Friday, August 31, 2007

See how Craig Tanner and his Gold-N-Blue Polarizer rose to the occasion

Among our favorite instructional photo blogs on the internet is Craig Tanner's Light Diary and this week we have been following his daily accounts of a recent 9-day advertising shoot for a real estate client. This is the first image Craig featured (on August 26, 2007) from a series of outdoor images he made during that shoot.

"This is my favorite image," says Craig. "It was shot with my Canon 1Ds Mark II and the 17-40mm f-4 lens plus a Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer and 3-stop hard-step Graduated Neutral Density filter. I dialed the ISO to 400 for an exposure of 1/30th of a second at f5.6. I captured this image on the last day at a location we kept returning to over and over again hoping to get a sky like the one you see here. During most of the shoot we had hazy weather which is not good for a job that's primarily a landscape shoot. Finally perseverance paid off.

"For this project," says Craig, "we brought with us a 34-foot Genie boom lift that elevated and moved me from one vantage point to another as I controlled my position from the basket. The basket can reach a vertical height of 34 feet or it can move up and out from the base. I shot from this location for about an hour as the morning sun was rising and the clouds moved across the horizon. I was constantly changing the position of the basket to get just the right composition. This shot was made as I positioned myself about 12 feet off the ground and hovering over the marsh about 15 feet straight out from the base of the lift. From my experience, the boom lift (which can be towed behind my vehicle) is a much better and safer way to shoot real estate property than flying machines...especially where you don't have any natural changes in elevation.

"I can't overemphasize the huge difference the Gold-N-Blue Polarizer made here--shooting into the light this late in the morning would have been impossible without the Gold-N-Blue and graduated ND filter. My client kept repeating 'I can't believe that is our property' over and over."

In addition to many more images you can see by visiting Craig's Light Diary blog, you will see another of his dramatic landscapes featured in the Singh-Ray Filters ad appearing in the October 2007 issue of Outdoor Photographer.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A new tool for infrared shooting

Infrared film photography is an art more than a science... it's difficult to handle the film, tricky to shoot and process, mistakes are expensive, and the results are often unpredictable.

Soon after digital photography made the scene, someone discovered that many of the consumer-level cameras were sensitive to infrared (IR) light, and could be used with infrared filters to make IR images, albeit at fairly low (about 2 MP) resolution. Then camera manufacturers decided the IR was interfering too much with the visible spectrum, so in 2002 they added "hot mirrors" to block most of the IR light from reaching the sensor. Using newer consumer cameras and digital SLRs, infrared photography is possible and can produce beautiful results, but requires long exposure times at high ISO or pricey camera modifications.

Lately, there has been a resurgence of interest in IR photography. We've had many customers ask what they can expect when trying to shoot digital IR with their D200 or 30D systems, only to be disappointed when informed it's not quite as simple as mounting an I-Ray filter on the camera and making the shot. In addition to long exposure times, the filter blocks all visible light, making it tricky to frame and focus your shots with the filter in place.

Enter the Fujifilm IS-1 9.0 MP, the first "prosumer" priced camera designed to shoot IR images by leaving the "hot mirror" out so the camera picks up the full spectrum of light from IR to visible to ultraviolet wavelengths. (Note: it is essentially the FujiFilm S9000 without the hot mirror, at more than twice the price.) The IS-1 has a "big brother," the Fuji FinePix S3 Pro UVIR Digital SLR intended for police forensic work at roughly twice the price, and not quite as user-friendly.

When combined with the Singh-Ray I-Ray Infrared Filter, the IS-1 makes it as easy to shoot IR as traditional images. And because the IS-1 viewfinder is electronic instead of optical, you can see exactly what your IR image will look like either in the viewfinder, or on the live-preview rear LCD screen.

The above image was made with the IS-1 hand held, 1/180 @ f2.8, ISO 200 in program mode, then it was desaturated and "auto contrast" was applied. The "normal" color image (bottom left below) was taken with an IR/UV "cut" filter in place of the I-Ray filter at the same settings, except the shutter speed was 1/430. The unfiltered image (top left below) demonstrates why including the full spectrum of visible, IR and UV isn't such a good idea. The IR image (upper right below) shows the magenta color common to unmodified digital IR shots (because the IR light is mainly detected by the camera's red sensors) which most photographers convert to B&W. Click the image below to see a larger set of images for comparison. (All images were shot at 9-megapixels but reduced for the web.)
While the IS-1 isn't perfect (shooting in Fuji RAW format creates significant shutter lag, lack of meaningful software support for Fuji RAW format, and an IR/UV cut filter is basically required for "normal" color photography), it is a huge step forward for those looking to do high-resolution digital IR photography without the obstacles of the more traditional film-based methods.

If any readers are shooting infrared with the Singh-Ray I-Ray filter, we'd be interested in hearing about your experience and seeing some examples. Click the "comment" link below, or send an e-mail to blog (at) singh-ray (dot) com

Monday, August 27, 2007

You're never too young to
use filters like a pro! Part 2

Today we're featuring another one of the young nature photographers featured in the Summer issue of Nature's Best Photography magazine (the "For Kids, By Kids" issue), 20-year-old Chris Kayler. Chris is pursuing a degree in Environmental Science at Northern Virginia Community College and taking his outdoor photography very seriously.

"In my spare time," says Chris, "I am out in the field photographing and enjoying nature. My appreciation for the natural world, along with a desire to show others its magic, led me to develop a love for photography."

We asked Chris to send these examples of how he uses his Singh-Ray Filters. "This first image was made before sunrise on the North Shore of Hawaii's Oahu Island," says Chris. "I was greeted by the sounds of crashing surf and the sight of the setting moon. To convey the almost magical feeling, I used a 3-1/2 minute exposure—blurring the water and showing the movement of the clouds. With the clouds moving quickly out of my viewfinder and the light constantly changing, taking two long-exposure images to combine later in Photoshop would have been quite impractical, By using the Singh-Ray 3-stop hard-step Graduated Neutral Density Filter, I captured the scene before it changed.

The second photo was taken in Chittenango Falls State Park, New York. "There are a variety of ways to photograph these picturesque cascades of Chittenango Falls," says Chris, "but on this day the sky was brightly overcast and featureless so I decided on a long-exposure.

"Using my Canon 20D and 70-200 f4 lens with an ISO of 100 and a 1.4X Teleconverter resulted in an exposure of 1/8 second at f22—not slow enough for my purpose.

"Enter the Singh-Ray 3-stop Neutral Density Filter. . .and now I was able to slow my shutter speed down to 1 full second and produce just the right amount of blur."

To see more of Chris's photography, visit his website chriskaylerphotography.com. We're pleased to see how this new generation of photographers understands the benefits that filters can offer, and how they can be used to get the image right "in camera" while out in the field.