What are these landscape filters all about and why would I go out and spend a load of cash kitting myself out with some?
Let me start this with a bit of a journey in my own photography equipment purchases and how I got to writing this today, so bear with me and read on.
I found myself starting to shoot less of the abandoned buildings I had always shot and was spending more time shooting landscapes, but I think it was after about 2 years of shooting them I decided to mess about with some filters…
I started off as most people do with the eBay special £15 filter kit, I was well chuffed with my purchase and then it arrived. I was a little miffed at the fact the graduated line on the filter was wonky, not even all the way across as it was shown in the picture and when I held it up to the sky it turned the sky purple, very purple, so much so the filter kit went into the bin.
Why spend £50 on a filter kit?
I knew I wanted to have a play about with some filters, so I then nipped to Wex where I am lucky enough to only live a few miles away from and purchased a load of filters in the form of a landscape kit. It cost me just over £50 and I got 2 adapter rings and a holder with it as well.
Now these filters I enjoyed, I had a 1, 2 and 3 stop graduated filter and neutral density filters. The Graduated filter if you did not know is for making the clouds more evident in the shots by darkening the usually overexposed sky and the ND filters can be used for things more like smoothing out the sea or making a waterfall go all milky. These were great fun and I learnt a lot about them and how filters work and create different effects within image making. It did not take long to, unfortunately, find out that if you stack 2 or 3 of these filters together you start to get a very odd colour cast and your top spec lens starts to produce results that are as sharp as a kids toy knife. As you can see in the shot here, the trees have no definition in them in the middle of the shot and the clouds are looking a rather interesting shade of purple.
I found the filters I was looking for.
So I looked about online and read a good few magazines and I came across the company that produced some nice looking filters that were at the top end of my budget, they were made by a company called Formatt Hitech Filters. They are a small UK based company, so I asked about and nobody had a bad word to say about them. I took the plunge and got myself a Soft grad and ND filter set in the kits they do, from memory the filters them self cost me £300 and the filter holder Wex had in the used section for £20.
This proved to be a purchase I liked a lot, the kit was what I had been hoping for. For the 1st few trips out I went on I was genuinely blown away by the difference in the results to the previous filters I had been using. I still think that from those 1st few weeks I produced some of my most favourite photos.
As an example, the thing that I liked about the image above was the amount of detail that is retained within the brickwork and stones, something I had not been able to see before while using the cheaper filters, the biggest difference had to be the colour that was let through, everything seems to be as it should be.
After using these filters for a year and being honest, with the resin filters I would say that if I took photos in different all different types of locations the colour would be very nice in them. It goes to show you get what you pay for.
Welcome to Formatt
After about a year of shooting with these filters and having just completed my Degree in Photography, I was asked if I wanted to join the team at Formatt Hitech Filters as
Now I get the fact you will be thinking I am only writing this as a thank you for them giving me a ton of gear to play with (please refer back to the last part, re I spent £300). I bought the gear, I had to save up my hard earned cash for it. I knew through my photographic training, reading reviews until I was blue in the face I was about to make myself a well-informed decision to make 1 last purchase. I would then stick with a brand of filters I knew would produce the results I required for my work.
I went ahead and purchased some of their filters, I tried some of them out and I liked what I saw when it was in the back of the camera, on my screen and in print on a clients wall. I would not have joined the team if I did not believe in the product as it was only through me using the equipment and tagging them in a post and then by pure chance they decided to have that initial chat with me.
The few and I mean few filters I have been given to play with by the company get passed around on my workshops for people to have a goon. To this day I have not met one person who has been disappointed, they can then get to see what the difference is between a filter that costs £15 or £150 in the case of the newest Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra Landscape ND filters on the market.
Firecrest and Firecrest Ultra
Sitting way above the resin filters that thousands of photographers have in there bag is a glass type of filter called the Firecrest and the new on the market Firecrest Ultra. They are a step above anything else I have ever had the privilege of playing with. The Firecrest 3.0 ND or 10 stop was one of the 1st filters I was given to play within this range, it blew my socks away, the sharpness and the colour that was achieved with shooting with it. It was not long after I got my hands on that filter I went and bought myself the 16 stop ND. If you want to be able to shoot a 6 min exposure at noon, this is your filter.
And then we have the fun that is the Firecrest filters
Here is my 2p’s worth on the Formatt Hitch Firecrest Ultra Landscape ND filters. I print a fair bit and I also shoot with a fairly high-resolution camera. When you print you start to see details in the image that you will never see on the monitor. I don’t print big, I think my biggest prints in the last 2-3 years have been A1 in size, but I know that they look good. The work needs to look sharp and have no hidden imperfections in it, or these get amplified when the image is made bigger, this is the problem with cheap filters and why all I now have in my kit bag is a mixture of the Firecrest and Ultrafilters.
The Firecrest Ultra has no cast whatsoever, regardless of what subject you are shooting, you get no stray colours in the shots, subtle tones you see with your eye remain there when you get home and upload images to the PC. The biggest thing to consider is the detail and sharpness you get from shooting through these filters when you are shooting on a camera such as the Fujifilm GFX or even the Nikon D850 you are going to get that sharpness you are used to. No oh, it might come out all right
I was told the Ultra filters were going to be good, but it was not until I had to replace my 3.0 ND filter I realised how good. It was at this point I pushed the boat out and went for the 6 and 13 stops as well. It is all great being told this is great and this is amazing by somebody on a blog, but I was being told this by people who I personally knew so was excited about it all and my only gripe is that I waited far too long to get my hands on them.
If you don’t want to cough up the money for some filters and think this is just a marketing ploy, then feel free to join one of my workshops or even join me out shooting on morning on the beautiful Norfolk coast and I will let you have a go on them., just don’t drop them as I kind of like them….
Here are a few more of my favourite shots I have taken using the filters.
What Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra Landscape ND filters do I have in my kit?
The filters of choice for me are the following:
The .6 (2 stop) and .9 (3 stop) Firecrest Graduated 100 x 125mm filters for correcting the sky and the clouds within the shots.
The 1.8 or 6 stop Firecrest Ultra 100 x 100mm filter is for use with subjects such as waterfalls or streams or at the first light of sunrise or last light at sunset when you need a shutter speed of around 1-3 seconds.
The 3.0 or 10 100 x 100mm filter is the one a lot of people will use for getting subtle cloud movement on a day when you can see the movement in the clouds is fairly evident, so when you use the filter you get that lovely streaked movement and smooth water in your shots
The 13 stops Firecrest Ultra 100 x 100mm Filter is perfect for during the day in the UK. I have found this filter will usually give you an exposure of up to 2 mins of a typical British not to a bright day. It is perfect for removing people from the streets in your architecture shots right through to having the smoothed of sea shots
The 16 Stop Firecrest 100 x 100mm filter is the big one. This filter will allow you to shoot 5-8 min exposures during the middle of a sunny day very easily. Perfect for if there are a few fluffy clouds about and next to no wind as you will get that shot you long for
The 105 mm ultra-slim Firecrest Circular polariser and adapter ring cuts back on the unwanted reflection from water and also adds that much-needed punch to the clouds and sky
I still use the Metal 100mm 3 slot filter holder and wide-angle adapters as I just like the feel of it
I also have the Firecrest 100mm Holder with built-in polariser and adapters, If I have to travel light this is the kit I will go for as it fits into a much smaller bag
Remember you can always grab a bargain by using my discount code DIBSM10 on the Formatt Hitech website when getting your filters.
If you ever have any questions about them then feel free to just comment on here or ask