Thursday, August 23, 2007

You're never too young to
use filters like a pro! Part 1

The Summer issue of Nature's Best Photography magazine is the "For Kids, By Kids" issue. It showcases the talents of nature photographers under 21 years of age, including Jackson Echols, age 20, who is currently a Graphic Design student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Among his impressive images was the one shown below, which was made with the Singh-Ray LB Color Intensifier while Jackson was on a NANPA sponsored expedition to the Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs.

"The group arrived before daybreak to set up our cameras for the quickly approaching sunrise," Jackson recalls. "Stumbling around in the twilight darkness, occasionally looking through the viewfinder and hoping to find a pleasing composition, we searched for the best set-up locations to shoot the upcoming sunrise.

"The spot I chose caught my eye because of its potential for a dramatic wide-angle landscape photograph. I knew before I even found the shooting location what I wanted my image to look like. Walking along a line perpendicular to the rising sun, I was able to be sure that my scene would be bathed in the sidelight of the soft morning light--enabling me to show the craggy rocks with a depth and dimension that would not be possible with frontlight.

"Finally, I found my composition. A gnarled tree trunk with a spiky limb seemed to point directly at the rock towers and the hills sloped gently down to the broader landscape. As the sun rose over the horizon to my left, I set up my Canon 5D with my Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L wideangle zoom angled to emphasize the foreground tree trunk. Just minutes after the sun rose over the far horizon, I could see that I needed my graduated filters to hold detail in both the highlights of the sky and the shadowed foreground. After placing my Singh-Ray LB Color Intensifier on the lens to add a bit of color contrast to the scene, I placed a Singh-Ray 3-stop soft-step Neutral Density Grad over the lens, securing it with gaffer tape. The soft edge of the gradation allowed me to subtly keep the highlights on the horizon from blowing out while still producing an image that appears unadulterated.

"The final image clocked in as a 6-second exposure at f/22 at ISO 100 and a focal length of 20mm. The slow shutter speed allowed the fast-moving morning clouds to blur a bit, providing a nice contrast to the hardness of the landscape below."

In addition to pursuing his college degree, 20-year-old Jackson has been participating in regional and national fine art shows to help support his growing photography business. "As long as I can continue traveling and documenting the incredible beauty of the world around me," Jackson says, "I know I'll be happy."

You can find more of his work online at

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