Although I have been using digital cameras since 2003 and undertook a college course in photography in 1999-2000 (which I failed miserably!) it's important to know that I am a ridiculously shy and awkward person and that until the past couple of years I have seldom braved to outside world to actually take photos. I have been making an effort to reverse this situation in the past couple of years and where I once might have gone out less than once a month I try to take photos at least once a week. I would say without hesitation that I have improved and learned more in the past two years than I have in all the years prior put together and I am still very much learning!
One situation I have only recently begun to look at is using graduated filters and multiple exposures to balance the sky and land in sunset scenes. Before now I have mostly just settled for well exposed skies and tried to find silhouettes in the foreground well aware that attempting to expose both simultaneously without the aid of additional equipment is an exercise in futility. As with most things in life once I made one serious attempt at using graduated filters I find I have quickly become very interested in perfecting the technique and while I am far from what I would consider to be accomplished I am still pleased by the results so far.
Currently I have a couple of Kood filters which are excellent value for money and the quality in my opinion matches or exceeds that of Cokin branded filters (which isn't saying much I'm sure some of you are thinking!) and I also have some cheaper brandless filters from ebay which much like the cheap CP-L filters I have talked about in the past actually perform pretty well as long as you keep things wide angle! I found with my Sigma and Canon wide zooms that resolution was unaffected up until around 50mm where a slight softness became apparent but the majority if not all of my landscape shots tend to be taken at 35mm or wider so it was not really an issue in the real world although I will most probably by a set of three Hitech filters soon as I am taking this more seriously and they are about as high quality as anyone would ever need but are still priced very reasonably.
Among the cheapo ebay filters there are some coloured grads which I am somewhat afraid to use because they are generally considered cheap and tacky but I find they are sometimes quite effective if used in the right circumstances, it helps to use them with sunsets where there is a lot of contrast in the lighting, I find the eye tends to believe what it is seeing more if you use them in a scene where we are used to seeing bright and vibrant colours in the sky, all too often on flickr I see people using them on a dull overcast day and the results are ridiculous whereas when they are used in more suitable circumstances they results are at least slightly more believable!
I will hold back on the coloured grad photos for now but here are some taken using the Kood and Ebay graduated ND filters stacked on top of each other: