Friday, November 02, 2007

Capture better macrophotos by polarizing both your lens and flash

Edwin Brosens lives in Sprundel in the Netherlands. "From childhood," says Edwin, "I have been fascinated by ants, butterflies, and all the small wonders that comprise so much of our natural world. I am mostly self-taught as a photographer. In fact, my interest began when I read a book on macrophotography, and that has been my main interest up to now. Some time ago, I discovered the technique of cross polarized lighting when I read Ansel Adams' book, The Negative, and realized how helpful it could be for my close-up and macro photography."

"One of the greatest challenges with macro photography is avoiding washed-out, overexposed highlights--like wet leaves and rocks, shiny bugs, and those tiny, bright reflections of all kinds that result in excessive highlights when using a flash to fill the shadows. Unless we control those reflections by cross-polarizing the light emitted from the flash onto the subject and the light that's reflected back from the subject through the Polarizer and lens, the results can be very disappointing. The pair of photos of the red leaf (above) clearly illustrates the benefits of this cross-polarized-flash technique. The pair of photos of green lichen (below) also reveals the surprising difference you can achieve this way.

"Setting up to use my flash is a simple matter," says Edwin. "I tape a small sheet of polarizing film over the lens of my electronic flash unit. (Sheet polarizing film is available here). Then I add my Singh-Ray Polarizer on my 90mm/f-2.8 macro-lens and head for the fields. After locating my subject, I mount my Minolta D7 camera on a tripod, frame the subject and turn the polarization filter until the reflection on the subject that I see in the viewfinder is minimized. Next I set the flash focal length at 50mm (to limit its beam) and compensate the power level as needed. Then I hold the flash unit at a 90-degree angle to the plane of the polarizer on my lens for the maximum effect. I bracket my exposures by 1/3 of an f-stop while making several images and select the best shot."

Determining the best angle for holding the flash unit in relation to the polarizer requires a little "trial and error" effort. Just remember that the polarization plane of the film must "cross" the polarization plane of the filter at a 90-degree angle for the greatest effect. Those using digital cameras, however, should have little or no trouble finding the best angle. And be sure to focus manually.

You can check out Edwin's earlier post and see more of his macro and landscape work at his website,

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Argentine photo adventure included an early surprise... Banditos!

Freelance nature photographer Ethan Meleg from Ontario, Canada, encountered more adventure than expected on his most recent expedition.

"I've just returned from a rather eventful trip to Argentina," explains Ethan. "On the second day there, while in Beunos Aires, our car was stopped by armed bandits who robbed us at gunpoint. We were shaken, but obviously relieved that they didn't kill us. They did however get away with a lot of my camera gear.

"The prospect of being stuck without a camera in such a spectacularly beautiful country left me just a bit deflated," says Ethan. "So I tracked down a camera store in a neighbouring country and was able to buy a Canon EOS Rebel XTi and some other basic gear to supplement the Canon lenses and equipment I had left. I've never been so happy and relieved to have a camera in my hand than at that moment -- it quickly salvaged my mood and the rest of the trip was wonderful.

"Happily," adds Ethan, "I still had most of my Singh-Ray filters, which helped me capture these scenes and many others in beautiful northwestern Argentina. The image above shows the impressive grandeur of the Andes Mountains and the Quebrada de Cafayate in the foreground. It was taken with my "new" Canon Rebel XTi and EF 70-200mm/2.8 lens using my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer and a 4x6" ND grad (handheld). The second image was taken on the road to Cachi with an EF 18-55 lens and Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer. What a trip!"

We'll be waiting to see more images from Ethan's Argentine adventure -- both here and on his own nature photography blog that you'll enjoy visiting.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Early morning news: top-notch nature photographer shares secret to success

Here's an unedited note from Rod Barbee, very serious outdoor photographer and frequent contributor to that magazine of the same name -- Outdoor Photographer:

Like any nature photographer who’s been around awhile, I have my share of colorful sunrise shots. While displaying my work at galleries or art shows, people often come up and ask what filter I’ve used to get such amazing color. I lean in conspiratorially, glance side to side, and in a low voice I tell them: “It’s a very special filter... it’s called an alarm clock.”

As nature photographers, we’re used to seeing great light and, what are to some, unnatural colors. We’ve seen the glow of Mesa Arch at sunrise. We’ve seen the color of a pre-dawn sky. And while certainly spectacular, these are also perfectly natural. But to see and photograph these scenes you have to drag yourself out of bed at insane-o’clock. And most people, being smarter than photographers, are still abed at that hour and thus rarely see what we get to see.

Nature’s light is hard to beat, and truthfully, I often don’t need to use any filters at all to capture it. But there are plenty of situations where the range of light in a scene outdoes the ability of film or digital sensor to record it. That’s when I pull out a Graduated Neutral Density Filter. These filters certainly can’t create great light, but they do allow your camera to faithfully record it.

I’m another of those photographers who prefer to hand hold my grads. It’s faster, easier, and I can be more accurate with placement. I usually use the P-sized grads but I find that when using my ultra-wide 12-24mm zoom, the larger 4x6 inch Singh-Ray filters are the best option for keeping my fat fingers out of the picture. To help place the filter, I use my camera’s depth of field preview button. It’s the best way I know to place the transition precisely where I need it.

So I’ve got one hand holding the filter and one hand pressing the DOF preview button. How, you might ask, do I then trip the shutter? It’s easy, I use my tongue to trip my cable release. Seriously. It may not be dignified, but it works, and nobody will be asking to borrow my cable release any time soon.

Thanks for the tip, Rod. Maybe Singh-Ray should start selling alarm clocks now, too. To see more of Rod's work and subscribe to his free newsletter, stop by

Monday, October 29, 2007

This photographer is dedicated to his art and helping kids battle cancer

As a fine art landscape photographer, Californian Mahesh Rao and his wife Asha have traveled to some of the most beautiful places in North America, Europe and Asia. "In my photography," says Mahesh, "I try to capture the essence of nature in its boldest and grandest form. For some subjects (above), I look for the most dramatic lighting possible, and for others I prefer the softer "afterglow" at dusk (below)."

Mahesh says he's been using Singh-Ray Filters for quite some time. All three of these images were taken with Galen Rowell Graduated Neutral Density filters. "Being a purist, I believe in capturing the photos the right way the first time, as opposed to using my computer to manipulate the images once they're taken. I especially enjoy visiting the National Parks during the winter when the photographic opportunities are often better and the parks are much less crowded."

When you visit his website ( you'll not only see a rich variety of impressive landscapes, you'll also see that Mahesh dedicates all the profits from the sale of his prints to support the battle against pediatric cancer through the American Cancer Society. That's dedication.