Ultra-violet or UV filters. Why I feel they're uneccessary. by Neil Alexander

The Gherkin - Neil_Alexander

 Last week I was party to a rather heated exchange over on the Digital Photography School titled "Lens Filters: To Use or Not To Use? Your 2 cents, if you please!" here. So I thought that for today's blog post I would relate what I do, and my opinion on some of the points raised.

Some of you are probably thinking "What do I even need filters for when I'm using a digital camera?". Well there's several reasons, and several different kinds of filters. Gone are the days of using red, yellow and blue filters for black and white film, but the likes of polarisers and neutral density filters are still very relevant. So, let's start with the basics. The first and probably most used filter is a UV, or Ultra-violet filter. Whether these are actually of any use or not is an oft-debated point. Creatively they serve little or no purpose. In the right circumstances they may cut out a little superfluous UV and possibly prevent some lens flare (and can be very useful in hazy situations in high altitudes), but most people who do use them, pop them on simply to protect the front element of their lens. In the grand scheme of things, I feel this to be unnecessary for the following reasons:

  • Why put a piece of cheap glass on the front of a lens that could have cost several thousand pounds, potentially causing problems with the resultant image? The front element of any lens is generally the cheapest part to repair, and if being as careful as possible isn't enough (I grant you that accidents do happen), then this is what I have insurance for.
  • To protect the end of the lens, I'll use a lens hood. Lenses come with these for a reason and should not be kept reversed on the lens! Here's a prime example on the right. Lens protection is essentially what a hood is designed for, that and trying to negate any unwanted lens-flare. I use lens hoods all the time. In fact I think I only have one lens that I don't use with a lens hood and that's only because I've lost it.

The best lens hood I've ever purchased is this Mamiya rubber lens hood

Mamiya Lens Hood for All Lenses 127mm to 250mm (with 77mm Filter Size) for RB67 and RZ67 - Squashes almost flat for easy transportation

It's made from very sturdy rubber so provides extra protection and squashes up quite flat to save room in my bag, unlike the larger manufacturers' plastic hoods.

Nikon HB-29 Lens Hood (Bayonet) for 70-200mm f/2.8 G-AFS Lens (Replacement)

The long and the short of it is that as with everything in this game - it's all a matter of choice. There's no right and wrong. Just do what you feel comfortable with. However, if you are going to use a UV filter, DON'T buy the cheapest one you can find. Spend a few extra bob and get a decent one, please!

As always, I'd love to hear from you. If you've any comments, feel free to post in the comments below or drop me an email. Next week I'll post more on polarisers and neutral density filters. Watch this space.

Finally, before I sign off I thought I'd share a few frames I made in Manchester last week when the Queen and Prince Philip came to Manchester as part of her Diamond Jubilee Celebrations. Pop over to the Demotix wire service site here

My favourites from 2011 by Neil Alexander

It's that time again.... In keeping with the last couple of year's reflections on the year that was (2010 here, and 2009 here) below are my 12 14 favourite images from 2011. Slightly different from these previous entries though, I haven't picked one image from each month, I've simply tried to pick my 12 (which ended up being14) personal favourite images from this year. It's always an interesting exercise and I find it really quite rewarding to see how my skills have developed from the year before. So here they are, although not in any order in particular, other than chronological.

First up is an image I made in Spinningfields, Manchester that I submitted in the Urban View category of the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011 competition, which was subsequently shortlisted.

The Avenue, Manchester - Shortlisted for Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011

Also in January I made the image below with Charlie in Castlefield with one of my favourite modifiers, the Lastolite Ezybox. Details here

Charlie, Castlefield

Patrick with his guitar on the roof of the Arndale car park before the security guards came along. Blog post here

Patrick with his guitar on the roof of the Arndale Car Park, Manchester

Maltese street scene - First trip to Malta this year. Blog post here.

Typical street scene in Victoria on the Island of Gozo, Malta

Kayleigh, Trafford Park with the moon. Blog post  here


Zejtun, Malta

Second trip to Malta this year. Blog posts here and here

Doorway, Zejtun, Malta

Anna - "Waiting for a bus?" with some very carefully placed SB900s - blog post here

Waiting for a bus?

Lighthouse, Vilamoura, Portgual. Blog post here and on variable neutral density filters here

View of the breakwater at Vilamoura, Portugal with a lighthouse at the end

Manchester Central Library - post here

Manchester Central Library at sunset

Jenson Button in his McLaren Mercedes tears up Deansgate, Manchester. Post here

Jenson Button in his McLaren Mercedes tears up Deansgate, Manchester

The Lake District. Post here

View up The Struggle in the Lake District on an Autumn morning

Derwent Valley. Post here

Tree in the Derwent Valley, High Peaks

And finally a shoot I did with Sophie and Pat in mid December that I haven't yet blogged about. Post to follow in the New Year.

Pat & Sophie

So in retrospect I'm more than happy with the quality of what I've produced this year, though I do feel that I need to up the quantity next year. And in upping the quantity I'm pretty certain that this will also see an improvement in the quality too. I ought to write a post on my plans for 2012 too. For one, it'll give me something to be held to, and it'll also help me to thrash out my thoughts and plans for the next year of my business and where I want to take it. So you can look forward to this in the coming weeks.

Finally, for 2012 I'll be releasing desktop wallpapers for your personal use. You can download January's here in 3 separate sizes. There's 2560 x 1440, 1920 x 1200 & 1440 x 900. Simply click the appropriate link and right click to save to your desktop.

NeilAlexander_JanuaryDesktop - 1440x900

As this'll be my final post for 2011, I'll sign off by saying that it's been a fantastic year for me photographically speaking and I hope that 2012 is even better. Enjoy the celebrations, and I'll see you on the other side.

Wishing you a prosperous 2012. Neil

Model shoot with Anna and June's selected links by Neil Alexander

The other week I was lucky enough to have the pleasure of working with the lovely Anna again. We did 3 separate location shoots, though the last one was a complete disaster for one reason and another, but the less said about that the better..... Instead I'm going to give you a quick insight into how I made the photograph below.

Anna by Neil Alexander (Click for larger)

We met up around 11am and headed down to a spot on the edge of Ashley in Cheshire by the banks of the River Bollin. It's an area that I'm quite familiar with having shot many landscape images there before - this one being my favourite. Knowing the area helps hugely when I'm trying to pre-visualise the final image, and this in turn aids me with composition and lighting at the time of making the image as I already have quite a clear vision in my mind's eye of how I want the finished product to appear.

I had Anna turn sideways on to me with her back to the tree and then lay her arms along the branch behind her to provide a leading line into the frame. I then lit her with a Nikon SB900 flash inside a 76cm Lastolite Ezybox HotShoe softbox camera left and a grided SB900 camera right. It was one of those days when the sun was constantly in and out of the clouds, so the purpose of the softbox was to provide a soft controllable light on Anna, but it meant that I only shot when the sun was behind the clouds. It gave me more control over the amount and direction of light that fell on Anna, though to be honest most of the time the sun was behind the clouds it diffused the light so much and so smoothly that this light didn't really effect the final image very much. It was only when the sun went behind really thick cloud that I noticed the light visibly decrease and then the Lastolite came into play. The other light behind Anna did generally make much more of an appearance. To this light I applied a small home-made grid which focused the beam coming from the unit and allowed me to direct it squarely at the back of Anna's head. This gave me sufficient light to bring out her hair and to separate her head from the tree more. All shot TTL and the above was made using the 70-200 at 1/250 sec, F2.8 ISO 400. The final images was then imported into Lightroom and processed in Nik's SilverEfex Pro2.

Here's the set up shot:

Model shoot set up (Click for larger)

Finally as a little Brucey Bonus as it's the end of the month, here's a few links that have caught my eye over the last month. Worth a few mins if you've got the time......:

And FINALLY....... If you've visited the site lately, you'll undoubtedly have noticed a wee change...... I've moved over from my previous theme to a Graph Paper Press theme and will shortly be incorporating this into a new PhotoShelter site (It's all part of my grand plan...). However in the meantime, things are liable to change, shuffle about, fall off, go back on and generally get tweaked here, there any everywhere, so apologies in advance. Obviously as many of the changes as possible will be done offline, but sometimes the only way to change bits and pieces is whilst stuff is running live.