For the third and last session of advanced photography Monday night at the vo-tech, I decided to take advantage of the Christmas season and make it “illustrate Christmas” night. One thing I showed them was a filter I have owned since about 1977, when the only camera I owned was the Yashica GSN Electro 35. The filter is the humble “cross screen” filter, also known and sold as the “cross star” filter.
This inexpensive accessory has a series of straight lines etched into the surface. The lines in my filter are at right angles, making it a “four point” cross star filter, but other configurations are available. The effect of the lines is to create a radiating star pattern around any sharp points of light. A secondary effect is to give any areas of contrast a soft glow, like the shots of Captain Kirk’s girlfriends in Star Trek, thus making the filter a good choice for soft-key portraiture.
Among the best uses for this filter is photographing Christmas lights. Images go from fairly pretty without the filter to instant “wow” with it. After just a few minutes of playing around with this filter in class, my students were on the internet ordering them for their own holiday photography.
I realize that there are some software options to create effects in this category, but in reality nothing quite measures up to this excellent, affordable little filter.