Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Here are three beautiful ways to get more color into your fall landscapes

It's now officially autumn, and this is always an exciting time for landscape photographers, like energetic workshop instructor Joe Rossbach. "So I thought I might share a few images captured last fall with various Singh-Ray filters," says Joe. "These three were made right around my home in Annapolis, Maryland, at the heart of Chesapeake Bay country and only a short drive from some of the most beautiful areas in the Mid-Atlantic.

"I was in northern Virginia scouting locations for a workshop later in the week when I came across this beautiful stand of trees after sunset while driving back to my hotel room. There was a storm that had blown in and the wind would occasionally whip through the woods and send the foliage swaying back and forth. What I was going for was a 'texture squash' -- juxtaposing the razor sharp tree trunks and the blurred leaves. It's an interesting technique and something I always look for when out in the field. I promptly set about capturing the image I was visualizing before the light completely faded.

"Even though the light was low and I was getting away with a 4-second exposure at f/14, I wanted to keep the shutter open even longer to really let the wind knock the leaves back and forth in the image. I could have stopped the lens down to f/22 and added an additional stop of exposure but I wanted to shoot at f/14 to maintain optimal resolution from my lens. The perfect solution for this problem was my Vari-ND. I quickly fitted the filter onto my 80-200 and dialed in 4 more stops of density, which allowed me to extend the shutter speed from 4 seconds to 1 minute. I tripped the shutter and patiently watched the foliage bounce back and forth during the long exposure. By the time my camera had applied the dark frame for an additional 1 minute to analyze and kill any hot pixels, the light had faded and it was just too dark for a second shot. The good news was I had a perfectly exposed histogram and an image that expressed my creative intent. The two complementary colors really help the image jump out at the viewer.

I lead about five workshops a year in addition to doing a good deal of personal shooting in Great Falls National Park, and it's always a challenge to come away with fresh and unique images. The use of Singh-Ray filters really allows me to focus more on creative compositions and less on the technical aspects of photography. For this shot of the Potomac River at sunset, I was in the middle of a photo workshop and my students were all set up and shooting. So I took the opportunity to quickly grab a few images. I already had my LB Warming Polarizer on my 12-24mm lens and the Graduated ND filters in my pocket were ready to balance the light, so I rushed over to a particularly nice waterfall and managed to place myself between two rocks over the river and get my camera set very low to the surface of the water.

"The beauty of using my LB Polarizer, which is very thin, is that I know I won't get any vignetting at short focal lengths and it will remove unwanted glare from the water and sky. After I had set up my composition, it was only a matter of taking a spot meter reading off of the rocks in the gorge and dialing-in my exposure of 6 seconds at f/16. The next thing I did was quickly spot meter the sky to determine the dynamic range in the image. The spot reading indicated that there was a difference of 3 stops in exposure. I pulled out my Singh-Ray 4x6-inch 3-stop ND Grad and placed it over the sky. I handheld the grad and moved it up and during the course of the exposure to make sure I didn't get a grad line in the trees.

"Believe it or not, this image was not taken in the Canadian Arctic! The scene is, in fact, a wonderful natural wilderness named Dolly Sods. It's right here in eastern West Virginia -- nestled high on a windswept plateau in the Allegheny Mountains. It is one of the most unique and beautiful landscapes in the eastern United States. I was in a nearby location producing images for a book project when I decided to go up to Dolly Sods for a sunset shoot. To my surprise, the heath barrens were already beginning to show color and it was only late August. This area doesn't usually reach peak color until late September and early October. The light was phenomenal, but I knew I had to work fast to find a composition and set up before the show was over. Rushing around like a maniac through the barrens, I searched for a nice foreground element to break up the sea of red and green. When I found this huge rock, I knew it would be the perfect foreground. I wanted to show the vast and wide open terrain, so I choose my 12-24mm for a sweeping view of the landscape. The use of my Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo with its 'built-in" LB Color Intensifier and LB Warming Polarizer really popped the field of color and clouds in the sky as it also intensified the green and red foliage of the heath barrens."

To see more of Joe's work and learn more about his photo ventures -- including his upcoming West Virginia Autumn Workshop on October 10-14 in Canaan Valley, West Virginia, you'll want to visit his website and his blog.

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