Friday, February 08, 2008

To start or end your day with a great landscape image, put the Reverse ND Grad into play

Scenic landscape photographer Adam Barker recently returned to Utah from Costa Rica where, he says, "I really confirmed the importance of my Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density filter.

"We have all seen 'that light'... that last sliver of golden goodness as the sun dips below the horizon. How could something so soft to the natural eye, I wondered, appear so harsh to my camera’s sensor? For years I struggled when shooting sunrise and sunset scenes directly into the sun. My standard Galen Rowell ND Grads just weren’t helping me. The most spectacular part of the image -- usually right on the horizon would be garishly blown out. That prompted me to buy the 3-stop Reverse ND Grad filter several months ago. Until my trip to Costa Rica, however, the filter wasn't really given a proper challenge. Knowing I would spend most of my time on Costa Rica's Pacific coast, I was eager to shoot the epic sunsets that grace this tropical paradise each evening. Dramatic clouds and intense hues of orange, gold, purple and pink were the norm.

"The image above shows the sun setting across the now hardened lava flow from the 1992 volcanic eruption in Arenal Volcano State Park. This exposure was extremely challenging as the dark lava rock and dramatic sky were far beyond the dynamic capability of my camera’s sensor. The Reverse 3-stop ND Grad did its job quite well. While it is a very useful tool, the reverse Grad ND might also result in images that appear unnatural and manipulated if not used carefully. I frequently will hand-hold the filter, slowly moving it just slightly up and down in front of my lens to give it as natural a feel as possible and avoid a horizon line that is too dark and void of detail. It takes special care to ensure you still capture an unbelievably beautiful image that, in the end, remains believable enough.

"I also find the Reverse ND Grad quite useful both during a brilliant sunset and later after the sun has dipped below the horizon. These two images above were made before (left) and after (below) sunset on Playa Espadilla. By day, its sandy shores are filled with bustling tourist activity. By night, with the right light, it takes on a surreal, painterly quality. Yes, there were some other fortunate souls walking by as I clicked the shutter, but psychically I was all alone, entrenched in and obsessed with the intense and ever-changing pink and purple hues dominating the endless sea and sky.

"Had I used a standard ND Grad on the vertical image, the upper reaches of the sky would appear unnaturally dark with muddled tones and a lack of detail. From now on, the Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse Graduated ND filter, with its greatest density placed just above the horizon line, will allow me to properly control the brightest part of my sunset and sunrise images, and still render a natural appearance with adequate detail and tonality to the rest of the image.

"Anyone who is frustrated with their into-the-sun images," says Adam, "should try the Singh-Ray Reverse ND Grad—with just a bit of practice, you’ll be producing lasting, memorable images before you know it."

More information about Adam and his work can be found on his website and on his blog .

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

LB Polarizer captures more detail in the swirling rapids at Great Falls NP

Chris Kayler, one of the young photographers featured in the Summer 2007 issue of Nature's Best Photography magazine, continues to pursue his degree in Environmental Science at Northern Virginia Community College and use his Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer "nearly every time I go out to photograph scenic images. I selected this image to point out how the LB Warming Polarizer helped me capture additional detail and texture in the rapidly swirling water.

"The LB Warming Polarizer provides the same polarizing power of other high-quality polarizers but reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor by only 1-1/3 stops of light, as opposed to the traditional 2-stop reduction when using a conventional polarizer. Thanks to this new-found increase in shutter speed, I have more options for photographic creativity. One reason for this is that I like to use water as a foreground feature whenever I can. When using slow shutter speeds, water takes on a silky appearance devoid of texture. While in many situations this effect can be extremely pleasing, often I want to impart more life into the water, especially when the water itself is not calm or silky. One place where this really applies is at Great Falls National Park, a nearby haunt of mine. In the image above, I was able to use the LB Warming Polarizer to tame some reflections on the surrounding rocks while still maintaining a fast shutter speed to capture the action and add interest to the foreground by creating an attractive mixture of foam, bubbles, water, and light. Using a normal polarizer would have resulted in a slower shutter speed and the foreground would have been far less interesting.

"For those times when I may actually want to achieve that silky look, the LB Warming Polarizer can be replaced with a solid neutral density filter. I much prefer being able to start with faster shutter speeds and then add neutral density filters when I want to slow down my shutter speed as opposed to using a 'slower' polarizer and never being able to acquire the faster exposures provided by the LB Warming Polarizer."

In other words, you won’t catch Chris out in the field or on the riverbank without his LB Warming Polarizer! You can, however, catch his website at

Monday, February 04, 2008

Rainbow is LB polarized with not a moment to spare

From his home in Hawaii, Dewitt Jones, one of the "right-brained" columnists for Outdoor Photographer, sends proof that his photographic reflexes are as sharp as ever. "When shooting landscapes," says Dewitt, "we don’t often think of quick responses, but there are times when the truly great light lasts only for a second.

"As a beautiful sunset faded in upcountry Molokai, suddenly a rainbow materialized. It would have been a good grab shot but not a great one. I wanted more. I needed to pop the rainbow and, at the same time, brighten back the colors of the sky to where they had been.

"I reached in my bag for my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer. It was the perfect filter for this situation. Its lighter brighter density would not only let me (and the autofocus on the camera) see the image clearly, but also let me shoot at a faster shutter speed than denser polarizers (truly important here as I was hand holding the camera).

"The polarizer itself did a great job separating the rainbow from the background, while the added warmth tinged the clouds with color. As an added plus, the thin mount of the filter kept it from vignetting with the wide angle lens I was using.

"Click, click, click....the rainbow was gone. But I had the shot!"

For more fine examples of Dewitt's creative adventures, visit his website at and follow his columns in Outdoor Photographer.