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Photo Skills

Reader Shot of the Month – Using Tinted Filters

Enhance a photo's color without Photoshop by employing tinted filters.

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Are the vivid colors in this photo of Lake Superior real? No, but they weren’t Photoshopped, either. Shooter Amanda Allard, of Duluth, Minnesota, employed one of Ansel Adams’s favorite tools: a tinted filter. Here’s how you can get a similar shot.

Choose your color Tinted filters sit in front of the lens and block certain wavelengths of light, resulting in a color shift in the final image. Ansel Adams often used yellow and red filters to darken blue skies. Here, Allard used a graduated orange filter (Gradual Fluo Orange 2; $23; cokin.fr) to create an apricot sky and leave the bottom of the photo unchanged.

Pick the right focal length For the moon to appear huge, you need a long focal length. Anything less than 200mm and it’ll just be a little white dot. Allard zoomed all the way in with a Canon EF 100-400mm lens on a Canon Rebel Xsi. Like most entry-level DLSRs, it has a smaller sensor size than a 35mm camera—making the effective focal length about 600mm. So the moon hovered large while still leaving room for the horizon and shoreline.

Use a tripod Allard used a somewhat slow shutter speed (1/50 second) to capture the waves’ motion. You don’t always need a tripod for that speed, but with such a long focal length, 1/50 is slow enough that you’ll get camera shake if you handhold it. Don’t forget the other moving object: the moon. Shutter speeds slower than 1/30 second will blur it.