Going The Extra Mile
Updated: Sep 10, 2020
As many of you will know I made the switch to Kase filters UK a few months ago and I haven't looked back since, they have been simply superb in every way and I'm very happy I did it.
Not only has my photography improved in terms of the visual clarity I have been able to achieve over my Lee filters but also the post processing workflow has been reduced as I no longer have a colour cast to correct on every image due to Kase filters UK wonderfully neutral glass.
There was however one fly in the ointment, while I used the 0.6 hard grad & 0.9 hard grad I was really missing the 0.75 hard grad that I had used for so many pictures from Lee.
While at the time I had no relationship with Kase filters UK I was able to speak to one of the very approachable directors and mention it, well when I say mention it I mean constantly bent his ear about it asking if they were going to do one. Poor Andrew, I really did go on a bit !
After collaborative discussions with Kase Filters UK about the subject, I received a message from Andrew Yu, Commercial Director to say they were going to have a look into the 0.75 hard grad.
Now I know how most of you will see this as not a massive issue as 1 stop of light difference between the 0.6 grad and the 0.9 grad is surely no big deal right ?
I mean modern day sensors on cameras are more than capable of being able to pull out the detail of one stop so why not just use the 0.6 grad or 0.9 grad ?
Now when you get to the 0.75 grad we're talking half a stop difference between the 0.6 grad and 0.9 grad so again you might be wondering why I find the need for the 0.75 grad so much ?
Let me tell you, it makes all the difference, I tend to shoot an awful lot of images with side lighting of the sun over my shoulder, and on these occasions I was always torn between the 0.6 grad and 0.9 grad and it was never "just right".
The difference between this half a stop of light was all the difference, it was precision and it was a compromise, and I hate to do that in my landscape photography.
In this time where competition is so vast you really need to be taking perfect images, I'm not suggesting mine are but that's what I'm striving for and any edge I can get is most welcome.
To explain further, if I had composed an image I would have to make a choice, use the 0.9 grad and potentially under expose my sky, or the 0.6 grad and potentially under expose my foreground, either way it was a compromise and I didn't like it, in fact it really bothered me.
I want to have everything absolutely perfect in camera rather than rely on post processing to fix it, I didn't want a fix, I wanted it right in the first place.
Situations become even more critical when shooting over water and getting the sunlight on the water reflecting off which is obviously brighter than most other parts of the scene and exposure becomes crucial, that half a stop of light suddenly becomes your most valuable weapon.
Even when manually exposing (Which I always do) the level of control isn't as tight as I want it to be when using a filter that is slightly too dark or too light, the 0.75 grad would be the ideal solution and allow me to cover most shots that I take, but there wasn't one available from Kase filters and I didn't wish to use the Lee one anymore as it just felt inferior in every way, Frustrating.
After bending Kase Filters UK's ear for weeks about the subject something amazing happened, I got a message from Andrew to say they were going to have a special one off model made for me to test and see if I thought it would be worthy for a production run.
I simply couldn't believe it, I was just one of many customers to Kase Filters UK but they had actually listened, Not only had they listened but they had done something about it and were actually going to do this, it took a couple of days for this to sink in.
I had to check the date to make sure it wasn't April fools day, but I just couldn't believe Kase Filters UK had taken this feedback and actually done something, So I decided to drill down a bit and find out why.
It turns out that Kase Filters UK have done this before for one of their Pro Partners who had a very specific filter requirement for mountain photography and Kase Filters UK made it happen for him, Now he had a relationship with them so I could understand it more, but me well I was just Joe Public yet they had still listened, amazing.
I couldn't wait for the filter to arrive to give it a test, it was going to make life so much easier for me.
The due date arrived and I was like a bulldog up at the window any time I heard a car pulling up, I really must have looked like the original nosey neighbour !
The delivery truck finally came and I scrambled to open the package like a child at Christmas only even more excited.
BEHOLD ! (Imagine godly music playing right here) there it was in all its glory, a genuine 0.75 Wolverine hard grad filter by Kase Filters UK, the only one of its kind in the world ! it looked superb, the graduation was right, the density was bang on and to top it all off we had just come out of lock down so I was going to be able to use it right away !
Andrew mentioned to me that it was a complete one off so not to damage it, no pressure then !
I really wanted to prove the filter was worthwhile by getting some decent images with it over the next few weeks to hopefully see it go into production so other landscape photographers could benefit from it too, plus I wanted to have something for Kase Filters UK to see so they could justify their time and investment in this filter.
The only other condition was that I kept it secret which was going to be hard as I wanted to shout it out as I was so excited but I would respect it.
This image of Corfe Castle is probably one of my favourites so far with the 0.75 Wolverine grad filter. As you can see from the image there is light pouring in from the left and a lot less light on the right as the hill is blocking it, The 0.9 Wolverine grad filter was causing me to over expose the mist whereas the 0.75 Wolverine grad got the exposure absolutely bang on the nose and allowed me to show how the hill was nicely lit with a warm glow while the rest of the mist was a much more cool tone, This image would simply not have been as clean with the 0.9 grad or 0.6 grad.
This was the same day and was also a very tricky exposure, the 0.9 grad would have left the mist over exposed and taken out the shadows in the lower half or if I had exposed correctly for the foreground then I would have blown out the sky.
The 0.75 Wolverine grad was the perfect solution to allow me to balance everything to give an even exposure across the image and probably one of my favourites of the year.
This was again a very tricky image to get just right in camera and I wouldn't have been able to without the 0.75 Wolverine grad, the exposure was bang on and I was able to emphasise the light sweeping across the field flanks.
This image won the Fotospeed #FSprintMonday competition on Twitter which was actually my first time ever entering it so that was a really nice surprise and testament that this filter was scoring me images that were not only how I wanted them to be but they were getting noticed too.
This very minimal landscape was so well suited to the 0.75 Wolverine grad, I tried with the 0.6 Wolverine grad but the belt of Venus (The pink and blue part) was just not showing up well enough and would have required more work in post to bring it out. The 0.75 Wolverine grad however nailed it first time and gave the the ability to expose it for a perfectly balanced image, all that was needed was a touch of sharpening and a minor curves adjustment such was the precision.
Exactly the same day but this 6 shot pano utilised the 0.75 Wolverine grad filter again showing not only the belt of Venus in all its glory but allowing the mist and landscape to be exposed just right.
A truly memorable morning made all the more special because it was the new filter.
Again the same trip as earlier but the 0.75 Wolverine grad proved itself invaluable to get the exact exposure I needed to make this image pop and show all the elements as they were, above all it was clean.
This huge 8 shot panorama again taken with the 400 mm lens and the 0.75 Wolverine grad which allowed a really subtle graduation into the top of the frame to control the glare on the mist as the light hit it, the 0.6 grad just wasn't strong enough and the light on the church was lost due to the exposure being a bit too bright.
This scene was tricky, You had the golden arches lit on the bridge and intense side light, The 0.6 grad would have meant the arches would be under exposed, and the 0.9 grad would mean they would be over if I tried to balance the rest of the image.
The 0.75 grad gave the scene perfect balance and enabled everything to be shown the way I wanted it to be, I actually smiled to myself when I took this one, just knowing I wouldn't have had the same result without the 0.75 Wolverine grad was a very happy feeling.
A really tough image to expose this one which I ultimately ended up doing my first ever exposure blend with, but also used the 0.75 Wolverine grad on the sky and then double processed the raw file. I have tried the same shot before with the 0.9 grad and it just makes the tower so underexposed it was almost unusable, and the 0.6 grad wasn't quite enough.