Thursday, August 16, 2007

Protecting your lens and all its sharpness

When travelling around the globe, National Geographic photographer Nevada Wier is always prepared for whatever comes. To capture these two images, for example, she had to adjust quickly.

"It was high noon in tropical Myanmar," Nevada explains, "as I went inside the deep, cool shade of a monastery nestled in the hills of Maurk-U. There were a number of monks chanting on wooden benches. Another monk was meditating under a mosquito net. Although it was blazing sun outside, inside it was dim verging on dark, with the only light coming from a side window covered with yellow and red fabric.

"I did not have a tripod with me but that was not a big concern. I find that when I photograph without a tripod I am more willing to try creative angles. However, in low light it is a challenge to get a tack sharp image. I upped the ISO to 800 (as far as I will go on my Canon 1Ds Mark II) and shot at 1/15 sec at f/5.6. I can easily hand hold at 1/15 sec, but I still took consecutive frames to maximize the possibility of having a sharp image. I photographed the meditating monk from as many angles as I could because I knew this was a special scene. When I was back home editing the images, I realized that combining these two images would make a powerful diptych. And they both displayed the sharpness required." (see an extra-large version of the diptych)

As Nevada explains, "I travel in difficult climates through rugged terrain. There is every possibility of knocking my lenses into something. So I count on Singh-Ray Hi-Lux UV filters to protect each of my lenses and provide the greatest optical quality and image sharpness possible."

About the only time Nevada removes the Hi-Lux from her lens is when using her Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer or Vari-ND filters. You'll find her "sea gypsies" photo featured in Singh-Ray's LB Warming Polarizer ad in the September 2007 issue of Outdoor Photographer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Grinnel Point. . .two ways to look at it

Fresh from conducting his F/8 and Be There Workshop in Glacier National Park, Steve Kossack sends this pair of images of Grinnel Point reflected in the chilly waters of Swiftcurrent Lake.

"It's all about the light," says Steve. "These two images of Grinnel Point are twins but not identical twins. (Click images to enlarge.) Made at the same place the same morning—but obviously not in the same light. Within only a few minutes, the rising sun and diminishing breeze changed everything from my choice of camera position to the filters needed.

"Hoping to tell the story of this magnificent lake and peak, I ran into some problems. Pre-dawn weather had light winds with choppy water, and the foreground was very dark and bleak. In situations like this, I often put away the photo gear and just enjoy the early morning peace and quiet.

"Daybreak suddenly urged me to do 'something.' I first set up the composition to include the wildflowers at my feet, but the wind was blowing them fiercely. I moved a few feet further along the shore where some taller wildflowers would better serve as my foreground. To help the flowers stand out, I reached for my Singh-Ray LB Color Intensifier. With a filter factor of only 2/3 of an f-stop, the Color Intensifier provided a touch more color with virtually no sacrifice in shutter speed. As the breeze came and went, I made quite a few exposures to get the final image.

"As the sun rose, the breeze stopped more frequently so I went back to my earlier camera position. Not only were the wildflowers holding still, but now the full morning sunlight illuminated Grinnel Point. I knew the brilliant peak was no problem, but to show more detail in the flowers and rocks, I got lower and closer, slowed my shutter speed and selected the Singh-Ray ColorCombo which added color contrast and cut some of the glare. The slower exposure helped smooth the reflections in the water.

"To hold the detail in the sunlit peak, I stacked my 2-stop soft-step and 3-stop hard-step Graduated ND filters. These are 4 x 6-inch size filters that I can easily handhold and move during the exposure. Again, I made a series of images."

As for which of these two images is better, Steve looks it at both ways. "I like the subtle one for its detail and the sunlit one for the 'cosmic statement' it seems to make. Both images are a lasting record of the great fun I had making them. I also have a few new ideas on framing this scene that we'll try during next year's Glacier Park workshop."

For further insight, be sure to stop by Steve's website and read his essay, The Mind's Eye, in the August notes-from-the-field section.