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

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Graduated ND Filters make life easier for Marc Adamus

Upon seeing his dramatic landscapes in a number of publications, we invited outdoor photographer Marc Adamus to send along a few examples of his success with Singh-Ray ND Grads. While these images and captions clearly speak for themselves, we found it noteworthy that Marc regards his graduated ND filters as a way to "make my life easier.

"I enjoy working in the field as much as possible," says Marc, "instead of spending costly hours blending multiple images in Photoshop. More often than not, I use Singh-Ray Graduated ND filters to control each exposure in the field—striving to create a balanced exposure and natural look in the original image. I am often required to control the exposure during a very few fleeting seconds of light that I'm trying to capture."

Ocean's Fury:
One night a few years back, I made this image of waves crashing along the headlands of Oregon's central coast. As the sun set, it cast a warm light on the huge waves impacting the rocky shore. The challenge was to control a very bright horizon to my right while maintaining detail in the rocks on my left. The solution was to place a Singh-Ray 2-stop soft-step ND grad diagonally across my lens with the darkest portion covering the western horizon. In addition to being time consuming, attempting to blend multiple exposures in Photoshop would not have worked well in this case because of the rapidly changing action of the crashing waves. The Singh-Ray grad preserved all the color and detail throughout the image. (Canon EOS 3 with Tamron 24-135 lens, Velvia 50)

Magic Mountain:
This past summer, I visited one of my favorite locations in Rainier National Park overlooking the White River. When I arrived an hour before dawn, the sky was mostly cloudy and fog rolled in and out. I was about to pack it up when I noticed a small clearing developing in the east and, before I knew it, the first light was hitting the face of the peak with striking intensity. Almost everything else in the landscape was still in deep shadow. I knew the enormous exposure range would be difficult to capture accurately, but fortunately I had my Singh-Ray grads to work with. I hand-held both a Galen Rowell 2-stop, hard-step and a 2-stop, soft-step grad—sandwiched together—and moved them over the illuminated peak and then up and down slightly in front of my lens during a four-second exposure. I was able to retain a natural exposure with very little computer work required. (Canon 5D with 17-40 f-4L lens)

Crater Lake:
Two winters ago, I made a five-day trek on snowshoes around the rim of Oregon's Crater Lake following a massive storm cycle that dumped over 100 inches of new snow. I was scouting for an image that would capture the vastness of this magnificent landscape. I came upon this scene and set up my campsite nearby, knowing that the best light would likely come at dawn. Next morning, in frigid temperatures, I made my way to the rim at first light where I was greeted by a fantastic sunrise. I wanted to retain all the details of the landscape in the shadowed slopes facing me and the beautiful pastel luminescence in the immediate foreground, while also controlling the highlights. I chose a Singh-Ray 2-top reverse graduated ND grad that allowed me to keep the highlights in check while accurately recording the lower light levels on the slopes just below. (Canon 5D with 17-40 f-4L lens)

Look for more of Marc's work on his website,

A fishing crocodile? VARI-ND helps tell the story

When visiting the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania recently, Bob Krist came upon this wily croc lying stock still in the Grumeti River beneath a set of rapids.

As Bob explains it, "With his mouth open to allow the rushing water to filter through his jaws, the croc waited patiently for the fish to swim right in. It was mid-afternoon on an overcast day, but still too bright to pull off what I wanted to do. So I put the Vari-ND on my 80-400mm f4-5.6 AF VR lens and steadied my Nikon D200 into a beanbag on the roof of the Landrover. This allowed me to get down to about 1/15 of a second at f16 and shoot a series of long exposures to create the moving water effect."

In his Photo Traveler column in the July 2007 issue of Outdoor Photographer, Bob calls this crocodile image "one of my favorite shots of the whole trip." We can see why.