19 February 2014

My Take on UV Filters, Short Answer - Use Them!

Panda Portrait,  © 2012 Terrell Neasley

I've spent the last 4 days trying to write about some challenges I have here in Nicaragua with my final days looming near. I've rewritten it each time and conclude that I just need to blog about something else. And the next big thing that keeps nagging at me to talk about is UV filters. I have heard no end to opinions on the pros and cons of the use of UV filters. I know they shall persist even after this post. So yeah. Here is my spin on UV filters and whether or not you need one on your lenses or not.

Panda,  © 2012 Terrell Neasley
Back in the days of film, images could sometimes be affected by ultraviolet light that might cause images to either look hazy or maybe add a blueish hue. That's mainly because blue colors are more affected by UV than red or green.While UV light is invisible to the eye, the chemicals in the film emulsion could still be sensitive to it. This effect was more pronounced in higher altitudes, where I learned about this in Colorado, or maybe in places where the effects of the sun are strongest. Maybe like a desert (Vegas), or on a beach or in snow, where light is reflected and thereby amplifying the affects. UV filters where made to block as much UV light as possible, if not all of it, to reduce or eliminate this effect.

Today's digital sensors are less sensitive to UV light. So why do we still need them? I've heard it said that the only purpose they serve today are to line the pockets of camera store owners who want to "push" them as protection for lenses. I've heard some say that it is a needless carryover from the film days and that only the old guys use them today. I've also heard that lenses are so sharp and have their own coatings that its pure folly to add an EXTRA piece of glass in front of a lens designed with such precision and technology. I hear all that. All the time.

Panda,  © 2012 Terrell Neasley

Alright, let me predicate this point with a few facts. One, I love photography. If I was homeless in the streets, with only one thing of value to own, it would be a camera. Two, outside of being a pro, I don't let anything compromise the quality of my images. This is my art and I want the best quality I can get for the project I'm shooting. With that said, I can now address this point. During my film days, I did not use UV filters...(I know...when I needed them most). I didn't use them until a friend of mine banged the front element of a $2000 lens into the corner of a metal cabinet. I put filters on all my lenses after that, but I didn't have many at the time, but that made me start researching UV filters.

Soon after, I began work part time at my local camera store, for my good friend, Joe Dumic of B&C Camera in Las Vegas. In the two days per week that I worked there, I watched people pile in with busted cameras and lenses, mainly from drops. But here is the difference, many of the ones with no filters became paperweights. Conversely, UV filters saved many of these lenses. The UV filter would be busted, but the lens itself tested fine. Impact protection? Yes. This is the first reason I put UV filters on my lenses.

Panda,  © 2012 Terrell Neasley
But I also learned that all UV filters were not made the same. Joe would not let me put cheap UV filters on my lenses, especially after I started getting better glass. Putting bad glass on top of good glass is stupid. No getting around that. Buy a lens for $1500 or more and then put a $20 UV filter on it, and I will talk bad about you for the rest of your days. I started out using good B+W filters on my gear. Its some of the best made, there's no getting around that. Today, I use Promaster HGX series in the red box. Promaster gear is known for its generic or off-brand quality. They have a reputation of making photographic accessories at cheaper prices, but not so much camera body and lenses, but just about everything else. Recently, they outdid themselves with UV filters when they came out with a series rated by the color of the packaging. The HGX series in the red box is the best and to me, its even better than B+W. So much so, that I no longer have B+W filters.

Promaster filters back in the day were no different from some of the other cheaper filters on the market. Trust me, they've re-branded. I own several of their products because of the increase in quality AND the guarantee they put behind them. Working in a camera shop gives me the advantage of better insight in this matter. I get to see products first-hand and how they hold up over time. Why switch to the HGX series from an already great B+W product? Well first it started when I was switching over from Canon gear to Nikon gear. I sold many of the Canon lenses with the filters as a bonus. The Promaster HGX series came out at about the same time or not long after. They have three things I like. I a lifetime guarantee. A coating on both sides of the filter that REPELS dirt, grime, and debris. That's right, its like a wax job on your car. Nothing sticks to it and everything wipes right off. And three, the ring has another black coating on it that helps absorb stray light coming into the lens, thus reducing the possibility of flare.

Panda,  © 2012 Terrell Neasley
I live in a desert. There is dust fly around all the time. Right now, I'm in Nicaragua. the winds are high on the coast and shit is flying around all the time in the inner city as well. My lens cap was in my bag when it was stolen a few weeks ago. If I had not bought this HGX filter for my 35mm f/1.4 lens, I might be a little worried, but I'm using my shirt to wipe the front of it all the time. You DO NOT wanna be doing that on the front element of the lens itself. I like my glass and I want to keep my lenses for a long time, or at least be able to sell them in good condition. I don't care who you are or how good care you take of your lenses. If you do not use a good UV filter, your lenses lifespan is reduced. So unless you plan on keeping and using your lenses in one of those vacuum, dust-free rooms NASA uses, get a friggin' filter. And don't be cheap about it. Ugy, (pronounced OO-GEE) at B&C West store does an excellent job of explaining the benefits of UV filters and can show you the Promaster line and why they are so friggin' cool. If you're on the East side of Vegas, Tony can show you th ropes. Both are managers of their prospective stores. Ugy...Tony...got that. Remember them. The only other filters I might use on my lenses would be circular polarizers and Neutral Density filters. More on that later. Check out this good read as well, UV Filters by Bjorn Peterson, B&H Article.

03 February 2014

Second Month in Nicaragua

Cultural Night in Masaya, Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur has definitely been an adventure. Spanish classes are still kicking my butt, but I am learning, albeit slowly. I love my host family with Doña Lucia and her large family. They help me learn outside of the school, at Spanish Ya. My teacher is prob the best of a sufficiently large crew of teachers, if not at least the best for me. Principally, because of her patience and ability to stay with my pace without become frustrated at me. I think it helps that I keep her laughing, but she doesn't try to move on to the next subject before I understand the present task. She's tough enough to keep giving me homework, I tell you that. At possibly under 5 foot, and outweighing her by more than double, I hate disappointing her.

You can see the cave in the distance. The challenge was walking back over these rocks with waves pushing you up against the side of that wall there...and not get tumbled back into said rocks. Nice, huh?

But yes, an adventure, nonetheless. On just my second day here, I devolved into a 5 year old child with no supervision. I walked down the coastline and got curious when I saw a cave about a 700 meters in the distance. I HAD to check it out.  

A view of my room. 

I was able to find a great model while here as well. We've done 3 shoots so far. I got robbed on my second outing with her. Some sneaky bastard made off with my bag when we weren't looking. My fault. Didn't think anyone was around. Let my shit unguarded. Lost a lens, cash, my iPhone, and a few other peripheries. Hated loosing all of it, but I wish I could get back my spare battery and the pics off my phone. The bastards also took our water, meaning we had a long up and downhill walk back for a good hour and a half. Fortunately, some Canadians along the route back had a house up in the hills. They helped us with water and juice and then gave us a ride back to town. We would not have made it back as late as it was without water. And I do feel fortunate, they did not take my model's clothes. That would have been a bitch, because that would have meant I would have had to give up my clothes and walk back naked for at least 2 miles to the Canadian's place. So there's an upside to everything, I guess.

Main Street into San Juan del Sur

I'm finishing up my last week here in San Juan del Sur, but I've still got a bit more traveling to do. I'll stay here in Nicaragua trying to find my shot instead of heading further South into Costa Rica and Panama. I got to see my college buddy, Bruce who just left the Army and is riding a motorcycle from North Carolina to as far South in Argentina as he can get. It was so great to hang out with him again. As long as I have been here, there has been a trio of myself, Marlene...an Italian/Austrian girl who was here one week less than myself. She just left this past weekend. And there there's Simone, a tall Czech Republic youngster who should probably be modeling somewhere. He's here for another week longer than me. I have to keep him from putting drinks in my hand when we're out. Its so cheap to drink here, its dangerous. Rumor has it that cokes are more expensive than the rum, but it ain't so. That Flor de Caña, the 7-year, is some smooth stuff and a half liter of it is only $8. You can't get a single Rum & Coke for that in Vegas. 

And I can't forget the two German friends who arrived a couple weeks after Simone and I. Lena and Roy are two friends traveling together for about 7 or 8 months. Wow. I'm tempted to go home, make some more money and meet up with them again in South America where they will finish up in Peru before heading back to Germany. I'll get to see them twice more on this trip as our itineraries coincide for practically the rest of this month over 2 of the 3 locations I plan to visit. And there are so many more I've met along the way. You make friends from all over. I don't think there is anyone in Holland right now. They are all over here! Canadians are coming here in droves. Several Swiss travels have been through. And I know there are some I am forgetting at the moment. I love being around travelers. Sometimes they simply get it and other times they can be quite inspiring.

Most of the pics will be up and posted after I get back and have edited them. These are some shots I've already posted on Facebook. The newer ones I had ready for this blog post are gone now that my phone got stolen. Bastards. Be back soon.