Tag Archives: steel wool

UV Filter for Protection!?

I see the question asked a lot. Should I get a UV filter to prevent my (expensive) lens from being damaged should something bad happen? Or “the salesperson told me I’d get better photos if I used a UV filter.”

In a nutshell my answers are no and wrong.  The thinking that a $25, $50 or $150 piece of glass in front of a $1,000 lens is going to somehow protect the lens element from harm seems a bit absurd except in a very few scenarios which I’ll address in a moment.  Moreover, to assume that a thousand dollar lens’ image quality will be improved by a filter is unlikely.

Here are some of the arguments for NOT using a filter (clear, UV or any other for that matter).

  1. A filter creates another surface that may cause additional flare, glare or reflection.
  2. For all but the most perfectly polished and coated filters, optical degradation is certain with a filter.
  3. Filters can introduce color casts and vignetting.
  4. Putting a thinner shatterable piece of glass in front of a lens provides a source of sharp shards with which to to scratch the front lens element.
  5. Those who leave a filter on all the time often find their protection becomes unremovable preventing them from using a more useful filter like a polarizer or neutral density filter.

But… That Filter Might Save My Bacon!

Think about it. In what scenario will a filter protect the lens? A blow by a golf ball, baseball or softball? Nah, a direct blow will shatter the filter and drive shards of glass into the front element.  A drop onto the floor, lens first? Maybe. The filter holder may provide a little extra protection to the lens barrel, but again, when the glass filter shatters you’ve got shards of sharp up against your expensive glass.  What about a fall onto a rock?  Yep, a filter might help a little, but a lens hood would help a lot more – as would a lens cap.

Block UV rays

What about the argument that a UV filter will “block UV rays” and improve the contrast and exposure?  That is part true – if you’re shooting film. DSLRs are far less sensitive to UV light than film and that filter is more likely to become a source of glare, flare, internal reflection and vignetting.  That UV filter is also yet another expense and item to carry around.

When Does it Make Sense to use a UV/Clear Filter?

If you have burning metal or corrosive substances flying at your camera, I would certainly prefer that they strike a cheap(ish) piece of replaceable glass rather than my expensive lens. Also, some lenses are only well sealed against rain and dust if you put a filter on them. So an excessively wet, dusty or sandy environment might be a good candidate for filter use.

Under Fire [C_041883]

What Do I Do to Protect My Lens?

Aside from being careful, I would argue that using a lens hood is an almost ideal solution. A lens hood helps keep things away from the front element and it also serves the important additional photographically USEFUL function of keeping off-axis light out of your shot. Off-axis light can cause significant glare and flare and attendant loss of contrast.  Even the best filters are little or no help with off-axis light.

My personal policy is also to “cap the lens” whenever  I am not shooting and definitely before I move anywhere. The cap stays accessible in my back pocket and it goes on the camera before I move it. Much like my seatbelt is always fastened before I start the car.

Playing with Fire

Who doesn’t love fireworks?  Not you. Stop reading. Really, you’ll be bored to tears.

Still here?

Well we’ve got just the thing for you.  I started a column long ago about photographing actual fireworks as in the Fourth of July (in the United States), or New Years Day (just about everywhere). But those events do not happen all that often.  What if you could MAKE YOUR OWN fireworks.  Well now we would be talking, right?  But I am NOT talking about explosives. Merely hot burning steel.  And YES it could be dangerous to you or your camera.  There are dozens of good resources on the internet to learn how. Because I do not want you suing me for getting you, your equipment, neighborhood or small country destroyed I am not going to describe how to do it. I will merely refer you to others whom you can sue the pants off of when bad things happen.

Rain Maker [C_037759]
I will point out a few obvious things. Obvious to everyone except teenagers. Sorry kids. I didn’t mean to single you out, but people who go riding on cafeteria trays towed by speeding cars clearly are lacking something in the area of sound judgement.

YOU COULD START A FIRE.  And it might not go well after that.

First I want to thank my confirmed pyro lunatic buddy for thinking of me. I’m talking Andy who is apparently scared by Photoshop, but not molten metal.  If Andy never existed, there would still be my partner in many crimes, Eric “Mr. Panorama and Pyromania” Harness.

Obligatory Photo Taking Notes

Like all things night photography there are many variables in this sort of exposure. The shot above was a six second exposure at ISO 250, f/13, 35mm. If you’re not the one doing the spinning, I recommend BULB mode with an intervalometer. Though it may be tempting to collect light for the entire duration of the spin, experimentation is in order – both in length of exposure, as well as settings.  A lot depends on the ambient sky conditions (some light is preferable to no light), how close you are to the excitement, and so on. Stopping down helps to keep from blowing out details, and it also helps to resolve some minor “offness” in getting a good focus.

How to Get Burned

Here is something else you can do… does not involve fire, but does require a green laser that can put your eye out.  That’s Eric Harness “Stayin’ Alive”. I supplied the green and my photo buddy Phil (of ISS Mooncatching fame) is providing the red glow – from his camera!

Pixel Man [C_037848]

If you’d like to know how I did it, leave a comment.

Oh, and in case you were looking for some unconventional treatments of conventional fireworks, take a look at these. Click the images for details and tips.

Abstract City [C_033094]

The Sky is Leaking [C_033009]