Friday, December 12, 2008

His new Vari-N-Duo is the "perfect solution" for capturing Yosemite's streams and lakes

When outdoor photographer Rick Walker traveled to Yosemite National Park this fall, he was eager to try out his new Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo. "I've been a real fan of the regular Vari-ND, says Rick, "and since water is an important feature in so many of my landscapes, I was eager to try the new polarizing 'Duo' version. Here are several photos from my trip that clearly show just how effectively the LB Polarizer inside the new Vari-N-Duo controls the strong specular highlights and glare from water and wet rocks. For my needs, the new Vari-N-Duo filter is the perfect solution. "During my shoot in Yosemite, I spent a great deal of time photographing flowing water in the park's mountain streams, as seen in the first three photos here. With the Vari-N-Duo mounted on my lens, I could slow my exposures to get the flowing water effect I wanted and -- at the same time -- vary the amount of polarization to remove just the right amount of light reflection from the water's surface.
"You can see that the beautiful reflections of trees and rocks in the water weren't removed -- just the unappealing glare from the surface. In the image taken at Mono Lake (at bottom), the slow exposure stabilized the surface of the water and gave it a more silky appearance."
The basic shooting technique Rick uses with the Vari-N-Duo mounted on his lens is as follows:
• Set the camera for the ISO desired, usually the lowest one available on the camera.
• Set the camera to manual exposure mode and preset the appropriate aperture for the depth of field required. In the case of these photos, it was f/16 because he wanted a great deal of depth of field.
• Set the desired shutter speed for the shot. For these shots, Rick chose shutter speeds ranging from 1 second to 10 seconds. He chose the shorter shutter speeds to blur the water and the longer ones to "average out" the movement of the water and gave the appearance of stillness -- even when there was actually some movement. This improved the quality of the reflections in these images.

• Adjust the front "Min/Max" neutral density control ring until the camera's meter indicates the exposure is correct, including any adjustments needed for the subject's tonalities. This may also involve making a few test shots and carefully reviewing the images and their histograms.
• Rotate the polarization ring -- just behind the front ring -- until the polarizing effect is correct for the image. This isn't always full-strength polarization; sometimes a partial setting is better. It varies with the subject and lighting situation.
• Make the final exposure(s) and review the histogram. It may be helpful to 'bracket' the degree of polarization for later review. Rick's equipment used for these shots included his Nikon D3 camera, a 70-200mm 2.8, a 300mm 4.0 and a 17-35mm 2.8 lens. A good tripod was essential, given the slow shutter speeds involved.
In addition to his photography, Rick Walker teaches photo workshops and serves as co-host of The Image Doctors, a weekly podcast program for Nikon users. "Most of the topics," says Rick, "are of interest to other serious photographers as well, and an iPod is not required to listen to the programs -- any computer or device that can play MP3 files will work." More information on the Yosemite shoot and Vari-N-Duo can be found in the 30 October 2008 episode. Learn more about Rick and his workshops by visiting his website.

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