Microfiber cloths are quite cheap, usually not over $5. They can also be washed after use, so you don’t have to buy supplies too often.
  • Apply cleaner. There are a lot of cleaning fluid products you can use for your camera filter. They work to dissolve oil and leave the filter clean. How to use them is generally the same. Pour a few drops on a microfiber cloth and wipe it over the surface of your filter. Cotton swab and q-tip also work as effectively as a microfiber cloth. After cleaning the surface, dry the filter with the dry part of the microfiber cloth or q-tip or with another cotton swab.
  • Consider using methyl alcohol. Other than a special cleaner, methyl alcohol can also be used to clean a camera filter. It will act as a solvent that will breakdown gunk and oil. Just the same, put a few drops on a microfiber cloth, q-tip, or cotton swab. Wipe it over the filter and pat it dry afterwards. You can also use ethanol and iso-propanol alcohol for your filter, for as long as there are no volatile substances added to them.
  • Clean with a pen. A cleaning pen has two parts. One end has a soft brush and the other end has a microfiber pad. The first end is used for sweeping away loose dust and particles, while the second end is for removing gunk and grease. Because of its dual function, cleaning pen leaves the filter neat without a tiny scratch.

Always remember to clean your camera filters at home or anywhere there is access to cleaning materials and has a well-lit workspace. Cleaning them while you are in a photography session is unadvisable, as there is always the possibility of doing it hurriedly, propelling you to use just any cleaning material, your shirt for instance, and therefore cause unsightly scratches.

Maroubra Rock Pool Sunrise

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This morning i went out to the Maroubra Rock Pool and Shelf. I absouletly love this place. This morning we were treated with a beautiful sunrise just before it hit the cloud cover. On a perfect morning the natural saturation of colours is amazing. I turned up about 5:30 and there were about 7 people already doing laps..... pretty keen! The thing with a lot of these rock pools is that there is usually a very intense orange light that can sometimes drown out your photos. There are a couple of things you can do........ Leave it (which sometimes is not a bad idea), in your photo editor, you can drop the temperature which can give a really nice finish to your photo, but this will sometimes lead to over saturated skys (blues), and then your going to have drop the blues out, or just drop out some of the oranges. Generally i just leave it or tweak out some of the oranges just a little.

I have known about the Maroubra rock pool for a while but havent shot their, im going to go back in the future and give it another crack.

As always: If you would like any of your photos added to our blog, please email me a bit about what you took and the photos. Alternatively (and probably easier) add them to our facebook page HERE and we can link them to the blog!

If you would like to keep up to date with our blog, all things photography and products at our shop, sign up for the newsletter on the side of the page. I can also be contacted directly at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Have a great day!


Maroubra Chain

Maroubra Rock Pool

Maroubra Sunrise

Maroubra Sunrise

Maroubra Rock Shelf


Last Updated on Thursday, 10 March 2011 09:41

Long Reef Sunrise this morning

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I was up before dawn heading to Long Reef again to try and catch a different perspective. The forecast was for a cloudy morning and for once the forecast was right. I took a few shots but wasnt really feeling "it" for some reason. I think the overcast weather may have got to me too. There was a glimmer of hope with it turning out to be a nice day at first light, but as the sun rose, the clouds rolled in to a glum Sydney morning.

The second two shots were takwn with a Neutral Density Filter. A 9 stop ND Filter (NDX400) which you can check out HERE.

Neutral Density filters are a great way to limit light to achieve longer shutter speeds to blur water movement (or any other forms of movement). They are a great tool capturing images and setting a mood. ND filters can be used in a lot of different lighting conditions to create the desired effect. The Most common types of ND filters are ND2(1 stop) , ND4(2 stops) and ND8 (3 stops). I enjoy using my NDx400 which limits light by 9 stops and can create some great images that you could not otherwise produce with out. Click HERE for out full range of ND filters, or shoot me an email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for any questions.

As always: If you would like any of your photos added to our blog, please email me a bit about what you took and the photos. Alternatively (and probably easier) add them to our facebook page HERE and we can link them to the blog!

If you would like to keep up to date with our blog, all things photography and products at our shop, sign up for the newsletter on the side of the page.


Long Reef Blues

Moody Long Reef

Long Reef Cloudy Rock Pool

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 March 2011 10:46

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