Friday, June 15, 2007

A lovely lesson in color and mood

"The Great Smoky Mountain range is a classic source for photo images. There are potentially exciting photos in every direction throughout the day--in any season," says Steve Kossack. "But It also helps when you have the right tools with you."

In May. while scouting the territory for his Smoky Mountain fall-color workshop, Steve paused along the Blue Ridge Parkway as the first low cross-light of the afternoon appeared. "After first capturing an unfiltered wide view (inset), mostly for an exposure reading, I closed in on the foreground trees and the growing intensity of the light. Narrowing the field of view brought out the detail of the trees but made the washed out sky more prominent. So I went to my toolbox.

"To fix the sky, I chose the Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad since the middle of the frame was some 5 stops brighter than my foreground. This not only helped hold back the direct sunlight in the trees, but brought needed detail to the clouds as well. This helped keep detail in the sunlit trees but the color was more muted now. By adding the LB Color Intensifier, I got the needed boost in color.

"Now I was visualizing the serene mood I wanted to complement the technically brighter image, so I called on the Soft-Ray Diffusion Filter. The Soft-Ray is more than a diffusion filter and is at its best with direct sunlight in the image. To slow my exposure time a bit to blur the movement of the clouds, I exchanged the Color Intensifier for the LB Color Combo which provided both the color boost of the intensifier and the added density of the polarizer.

"The slower shutter speed also allowed me to move the hand-held 4X6-inch Reverse ND Grad during the exposure to hide the uneven horizon line. This 'filter dodging' is a technique I use more and more often with the 4X6 Grads. To furthur darken the clouds in the upper-right corner, I added a 2-stop soft step to my hand-held stack to give me the final frame." (below)

Steve calls this a process of "the mind sees it and the tools make it happen. The image is one of my favorites from the entire scouting trip and almost as fulfilling as the fun and joy I experienced creating the completed image in the field!"

For more about Steve's Glacier Park workshop in July and Smoky Mountain workshop in October, plus his instructive and inspiring series of DVDs, you can visit

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