When intrepid outdoor photographer Brian Rueb first considered visiting Olympic National Park, he was willing to dodge the vampires, but not the prospect of constant rainfall. "From the time I started taking landscape images, there’s been something mysteriously drawing me to Olympic National Park, but it wasn't the vampires and werewolves described in the Twilight books. The rugged Washington coastline with its craggy sea stacks and rough seas looked like just the place to make dramatic images. The only issue was the weather.
"When author Stephenie Meyer wrote the Twilight books, she picked the part of the lower 48 states with the highest annual rainfall. She could’ve just asked me. I could’ve told her. For the past six years I’ve been trying to take time to get to this national park, and every time the weather reports have turned me away. I've come to expect some type of meteorological challenges whenever I go out to photograph. However, traveling a great distance and investing the money necessary to shoot a location with an 80% chance of showers during my stay are odds I don’t find encouraging. I can live with 40-50% chance of rain as most weathermen err on the high side…but 80% means it’s going to rain on us the entire time.
"Then I got lucky. The forecast for this trip had a 30% chance of rain for a 3-day window, followed by periods of, get this, showers. Though it wasn’t a guarantee, there seemed to be a small chance that we could get some kind of weather that would be worth photographing.
"Two days and seventeen hours in the car later, we arrived in Forks, Washington, which is the gateway to Olympic National Park and the fictitious home to teen vampires and the people who love them. We checked into a hotel that had cardboard cut outs of the cast from the movies standing in the lobby. Most hotels in the area had some kind of Twilight theme to them to try to draw in extra tourist dollars.
"The area didn’t seem as dark and dreary as I imagined, and the sky held white streaky clouds and pockets of blue sky as far as the eye could see. This area doesn’t get many days like this... and I for one was going to make the most of it. We loaded our gear and set off for Second Beach, an iconic location tucked away on a half-mile trail through the lush rainforest.
"Giant logs lay strewn about the shore, the skeletons of massive trees that once stood watch over the land. We searched the area for our shots, and while the explosive sunset we had hoped for never materialized, we had some nice streaks in the clouds, and I found a spot with some really wonderful foreground rocks. With my waders on, I walked through the waves to find a perch looking out to some of the more iconic sea stacks just off the shore. I knew I wanted to make a longer exposure to get some blur to the water and make a more minimalistic image. I used the Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo filter to stop down and give myself an almost 3 minute exposure. I used the 4-stop soft-step Graduated ND filter to hold back some of the light from the upper portion of the sky. Though there wasn’t any extreme color, there were some gaps, and those gaps were quite bright due to the setting sun.
"We walked the coast until well after the sun had vanished, smelling the fresh air, and making exposures similar to this that utilized not only the filters, but also the beautiful scenery at hand. We hiked back to the car in the dark, and I’ll be honest; I thought about those vampires again, just a little.
"This next shot won’t be for everyone. We drove around the Hoh rain forest for the afternoon, and had bright sun to deal with, which is not common for this area. While we drove I found this great pond with reflections of the trees that surrounded it. There were lots of lovely green leaves floating throughout the pond.
"I love abstractions that play with the viewers’ eye. I put the Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer on, and then turned it to find just the right amount to see the trees clearly reflected in the water, and also see the green leaves floating on the surface of the water -- thus creating the illusion that the leaves might be on the trees. The sun is rare here, but it made for great reflections, and the filter made it possible to make the most of them.
"The next night we walked out to Rialto Beach, my favorite among the beaches we visited. We had about a mile hike along the shore and a stream to cross before we could set up to shoot the sea stacks. The tide was perfect, and the sky looked far more promising than it had the night before. There was no breeze, so the notorious sea spray wasn’t even a problem. This was as perfect a night as we could hope for.
"While we set up and waited for sunset, I counted nearly 50 seals bobbing just off shore watching us. Three bald eagles were sitting in the nearby snags watching the sea for the slightest movement of their evening meal. The sunset that night was perfect, a warm glow began that lit up the sky. Once again I had found the perfect rocks for foreground, I set up, waders on my feet and dug my tripod in for the duration. I used the LB Warming Polarizer to maximize the evening glow and a 3-stop ND Grad filter to hold back the brighter sections of the sky.
"The sun eventually faded, and I found a different set of rocks that aroused my interest. I loved the water that rushed in and cascaded over this particular rock, but the fading light was making it difficult to get the exposure time I needed. I removed the polarizer and used only the 3-stop soft-step ND Grad filter to hold back the brighter sky. Then I bumped up my ISO to 640 so I could get a nice 1-second exposure, which was perfect to capture the whole cascade and reveal my little waterfall. I took three or four shots of this setup to get it just right and have the water look the way I wanted. I loved the way the whole scene played out, and this image became one of my favorites from the trip.
"We went back to the hotel that night giddy with the prospect of processing our images, and looking forward to possibly another day in this prehistoric looking coastline.
"Light is fleeting for nature photographers -- it’s what makes getting the right exposure such a challenging job. It's also what makes certain images special. Knowing you are in an amazing location, seeing perfect light, and having the tools necessary to capture the best images possible is what we as landscape photographers live for. The results create a magic that you don’t have to be a vampire to enjoy."
Brian Rueb is a professional photographer living in Northern California where he is the lead instructor for Aperture Academy in San Jose. In addition to traveling and shooting as often as he can, he teaches between 35-40 workshops a year.
brianruebphotography.com | Facebook | Google+
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Brian Rueb goes to Olympic National Park and braves the threat of vampires, werewolves, and heavy rainfall
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Swiss physician Thierry Resin is enjoying photography again for the second time in his life -- after turning his full attention to establishing a family and successful medical career.
Since returning to serious image making four years ago, Thierry says, "I have taken photo trips in Europe and the Mediterranean, but the biggest step yet has been my recent trip to Iceland. That had been a "dream" destination for a long time.
"The dream came true in June 2012. My goal for this trip was to explore the south coast, a part of the highlands and, if possible, the west peninsula.
"I had ten days there and the program was dependent on the weather. It turned out we were lucky and didn’t have to endure much bad weather.
"This trip also was an opportunity to make an extensive test of my quite new 5D Mark III using my wide-angle lenses for landscapes and my 300mm for birds. Of course, I didn’t forget my kit of Singh-Ray filters -- including eight ND and Reverse Grads, the LB Neutral and Warming Polarizers and a Gold-N-Blue Polarizer.
"On this first image, I made a somewhat classical use of my filters. I had just arrived in the Landmannalaugar, a visually stunning place in the Highlands. The sky was cloudy and snow was predicted for the next day. The colours were present but a little dull and the dynamic range was too great with these clouds in the sky. What I had to do was use the LB Warming Polarizer to let the colours shine and make the contrast sharper and the 3-stop soft-step ND Grad to help balance between the sky and the foreground of the image. I put my camera on my sturdy tripod (wind was blowing) and turned the adjustment ring to fine tune the degree of polarization. Then, in manual mode, I adjusted the exposure so that the foreground would be well exposed and handheld my ND Grad in front of the lens. Then I made the shot.
"This second image is very different and called for another technical approach. It was in the middle of the night, and the sun had just dropped below the mountains there in Jokulsarlon. This place is magic with all these icebergs floating slowly by. It was very late but far from deep dark -- perfect conditions for a long time exposure. I decided to use my Gold-N-Blue Polarizer to enhance this very special mood and slow the exposure time. Another side effect is to boost the contrast and make the glaciers more visible without having to work hours on post processing. I also had to use a 2-stop soft-step ND Grad to minimize the little difference of luminosity between the foreground and the upper part of the picture. The idea here was to have an exposure long enough to have this nice effect with the water but no blur on the iceberg (except for the little ones on the left). This kind of image needs a little post processing mainly because I left my camera in auto white balance setting and it is fooled by this filter. So at home my job was to remember the feeling of the day I shot this and set Lightroom’s white balance, contrast and saturation.
"The third picture has been taken in another beautiful place near Vik on an incredible black sand beach. This was another time when the sky was full of clouds and quite dark. There was a special light that could make a nice shot.
"The rocks here have been photographed thousands of times and I just didn’t want to make a usual picture. I wanted to make a long exposure to soften the waves sliding on the beach. Problem was that I didn’t have a neutral density filter. I took my ND grads and stacked my 3 and 2 f-stop together with the 2 f-stop upside down. That was sufficient to achieve an exposure time of 2 seconds which expressed the cold and windy mood.
"To finish this little trip, I propose to you that another use of the Singh-Ray filter is to produce black and white images. This image was taken in the west peninsula. I was just driving along on my way back home and thinking of all the beauty that I had seen -- and then I saw these ruins and that cloudy sky behind.
"I jumped from the car, took my camera, put the 70-200 on it with the LB Neutral Polarizer. I then mounted it on the tripod and handheld a 3-stop soft-step ND Grad in front of the lens (always on M mode to fully control the exposure for the ground). As a result of using the polarized filter and the ND Grad, I had the advantage of having a raw file which was well balanced and had good contrast. The black and white conversion was an easy step, working only on contrast and a few other little adjustments.
"It was not so easy to make a selection of images from this trip. I think these images are representative of the use I have made of the filters during the trip and how much they helped me take good pictures. I hope now to go back to Iceland soon. Perhaps it will be this fall to shoot totally different landscapes covered with snow, very short days and perhaps the aurora borealis."
Thierry is eager to share his pictures with more of the world. By visiting his new website at Thierry-Images.ch you will be able to find other views of his trip to Iceland, and follow his future success and renewed love for photography.
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Prior to making his fourth photo trip to Iceland, Brian Rueb discusses what he's learned from his previous trips
Here's the story of how California photographer Brian Rueb has been preparing recently for his fourth trip to Iceland over the next two months. He has written a book on his previous travels in Iceland that is currently in the editing process.
"As I prepare for my fourth trip to Iceland -- the third time I will be serving as a guide for other photographers -- I've given a lot of thought to what I’ve learned to this point. I can also draw upon my previous experience leading workshops to almost every corner of this country. I've spent some time considering how I might improve on the way I shot these locations before, and how I’ll guide the other photographers to do the same.
"Iceland is beyond amazing. Just seeing it in person can overwhelm new visitors. Then trying to stay focused and get the best shots is often a daunting task. I’ve had to learn the importance of being patient to learn how the light works, where the best places to shoot are, and how to scout for new locations as well.
"I instruct photographers to shoot the same way I do, and that means using the tools I use -- including Singh-Ray filters -- to capture the best images in the camera. I’ve been in the shoes of most new visitors... I know what it’s like to freak out behind a camera. I can be that voice of reason to help people tune into the location, and get those winning images.
"When I first went to Iceland in 2010, it was the realization of a lifelong dream. Really, I thought it would never happen... but a lot of pieces fell into place, and professionally I finally found myself with the ability and means to make the journey. That first journey was challenging not only physically and logistically, but also photographically. Now as I sit on the cusp of making my fourth trip to this wonderful country, I’ve started to take a look back at what I’ve learned photographically from each trip.
"The first trip was overwhelming in so many ways. I had a long list of places I wanted to see and photograph during my three months, but I also left time in my schedule for the unexpected to find my own spots. I also did not have a car. Everything I did required a tremendous amount of planning, and always a little luck.
"Did I need to take a bus, or would I be able to hitchhike and get there? Could I stay in my tent, or was it time to find a shower and hostel? Could I afford a meal out, or did I have to eat ramen again? Each day had a big ‘to do’ list, before I could even think about the photography part.
"Once I got to new locations, there was always an adjustment phase. I was THERE, instead of looking at maps and other people’s photos. It is different seeing it in person, and trying to plan the shoot. Every place I found I was not only overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the location, but also on how to shoot it in my own way. Then there was the weather. It seemed to rain on me most of the first two weeks. There were times I wondered if the sun ever shone on the country... It was thirteen days in country before I got my first amazing sunset -- and man, the LIGHT. That light can intimidate a photographer at first.
'The sun never sets during the summer, and when the light is good, it seems to never end. During my first trip, I was not prepared for sunset/sunrises that lasted for four hours.
"There were many times in the beginning that I would panic, and run around frantically trying to compose shots and make them work; thinking that the light was about to fade at any second. It never did. I would always end those first nights exhausted from all the energy physically trying to get from spot to spot -- and mentally trying to come up with multiple compositions. A night that had begun with triumphant whoops of joy, always ended with me sopped in sweat and exhausted in my tent.
"By the middle of that first trip, I knew the climate and way the light worked. I had learned to relax a little and focus on making better images. I was more focused on quality over quantity. However, with four-hour sunsets, you certainly get quantity, too.
"That first trip I was by myself, and photography was the sole purpose of the trip... by the fourth week I was in a different mindset. When the only goal each day is to get to a new location and photograph, your mind starts to work in a more efficient way creatively. I was on foot so there were numerous days where I found myself in locations I had not previously scouted, and knew nothing about and was forced to find the spots to shoot, and then make them work. The day-in and day-out shooting made that process much easier. I also knew that the tools in my bag would be helping me achieve the results I wanted in-camera. Having the Singh-Ray Graduated ND filters and Vari-N-Duo along helped me achieve what I visualized in my mind... that is so valuable for photographers. We work years to develop our vision, and when it’s dialed in the way it was for me during my time in Iceland, the last thing I want is to have vision limited by gear. Filters really help me put what I see in my head into what I get with my camera.
"The first image (at top) is a shot from a lake in Eastern Iceland. I found myself there for an unplanned evening, and of course, the sunset was fantastic. I walked the edge of this lake looking for compositions and places of interest. I found this abandoned building, and decided to use it in my compositions. I used the 3-stop soft-step Singh-Ray ND Grad to hold back light on the top, and give me a balanced exposure all around.
"This next exposure was from the outlet stream at the popular Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. I had been to this location several times, which involved hitchhiking, buses, rogue camping, and other trials. This particular evening I had gotten to the lagoon and found relatively uninteresting conditions on the beach, and the sky above the lagoon was not working well either. The only color was directly overhead. I found this chunk of ice lodged in the stream, and I used the Vari-N-Duo to give me some polarization to bring out that color from the sky. It also give me a slightly longer exposure time. It’s not your typical image from this location, but one I found I was able to make because of the tools I had at my disposal.
"The second trip was different in that I was there for a shorter length of time. I knew the area well, and this time I was traveling with a friend, and we had a vehicle at our disposal. Having a vehicle made a lot of difference in the images I was able to make. I knew how the light worked now, so gone were the days of running around like a crazy person and trying to find as many compositions as I could in an unknown window of time. We could arrive on location, make the images, and then drive to somewhere else. Driving allowed me to cover much more ground and shoot entirely different locations during the same lightshow. Having a car allowed me to cover almost the same amount of ground in 2 weeks, that I had in 3 months.
"The third shot is one I made literally on the side of the road. I went into this little field, and in Iceland it seems like every field has some kind of water feature... sometimes it’s only a matter of finding it. I found these little streams cutting through the area, and used them as leading lines in the image. I used a Singh-Ray 4-stop soft-step ND Grad to help hold the bright sky back, and give exposure to the foreground. I combined it with the Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer to help bring out the reflected color in the water…and give the colors in the sunrise a nice warmth.
"The fourth shot was from a little out-of-the-way waterfall that I wouldn’t have been able to photograph during my first trip, due to the logistical issues. However, on this trip it was little more than a pit stop during a busy evening of shooting. We didn’t have the color in the sky to make for a vibrant sunset, but the ice blue of the water is so stunning, and even with stormy grey skies, you can get some nice shots. I used the LB Warming Polarizer to cut the glare of the rocks, and also to give me a little bit of the warmer tones the volcanic rocks had.
"Covering that much ground in such a short period of time was hard work. There was a lot of shooting put into each day. Every day was a routine of shoot all night then drive to the next spot. Sleep the remaining hours of afternoon, eat dinner and shoot the whole night. We had no bad weather, so this was how we approached every day, and by the end of those two weeks, I was exhausted, but it proved to be good training for the next year.
"The third trip, I was conducting a workshop for a bunch of great photographers from all over the world. I put all the lessons I learned in the first trip's into planning this one. I still navigated the entire country in the course of 11 days, but we stopped for longer stretches in the north, and in the west to allow for more periods of rest. I had a whole year of planning to find new spots, and make a route that was packed with excitement, but also allowed down time.
"That being said, for some of the photographers the eleven-day workshop was more photography than they had ever been exposed to in their lives during such a condensed period. Many photographers I know are recreational in nature, they love to shoot and go out and make new images, but a typical shoot for them might be a day, or weekend at most. Nobody knows quite how to handle an 11-day sojourn in a country with sunsets that last for 5 hours. It was a lot of fun to see my group try to deal with these long sunsets, even though I had warned them.
"The first few times we saw the epic light in the sky the group would beg me to pull over. 'Pull over, look at that light!!!' Even though I tried to tell them, it would still be there when we got to the spot I had in mind, there were several times I pulled over so they could take shots of the road…or whatever they found near the van. The light was still there when we got to the spots I had in mind. It’s hard to train your brain to go slow, and take it easy. Everyone is always in a panicked hurry thinking the light is almost done. It takes time to get used to truly epic light. It was my third time and I still had to tell myself to slow down.
"In addition to some really great conditions at some really great places, we had a lot of people who were using their Singh-Ray filters on our classes, and it’s nice to have that experience with the filters to show the others how to use them, and when to use them.
"The fifth image was taken at the mighty Godafoss... it’s such an amazing place to see, the water is that special glacial blue and as one of the iconic locations in the country, it’s always special to be there and see it for oneself. I encouraged the class here to use their polarizers to get the reflected color from the sky and reduce the glare. I used the Singh-Ray Warming Polarizer to help give the sky a little extra umpf to the gold tones. I also used my Singh-Ray 3-stop soft-step ND Grad to hold back the brighter sky.
"This final image was a shot I couldn’t have made on my first or second trip. The new event center and concert hall in downtown Reykjavik was not finished yet. I had been watching the construction on it for a couple of years, and was eager to get to a point where I could finally photograph it. The last night in Reykjavik we had a chance to go out and explore downtown Reykjavik at 2 in the morning before my group went to grab a little shut-eye and catch their flights home.
"I used the Warming Polarizer here to get the reflections in the water features out in front of the building. The light otherwise was quite even, so I didn’t need to use any of the graduated filters. I also wanted to get a faster shutter speed to capture the cool LED effects on the light display. I’m not typically one to shoot much in the way of architecture, but when the building is as nice as this one, I can’t resist. I use the same techniques I use with landscape when I’m shooting a building. I look for strong leading lines, foregrounds, and try to use filters in the same way."
Brian Rueb is a professional photographer living in Northern California. When not photographing, he spends time parenting his two boys, and enjoying the company of his supportive wife. In addition to traveling and shooting as often as he can, he is the lead instructor for the Aperture Academy, in San Jose California where he teaches between 35-40 workshops a year, including trips to Iceland.
Website | Aperture Academy | Facebook | Google+
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Among the many professional outdoor photographers who have greeted Singh-Ray's new Mor-Slo 10-stop ND filter is Kevin McNeal. It didn't take him long to try the filter and send us this helpful report on using the filter during the "magic hours" around sunrise and sunset.
"For me, one of the most challenging tasks in landscape photography," says Kevin, "is shooting long exposures during the periods of sunrise and sunset when the sun is brightly visible. Over the years I have gotten better at it, but there are a few simple things that I have done to improve my success. In this story I want to share the one factor that's most important for my current success in capturing a number of very rewarding images.
"That factor is to use a high-quality neutral density filter... one that blocks enough light. When I first started using ND filters, I began with cheaper filters and I never got the results I wanted. I didn’t realize how greater neutral density and the quality of the glass could affect the overall image quality. Once I realized the difference I could get by using quality Singh-Ray ND filters, I've never used any other brand. I'm now able to achieve excellent results in terms of color quality, exposure accuracy, optical resolution and freedom from any colorcast problems.
"The recent introduction of this new filter has allowed me to reach a whole new level of creativity in my images. Before there was a 10-Stop Mor-Slo, I frequently wished for an ND filter that would be dense enough to block out more daylight and still allow me to get long enough exposures with the sun in the image. Any time I'm shooting directly into the sun I find it's one of the most difficult things to do correctly. Shooting a long exposure looking into the sun makes it even more challenging.
"Pushing the boundaries of long exposures has always been an objective of mine. So when Singh-Ray came out with the thin-mount 10-Stop Mor-Slo filter, I was eager to check it out. In terms of neutral density, 10 f-stops is a perfect amount of blocked light and opens the doors to a new level of experimentation. The 10-Stop is available in either a standard filter ring or a thin mount ring in either a 77-mm or 82-mm diameter. The thin mount allows me to shoot wide-angle scenes as wide as 17mm and not have any vignetting. Most other brands of ND filters I've tried are thicker and will often vignette wide-angle images.
"One of the most frequently asked questions I receive when teaching workshops is 'why are long exposures important?' Shooting longer exposures -- even in scenes with strong sunlight -- allows the photographer to create images that most photographers have never seen before. I like to use longer exposures in my photography to create mood and a sense of calm in the images. In the past, this was only possible in low light situations such as the twilight hours before sunrise and after sunset. I also point out that some less-than impressive scenes can be transformed by an extra long exposure to convey a unique mood of peace and timeless beauty.
"With this new 10-stop neutral density filter, I can take long exposures at any time of the day. This especially applies to images featuring elements of water such as waterfalls, rivers, and oceanscapes. I keep the filter handy as I shoot images with other filters. Before long I find myself threading the Mor-Slo on the lens, adjusting my shutter speed, and shooting an extended time exposure or two. It takes less than a minute to make the changeover and I am sometimes surprised with the results. This filter has not just opened new possibilities of creativity, it has expanded the times of day when I can shoot. I frequently shoot scenes with water at any time of the day and combine this with the sun to really create unique images. The most rewarding has been the ability to shoot long exposures while the sun is setting or rising. When longer exposures combine with the strong elements of warm light the results are a juxtaposition of mood and drama. The final result reveals a uniqueness rarely seen in landscape photography.
"When it comes to neutral density filters other than the Singh-Ray, one of the main criticisms is the colorcast that is present in the image. This is very apparent in ND filters that provide densities greater than about 5 f-stops. With the Singh-Ray 10-Stop Mor-Slo ND filter there is no colorcast. This filter not only negates the colorcast but also adds a deeper richer color to the final result. The longer exposure produces a more vivid color in the more saturated colors in the image. Those who don’t want to use quality ND filters tell me it is easy to remove the color cast in post processing. But these days, many publishers, editors, and photo contests are asking to have the RAW image submitted with the final image. The last thing you want in your RAW image is a color cast that is nothing like the final image. The other reason I use the high quality Singh-Ray ND filters is I want to get as much right in the camera as I can, so I minimize my post processing. There is a certain satisfaction when the image out of camera is close to how you visualized it.
"The most important reason I use the Singh-Ray 10-Stop ND filter is the freedom from ghosting and banding that occurs in lesser quality ND filters that range from 5-10 stops of light. With Singh-Ray ND filters there is no banding, posterization, or uneven exposures in the image. The final image is a clean, colorcast-free image that wows your audience and allows you to explore new areas of creativity. When it comes to making long exposures with neutral density filters, the high quality of Singh-Ray ND filters is the most important feature to consider."
Besides being a busy photographer and author, Kevin will be offering workshops and private teaching throughout the summer and fall. You can find out more about his workshops and other projects at the links below:
KevinMcNealPhotography.com | Blog | Facebook | Google+ | Flickr | 500px
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Over Easter weekend, Alec Johnson visited Bandon Beach in Oregon for the first time to shoot some new work for his portfolio. "What an incredible landscape; the sea stacks are of course the highlight, but I had a 7-foot high tide to contend with and... you guessed it... plenty of clouds. Two of the most popular sea stacks on the beach are known as 'Wizard's Hat' and 'Face Rock' seen in the image above.
"Beaches can be beautiful places to sunbathe, but they can also be visually mundane. Bandon's unusual sea stacks provide plenty of visual interest and story for a landscape photographer. The sea stacks are erosional, carved from sandstone and marking former positions of the coastline. The sandstone is part of the Otter Point Formation -- a belt of rock running along the southern Oregon coast formed somewhere offshore and later added to the continent through a number of geologic processes.
"Bandon's high tides provided a constantly changing compositional puzzle. At high tide that day, around 1:30 pm, many of the typical foreground elements disappeared below the water level and the area of surf became quite large. That's when I would use my longer 24-70mm lens fitted with my Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer plus 7 additional stops of Singh-Ray ND Filters to slow the shutter speeds down to nearly a minute and create surreal mid-day motion blur.
"When color is an important feature of the subject, I shoot the subject in color. However, when heavy clouds soften the light and create a nearly monochrome landscape like Bandon Beach, then I immediately begin to shoot for black and white. The Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer works much like the color filters that photogtaphers once used with their black and white film. One of the magical results produced by this filter is the additional depth and dimensionality it gives my subject matter. As I view the image above, I can really feel a three-dimensional quality to the twin stacks that I am able to achieve only when using the Gold-N-Blue.
"Bandon Beach offers many compositional choices. I find that I can continue to shoot through soft light and dull skies if I can recognize the potential impact that black and white brings to these scenes. To capture the intricacy and detail of the stacks which has formed over the millennium, I used the Gold-N-Blue to give my raw images a heavy bias toward magenta and red, with a hint of blue for the sky. This enables me to achieve a greater richness in tonality without introducing unwanted noise in the blue color channel.
"The two images above illustrate the raw file I start with -- just as it was shot in-camera -- and the black and white image I was able to produce in monochrome. Notice the rich tonality in the black and white image. I was able to create movement through the image using light and dark quarter-tones which move the eye from front to back of the image.
"As can be seen in most of these images, the landscape opportunities at Bandon Beach involve working with repeated shapes and strong lines. Lines provide movement and rhythm. The repeating shapes provide a way to tie together various spaces in the image, in essence creating visual continuity throughout the frame. Bandon Beach, like so many landscapes, reveals repetition of shape as a result of the geologic forces in play.
"You'll want to get into the surf for more dynamic compositions, so be sure to bring your rubber boots. Two and a half days was not nearly enough time at Bandon Beach, but I was grateful to have that much time and to be able to make the best use of the existing conditions to shoot dynamic, rich black and white photography -- thanks to my Gold-N-Blue Polarizer"
Alec Johnson is a commercial and fine art photographer based in Saint Paul, MN. You can view more of his fine art landscape photography online at these links.
acjohnsonphoto.com | blog | videos | facebook
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Outdoor photographer Iris Greenwell discovered Singh-Ray ND Grads and the ColorCombo early in her career
Born and raised in Panama, Iris Greenwell now operates her own photography business in Ft. Worth, Texas and takes on frequent freelance assignments in Texas and Oklahoma. One of the projects she recently completed for Oklahoma Today Magazine was to help photograph the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in south-central Oklahoma in Sulphur.
"I mainly wanted to feature the most well-known springs, lakes and forests -- recording their changes in the different seasons. Since I was living in Southern Oklahoma at that time, I did several trips to the park during different times of the day. Finally, the chosen images were published in a twenty-six-page portfolio in the March/April 2013 edition of Oklahoma Today.
"In order to follow the specific guidelines from the editor, I needed to be sure to make all my adjustments in the camera and to use raw files as my file format. In order to get large, high-quality files, I used my Canon EOS 5D Mark II and three Canon lenses -- the 17-40 mm lens, the 50 mm lens, 24-105 mm lens -- plus a Tamron 200-500 mm lens. Moreover, I knew it would be very important to use my Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo Polarizer to control reflections and the Galen Rowell 2-stop soft-step and 3-stop hard-step ND Grads to get better control of the wide dynamic range that would occur in many of my exposures. I began using Singh-Ray filters after taking an online course with well-known landscape photographer William Neill.
"In order to capture the reflection on both the Travertine Creek (image at the top of this story) and Beaver Pond (below), I needed to arrive early in the morning on days when there was little or no wind to have the bright blue sky smoothly reflected in the water. To control the glare on the water, I used the ColorCombo and rotated the control ring until I got the intensity in colors I wanted while also holding the details on the reflections.
"Whenever I photographed the Veterans and Arbuckle lakes, I used the Singh-Ray ND Grads. The ND 2G-SS and 3G-HS were used to control the light between the sky and the water creating a more cohesive scene. For example, before a storm on the Veterans Lake (below), the sky was too bright, and the Galen Rowell ND filters balanced the exposure to retain more details and maintain the texture of the clouds. I used the hard-step graduated filter because I can line it up with the horizon line and get a precise transition.
In addition to operating her own photography business in Ft. Worth, Texas, Iris enjoys freelance work. Among her career achievements, she has received a number of awards in juried art shows and exhibits. She is member of Professional Photographers of America and has been a frequent guest speaker in Oklahoma and Texas.
Website | FineArtAmerica
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
There's a good reason North Carolina landscape photographer Peyton Hale makes sure his Singh-Ray filters are always in his bag. “I just can’t work without my LB Warming Polarizer,” says Hale. "For example, during my January photo trip to the ‘Boneyard Beach’ area in South Carolina'a Lowcountry, my filters were essential to capturing the fantastic light.
“Most of my photo trips involve extensive planning and several days to adequately document the area, but this was a more spontaneous adventure. I just decided to take a gamble based on an optimistic weather report and favorable tide information. I drove about 5 hours through the night to the unique coastal area known as Edisto Island. I arrive about an hour before I could access the area, so I took a nap in the front seat of my Jeep Wrangler. I awoke on my third iPhone alarm realizing the gate was already open and the sky was beginning to show an intense orange glow at the horizon. I quickly took off down the access road to the parking area, grabbed my photo gear, and hoofed it down to the beach. The cloud cover was textbook, I couldn’t have asked for the variables to come together more perfectly. I had the entire place to myself and 20 minutes before sunrise everything was developing nicely.”
"OK folks, here's a little natural history for you. The trees lining this portion of the Atlantic coastline are derelict live oaks that have been battered by high tides and hurricanes for decades, yet they’re still holding strong against nature’s wrath. Unfortunately these trees are succumbing to beach erosion and will eventually be reclaimed by the sea. Looking at images from the area over the past few years reveals a grim story of root exposure along with the impact of storms significantly shifting trees that have recently fallen into the water. As amazing as this location is, time is running out for us to enjoy it.
"As I made my way down to the beach, the area opened up to reveal many tree silhouettes and the color began to intensify over the water. I quickly grabbed my gear and started setting up, trying to spy some solid compositions.
"This location works exceptionally well to use these trees as silhouettes against a dramatic sky. First and foremost, I wanted my LB Warming Polarizer to cut the glare off the wet surfaces and aid in slowing down the exposure for a smoother look to the water. With the intensity of the color and the light coming from the horizon, I knew I was going to need to use one of my ND Grads. After spot metering with the camera, I selected my 3-stop Reverse ND Grad to balance the brightest light from the sky which ran right along the horizon.”
"I ran between the individual trees, changing my compositions frequently while fearing that this amazing light would fizzle off too quickly. Fortunately the conditions lasted for about 30 minutes, letting me feature various trees along the beach silhouetted against such remarkable light. Once the color began to fade and the adrenaline of the moment began to settle, I had a few minutes to reflect on my time spent in this unique location and just how lucky I had been to have everything come together to create such great shooting conditions. I also realized I would have not been able to capture these moments without using my Singh-Ray filters.”
Peyton is picking up from the east coast and heading to his new home in the Pacific Northwest this summer and will be embarking on a new adventure to capture the scenery that region has to offer. You can follow Peyton’s photography on his website or through social media including Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Canadian outdoor photographer Dave Hutchison is now based in Sidney on the southern end of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. About 5 years ago he became quite interested in outdoor photography "when I realized I'm living in one of the world's most scenic areas. I am now striving to promote nature conservation through my outdoor photography, and I am also discovering the benefits of using Singh-Ray filters for optimum results when shooting landscapes.
"I first discovered the importance of using Singh-Ray Graduated ND filters (ND Grads) to produce landscape images with just the right balance between nature's bright skies and shadowy foregrounds. More recently, I've discovered that my Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo is equally important to almost all of my outdoor photography. Whether I'm shooting in a soggy wet forest, near a waterfall, or anywhere in the wide-open spaces, the polarizer built into my ColorCombo blocks harsh reflections and improves color saturation. At the same time, the LB Color Intensifier in the ColorCombo gently strengthens the green and earth tones in the image just enough to keep everything looking 'naturally natural.'
"The LB ColorCombo provides the lighter, brighter color and contrast that my customers want as a souvenir from the West Coast. Now 'permanently' fixed on my Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 lens, I set my LB ColorCombo for the look and feel I would like to see in the sky and water. With consistently bright skies (even at sunset or sunrise), I use my Singh-Ray ND Grads to 'hold back' the sky -- enabling me to add 'light' to an often dark foreground. When the ND grads are used with the LB color combo, the results can be stunning. Depending on the image (ie. fast moving water) I can often have a single image in the camera that needs little post processing. The photo above was taken at Torrweep, Grand Canyon NP and the image below is from North Saanich on Vancouver Island.
"Now that I'm using both an ND Grad and the ColorCombo to capture my landscape images, I really feel in control of my imaging process. I've gained more confidence to help other serious photographers discover the importance of filters in their work. I am offering a series of three-day workshops in Tofino and Bute Inlet throughout 2013. I have a studio/gallery in Sidney where people can come to view my finished work."
Dave has several photo tours lined up for this spring and summer, including:
May 24-26 Landscapes of Tofina Ucluelet BC
June 14-16 and Sept 20-22 Wildlife & Landscapes thru Bute Inlet, BC
He is also available for private tours and instruction. You can find more images and information at
www.DaveHutchison.ca or visit his Facebook page.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
In the twenty-plus years Russ Bishop has been making images of high and wild places, he's seen a lot of changes, both in the natural world and in the photographic world. "During that time I've gone through more than a few cameras and lenses, transitioned from film to digital, and mastered the digital darkroom. Through it all my vision has been the common thread driven by my passion for the natural landscape -- and during that time, Singh-Ray Filters have played a significant role in helping me translate and preserve my unique view of the outdoor world.
"For example, the image above, which was made in Dusy Basin, Kings Canyon National Park, California, is a perfect example of the Singh-Ray Graduated Neutral Density (ND Grad) filter in action. The beautiful warm evening light needed no enhancement, but the dynamic exposure range between the direct light on the peaks and the much softer reflected light on the water was much too wide. A 3-stop hard ND Grad nicely balanced the scene and retained the subtleties of the light in the clouds, while revealing the details in the alpine tarn.
"Whenever I'm shooting mountain scenes, there are two filters that are indispensable in achieving my vision -- the Singh-Ray Graduated ND and the LB ColorCombo. The ND Grads are available in several densities with both hard and soft transitions that can be selected to perfectly balance the range of exposures in each scene.
"In landscape photography the range of exposures is often quite wide, which creates as much of a challenge for today's digital sensors as it was in the days of film. The dynamic exposure range particularly in the mountains can be off the charts when the foreground is in deep shadow and the background peaks are bathed in direct light. This can work to your advantage when utilizing strong graphics and silhouettes during mid-day shooting, but in the magic hours at sunrise and sunset the strongest images often include important foreground subjects that can be lost without the ability to balance the background light.
"In this image from Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, California, I knew the sunset could be spectacular and I wanted to emphasize the meadows as a focal point. The silhouette of the domes -- which draw rock climbers from around the world -- was a nice element yet I wanted something stronger than just meadow grass in the foreground. While scouting earlier in the day, I discovered this ideal bend in Budd Creek and knew that it would add the finishing touch if the sunset materialized. Water is always a nice element in any mountain scene and leading lines are a sure-fire way to add drama to a composition. When magic hour arrived later that evening, the dynamic range was too strong without resorting to exposure balancing with my ND Grads or waiting to use some other post-processing techniques. As usual, I went to my ND Grads to help me capture the perfect exposure in the camera -- before I ever saw this scene on my computer screen.
"The Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo is the other filter that spends more time in front of my lenses than any other. This 'combo' polarizer and color intensifier does a wonderful job of blocking reflections, increasing color saturation, and giving the greens and earth tones found in nature a subtle boost. I find it does a great job of simulating Fuji Velvia, which was my favorite color film in years past. With the ColorCombo, however, there's no need for extensive adjustments in Lightroom or Photoshop.
"The image above was made one magical evening at Canyon de Chelly National Monument on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. Though not so much an alpine scene, it is a great example of the ColorCombo and ND Grad in use. The day had been overcast and, which is fine for capturing the classic cliff dwellings that line the canyon walls; but it didn't look promising for a sunset view from the rim. Still, as I drove to the Spider Rock overlook, I had a hunch that if the sky opened up just a bit on the horizon great things could happen. Amazed to be sharing this popular spot with only two other tourists, I set up my shot and waited.
"The sunset arrived just a few minutes after I set up, and lasted for only a few more minutes. In that brief moment, I witnessed one of the most incredible sunsets I've ever seen. With my ColorCombo polarizer mounted on my 17mm and hand-holding a 3-stop ND Grad, I was able to emphasize the intense colors in the clouds and bring out the detail in the canyon below to perfectly capture what I saw and experienced that evening. Singh-Ray offers many excellent filters, but these two are indispensible. They help me create more dynamic images and save considerable time at the computer.
"Mount Whitney is the highest point in the contiguous United States and the most popular destination in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I made this image (which also appears cropped on the April 2013 cover of Outdoor Photographer) in the Alabama Hills just outside the town of Lone Pine.
"On this particular morning all the elements came together. A clearing storm had just left a fresh dusting of snow on the peak, and the dawn light illuminated the warm desert rocks of the Alabama Hills to add a nice framing to this classic alpine scene. The LB ColorCombo on my 70-200mm lens gave me just the contrast boost and color saturation I needed to preserve the moment as the shadows from the clouds to the east danced across the face of the peak.
"These days with Lightroom presets and exposure blending or HDR, it's 'easy' to use a shotgun approach to capturing images in the field with the intent of pulling them together later in post-production. For me, the preferred method is to get it right in camera and minimize the time spent in front of the computer. Filters always have been an integral part of my technique because they allow me to balance the light and control the dynamic range at the time of capture. This not only saves me hours at the computer later, but more importantly it allows me to see the results in the field when I'm still connected with the scene. I prefer to know that what I've created truly expresses my vision."
You can see more of Russ's work and adventures via his various websites, portfolios, and social media presences. Check them out at the links below.
RussBishop.com | Blog | Facebook | Google+ | 500px | Twitter | Linked In | Photoshelter
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Veteran outdoor photographer Cole Thompson tells us that, "since my last post, I have been on a number of trips and thought I'd share some images from them. Each of these long exposure images has something in common, the Singh-Ray Vari-ND and the Mor-Slo 5-Stop ND Filter.
John Holland Memorial - Convict Lake, California
"I was in the Sierras to attend the memorial of an old friend and mentor when I created this image.
"John was on my mind as I spent several days reminiscing about our times together and missing him. He loved the Sierras and this is where he wanted his earthly ashes to spend eternity. I loved him and wanted to create an image to honor him and to remind me of him for the rest of my life. This is that image.
"When I create an image, I do not plan it, but rather 'see' it in my mind through my vision, and from there my challenge is to recreate that vision on paper. I envisioned this scene as very dark with movement in the skies.
"There are certain things I cannot control when creating an image, and clouds are one of them. I took a number of exposures here because the clouds just didn’t look right at exposures of 30 and 60 seconds. Because the clouds were moving so slowly, I needed a 4-minute exposure to create the feel I wanted. And to obtain such a long exposure in bright sunlight, I used a Vari-ND and ten stops of fixed ND filters.
"While creating this image, two girls played in the water in front of the rocks. But because the exposure was so long, their appearance never registered and it was as though they were never there.
Monolith No. 52 - Bandon, Oregon
"Each autumn I photograph the 'Monoliths' at Bandon Beach on the Oregon coast. I've been working on this series for several years now and have photographed these Monoliths in every season, weather, light, angle and time of day, and yet I always come home with something new.
"That's the beauty of the creative process, there is always something new, even at a location I've photographed many times. There are so many variables, and I never know how one will change and trigger a new vision of a familiar subject.
"I used a 30-second exposure to highlight and isolate this Monolith, and it also simplified the image by smoothing out the details in the water and sky. In this image the effect of the long exposure is very subtle. In the majority of the situations I encounter, a 30-second exposure is sufficient to provide the look I'm after.
Resting - Kahaualea, Hawaii
"Sometimes the effect of the long exposure is not even noticeable as in this image. A fast exposure captured the ripples in the water and I found this distracting. I fixed this by using an 8-second exposure which smoothed out the water and simplified the image.
"The photographer does not always need to create an obvious long exposure look in order to improve and strengthen the image.
Pigeon Point Light House - California Coast
"When I came across this light house I almost dismissed it because it was such a very traditional black and white scene that had probably been photographed by every photographer who had ever passed this way. But it was such a beautiful scene that I wanted to try to put my touch on it and make it just a little unique.
"The wispy clouds in the sky were what caught my attention. I envisioned the final image with the water and sky tied together by a similar look. I tried dozens of different exposures from a few seconds to several minutes, with each exposure creating a very different look. Because the water and sky were constantly changing, I could sometimes get the sky just right but not the water, and vise versa.
"Finally I got the look I was after with this 100-second exposure.
Dunes of Nude No. 58 - Death Valley, CA
"This image is from my series 'The Dunes of Nude' which is my interpretation of sand dunes. Normally I get very close to the dunes and photograph them in a very intimate and almost abstract way, but in this image I took a much wider view. Like the Pigeon Point image above, I wanted to tie the sky to the foreground by making the clouds look like sand dunes in the sky.
Ancient Stones No. 12 - Joshua Tree, California
"This new addition to my 'Ancient Stones' portfolio was created in Joshua Tree. I want to emphasize the permanence of these stones and the movement in the clouds is a subtle way of doing that.
"A key to my work is being able to move quickly; to be able to compose quickly and to adjust my exposures quickly. If I cannot do that, conditions change and I miss the shot.
"That is the primary advantage of the Vari-ND filter over fixed filters. I can open up the filter to quickly change my composition and can quickly adjust from a 30-second to a 120-second exposure. The Vari-ND is one of my most important tools."
In May, Cole will be presenting an exhibition of his 'The Ghosts of Auschwitz-Birkenau' portfolio in Split, Croatia at FotoKlub Split. You can check his website, blog, and social media for more news and information.
ColeThompsonPhotography.com | Blog | Facebook | Google+