Wine Country Filters And An Interview With Rod Clark

The Wine Country Filter Holder

I’m always on the lookout for tools that will improve my photography. One of the areas I was always looking at was filter systems for my cameras and photography practice. I was frustrated, presumably like many of you, on the whole filter thing. I own several camera systems as well as a wide range of lenses. Using the typical screw-mount filter system frustrates me for a number of reasons when it comes to how many filters I would have to purchase in order to own a set of the same filters for each of my lenses. I had lenses with 52mm, 62mm, 72mm, 77mm and larger. By the time I would buy a Polarizer (my most used filter) and a series of ND filters in various f/stop configurations, I would end up spending a small fortune.

While screw-in filters were easy to use, they had their issues. I’d end up with a lot of plastic filter cases with filters in my camera bag. I’d have to make sure I had all the right mm sizes and kinds of filters for the photography I was going to do. Then I’d have to screw them onto the lenses, and more times than I care to admit, risk dropping them. I’d also find many times that they could become cross-threaded and sometimes it would be nearly impossible to take off the lens.

Video (25:11)

Rod recently passed through Indianapolis and he made a visit to my home. We sat down and had a chance to talk and I asked Ron to share his story. I had bad laryngitis that day so this is more a video where you don’t hear me (not that I could have been heard anyway).

Rod’s story is a good one in regards to being an entrepreneur in the photo business and rethinking the process of how to use filters, not to mention how to make great filters.

As part of our evolution as a photographer, we learned and most likely invested in a glass plate filter system, the most well-known being the Lee Filter System. The added benefit is that you could buy one set of filters but also buy graduated filters that worked as part of the system. You could also stack these filters, allowing you to have an ND filter to slow your shutter speeds down for that milky-smooth cloud and water look, but you could also use graduated filters to darken skies and leave foregrounds exposed normally without stretching the dynamic range for the shot. This did slightly limit the possibility of placing a polarizer in this mix.

Another problem I experienced was the facility of the glass filters that were rather large and very fragile. Throughout my career, I broke many filters as they were big, had exposed edges, and could break easily in the camera bag or simply by being accidentally dropped. These were rather costly too.

We were all waiting for a truly well-thought-out filter system that fixed all of these issues. That system, in my opinion, came on the scene a few years ago with the introduction of the Wine Country Filter System. I met Rod Clark, the owner of Wine Country, a few years ago and immediately tried out his system.

The Wine Country Filter System seemed to answer all the needs I had and did it elegantly. First off, it fits every lens I had except for the super with 12-24mm Sony lens, and there is a solution for this that I will cover later.

The first elements of this system were step-up adapters. The filter holder has one size that easily adapts with the step-up adapters to all common screw-in lens threads. You purchase only the step-up adapters you need.

These are the 5 step-up rings I use with my filter system
Step Up Adapter mounted on my Fuji

Wine Country Filter system is available from Amazon, B&H Photo, and Wine Country Filter

Filter Holder

Next in line is the filter holder. This beautifully crafted piece mounts to the step-up adapters. There is a built-in polarizer filter that is geared for free rotation with a wood adjustment knob.

wine country
The filter holder assembly
This shows the Polarizer rotation knob. The red tab is what locks in the polarizer filter
This image shows the polarizer filter removed from the filter system

The filter holder then attaches to the step-up adapter and is secured with a brass tightening knob.

brass knob
This is the brass knob that secures the filter holder to the step up ring
This shows the back of the filter holder. Notice the cut-out on the right. You’ll see below how this works as a way to grab the filers.

Wine Country Filter system is available from Amazon, B&H Photo, and Wine Country Filter

Filter Glass Holder

These are a few of my filters

One of the things I liked about this product right away were the Filter Holder Frames. Wine Country calls these Filter Vaults. These vaults or frames allow you to drop in your current filters or the Blackstone filters that Wine Country sells into a metal frame that makes using these filter a breeze.

Pic 3408

The filter system drops into the frame and then a coin-size brass knob on the frame is rotated until the filter is locked in.

Filter holder showing the filter grip and the locking coin.
A filter in the frame (vault). The edges keep fingers off the filter and protect the filter edges

These filters now easily slide into the filter wallet.

Filter wallet

The filters in these frames now easily fit into the light-tight filter holder. The neutral density filter, if being used, slides into the filter slot closest to the lens. This makes for a light-tight connection ensuring there are no light leaks that could ruin your long exposure.

ND filter in the filter holder
The front view of the filter holder
There is a cut out on the filter holder and an extended tab on the filter that makes inserting these filters a breeze.

You can now use the other two filter slots to add more filters in the stack. The holder has wood handles with push buttons. Push a button and insert a filter, then let go of the button and the filter is locked in place.

These are the filter lock buttons. Push in insert a filter then let go to lock filter in place
The filter holder with an ND filter and graduated filter in place

Using The Filter System

Using this system couldn’t be easier. Most of the time I use this system to allow for low ISO images. B y the time you account for f/stop setting, this normally dictates a long exposure time. Before inserting any filters I use the polarizer to set the amount of polarization that may be needed. I do this while looking through the camera, or sometimes I find it easier to hold the filter in my hands and look through the filter as I rotate it. Once I find the desired polarization I place the filter on the camera and then rotate the polarizing filter again.

If I am going to used a grad filter I now insert that until I get the desired look. I move the filter up and down until the desired effect looks good and then let the filter lock buttons lock the filter in place.

Finally I will drop in the ND filter. I then adjust the exposure based on which filter is being used. There are a number of exposure compensation tools as well as apps available to help with this. As you gain experience you’ll be able to estimate on your own based on the filters being used.

Final Words

The Wine Country filter and case

The Wine Country Filter System is not the most inexpensive system out there. It does work well and I have been very successful with it. The filter holder comes in its own case and the filters sit neatly in their own wallet.

Wine Country Filters 150mm system for wide-angle and medium format

For those of you with extreme wide-angle lenses with no screw threads or medium format cameras, Wine Country Filters have a larger 150mm filter system with adapters for wide-angle lenses or wide diameter lenses. More information for this system can be found at the Wine Country Filter website.

Wine Country
The wine Country Filer System in the black case and filters in the gray case

I can quickly set up the system and get my exposure without a lot of fuss. The materials used are top-notch for this product. I have only one complaint which I have shared this with Rod Clark of Wine Country, and that is that the brass knob holding the filter holder to the adapter ring is a bit tenuous. I would have preferred to have 2 knobs for good measure.

Wine Country also has its own glass filters that I prefer over any others. The process used to make these makes them some of the best that I have used in terms of color. Rod explains this in his video above.

Wine Country Filters proprietary filters

Photography is expensive for sure. By the time you purchase a camera and lenses you the need tripods and of course the filters and let’s not even look at camera bags, lighting and everything else. My philosophy is to buy once and buy well. And, using that philosophy I would without hesitation put Wine Country Filters on top of my list.

Wine Country Filter system is available from Amazon, B&H Photo, and Wine Country Filter

Please also take a look at a recent article by Rod Clark, Photographing Maine.

Kevin Raber
January 2020
Kevin Raber
Indianapolis, IN

Photography is my passion and has been for 50 plus years. My career in photography has allowed me to travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people on the planet and see things I could never have dreamed of. My goal is to share the passion of picture taking through photographs and teaching with as many people as I can, hoping it brings them as much joy and happiness as it has me. I do this through, this site, as well as Rockhopper Workshops, and other projects, as well as teaching as Artist In Residence at the Indianapolis Art Center.

Article Type: Reviews, Columns, Videos, MISC

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