Monday, September 10, 2018

K&F Concept Variable ND Filter Review

I have been looking at variable Neutral Density filters for a while. I use ND filters when shooting flowing water and occasionally for other shots where I want to reduce the DOF and the light is too bright to open up all the way. I have a set of 3" square resin ND filters that I bought about a decade ago but they are cumbersome to carry around and use. I also find that the higher density ones impart a significant brownish color cast to my images. No biggy when working in B&W but a nuisance with color images.

Enter the K&F Concept Variable ND filter that combines a whole range of ND filters into one. Most of the ones I looked at were rather expensive (as in three figures) which is a bit much for a retired guy who isn't making money from his photography and has only occasional use for an ND anyway so the $19.99 price of the K&F filter on Amazon looked like a real deal especially since I could return it if it was a bust. It isn't. I'm sure that in lab testing a $100+ filter might prove to be somewhat better but for my limited needs, the K&F will do just fine.

My test was pretty simple. I mounted my EOS M3 with the 18-55mm on a tripod and shot a photo of my barn and tractor (nothing artistic or even pretty, it is just a test). The ISO was set at 100 and the mode was aperture priority. I then mounted the filter and set it on the "MIN" mark and shot another. I took a series of photos moving the filter setting 2 dots toward the "MAX" mark between each except for the next to the last when I moved it all the way to MAX. As you can see I had a problem there. It shut down the light unevenly and so severely that the exposure went all the way to 25 sec. Finally, recognizing that was a problem, I set it back to the dot just before MAX and shot one more. The results are below.
If you click on the image above, you can see it full sized as it appeared on my screen.

Thoughts on the results: I was concerned that like my square resin filters I might get a color cast. I didn't. That is the first plus. The filter appears to be very well made, is small and convenient compared to the square resin filter set and the associated holders. Another big plus. Those two things mean I will actually carry and use this more than I ever did the set of square filters. The difference in exposure times from 1/25th second unfiltered to two and a half seconds is more than adequate for my needs. I just have to remember to use the dots and not set it on MAX itself. Examining the images at 100% I saw no degradation of the autofocus between the unfiltered image and the others. When I first mounted the filter the setting marks were on the bottom but because the front turns 360° freely (it is truly variable, not click stops or detents) I was able to turn it so they were on the top and because of the way VNDs work it was fine. I will add my own little white indicator mark to the opposite side of the back ring.

Variable ND filters work by crossing the planes of two polarizers. The nearer the planes get to 90° to one another, the less light gets through. Theoretically, if the light was perfectly polarized and the planes were at precisely 90°, no light would get through. I expect that the X on the MAX setting is the result of small imperfections in the filtration and/or the planes of polarization being slightly off. I'm not going to spend hundreds on some of the more expensive VND filters to find out whether they do the same.

If you are in the market for a variable ND filter and don't have big bucks to throw at it, the K&F Concepts filter is a winner for the photographer on a budget IMO.

No one has offered me anything for doing this review. The Amazon seller did ask that I review my purchase on that site. This is my honest assessment of the product.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Straight Up

I went out to bring in the bird feeders at sunset and the best view was straight up. The one below is closer to the horizon.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Out-Takes from the Daily Photo Series #2

Here is another 'out-take' from the Daily Photo series, a barn near where we live.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Out-takes from Daily Photo Series - #1

I shot this early on during my 30-day self-challenge. The leaf really did land on that log. I did not place it there.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Daily Photo - Day 30

I set out to post a photo each day for at least 30 days and today I have done it. I also intended initially that the photo I posted would be from that day. I missed on that part of the plan once. I will try to continue to post more frequently than in the past although it might not be daily. Whatever else happens, I have a selection of "out-takes" from the 30 days that I could throw at you from time to time in among whatever new images I create.

Today I took a shorter, more civilized hike than my usual jaunts. I went back to the civilized trail in Potsdam that runs along the Racquette River from behind Stewarts to the cemetery and noted a difference in the culture. As I walked along I greeted those I met like I usually do. The women I met, whether alone or in groups, mostly did not respond or if they did, looked away and gave a nearly inaudible reply. If it was a mixed group, one or more of the men responded and asked "How are you doing?". Young male college students tended to grunt a response. I simply waved at runners since they had their phones plugged into their ears and wouldn't hear anything I said anyway. They smiled and waved back.

This differs from hiking deep in the Adirondacks where most people are inclined to stop and have brief conversations about the weather, their hike, the condition of the trail, and occasionally rather long conversations. It just struck me as being interesting that the farther I am from civilization, the more social the interactions with others I encounter are likely to be.

Today's photo was taken from one of the overlooks that are cantilevered out from the river bank, waterlilies growing in the shallow water of a bay.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Daily Photo - Day 29

For a change of pace today I hiked at the Paul Smiths VIC. There are a number of the trails there that I had never done (they have 25 miles of trails. One interesting experience from the day was a passing shower, literally. At one point I heard rain falling but didn't feel any then a column of rain passed by me about 15 feet away. It was probably 20-30 feet across and passed me in less than a minute.

Today's photo is of Barnum Brook, forest litter on the surface of the water with reflections of the sky and hints of what is below. A beautiful natural abstract.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Daily Photo - Day 28

I walked all the way to Colton on the Stone Valley trail again today and did a short additional walk to photograph this building. I had been meaning to photograph it for some time now. It appeals to my love of old buildings. "If I were a rick man..." I would like to restore old buildings like this one. I would have custom replacement windows made with arched tops to match the originals like those on the left section, make all three storefronts match the center one and run the second-floor balcony all the way across with support posts appropriate to the period of the building. Practical? No, but if you are rich you don't need to be practical and it would be satisfying to me.

It was a very hot and very muggy day for a 7+ mile hike to Colton and back. The air was so thick I felt almost as if I should be swimming. Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration but not a lot. The humidity was 86% with a matching temperature. I went on the West trail and returned on the East trail. Note to whoever is the "authorized chainsaw" trail maintainer: Your services are sorely needed on the East trail. There are at least a half-dozen sizable trees down across the trail.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Daily Photo - Day 27

I hiked only 5 miles today, an out and back hike on the Stone Valley trail. This photo was made along the shore of the river at the point where I turned around, Cardinal Flowers growing amongst debris from high water flooding.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Daily Photo - Day 26

I took a longer walk/hike than usual this morning, a total of over 8 miles. It ran well into the afternoon because it was raining for part of the morning. The Weather Channel showed a window of "not raining" between 11 am and 3 pm. They were pretty much dead on and I managed to avoid getting rained on. I decided to walk down our road to the river and then hike the service road on the other side that follows the penstock between the dam in Colton and the power station at the bottom of our hill.

The penstock is mostly steel pipe but where it has to turn or bend down because of drops in elevation the straight pipe is connected by concrete sections. The first photo is of a pattern on the surface of one of those concrete links. I often find interesting abstracts on old concrete.

The second photo is a section of the dam in Colton. All the angles, stairs and railings appealed to me.

I hiked back from Colton via the East trail along the river and of course, I was attracted to MUSHROOMS! What else? But I'm only putting one in this post. I photographed about a half dozen. 8.34 miles of road walking, hiking and photography, all in 3 hours and 25 minutes between rain showers. A good day.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Daily Photo - Day 25

Cardinal Flowers and Daisy Fleabane on a bed of rocks and garnished with twigs. I have made it through 25 days so far. Will I manage 30 days (my original goal) and if I do will I continue? We shall see.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Daily Photo - Day 24

Hiking the Stone Valley Trail again this morning I came on this group of pines with their graceful branches and luscious greens. There is a touch of autumn showing through from a tree behind the pines. I have mixed feelings about that. Autumn is my favorite season for hiking and landscape photography but it means winter is coming too. I'm not crazy about winter, never have been and I like it less the older I get.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Daily Photo - Day 23

Back to my usual trail today but I went farther than usual before turning around. I photographed more mushrooms (surprise) but was determined to [post something that was not fungus for the daily photo. I shot three views of this but made an amateur mistake with all three. One of my maxims, when I was teaching photography back in the days of film, was "A picture is worth a thousand words but all thousand words should be about the same thing". In other words, don't include anything that isn't necessary. In shooting this I tried to include all of the plants (including the Joe Pie Weed) that are reflected in the water. That necessitated including a waterfall that was some distance beyond. Too much stuff. It didn't work so this is rather severely cropped. I also converted it to B&W and played with the tones to make the green grasses stand out more against the rock. Now I have to remember my own advice when shooting future photos so I don't have to work so hard for the result I intended.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Daily Photo(s) -Day 22

I did a different sort of hike/walk today along a multi-use trail that starts in Potsdam behind a Stewart's store and runs along the shore of the Racquette River to the Bayside Cemetery. I chose that trail both because I had never done it before and because It had been raining last night and this morning. Being a groomed multi-use trail I figured there was little chance of getting wet from overgrowth alongside the trail and I was right. It was still threatening rain so I took along a rain poncho, more to protect my camera than me, but it proved unnecessary.

The trail is an interesting mix of woods, shoreline and if you choose, (I did) a loop around the cemetery where there is an impressive sandstone entrance wall with an iron gate and a matching gatehouse. The Celtic cross above tops a section of the wall. The tall grass photo below is farther back on the trail as I returned to town. The sky in both evidence the threat of imminent rain that didn't happen. I had parked in the small park on Fall Island behind the hardware store and walked a bit under 4 miles in all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Daily Photo(s) - Day 21

Okay, I confess. I am addicted to photographing mushrooms. The thing is, I generally walk/hike the same trail every day for exercise and the things that change most often are the mushrooms. and what a cast of characters they are, all sizes, shapes, and colors. So, here is another small gallery of fungus.