Fun With Filters: “star” or cross screen filter

Have you ever seen a beautiful night time cityscape, or a night time shot, like the one below, and wondered just how they get the pretty twinkling light like that? I did. It didn’t take me long to find my answer. It was done one of two ways…either with the computer, which is pretty easy, but for me personally, not as much fun, or with a filter. I use a 6x Cross Screen filter, and it is easily one of my favorites.

A “star” or cross screen filter, most basically, has a “screen” pattern etched into it, and those etchings, where the lines intersect, cause brilliant starbursts to appear magically on your photos.

To use the filter, it’s pretty simple really. Put the filter on your lens, and with this particular filter, you will be able to see right in the viewfinder what the basic result will be, and you can line the “twinkles” up where you want them. I’ve noticed, though, that most people don’t bother to use a filter like this anytime except at night. There are many uses for a cross screen filter.

About 2 years ago, we took our son to the pool. It occurred to us that just like you can pinpoint spots of light on a building at night, you can pinpoint sunlight dancing off the water’s surface at the pool. So we decided to play with the cross screen filter a bit. Here was our result:

As you can see, it’s an interesting effect. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but I loved it. This is still one of my favorite photos.

Last year, when we took out Christmas card photos, we decided again to try the cross screen filter out. I loved what it did to the photos. Combined with the right lighting and aperture, we got a warm, fuzzy (no pun intended!) holiday effect that I immediately fell in love with. In fact, I liked it so much that I was not able to choose just one, so we ordered two different sets of cards and sent them out eenie-meenie-miney-moe style! Behind our son, the Christmas lights on the tree had a fun twinkle effect, and in one picture, my hubby even managed to catch the sparkle in my son’s EYES with the star filter. It was really amazing.

So there you have it…there are lots of things you can do with a “star” (cross screen) filter, and those uses are certainly not limited to just night time lights!