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The Digital Tool Box
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How Well Do They Work? Very Well! The following images will give you some idea as to their usefulness.

Graduated Neutral Density: The most important tool to me, is the graduated ND filter. It closely represents the natural look of an ND and is extremely adjustable. You can even tint these filters to match your background. I also used the Grad Blue here in the examples shown. You can also create your own custom colored grads using Graduated User Defined Selection and the Eye-Dropper to select a color, or double click on the color block and select from the Color Picker. 

Black and White Conversion Filter: I found this to be a very easy way to convert a color image to B+W. The other nice thing about these filters is that, because they work in layers, you can combine or add filters. I added the Grad ND to this example. 

Fog and Graduated Fog: This tool reminds me of Cokin's fog filters. They were fun to work with and they worked quite well, but for realism and from an ethical standpoint, I prefer real fog. 

Sunshine: This filter was scary. Both Pam and I were amazed at how well it worked. While I still prefer natural light, it too is a fun filter. 

Drop-Down Menu: This menu gives you a full alphabetical A-Z directory of all 75 filters, plus a custom feature that allows you to select the filters that you use most often, without having to go through the entire list each time you want use it. There are two custom filters that allow you to create your own colors within the filter. One is the user defined Graduation filter, and the other is the Bi-Color user defined. 

Foliage: Pam has been testing the nik foliage filter and I must say, it's pretty darn good! In fact, combined with nik's polarizer filter, the images came awfully close to the look of a real polarizer with a warming filter. 

Polarizer: I must admit. I was very impressed with how well this filter works. Not only did it increase the blue in the sky, but it also brought out detail in the clouds. Add both the polarizer and the foliage filter and Wow! What a difference in the photo of the blueberry field. (I used the foliage filter first, then the polarizer)

Bi-Color User Defined: In less than a minute I was able to create my own custom bi-color filter. It reminds me of the blue-gold filter that I've seen on the market (only a lot cheaper). 

Bottom Line: I think the folks at nik multimedia have come up with some very impressive solutions to many folks filter problems, including myself. For me, the days when I had to try every special effects filter that people like Cokin made, are long gone. I'm admittedly a little hesitant when it comes to creating something that was never in the scene in the first place, as in the case of the Fog and Sunshine illustrations, but they were fun to create.

The foliage, polarizer, and the ND grad filter more closely represented the real thing. I felt they did what my 81A warming polarizer and ND grad filters would have done for me in the field. Can I duplicate in Photoshop a lot of the filters that I tested here? Sure! Could I do it as easily and as smoothly as these filters did it? No!

Conclusion: we again have seen a change in the tools that are being made available to us, making the editing process oh so much easier. I mentioned previously in an article called Digital Shortcuts how these plug-ins have made things simpler for those of us who are not interested in being a Photoshop wizard.

I still believe very strongly in capturing the best image in the camera that you can. Whether you continue to use those filters on the front of the lens, or decide to try a few of them after the fact, is probably still up for debate, and up to each individual. But I sense that it won't be too long before I'll be making more room in "The Digital Toolbox."


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