A review of Fractal Filters

Many years ago, I grabbed a friends beer glass at a show and put it in front of my lens and fell in love with the effect. Creating an added bit of sparkle or interest made a stage come to life. I began experimenting with different shapes of glasses and varying colors of liquids, this lead to me finding a prism at a craft store and I was hooked.

My first goal with music photography is to capture the moments that show how it sounded and felt to experience the music.

My second goal is how to make it look cool.
Adding elements to shoot through added a new dimension to my music photography work and I loved pulling out a few tricks at each show. I never want to over use these elements. Getting a clear rocking image with no tricks is still my first priority.

After using prisms for a few years, I was very excited to see a Kickstarter by Nik Wong for an interesting creation called Fractal Filters.

Fractal Filters are basically a filter with cut glass that you hold in front of your camera lens when making the image. Each filter has a very comfortable handle, this is one of my favorite features. It is really easy to hold and move around.

The Fractal Filters come in 3 design

a) center hole  b) straight edge   c) curved edge

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For my first testing with the Fractal Filters, I had a lovely model shoot and experimented a bit during touchups.

b) straight edge
I made the first image and then walked around AJ and Emilie so the wall was in the background and used the straight edge fractal filter held at an 45 degree angle to the lens.

Canon Mark III, 85mm 1.8

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I then held the straight edge Fractal Filter directly across the entire lens and created this image of the alley.

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The same filter was used on this image and then in photoshop I doubled the image and flipped it to create the mirror effect. The double exposure is from the straight edge Fractal Filter.

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I immediately liked the way the Fractal Filter feels when holding it. The finger grips are comfortable and it is easy to manipulate. I did miss the ease of also holding the lens with that hand. When using my prisms, I’m often holding the end of my lens – had not realized that until trying to incorporate the Fractal Filters into my shooting flow. I love the grips, but I miss being able to use that hand…I’m a little stuck between adoration and annoyance every time I hold it.

 

Next up – a wedding day test

100mm 2.8

The room that the lovely bride was getting ready in was full of all the wedding day festivities and bags and boxes and the usual assortment of stuff that it takes to create your wedding celebration. I decided to pull out my filters because I wanted to make the world about the bride and to bring focus on her as opposed to her surroundings. For the 2nd image, I used the a) center hold Fractal Filter held directly in front of the lens.

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For the next image, I decided to pull out one of my craft store prisms. I really liked the effect in the 2nd image, I just wanted to be more low key about what I was creating. The Fractal Filter is large and eye catching. After I had made a few images with it, it started to be a conversation piece and was distracting to the quiet moment that I wanted to create for the getting ready image, so I put it away and got my very small prism that I can  pretty much hide in the palm of my hand until the I need to use it.

 

 

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Testing at a music show – Daniel Romano and The Trilliums at the Bootleg Theater

This was where the Fractal Filters really shined for me. I love how easy they are to hold on, no slipping grip on prisms when someone bumps into you. The filters felt very secure in my grip. It did make it slightly harder to maintain focus with the 70-200mm lens without the use of my 2nd hand but the images made it worth the added concentration on finding a good stance, breathing out slowly and snapping 3 images.

The images below were shot on either the 70-200 or the 100 Canon Mark III as wide open as possible.

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by holding the center hole filter at different angles to the lens the setting could go from this

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to any number of designs.

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I pulled them out again for the Vinyl Soul show at the Greek Theater.

b) straight edge

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a) center hole

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My prisms from the craft store

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a) center hole

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I’m very interested in seeing how the Fractal Filters develop. I know that the creator, Nikk Wong is working on refining the design and is excited to put out the best possible product. I would like to see a version with thinner glass. The c) curved edge filter was my least favorite as it distorted everything that it covered. It did create neat patterns and designs. I am looking forward to having more time to experiment trying to incorporate recognizable views or people with the curved edge filter.

I will always be drawn to my craft store prisms as I love the irregularities they create in the images. You don’t know exactly what you will get and nothing will be perfect. Those are two reasons that I love playing with them. I also prefer that they are low key and do not draw a lot of attention. The Fractal Filters are large and they are noticed. It can make it a harder to get a candid moment if you are not far away. And even far away, people who see you using them will want to stop to ask you about them and look at images on your camera. That is awesome and I love spreading new tricks and techniques but sometimes when you are there for a purpose it can be harder to create the images when you are holding a very intriguing piece of gear. At the above show of Vinyl Soul, I was questioned about 15 times and when a band only has 1/2 hour to play that starts to cut into the number of images that I can create. I do like the images that they make and need to figure out a way to make it less obvious.

more experimenting to come….

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