Filters for Large & Medium Format Film by Michael Strickland
Film - some think it’s dead, hipsters think it’s cool to photograph their coffee with it, others like myself, feel a great connection to this tangible, light sensitive piece of history. In every artistic medium, there is some sense of mastery, and film is fighting your artistic creation from every angle. Whether you are storing, loading, shooting, developing, handling, scanning, or printing from film, there are hundreds of opportunities to ruin your final outcome. Because of this, working with large format 8x10 sheets of film requires a patient and methodical approach for every single step.
Velvia 50 is one of my favorite film stocks to use, purely for its color rendering, warmth, and tonal contrast. But it has an unforgiving dynamic range of only five to seven stops of light. Though this seems astonishingly small in the world of digital cameras, by carefully filtering the brightest areas of an image I can reduce the overall dynamic range to within the safe boundaries of the film.
Both over and under exposing this film stock is an absolute nightmare, so the exposure has to be perfect every single time. To assist with this process, I have developed a method of carefully choosing my graduated neutral density filters by examining the qualities of light, carefully metering the scene, and selecting the correct filter based on my findings. During golden hour (the hour preceding sunrise and following sunset) the luminosity of the terrain can become brighter than the sky so meticulous spot metering is necessary.
I almost always photograph with at least a 2-stop hard edge graduated ND filter on the front of my lens - it just makes my life a little easier in the end because it keeps the intensity of the light within the boundaries of the film stock pre-scanning. The placement of this filter can be difficult, especially on a dim ground glass, but I have found that Formatt-Hitech’s hard edge ND grads have a slightly soft transition that is not as harsh as many other brands making placement incredibly easy.
I also own a 3-stop Reverse ND Grad filter. The Reverse ND Grad has a hard transition, but is darkest near the center and becomes lighter toward the top. The Reverse ND Grad is designed for a very specific and unique set of conditions, typically when shooting directly into the sun with an incredibly flat horizon. A coastal sunset is typical of these conditions.
The 3-stop Soft Edge ND Grad is my other filter of choice. When I’m photographing mountains, a hard filter is impractical and the very gradual transition is perfect for blending the terrain and the sky when large mountains loom in the background. The gradual transition assists in blocking the necessary light in the brightest part of the scene and has a natural appearance that is created completely in camera and on location.
Medium Format Film & 35mm Digital
Living near the coast, I enjoy photographing waves using moderately long exposures with my medium format film camera. The technique for creating long exposures with medium format film is similar to 35mm digital, where NDs are required to reach the desired exposure time. By contrast, 90% of large format photography uses apertures in the f/45 to f/64 range, which will always give me a long exposure. With medium format, if I want to make exposures longer than a few seconds during the golden hour, solid ND filters are a must. I use both a 6 stop and 10 stop frequently to achieve exposures up to half an hour. When photographing in the middle of the day, I’ve even stacked these two filters to achieve this long of an exposure time.
The Formatt-Hitech Firecrest ND filters are an unbelievable achievement in quality over any ND filter I’ve used in the past. During long exposures on film, color shift is usually apparent, but the color neutral Firecrest coating eliminates an extra variable and provides clean, accurate color during long exposures.
The Firecrest Soft Edge ND Grad uses Firecrest technology to create the world’s most neutral grad filter, and is the perfect complement to the Firecrest ND filters. Soft edge grads are versatile filters used to balance the luminosity of a bright sky with the terrain below. The soft edge makes it easy to place the filter in the scene, especially over undulating horizons (such as mountains).
For Firecrest 100x150mm filters, please refer to Firecrest Pro 100mm ND Grads.
Firecrest is a revolutionary new type of ND filter from Formatt-Hitech. Rather than dyed resin, Firecrest is a rare earth metal coating used to create hyper neutral NDs. The filters are made from 2mm thick Schott Superwite glass, and the multicoating is bonded in the middle to increase scratch resistance. Firecrest Filters are neutral across all spectrums, including UV, visible, and infrared.
Firecrest ND is a revolutionary new type of ND filter from Formatt-Hitech. Rather than dyed resin, Firecrest is a rare earth metal coating used to create hyper neutral NDs. The filters are made from 2mm thick Schott Superwite glass, and the multicoating is bonded in the middle to increase scratch resistance. Firecrest Filters are neutral across all spectrums, including UV, visible, and infrared.
For 100x100mm Firecrest Filters, please refer fo Firecrest Pro 100mm