Thursday, September 11, 2008

His new Vari-ND made Labor Day worth celebrating (but he had to work for it)

For this image, intrepid outdoor photographer Adam Barker didn't need to stray far from his home base in Utah's beautiful Wasatch Mountain range. But, as Adam tells us, it was a rewarding trip nevertheless.

"The alarm on Labor Day morning was particularly piercing -- 5:00 am and the night had passed with loud cracks of thunder and heavy rainfall. I knew this morning would either be full of potential... or just plain gray and boring. I was almost hoping for the latter as I poked my head out the door to inspect the skies above. 'Better get geared up,' I thought to myself, trying to ignore the urge to crawl back into bed on this national holiday.

"I had a particular image in mind as I drove east toward Park City, then onward to the Heber Valley. Constantly evaluating the shooting conditions as I drove, I realized the image I had originally envisioned would not be possible on this particular morning. Heavy cloud cover and steady rain caused me to turn around and search for something else. I drove back toward Park City, my mind cluttered and startled from having my plans foiled. I couldn’t think of anywhere else to go. The sky had great potential, but there was no image calling out to be captured. My thoughts turned suddenly to the iconic Osguthorpe Barn. Surely I could capture a nice image at this location, but how could it be done in a new and different way?

"Fortunately, I had just the tool. I'd recently received my Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter in the mail, and I had yet to really let it open the creative floodgates for my photography. Sunrise was a bit more subdued than I had hoped for, but the brooding clouds worked perfectly with the longer exposure to juxtapose the streaked, gray sky over the crisp white barn.

"I experimented with different shutter speeds and settled on this particular image with a 54-second exposure. There is just enough definition in the clouds to still accentuate the subtle tonal differences, yet the longer shutter speed smoothed the clouds out and added interesting contrast to the stark lines of the barn. To keep the sky in check (and hold detail in the brighter parts), I also used my Singh-Ray 2-stop hard-step ND Grad and employed a bit of 'dodging and burning' at the time of capture to avoid a filter line across the roof of the barn and distribute the filter effect more evenly. This was done by hand-holding the 4x6 ND grad in front of the Vari-ND and moving it up-and-down and side-to-side during the exposure.

"By clicking on the image above, you can compare it with another taken without the Vari-ND. The difference is noticeable.

"My final image resembled nothing even remotely close to the one I had envisioned in my head when gazing out the door that morning. That, however, is the beauty of photography. Creativity and spontaneity sometimes trump tradition. The most important part is having the technical skill to carry out the creative vision; and having a loud alarm clock."

More of Adam's scenic landscapes plus a blog featuring more stories and photos await your visit to his website. You can also read about his "Fall Foliage of the Wasatch" workshop, September 26-28. It's filling up fast, so register now!

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