Friday, November 09, 2007

There's more than one way to use your graduated ND filters

Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, landscape and wildlife photographer Rick Walker enjoys leading photo workshops and producing his popular podcast program, The Image Doctors. While he's versed in using the various Singh-Ray Filters in his bag, Rick sent these images to help illustrate some of the clever ways he uses his Singh-Ray Graduated Neutral Density Filters. We'll let Rick briefly describe how each of these images was captured:

Photo 1 -- "This coastal scene was taken on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. As with most outdoor scenes involving interesting light, the contrast range was high. I almost instinctivly reached for my most-used Singh-Ray ND grad filter, the 3-stop hard-edge, to balance the range of light between the shadows and the sky and to draw out the great colors in the tidal zone." (Nikon D2X with 17-55mm lens.)

Photo 2 -- "Capitol Reef is an under-appreciated National Park in Utah with gorgeous scenery and geological distinction; the combination makes it a great photographic destination. This photo was taken using a Singh-Ray 3-stop hard-edge ND grad filter with my Nikon D2X and 17-55mm lens."

Photo 3 -- "Some natural lighting situations are very contrasty and require extreme filtering to get natural looking results. In the case of this dune field in Death Valley National Park, I stacked a Singh-Ray 2-soft-edge and a 3-stop soft-edge ND grad filter in tandem to get a total of 5 f-stops of gradient filtration. Interestingly, I positioned the dark gradient areas of the filter pack on the bottom of the frame rather than the top to control the very bright foreground. Valuable lesson: Singh-Ray ND grads don't always have to be used with the dark sides up! " (Nikon D100 with 17-35mm lens.)

Photo 4 -- "This shot of the coastline near Redwood National Park illustrates the value of the Singh-Ray 1-stop hard-edge ND grad filter. In situations such as this, where the scene is evenly lit by a late afternoon sun, the 1-stop ND grad filter can subtly enhance tones and colors in the sky without looking unnatural. I find one-stop filters particularly useful when shooting film, although I also use them frequently for digital images, too. ND grad filters can be a great way to darken and enhance a sky with wide angle lenses since they don't produce an uneven exposure over the wide expanse of sky. This scene was photographed with my Pentax 645n, using Fuji Velvia 50 and a 45-85mm lens."

Photo 5 -- "A single ND grad filter isn't always sufficient, and when shooting a scene that has both a brilliant sky, as well as a bright reflection, I've found that sandwiching two grads in opposite orientations works well. In this photo taken in the Grand Tetons at sunrise, a Singh-Ray 3-stop hard-edge ND Grad was placed over the sky, and an inverted 2-stop soft-edge ND Grad was used to hold back the reflection in the water, leaving the trees in the middle unfiltered. In addition, a Singh-Ray Polarizer was used to remove glare from the surface of the water to further enhance the quality of the reflection." (Nikon D2X with 17-55mm lens.)

Rick also mentions that he is in the process of making more and more use of the larger Singh-Ray 4x6 ND grads -- in place of his Cokin P-size grads -- for quicker, easier use while handholding, especially with wide angle lenses. Those of you interested in knowing more about Rick's podcast programs can go to: -- an iPod is not required to listen to the programs; any computer or device that can play MP3 files will work. His website is

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

To better control those wild water scenes, turn your polarizer to "saturate"

Joseph Rossbach is a professional outdoor photographer based on the East Coast in Maryland. "I now conduct photo workshops in West Virginia, New England and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and I currently use a set of the Galen Rowell Graduated ND Filters that includes the 1, 2, and 3-stop soft and hard-step gradients, as well as the Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer," says Joe. "The ND Grads really help me control, modify and enhance the light -- especially when there's a bright sky in the picture -- but I'm sending these two images because I wanted to talk about the importance of the LB Warming Polarizer whenever there's water flowing in the scene.

"These images were made this fall along Shays Run in Blackwater Falls State Park in the mountains of West Virginia," says Joe. "I would say I use my LB Warming Polarizer at least 95% of the time when I shoot water scenes. It not only helps remove unwanted glare from wet rocks and foliage, but it also adds a bit more density which helps slow my exposure times to give the rushing water that soft 'cotton-candy' appearance. What's more, the polarizer's slight warming factor strengthens the warm colors and saturates my images -- giving them a little extra pop.

"As I was shooting the scene in the top photo, the small section of swirling leaves below this waterfall really caught my attention. Using a 17-35mm lens on my Nikon D200 provided a wide view of the scene with both the swirl of floating leaves and waterfall in the same composition. Using the Singh-Ray Warming Polarizer and a 2-stop solid ND filter resulted in an exposure of 30 seconds at f-22 which really allowed the slowly moving leaves in the whirlpool to blur out, creating just a bit of added drama.

"For the waterfall image, I used the LB Warming Polarizer on my 35-70mm lens to reduce the intense glare coming off the wet rocks and leaves, thereby producing a richer, more saturated image."

You can find a very helpful article written by Joe Rossbach on "Photographing Wild Water" in the November issue of Nature Photographers Online Magazine. It features several more of his photographs. In 2008, Joe will be leading workshops in the Mountains of West Virginia, New England and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and teaching classes at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna Virginia. And be sure to visit Joe's website to see more of his work.

Monday, November 05, 2007

F 2.8/300mm tele plus drop-in Gold-N-Blue work a little magic in the rain

Photographer Steve Kossack sent this story to us from his Arizona home following his latest Fall Workshop in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

"During the six days our group spent in the park," says Steve, "we had two days of rain. That's not too bad, but on this day -- our last chance at a Smoky Mountain sunset -- it never quit raining, at least not for long! At this point, as we all sat waiting impatiently in our vehicles, we agreed our workshop's success was already assured -- even if we did not fire another frame. Before this trip began, I was concerned that the severe drought in that area would cause the leaves to drop from the trees before they turned color. During our first several days in the park, however, we were nearly blinded by dramatic fall colors.

"As we sat gazing out at this rain, we saw virtually no color at all. We thought we were more likely to witness this sunset on our wrist watches than through our viewfinders. So what else could we do?

Each time I got out to make an image, I was attracted to a constantly moving cloud study in my viewfinder. With little prevailing light to work with, I went to my beloved Canon 300mm 2.8L IS lens to frame what seemed to be a nice composition. Using this f-2.8 tele wide open with a fast shutter speed worked well with the quickly moving clouds. I shot dozens of frames between the squalls of rain and then quickly jumped back into the vehicle, leaving only the tripod out in the rain.

"When I thought more about what I might do with the scene, I realized the little bit of color I was seeing was flat. I was concentrating mostly on the light areas in the sky -- light areas of reflected light -- the thought came quickly. LIGHT! … MUTED REFLECTED LIGHT!! That’s long been my recipe for the Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer!

"Some time ago, I became frustrated because I could not use any filter other than the standard Canon 52mm drop-in polarizer with my Canon 300 2.8 and 500 f/4 lenses. I was forced to change to shorter lenses in order to use any of my favorite Singh-Ray filters. I solved this dilemma by having Singh-Ray install a Gold-N-Blue Polarizer in my Canon drop-in polarizing holder. The rest of this story is, and was, easy to read in the results. Compare my two "rain frames" made seconds apart -- with my Gold-N-Blue (at top) and without it. Maybe my Gold-N-Blue drop-in filter did not make this a super-great shot, but I feel it certainly produced a much improved and more interesting image of a very wet Smoky Mountain sunset."

Be sure to look at more of Steve's recent Smoky Mountain images on his website,

To upgrade your drop-in polarizer, you'll need to ship the drop-in polarizer that fits your lens to Singh-Ray along with payment for the LB Warming Polarizer glass plus $50 custom mounting fee ($260 + shipping). This service is also available for our Gold-N-Blue Polarizer ($240 + shipping). For more information, call Singh-Ray at 863-993-4100.