Travel photography benefits greatly from the use of filters. Filters can dramatically enhance skies, and long exposure techniques will help you remove unwanted people from busy city areas.
Travel photography differentiates itself from landscape photography by including photography in and around cities, rather than solely being dedicated to capturing nature. This difference brings forth specific challenges. As you would expect, the most scenic destinations are often the most heavily travelled, meaning that tourists and passersby will quite often spoil your shot. To counter this, the travel photographer uses ND filters to create long exposures that will blur out and remove people from the image. Think of travel photography as having the same filter requirements as landscape photography (ND grads and polarizers to enhance the sky) plus ND filters to create those long exposures required to clear the busy piazza of people.
Neutral Density Filters
The use of longer ND filters is the key differentiator between landscape photography and travel photography. The ability to create an exposure long enough to completely remove passersby from a photography is crucial in travel photography. Want to photography New York’s Central Park without people in the shot? You’re going to need ND. Shop Neutral Density filters
Graduated ND Filters
It is a fact of life … if you are photographing outdoors, the sky will almost certainly be brighter than the terrain below. There are exceptions of course (White Sands, New Mexico comes to mind), but largely this is true. Graduated ND filters
are designed specifically to overcome this challenge by darkening the sky by a prescribed amount, usually between 1-5 stops. The most popular densities are usually 2-3 stops.
In practice, use your light meter to separately measure the luminosity of the sky and the terrain, then determine how much density you need. Don’t carry a light meter? Light meter apps on smart phones work amazingly well for spot metering, as does the spot meter function of your camera.
graduated filters feature a gentle transition between effect and clear, making it easy to hide or blend the transition into the scene, especially when the horizon line is undefined, for example in a scene with mountains or buildings on the horizon. Shop Soft Edge filters
graduated filters feature an abrupt transition from effect to clear. Hard edge graduated filters are perfect for photographing seascapes where the horizon is perfectly defined across the entire image. Shop Hard Edge filters
feature a hard transition from effect to clear, however the effect decreases in density from center to top. Reverse grads are specifically designed for photographing sunrise and sunset when the sun is near the horizon. Shop Reverse Grad filters
Polarizers allow light from certain directions to pass through the filter and rejects light from other directions. The sky, for example, has light scattered in all directions through the atmosphere. Because the filter rejects the light from certain axis, the resulting effect is a darkening of the sky. Most travel photographers use polarizers because they add separation between the blue sky and clouds improving the visual effect of the sky.
However, polarizers are also terrific problem solving tools as well. Because they reject light from certain axis, polarizers can be used to remove reflections from water, windows and foliage. Be advised that when buying a polarizer for a digital camera, or any camera for with autofocus, choose a circular polarizer. The term “circular” refers to the polarization pattern of the filter, not the shape of the filter itself. Shop Polarizer filters
Recommended Filter Kits
Landscape Filter Kit, Colby Brown Signature Edition
Formatt-Hitech have partnered with one of the most accomplished travel photographers in the world to create the Landscape Filter Kit. This kit includes the two essential ND filters for travel photography plus our most popular and versatile graduated ND filter. The Travel Filter Kit is available in our Firecrest glass or ProStop resin materials. The kit includes the 4 stop ND for moderate long exposure effects, plus the 10 stop ND to create true long exposure effects. Combined they can create a multi-minute exposures. The kit also includes the Graduated ND Soft Edge 0.9. This three stop grad filter is our single most popular ND grad that we sell.
This kit was designed specifically for travel photography by Elia Locardi, one of the best travel photographers in the world. The kit is available with and without the holder system and includes an instructional booklet authored by Elia Locardi. Shop the Elia Locardi Signature Edition travel photography filter kit
Master Filter Kit, Ken Kaminesky Signature Edition
The Master Filter Kit is a large filter kit containing 6 filters that were expertly chosen by Ken Kaminesky to provide the perfect filter kit for multiple genres including architecture, landscape, travel, and fine art. The kit contains the same three ND filters as the Joel Kit #1 (3, 6, 10) and adds the 2 and 3 stop soft edge ND grads, plus a circular polarizer. This kit contains the widest selection of filters applicable to travel photography that we offer. This kit is available in both our Firecrest glass and ProStop resin. Shop the Ken Kaminesky Signature Edition filter kit