Thursday, March 20, 2008

In 15 seconds, the Vari-ND tamed this thundering rapids in Patagonia

Tom Bol has just returned from teaching a photo workshop in Patagonia -- the rugged windswept lands of southern Chile and Argentina known for big landscapes, mountains and rivers. "We were having a fabulous time in Torres Del Paine," says Tom, "when I came upon this dramatic scene.

"This lone tree was standing guard over the rapids below Salto Grande falls on the Rio Paine near Lago Pehoe. We were shooting in bright morning sunlight, which usually means I can only slow down my shutter speed to about 1/30 of a second -- even with my smallest aperture and lowest ISO settings. An exposure of 1/30 is not nearly slow enough to give moving water the nice silky effect I like, so I added my Vari-ND to my lens. After making sure the focus was right, I dialed down the filter's density to block out enough light to give me a shutter speed of 15 seconds at f-22. It's no secret; the Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter is one of my favorites. In fact, it has literally changed how I look at every scene that includes moving water. What was really interesting about this image is that the river below the tree was a Class V rapid, a thundering white torrent. I could hardly wait to see how this scene would look at a really slow shutter speed. It is almost like the tree is towering above a sea of clouds.

"Huge waterfalls, towering granite spires and the wildest lenticular clouds I've ever seen make Patagonia one of my favorite places to photograph. The shooting was so good on this tour, I actually ran out of flash-card space. Quite simply, without using Singh-Ray filters, I would have not been able to capture a number of my favorite images."

For more about Tom's outdoor adventure photos and workshops, be sure to visit his website.

Monday, March 17, 2008

"There's no place like home" for this east-coast nature photographer

"My stock photo and workshop ventures take me up and down the East Coast -- from Maine to South Carolina," says Joe Rossbach. "I shoot in some truly beautiful areas, but my favorite location is virtually in my own back yard in Annapolis, Maryland. Great Falls National Park is just 15 minutes away from our nation's capitol, even though most photographers wouldn't put this park high on their must-visit list. Summer and autumn are my favorite seasons to be in the park, but any time of the year is good. In the summer the warm and humid days are followed by cool nights along the Potomac River. This creates absolutely wonderful conditions at sunrise with lots of mist and fog. If you get there and the light is right, you're in store for some awesome photos.

"For example, I captured the sunrise image above at Mather Gorge. I arrived at the park well before sunrise to be on location and ready when the show began. I made this image from the first overlook in the park just above the famous 'spout,' seen in the lower left corner of the image. By climbing along the rocks with my camera and wideangle lens in hand and looking through the viewfinder for the best perspective, I soon decided on this composition. I quickly set up my tripod and got ready for the light. From this overlook, in the summer, the sun rises to the right of the gorge and provides great sidelight. Knowing this I decided to use my LB Warming Polarizer to darken the sky and really punch up the contrast. The warming filter also helped reduce the glare on the wet rocks and boosted the color saturation. As soon as the light show began, I quickly took a spot meter reading off the pink in the sky and a spot reading off the rocks in the lower half of the frame. Wow, four stops difference. I had two choices, do a 2-exposure digital blend or fish in my bag for my 3-stop and 1-stop soft Graduated ND filters. Whenever I can use my Graduated ND filters instead of digital blending or HDR, I always will. In this situation -- as is most often the case -- the Singh Ray ND filters were perfect for the job.

"I simply placed the filters in my holder and pressed the depth-of-field preview button down while moving the filters up and down until they were in the proper position. The soft-edge filters allowed me to position them into the tree line without producing a noticeable grad line in the image. Had I been using a hard edge filter, I simply would have dodged it during the length of the exposure and greatly reduced any grad line in the image. I chose the soft edge filters because I don't have a very steady hand over about 2 seconds and this shot called for 25 seconds at f11.

"For this next image of the Great Falls of the Potomac, I quickly made my way from the overlook and climbed down to the river's edge. I then hopped rocks and hiked upstream about 100 yards to one of my favorite off-the-beaten-path locations. The light was changing quickly as the sun began breaking above the tree line on the east side of the gorge -- bathing the landscape in soft beautiful light. I made it to my spot just as the light began to strike the landscape. I knew I didn't have long before the mist burned off and the image was lost. I quickly found a good angle, spot metered the pink clouds and then the white water in the lower half of the frame -- keeping in mind that the second reading off the water would need to be increased by 1 full stop in order to preserve a bright white. I had 2 stops of difference between the sky and foreground. I used my LB Warming Polarizer to really pop the image by darkening the sky and remove the glare which really made the color saturation sing. I then added my 2-stop soft-edge Graduated ND filter and pressed the depth-of-field preview button to line up the gradient area. The lens opening for this particular image was f16 which provided full sharpness from front to back, and the shutter speed of 1/8 second allowed some of the detail in the white water to come across in the image."

Joe would welcome your visit to his recently up-dated website and blog, www.josephrossbach.com.