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I will be taking many beach shots mostly at mid-day 10:00 am to 4pm. what filter(s) will best help in this case to boost the quality of the resulting images?

From the little i know my options are...

  1. ND filter - for not blowing out sky?
  2. Polarizing filter - to reduce glare on water and reflective surfaces?
  3. UV filter - not sure, but guessing to make the image pop by removing UV light pollution?
  4. other???

Prior to dropping cash on one or some of these, I'd like to make sure I have the facts to make a good choice in my purchase. I am totally new to filters and this would be my first venture into using them.

Also, any recommendation on the manufacturer or type I should focus on would be great.

I am expecting the filter to screw onto the front of my lens and not be a rig set up where I drop square things into in order to create the effect. This is pure practicality as I will be hand holding most of the time.

I will have a tripod for some long exposure, silky water shots so I can use that also at times.

I would love to walk away from the beach getaway with some super fine images.

I’ll be using a Nikon D7000 with an 18-140mm G lens and a 50mm 1.f Sigma.

Please help to explain what hardware (filters) I would need and how best and when to use them.

  • I don't think you should worry too much about a UV filter, given your camera. – SailorCire Apr 13 '15 at 16:47
  • After some more residing it would be cool if they made circular ND filter with built in polarization! Looks like these are the two I am more focused on. – kacalapy Apr 13 '15 at 17:40
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Usually at the beach, a polarized filter is helpful, to cut down on unwanted reflections. In clear water it aids in being able to see to the bottom was well. Since you are in bright sunlight, the reduced EV from this filter does not impact your shots much.

To reduce washed out sky, you can try a graduated ND filter.

If you want 'silky water shots' in mid-day sun, you will need at least a set of stackable neutral density filters. Stackable will allow you to choose the best ND strength given the conditions, and is much more flexible than simply a 10 ND filter alone. You may find you need to use this in combination with a polarizer in super bright conditions. IMHO "silky water" is best done at twilight/sunset, but possible in day with the right filters.

As for style, I would get a screw-on polarizer, as you will need a circular polarizer for your DSLR, and you need the ability to rotate it to align with the sun. In bright sunlight it is often useful to just leave it on the lens during your shoot.

However, for a Graduated ND, I prefer the square slide in filters, as they allow me great control in aligning the graduations with the horizon, allowing me to slide the filter up and down in the holder.

For stackable ND, I choose the square slide in filters as well, as the typical filter holder allows multiple filters held at one time, so I can mix and match to get the effect I need. It also allows the circular polarizer to be mounted on the lens without any issues.

I have had good luck with Cokin 'P' filters for the slide in filters.

  • Why stackable ND filter when you can get a graduated version that screws onto the lens and is variable from about 1.5 to 10 stops. I am looking at the hoya variable ND filter at B&H – kacalapy Apr 13 '15 at 17:31
  • Because 1) screw-in is limited to one filter size, I have 4 filter sizes in my lens collection (52, 67, 77, 82). 2) Cheaper and easier: all my filters are Cokin so its flexible and simple. Only the circ. polarizer is filter size bound, in my case 77mm. Yes step down rings exist, but are a compromise. – cmason Apr 13 '15 at 19:14
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    A variable ND filter is probably not just an ND filter but 2 polarized filters one that can be rotated with respect of the other. – Rafael Apr 13 '15 at 20:23
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    Variable ND filters are not graduated. The whole point of a graduated filter is to reduce the brightness of the sky while maintaining the same brightness of the darker areas beneath the sky. – Michael C Apr 13 '15 at 23:45
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To keep the sky from blowing out you don't want any old ND filter, you want a graduated ND filter (GND). This is a filter that only darkens part of the scene, in this case the sky. The darker areas beneath the sky are not darkened so that details are still visible. The advantage of square GND filters is that you can adjust them in the holder to match the line between the bright areas of the scene and the not so bright areas. They allow you to compose without forcing you to put the line of demarcation in only one place.

Polarizers not only reduce glare and reflections, they also increase contrast and saturation. And they do it in a way that usually looks better and more natural than most attempts to do it in post. Just be careful about using one with a very wide angle lens, as the part of the sky that is 90º from the sun will be darkened considerably more than the part of the sky that is 0º or 180º from the sun.

You don't need a UV filter at all. There is already one built in to your camera in the filter stack behind the shutter curtains and directly in front of the image sensor.

When near wind-blown sand and salt water spray you probably do want some type of filter on the front of your lens that will keep that sand and salt out of the lens and prevent it from getting on the front of the lens. A high quality, multi-coated UV filter will work here, but so will a clear non-UV filter of equal quality. If the spray is heavy enough, you may even consider using a rain cover to protect your entire camera. I don't normally worry too much about environmental dangers to my gear, but at the beach I do. It is about the only time I use screw on filters on the front of my lens for "protection". When using "creative' filters I prefer the holder mounted type for the control they give to place them precisely where in the frame you want them.

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Polarizer will darken the sky and make isolated clouds look more dramatic. It is a good filter to have in general. Use it with moderation, though. It may make the blue sky very dark when shot on a sandy beach in direct sunlight.

If you plan to get close to the sea water, grab a UV or "protective" filter as well for protection from salty ocean spray.

Get higher quality multi coated types to reduce glare.

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