Bringing landscapes to life with drop-in filters

For landscape photographer Guy Edwardes, lens filters are the secret ingredient that enables him to capture images packed with atmosphere. Here he shares how switching to the Canon EOS R5 and a Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R has simplified his work and opened up more creative avenues.
A one-second exposure of a fast flowing river surrounded by mountains. The long exposure has blurred the movement of the water.

Landscape photographer Guy Edwardes took this brooding shot of a Glencoe river during a Scottish Highlands photography workshop. "I don't like to use a fast exposure when you've got moving water like this, he explains. "That's when I'll use neutral density (ND) filters. I'll pick the right one to achieve that precise exposure time." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens with a 3-stop ND filter at 11mm, 1 sec, f/11 and ISO100 © Guy Edwardes

With its dramatic waterfalls and towering peaks, there's nowhere quite like Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands, but recreating the atmosphere of such a place takes technical mastery and creative flair. When he was working in the Scottish landscape in 2020, British photographer Guy Edwardes reached for his lens filters as they allowed him to capture those breathtaking views and moody skies using exposures of one second or more.

"Rather than just freezing the moment, it brings it to life a little," says Guy, who specialises in landscape and nature photography. With two decades of photography experience under his belt and a client list that includes publications such as Amateur Photographer, PhotoPlus, Outdoor Photography, Country Life and BBC Countryfile Magazine, Guy is also the author of two books on improving your photographic technique and runs workshops sharing his skills with others.

A camera with large lens sits on a tripod. A hand reaches in to place a filter in the mount adapter at the back of the lens.

Before switching to the Canon Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R, Guy had wondered whether having the filter at the back of the lens might compromise image quality, but his images are as sharp as ever. © Guy Edwardes

When to use lens filters to enhance your landscapes

Since his early days of shooting on film cameras, Guy has used lens filters – glass or gelatin elements that go in front of the lens and alter the dynamics of light entering the camera – to balance colour, darken a scene, reduce haziness from UV light or create a soft focus effect, for example.

When shooting on film cameras, Guy used graduated neutral density (ND) filters to control high-contrast scenes such as a bright sky with a dark foreground. "But as soon as I switched to digital, I started to use exposure bracketing in-camera [creating a series of pictures with different exposure settings] to achieve a higher dynamic range," he explains. "I then blended them together in post-production software to achieve the optimum image."

Guy's kitbag now contains a polariser, a variable ND filter and three solid ND filters – 3-stop, 6-stop and 10-stop – to go with his Canon EOS R5 and beloved EF lenses, which he uses with the Canon Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R.

"These filters reduce the amount of light coming into the camera so I either use them for exposure bracketing, or to achieve longer exposure times to capture movement in water or passing clouds," says Guy. "I use solid ND filters when working with long exposure times – sometimes up to five or 10 minutes – to get a streaky appearance in cloudy skies, which can help with composition or give a slightly more abstract result."

Longer exposures are also helpful when photographing water. "If you photograph a fast-moving river, such as in Glencoe, with a shorter exposure time, you get fine detail and contrast in the water, and this can make the shot look cluttered and distracting. You don't get the separation between the surrounding rocks and vegetation on the shoreline and the moving water – it all blends together.

"The polariser removes reflections from foliage and darkens or increases the contrast in skies. That's difficult, if not impossible, to replicate in software – it has to be done at the moment of exposure."

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Waves battering a harbour wall during a storm. A long exposure has blurred the movement of the water.

Guy shot this ethereal long exposure of Portreath Harbour in Cornwall, UK, during a storm. He uses the electronic shutter on his EOS R5 as much as possible, "because it means that there's absolutely no mechanical movement in the camera when the exposure is made". Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens with a 3-stop ND filter at 70mm, 1/2 sec, f/11 and ISO100. © Guy Edwardes

A bluebell woods shot with a polarising filter to remove reflections on the foliage and saturate the colours.

"If you're photographing a woodland scene, such as this shot of Ashmore Woods, in Cranborne Chase, Dorset, UK, where there are reflections on foliage, the polariser makes a huge difference by removing those reflections and saturating the colours," says Guy. But he warns: "You have to be quite careful with the polariser if you're using it to enhance detail in the sky, because you can get an uneven effect, particularly with wide-angle lenses." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens with a polarising filter at 44mm, 1/20 sec, f/2.8 and ISO100. © Guy Edwardes

Drop-in lens filters for Canon EOS R System: quick and precise

Guy has always been a Canon shooter, but he made the move to mirrorless in 2020 – specifically because he was so impressed with the Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R. Canon offers three types of filter – a clear (CL), a circular polarising (C-PL) and a variable neutral density (V-ND). You can also use third-party filters with the mount, which is weather-sealed against dust and moisture and perfect for shooting on location.

With a V-ND filter you can achieve exposure bracketing without having to change filters, by keeping your camera settings the same and just turning the filter to give each frame a different exposure. Canon's model can be adjusted from ND2.5 to ND500 equivalent. Being able to set your ISO and exposure and then shift the filter to the correct brightness makes the process easier and means you can be "more precise," adds Guy.

Similarly, the drop-in filter system also enables Guy to use multiple filters together – say a polariser and an ND filter. Before, this ran the risk of threads getting crossed and of vignetting – a loss of brightness towards the edges of an image – but now one filter can be mounted to the front of the lens and one in the drop-in adapter, so this doesn't occur.

Guy also points out that the drop-in system significantly speeds up his workflow in the field. Working with traditional screw-on filters or system filter holders could be frustratingly fiddly as well as cumbersome. "When you're dealing with transient light, the quicker you can work, the less you risk missing the shot," he says.

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The sun rises from the sea, lighting up a dramatic rocky coastline and grassy landscape.

"Canon lenses are all really good, very sharp," says Guy, who took this long exposure of the sun rising over Durdle Door on the UK's Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site in Dorset. "But it's the range of lenses to choose from, which I think gives Canon the advantage. They've got unusual lenses, like the range of EF tilt-shift lenses and the ultra-wide-angle 11-24mm." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens with a V-ND filter at 11mm, 30 sec, f/16 and ISO100. © Guy Edwardes

Taking a different view

There are many benefits of the adapter, but one of the most important for Guy is the fact that it allows him to use extreme wide-angle lenses with his filters – including his favourite lens, the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM. "These types of lenses tend to have front elements that you can't attach normal filters to. There are some really cumbersome third-party filter holders that would work but it was just impractical to use them," he says.

Previously, if he'd been shooting with the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM on his DSLR, he would "end up with a filter system about the size of a dinner plate to cover that wide angle. It was huge, heavy to carry and really expensive." With the Canon Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R, the filter is placed at the back of the lens, making this much easier and more portable.

Being able to use these lenses with his filters has unlocked many more creative possibilities. "The human eye sees something equivalent to a 40-50mm lens. If you go to 11mm, it's a vastly different scene," says Guy. "If you're photographing well-known locations, or locations that have been photographed a lot, a wide-angle can make your images stand out by enhancing the depth in the picture. You can shoot with something quite large in the foreground, but then your distant focal point will be much smaller. It helps to draw your eye through the scene."

Drawing the eye is what landscape photography is all about. At its finest, it doesn't just document a scene, but inspires a sense of wonder and awe – and for Guy, drop-in lens filters are the secret ingredient.

Rachel Segal Hamilton

Guy Edwardes' kitbag

The key kit pros use to take their photographs

Canon cameras, lenses and drop-in filters arranged on a wood-effect surface.


Canon EOS R5

A professional full-frame mirrorless camera offering photographers and filmmakers high resolution stills and 8K video. "The main advantage for landscape photography is the Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R, as well as the higher dynamic range. For wildlife photography, the Eye Detection AF makes a massive difference," says Guy. "And the fully articulating rear LCD screen is a huge benefit to most of my photography, especially when shooting at awkward angles."


Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

A compact, high-performance 100-400mm zoom lens. "This is my most-used lens, and I think it's one of the best Canon has ever produced," says Guy. "You get sharpness all the way through and it's extremely versatile. I use it just as much for wildlife and even close-up photography of flowers or insects."

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

A professional-quality standard zoom that offers outstanding image quality and a fast f/2.8 aperture throughout its zoom range. "This lens gives a similar field of view to the human eye and I prefer something more dramatic, but sometimes it's the only lens that gives you the exact focal length you need to make the composition work," says Guy.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM

A premium quality ultra-wide-angle zoom lens, with a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, for the highest image quality possible even in low light conditions. Guy says: "This is a great lens for wide angles; nice and sharp. I also use it for astro-landscape photography."

Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM

The complete range of ultra-wide-angle focal lengths in a single high-quality zoom lens. "The extremely wide field of view you can achieve with this lens gives you that different perspective on things and a greater sense of depth when capturing landscapes," says Guy.

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM

A versatile fisheye zoom lens offering a choice of a full-frame or circular image. Guy says: "A fisheye isn't a lens that many people associate with landscape photography, but I find in certain situations it can be really useful in creating a slightly different perspective."


Canon Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R

The Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R takes the functionality of the Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and adds the ability to use drop-in filters. The main reason Guy switched from his Canon DSLRs to his mirrorless EOS R5 was this adapter, which has enabled him to use lens filters with ease, and meant he could continue to use his favourite EF lenses.

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