Filter Basics

Text and images © Jack Graham All Rights reserved.


About a year or so ago I began using filters from Breakthrough Photography.  I bought them myself, so I don’t owe the nice folks at Breakthrough Photography a great review, but as you’ll see by reading this article, I simply love their products. I feel Breakthrough Photography’s filters are the best filters for my needs for many reasons. Yes, there are many suppliers of filters these days all claiming to be the best. Many are really good but not great. NOTE:  I am not into specialized filters like gold-blue, etc. that provide color shift to unrealistically depict a scene. I use filters only to improve conditions or to slow things down and create altered states of movement within the scene.

FilterBasics2It always amazes me, while conducting my workshops, how folks have high quality, expensive lenses and use cheap and subpar filters. It’s like putting re-tread tires on a Rolls Royce! Putting additional glass, no matter what brand you choose, on a great lens is something to try and avoid, however, when you do need that polarizer or ND, make sure it’s a top quality one.

FilterBasics3For years I had an old Nikon Polarizer. (left) You might remember the ones where the outer thread was larger than the screw-in thread size. These were truly great polarizers. I experimented with some other brands to try and replicate their quality, but none did until I tried the ones from Breakthrough Photography.  There are two things important to me in a filter. One is glass quality. In my opinion, Breakthrough uses the highest quality glass around (Schott B270 Ultra white optical glass) as well as the protective MRC-16 coatings. These coatings consist of eight layers applied to the front and back on the filter element. The MRC16 treatment causes dirt and moisture to effectively slide right off the face of the filter and are physically harder than the glass itself.

Second, they are the sharpest and most color-neutral filters I have tried. Yes, folks, there is a difference. There is absolutely NO color shift with Breakthrough Photography products, both polarizers, ND’s and graduated ND’s. Additionally, the build is second to none. They use only brass traction frames, not plastic.  Polarizers and ND’s are weather-sealed and coated to prevent smearing and absorption. Again, all this makes a difference in operation and longevity.



FilterBasics5Recently Breakthrough Photography introduced a complete line of magnetic filters. All perform perfectly. The real advantage is in how quick you can get your filter on your camera when the light is happening. Secondly, and more important, there is now NO light leakage between the filter and lens. This makes a big difference in image results. A new-improved adaptor ring is going to provide ease of operation in turning your polarizer.  Magnetic is the way to go. These folks at Breakthrough get it!

FilterBasics6Magnetic Filter Holder





With Breakthrough’s X4CPL Polarizer                  No Polarizer

First, when do you need one?

  • Cut down glare
  • Intensify color
  • Make clouds and color pop
  • Slow down the shutter speed


Here a polarizer eliminated glare and intensified color.


When to avoid using a polarizer

  • When you want to use reflections in the foreground, especially on wet surfaces.
  • Low Light, Foggy situations
  • When the light is very intense, and you have wet surfaces
  • When shooting rainbows
  • Night photography


No polarizer used here.  Why?  I wanted to keep the reflections and because of the foggy, overcast conditions.



Using Breakthrough Photography’s X4-6 stop ND.  15-second exposure.



Using Breakthrough Photography’s X4-10 stop ND.  120-second exposure.


FilterBasics12Breakthrough Photography is always looking to improve and develop new products. Recently they developed what they call a NIGHT SKY filter.  This filter eliminates light pollution by filtering out wavelengths of light that are responsible for most haze and light pollution (orange/yellow, greens and some magentas).

I live in the Pacific Northwest where it’s been smoky due to fires and not conducive to getting out and trying it yet. However, in two weeks I’ll be in the 4 corners area of the USA and will get to try it. People who have used it report to me that it’s quite a good thing to use when shooting the night sky.

However, friends who have used it rave about it.  I’ll report back in a few weeks. Below is a map showing the areas with the worst light pollution.




All Breakthrough Photography products:

X4 CPL (Polarizer)

X4 Neutral Density Filters 3, 6 and 10 Stop




Did you know that UV filters are no longer necessary on digital cameras?  Film cameras were sensitive to UV rays. Digital sensors are not.  Many photographers still use them. Why? I believe this is largely because folks at the local camera store make some profit by selling them.   UV filters don’t impact the image quality but using one can degrade the image itself (issues such as lens flare or an unwanted vignette).

The salesperson in the store may tell you that a UV will  protect the front of your lens from scratches. Really? If the UV glass breaks it could potentially scratch the attached lens.  Additionally, a filter isn’t going to help if you drop the lens.  OK, but I stated I own one so when do I use it. I use it in only one circumstance. If I am on a beach or desert with blowing sand, then I will use one. That is the only time I will. Here is an interesting and funny video.


Use filters wisely.  When you need the best, check out the products from Breakthrough Photography!


FUJIFILM “X”PHOTOGRAPHERS Travel and Nature Summit/ Portland Oregon September 6-10, 2017



September 6-10  /  PORTLAND, OREGON

Thanks to Dan Bailey for providing much of this text. All images © Jack Graham

… and no, you don’t need to be a FUJIFILM “X” Shooter to join us!

_JGP0283-Earlier this year the 1st FUJIFILM “X” Photographers Travel and Nature Summit was held in Townsend Tennessee (in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park). It was a great success. We brought together folks from all over along with some of FUJIFILM’S top management and technical field representatives. It was a great learning experience for everyone how not only gained important information from the instructors as well as the Fujifilm attendees, but from each other. This concept went far beyond what Bill Fortney and I had last year when we came up with this idea. Our thanks to Dan Bailey and Karen Hutton (both Fujifilm “X” Photographers as well) for being part of the program! Click HERE for a short Video done by Karen!


Below is essentially what the summit coming this fall to Portland Oregon is about!

  • Sponsored by FUJIFILM and specifically designed for X Series shooters and people who are interested in the X Series, these workshops will teach you how to maximize your creativity and technical abilities with the Fuji system.
  • Featuring Bill Fortney, Jack Graham, Dan Bailey and Dan Westergren, ( all dedicated workshop leaders) and learn a wide range of photography methods and techniques from each of us and get firsthand instruction about how we use the specific features of the Fuji cameras in our own image making. Click HERE for Bio’s on each of us.
  • Through a combination of field sessions, presentations, image reviews and talks about a wide range of photography topics, you’ll learn not just how to expand your photography abilities, but how to make use of the specific tools and features found on the Fuji cameras.
  • PDX_MASTERThere will be plenty of opportunity for personal, one-on-one time with all of the instructors and informal time to chat and get to know not only the instructors, but the other attendees, as well. You are guaranteed to come away with many new friends! Also, there will be FUJIFILM technical reps and other personnel on hand to provide loaner equipment, enhance your learning experience and answer any questions (or give your own feedback) about the X Series gear. There will even be some free giveaways!
  • Late summer/ early fall in the Pacific Northwest is beautiful… sometimes too beautiful! We will get out to a few locations to learn to use what you have learned at the summit.
  • LAORJAGDN3_20100505_3750YOU DON’T NEED TO BE A FUJIFILM SHOOTER! If you’re an X Series shooter… GREAT!… or if you’re JUST curious about the Fuji system, and you want the chance to learn from working pro Fuji shooters​, then I highly recommend the “X” Photographers Travel and Nature Summit in Portland Oregon this September.


  • Photography instruction specifically geared towards FUJIFILM X Series shooters. 
  • Exclusive and intensive, multi-day learning opportunity in a beautiful setting.
  • Field sessions, group presentations and personal image reviews.
  • Lots of time for informal, on-on-one interaction with the instructors.
    • Professional instruction in small group settings from 4 professional outdoor and travel shooters, all official FUJIFILM X Photographers 
  • FUJIFILM X Series cameras and lenses for you to try out



CS_PDX_STJohnBr2_111121_HF8Each day will begin with a morning field session in any number of beautiful landscape settings, followed by a late morning presentation. After lunch, there will be 2-3 afternoon seminars that will feature any number of topics, and a feature evening presentation by one of the four instructors. In the evening, there will be lots of downtime for informal one-on-one time with the instructors and other attendees.

Each of the X-Photographers will give at least two focused presentations during the summit, and you’ll also see demonstrations by the FUJIFILM staff that will range from technical aspects and creative use of the X Series gear.

During the summit, you’ll learn a wide range of techniques and creative methods from a small group of long-time working pro photographers. They’ll provide insight about their own creative and compositional methods, as well as specific instruction on how they use the features and tools found in the X Series cameras. You’ll learn how to see and compose powerful imagery, and how to use the dedicated settings and creative tools in the Fuji system to expand your own creative photography boundaries.


​Possible Topics

  • Tips towards making better images regardless of subject matter or location
  • Composition: Seeing creativity and effectively arranging your subject matter
  • What makes for a truly compelling image
  • How to be proficient with the different X Series cameras and lenses
  • Camera Settings: Making sure you know what each menu setting does and that your camera is set where you want it to be.
  • How to make the most of the gear you already have
  • Specific instruction on the dedicated modes and creative settings on the X Series gear
  • How to pull together light, subject and background into single dramatic frameDuring the field sessions, you’ll work in smaller groups of 15 people and one of the X Photographer instructors. All attendees will have at least one field sessions with each of the instructors.

LAOREPDX_PM1YES WE DO IMAGE REVIEWS: One of the best ways to learn is to have your own images reviewed by a professional. We’ll have a dedicated block set aside for image reviews and you’ll have the chance to submit two of your photographs for review and comment by each of the instructors. (Images should be on a USB thumb drive, 1600 pixels on the long side.)

During the review, the X Photographers will provide personal feedback about your image and give you expert tips on how to improve or expand the creative or technical aspects of your imagery and shooting style.


The cost for this 3 ½ day event is $699.00

Lodging is not included in the price of the summit, Information on Lodging and Registration can be found HERE

We will be basing our event out of the Portland Airport Courtyard by Marriott

  • All classroom sessions
  • Feature presentations
  • Image reviews
  • FUJIFILM X Series loaner gear and demos
  • Guided field sessions
  • Opportunities for one-on-one time with each of the instructors and FUJIFILM tech reps
  • Dedicated X Series instruction and support
  • The promise of amazing learning opportunities
  • Travel/transportation to the summit locations
  • Personal camera gear
  • Lodging
  • Meals and alcoholic beverages, tips gifts etc.
  • Any guarantees of perfectly clear weather

Please consider joining us. For more information contact Jack Graham

Bill and Jack2



Scouting before a Photography Workshop

© Jack Graham

I am a photography workshop leader. As one, I am constantly looking for new locations to bring my attendees to. I don’t conduct workshops in areas where I am not familiar, but even in familiar locations, I am always looking for new locations for my attendees. (Images below were taken yesterday). We are here scouting in Olympic National Park prior to the start of our photo workshop later this week.

Along with my good friend and able assistant Grant Longenbaugh, we set out for a location that I’ve never been to. Grant discovered this area on his map and after review, we decided to go exploring. We both agreed there was lots of potential. It ended up to be even better than we expected.  Though we had some pesky rain all afternoon (perfect conditions for photographing the rain forest) we were able to find to quite a few locations in this area that will is provide some great locations for my workshop group, starting on Thursday morning here in ONP.

Yes, it was only Monday but scouting locations prior to the beginning of a photography workshop for my attendees is absolutely necessary. , These folks, who are arriving tomorrow night are traveling long distances, taking time out of their busy lives and are spending hard earned money to come here with me.  This is the least I can do is make their time worth it. Again, I love taking folks to new exciting locations. This workshop here in Olympic National Park this week will be no different!

I am heading back there this morning after my office work is completed. I bet we find even more locations to bring folks to. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but not all leaders do this. As well,  I don’t share these and other locations  with others leaders. This is another reason why if folks come along on a photography workshop with me, we’ll get you into these kind of areas.

Well,  now to get my email and other workshop office work completed so I can get dressed for rain, prepare my gear and get back into the rain forest…another great day of scouting.—JG.






The Return of MACRO and MORE !

Usually when sequels to movies come out they are rarely good ones. There are some exceptions like the Godfather 2 and others.

moats-mugWell hold on to your hats! Macro and More is BACK!!! (Though for now only one day–read on)

First, let me say that I don’t like the word Macro for a few reasons. Macro photography normally means 1:1 shooting with a macro lens. I rather the term “CLOSE UP” Photography be used. I make a lot of decent images with other lenses, rather than just macro lenses …. just my $0.02. Continue reading The Return of MACRO and MORE !

Winter Iceland Adventure 2017–Day 5

brffuk0002-fujifilm-x-photographer-badges-us_jack-graham-2All images  ©Jack Graham / Jack Graham Photography LLC

Al images made using FUJIFILM “X”Series Cameras and Lenses

Jack’s Website     Jack’s 2017 Workshop Schedule


DAY 5.

_jgx2298-edit-editTonight we are back in Reykjavik after a great 5 day winter Photography Adventure (Workshop) here i Iceland. Tomorrow we travel back to Seattle. … just a great 5 days in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet.


We made some images in the rain today on the way back heading west to Reykjavik. Lots of water, action and green. This winter there is little snow close to the ocean


Please visit my website for details on our 2018 adventure. There are a few spots left.







All Text and Images ©Jack Graham / Jack Graham Photography LLC

All Images made with FUJI”X”SERIES Cameras and Lenses

Jack’s Website           Jack’s Workshop Schedule



Heading east on the south coast of Iceland we had some stops to view  and photograph the beautiful horses of Iceland. Photographing the glacial lagoon, Jokulsarlon and its adjacent black sand beach is always a welcome location for our workshop attendees.

Icelandic horses on their environment


A nice sunrise on the Black Sand Beach


Slow shatter speeds ( about 1-1.5 seconds) offer dreamy effects on the floating ice as the ocean waves come over them


A close up look at a glacier entering the lagoon at Jokulsarlon


Simple is better ! even with ice !




Winter Iceland 2017…Day 2

Text and images © Jack Graham / Jack Graham Photography LLC

All images made using FUJIFILM “X” Series Cameras and Lenses



Sunrise Light

We had great light and great conditions, exceptional for a winter day here in Iceland. After a great sunrise and  a great sunset we were treated to a wonderful aurora display over Jokulsarlon. The images speak for themselves. Without light, images suffer!