Grand Canyon- Proper Sunset exposure with Graduated ND Filter

Started 3 months ago | Discussions thread
Bill Ferris
Bill Ferris Veteran Member • Posts: 6,461
Re: Grand Canyon- Proper Sunset exposure with Graduated ND Filter

Thira wrote:

I plan shortly to visit the Grand Canyon.

I plan to shoot sunrise and sunsets with a Graduated ND Lee filter.

My equipment:

Silk Graphite tripod with RRS ball

Canon M50 Mark ll


Canon EF-M 15mm-45mm

Canon EF-M 55mm-200mm

Adapter for:

Canon EFS 110-22mm

Tamron Piezo Drive VC 16-300mm


LEE 100x150mm 0.6 Grad ND

Lee 100 x 150mm Grad ND

Lee 100 Sunset 2

Lee 100 Big Stopper

Lee 100 Little Stopper

B&W Circular PL for all lens

My question if using the EF-m 55-200 or EFS 10-22

If I shoot with AV setting, F9 or F11, ISO 100, and use both the O.6 and 0.9 Grad ND, this should change my exposure by 5 stops (2 more stops if a Circular Polarizer is used).

Based on my time shooting from both rims of Grand Canyon, I'd estimate 2-stops to be the greatest bracketing interval needed to expose for the sky in one photo and the shadows in another. I occasionally use a 0.6-stop graduated ND when shooting from the rim. That combined with bracketing by a full stop typically does the job.

In the scenario given :

1- what is the correct method to find the right exposure? Use the histogram and change the exposure until proper?

Well, this certainly isn't the correct or right way to determine your exposure settings. It's worked for me so, I'll offer it to you. The advice is freely given; the price is paid in the taking

I start by setting my ISO at base or sometimes one stop up from base. Next, I'll choose an f-stop for depth of field. Finally, I'll choose a shutter speed that produces an in-camera meter reading about 2/3 stop above 0. Then, I'll make a test exposure, check the outcome on the rear LCD, and adjust shutter speed as needed. I'll pay particular attention to what the internal metering is indicating at the settings giving me the best balance between capturing the shadows in enough detail but not blowing out the clouds. As the afternoon progresses and the light starts to fade, I'll adjust shutter speed to maintain that reading.

Personally, I use center-weighted metering.

2- Is there a way to lock automatic focus, or should I manually do it? I like spot metering, and touching my LED screen to set the focus.

I use back button focus, which is a technique that dissociates autofocus from a half-press of the shutter release. Once focus is set, pressing the shutter release only serves to trigger a shutter actuation. If I change the composition, I'll reacquire focus. I'll often use a timer delay of 5-seconds or so to allow any vibration generated from my pressing of the shutter release to dampen out before the exposure or exposure set is taken.

3-When is the proper time to focus?

Focus shouldn't change much over time. As mentioned, I'll reset focus after changing the composition. However, if I'm sitting on a particular composition for 15-30 minutes waiting for the light to peak, I'll set focus before the first test exposures, and then maybe 2-3 times over the next half-hour just in case I've inadvertently brushed the focus ring of the lens.

I give more attention to where to focus. Typically, I focus on the landform that is the subject of the composition. That may be a specific butte or temple anchoring the photo. If the frame contains several prominent buttes, I'll choose one about 1/3 of the distance toward the most distant of the group and focus there. It's Grand Canyon. Odds are you'll be setting focus on something at least a 1/2-mile to a mile distant.

Thanks so much in advance for the anticipated response. I am an amateur who reads a lot. Do not want to mess up my opportunity for some great shots.


Good luck to you. Enjoy the Canyon; it's magnificent. Hopefully, you'll have an opportunity to do some hiking below the rim. If so, I recommend South Kaibab trail to "Ooh Ahh" point for some truly majestic views of the inner Canyon from below the rim.

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Bill Ferris Photography
Flagstaff, AZ

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