Friday, April 25, 2008

A Graduated ND filter was all he needed to capture the mood of England's south coast

Renato Lopes is a landscape and nature photographer based in the UK. He's been photographing seriously for about three years now.

"Being naturally drawn to the sea, the mists, and the “moody” weather," says Renato, "I spend most of my time photographing the south coast of England. The coastline along Dorset being a favourite. Durdle Door, above, is a location that I had traveled to twice before I captured this image on my third visit. My first trip was to scout the location. On my second visit, the fog was so dense that, even when standing right on the edge of the cliff, I could not see the sea!

"The third time I visited this location, a year later, I drove for about 3 hours through very dense fog again. The whole time I was driving, I was thinking to myself “here we go again...” At arrival to Durdle Door, the sun started to break through, the fog began to lift and the scene started to offer some really exciting photo opportunities. Later on, as the sun was setting, I was presented with this really stunning show of light. I used a Singh-Ray 3-stop hard-step ND Grad to balance the exposure and to intensify those shades of pink in the sky, colors which otherwise would have been impossible to record. The photo was taken with a Nikon D2Xs and a 17-35mm f/2.8D AF-S lens, for 6 seconds at f/16.

"Brighton in the south coast, is a place that I keep going back to visit, simply because of the variety of subjects available to photograph. The photo you see here was taken during one of my visits to Brighton beach. I had walked past this scene many times before; and every time I did so, there was a fisherman in the frame fishing.

I took this photo on a really cold day just after the sun had set, to the right of the frame. The mixture of the pink and the blue tones in the sky, combined with the really strong green foreground is what really attracted me to this scene. The problem with capturing this scene was the brighter pink sky to the right of the frame. I opted for using a 3-stop hard-step Singh-Ray ND Grad to hold back the bright colours in the sky. The photo was taken with a Nikon D2Xs and a 17-35mm f/2.8D AF-S lens, for 20 seconds at f16.

"I am currently working on a portfolio that includes photos featuring very simple compositions with clearly defined lines and light. The challenge with this project is really to get the "right" light, which doesn't always happen. It's a game of patience and chasing light. Singh-Ray filters play a major role in my process of capturing a scene the way my eyes see it."

You can better appreciate what Renato means by visiting his website and his blog.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Take your camera, lenses and filters wherever you travel... especially to New Orleans!

Texas fine-art photographer Ernesto Santos says, "Whenever I travel on business, I always bring along my cameras, lenses and filters -- never knowing when I may get lucky and find time to make a few choice images. During a recent trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, I found time one afternoon to visit two historic plantations and tour their stately mansions and grounds. These images are from Oak Alley and Laura: A Creole Plantation located right on the Mississippi Delta and protected by a levee less than a 1/4-mile away.

"Yes, these two plantations were affected by Katrina to some extent. As I walked on the grounds, I could feel the moisture in the soil -- which is below sea level. Both of these plantations are open to the public, but they are private property and require an entrance fee. You must accompany a guided tour to get access to the grounds. Photography is allowed outdoors but indoor shooting is limited -- depending on the particular plantation you are visiting. I took the tours and sort of lagged behind the group to get my shots. I also spent some time after the tours to get the images in this article. The beautiful trees throughout this area are upwards of 300 years old! They are all southern live oaks (Quercus virginiana) and many have beautiful Spanish moss hanging from their branches.

"On this particular trip, I had to travel light so the tripod stayed home. I figured I would only have time for some brief street photography. When I succeeded in clearing my business schedule for an afternoon, I immediately rustled through my camera pack and picked what I might need to photograph plantations in mid-afternoon light, and on to sunset. I took my Nikon D200 with a couple of lenses and my Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue and the LB Warming Polarizers. I knew these two filters would be most useful in the low-light-and-no-tripod shooting conditions I anticipated. These images were all taken with a Nikon D200 and a Nikkor 12-24 mm f/4 AF-S DX lens.

"The two images at the top of this story were taken with the LB Warming Polarizer at Oak Alley Plantation between 4:30 pm and sundown. The two lower ones are Gold-N-Blue Polarizer shots that were processed following Darwin Wiggett's white balancing technique described here. For the photo of the mansion with the bench in the foreground, I found a pleasing white balance setting using the eye dropper tool in Adobe Camera RAW. With the one of the bench with the afternoon shadows I found the 'correct' WB setting with the eyedropper and then adjusted the WB slider to punch up the warm tones a little.

"All the shots were handheld. Based on years of experience shooting firearms competitively, I have found it essential to maintain a wide stance with my body hunched over to reduce any swaying motion. I've learned to control my breathing while cradling the camera to achieve good balance. The slowest shutter speed used was 1/4 of a second for the image of the large oak roots and plantation in the background."

Ernesto plans to retire from his research administration career and pursue fine-art photography as a full-time professional. You can see more of his fine images on his website.