Monday, February 25, 2008

Enjoying all the advantages of the Gold-N-Blue Polarizer

Award winning photographer Kevin McNeal feels fortunate to reside in Wahington State, "however, shooting anywhere in the Pacific Northwest often means coping with cloudy days and less than spectacular sunsets. For those times," says Kevin, "it's nice to have the Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer to give my images an added touch of color that can make an 'average" image 'pop' and turn lackluster sunsets into magical lightshows. The tricky part of using this filter successfully is to know how, when and where to use it without the effects becoming too garish. As long as I can shoot two identically composed images -- one with the Gold-N-Blue and one without -- and follow a few simple guidelines, I can really take full advantage of this filter.

"First, to avoid confusing your camera's digital processor, remember to always shoot in RAW mode when using this filter. Your first step in post processing will then be to manually adjust your white balance to match the original image your eye saw through the viewfinder.

"When this filter's central axis is positioned at a right angle to the sun's axis (that would be 90 degrees to either side or straight over-head), the Gold-N-Blue Polarizer adds rich color to the reflective (specular) highlights in an outdoor image creating either a strong blue or a yellow/gold while adding an overall warm glow. As you rotate the filter ring, much of the polarized light from the sky, water and glass surfaces will change from muted colors to a high-contrast mix of yellow and/or blues. Not everything in the image will be changed... trees, grass, rocks, people, white clouds retain their normal color. When I'm aiming my lens and Gold-N-Blue Polarizer directly into or away from the sun, the filter has no polarizing effect except around the edges.

"Whenever I'm using the Gold-N-Blue polarizer, it is essential to view the scene through the filter as I hand hold it to my eye. I can then gradually rotate it to find the effect that is both pleasing to me and at the same time natural to the scene. Before I put the filter on the camera lens, I will usually scout out the scene and try different compositions by walking around to compare the filter's effect at various angles to the sun's direction. It is important to slowly rotate the filter to match the colors of the gold in the filter to the warmer tones in the landscape. For example, I like to enhance the reflective highlights of the sun on the foreground with the filter’s gold portion. Foreground items that really stand out with this filter are wet sand, rocks and pebbles as well as the water. After this is done, I will make sure that the blue portion of the filter complements the image as well by matching it to the cool tones in the image. By visualizing what suits the gold and the blue parts of the image, I am already on my way to an eye-catching image. I try to avoid going too far; usually I choose to back off a bit from the maximum color effects.

"For the 'final' image seen at the top of this story, I used the Gold-N-Blue Polarizer with my 2-stop hard-step ND Grad to expose the shot seen at the left. I rotated the polarizer to have the gold polarization on the bottom to accentuate the sun’s reflective colors bouncing off the foreground rocks. I then took a second image also seen at left without the filter.

"When post processing the RAW image, I have one image that was taken with the Gold-N-Blue Polarizer and a second from the same position taken without the filter. To make the Gold-N-Blue effect less obvious, I merge the two in Photoshop creating separate layers. This allows me to control the filter’s effect. Also, by creating separate layers, I am able to apply a layer mask and selectively show or hide the parts that make the image more natural, allowing me to use the best of each layer. This helps me have stunning colors where they look natural to the viewer and hide parts that do not fit.

"For me the Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer will always continue to be an option when less than perfect conditions exist. And since I live in the Pacific Northwest, there's no other filter in my bag that gets as much use."

To see more work by Kevin McNeal, visit kevinmcnealphotography.com

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