Friday, August 03, 2007

Fifteen minutes in the life of
some well-fed gulls

While in Newfoundland and Labrador photographing icebergs this summer, Daryl Benson came upon this stretch of beach known as Spillars Cove on Newfoundland's Cape Bonavista.

"Also visiting the shores of Newfoundland that same day," says Daryl, "were millions of capelins—small sardine-like fish that "roll in" to spawn and then die on shore. Their well-spent bodies provide a brief bounty for everyone from humpback whales to sea gulls to many local frying pans.

"This image is an extremely long exposure at mid-day made possible by using both a Singh-Ray Vari-ND Filter and a Gold-N-Blue Color Polarizer. The combination of those two filters made it possible to get a 15-minute exposure at f-22 in the middle of a sunny day. As the surf roared and poured over the rocks during that time, it was recorded by my Canon 1Ds Mark II and 100-400mm lens as a smooth milky wash of mist."

One thing about this image surprised Daryl when he got back home and enlarged his files. "I couldn't believe how motionless many of the gulls were—sitting on those rocks for that entire 15-minute exposure. Fat and content with bellies full of capelin, they remained unmoved by the pounding surf and passage of time. (See detail below)

"My flight home to Alberta the next day was probably well timed. There's another annual event that occurs in Newfoundland a day or so after thousands and thousands of gulls have gorged on capelin."

By the way, if you're intrigued by the visual effects made possible by extremely long exposures, don't miss Daryl's feature article and photos on the topic in the August "Landscape Issue" of Outdoor Photographer.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Getting "what you see" with the Gold-N-Blue

A while ago in the Nature Photographers Online Magazine, Darwin Wiggett shared his enthusiasm for the Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer and offered some very useful comments. After referring many digital SLR photographers to Darwin's story, Fields of Gold (or was that blue?), we requested permission to pass along parts of it here for all those using, or planning to use, a Gold-N-Blue Polarizer.

"With slide film," says Darwin, "Gold-N-Blue Polarizers are easy to use. They are 'what you see is what you get filters.' Just spin them around until you see something you like and then snap away—what you see through the lens is what you get on film."

To illustrate this point, Darwin first shows us this set of three images shot on film. At left is a scene of Emerald Lake in Canada's Yoho National Park shot with just a Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer.
The next two versions of the same scene are taken with the Gold-N-Blue to give blue accents (left) and gold accents (right). As Darwin points out, "Slide film really likes the Gold-N-Blue Polarizer."

"With digital cameras," Darwin cautions, "things are different. First, if you try to use 'auto white balance' on your camera with these polarizers, the camera will freak out. It simply does not know how to color correct a blue and gold cast in an image simultaneously! It is best to shoot using 'daylight' white balance when shooting with the Gold-N-Blue... even then, what you see on your preview screen will not look like what you saw through the viewfinder. Usually the preview image will look very magenta or orange. Not to worry, though. There is a way to get the Gold-N-Blue images to look like they did through the viewfinder.

"Here's how I do it. I shoot RAW capture and have my default white balance set to 'daylight.' In my RAW processor (I use Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), I simply take the gray eyedropper and click on anything in the photo I want to be neutral (e.g. white snow, white clouds, black shadows, gray sky or gray rocks). I try several spots until I get colors similar to those I saw in the viewfinder. Then I let ACR do its magic. Often the color temperature in the ACR-corrected image is in the 2500 to 3200 K range and the 'tint' is shifted to -25 to -60."

Darwin shows us a RAW capture of a mountain scene (left) shot with the Gold-N-Blue Polarizer rotated to give gold reflections. "It looks nasty," admits Darwin. "This is why digital photographers using the Gold-N-Blue often flip out! With ACR, I simply use the gray eyedropper on one of the foreground rocks to get the colors back to where they needed to be to give me an image similar to what I saw at the time of shooting. I also did a little local lightening (to the foreground) and darkening (to the sky and peaks) using Photoshop to give a more even exposure to the scene." It's easy to compare the two photos.

To further illustrate the simple ACR gray eyedropper technique, Darwin presents another pair of before and after examples taken with his trusty Gold-N-Blue Polarizer.

To read Darwin's article in its entirety, visit Nature Photographers Online Magazine.

Editor's note: By setting a "Custom White Balance" in the field with the Gold-N-Blue in place on the lens, virtually all digital SLR cameras can compensate for the magenta tint and display a correct image on the LCD. The color temperature and tint settings on the RAW file will be similar to what Darwin describes here, and should require minimal correction. Refer to your camera's manual for specific instructions on setting a Custom White Balance.