Friday, May 23, 2008

Photographing on the open water is much smoother sailing with the LB Polarizer

During his 25 years as an avid amateur photographer, Peter Lyons says, "I played with many if not all of the common tools available to serious photographers; different lenses, different films (and more recently, digital adjustments in Photoshop), and different filters.

"Then a year and a half ago, things really got really serious. I finally jumped in with both feet and committed myself to being a full-time professional maritime photographer in San Francisco. Even though I brought along that quarter century of photographic experience into my business, it's taken more than 100,000 more exposures for me to really start nailing down 'the look' I'm after with my nautical subjects.

"I knew from shooting landscapes that a polarizer would help me get bold skies and vivid colors, but at first I didn't bring that look to my moving subjects. Once I did, though, what a difference! Singh-Ray's lighter brighter LB Warming Polarizers make crisp white sails pop against brilliant blue skies. The foam of a boat's wake contrasts with the deep greens and blues of the water. And with reduced reflections on boat hulls, sails and even clothing, colors really glow, even before any post-processing.

"Thanks to the improved light transmission of Singh-Ray's 'Lighter Brighter' glass, I can use these polarizers while hand-holding even long lenses like my current favorite, Canon's 100-400mm. Tripods, after all, are useless on a boat!

"As much as I use my polarizers, I soon heard another maritime photographer asking, 'You use a polarizer? I just do that in Photoshop.' I think his comment reflects a common misconception. Although I, too, use the important digital tools in Photoshop and similar software, I realize the limits. Controlling the glare and flare of polarized light reflecting from a scene -- especially on the open water in bright daylight -- is not simply a matter of tweaking saturation, contrast or some color channel in the computer. If I don't use the polarizer when I'm shooting the image, I've learned I simply can't get the same effect in post-processing. The color and contrast I could have captured in the camera are gone, and I know I'm not going to get them back.

"Even though I'm now using my LB Warming Polarizer most of the time I'm shooting, I've learned I can't just screw mount it onto my lens and forget it's there. I need to 'work' with it -- rotating it for the best effect depending on my changing orientation to the sun and the effect I'm trying to achieve. As I do this, I'm often surprised by the changing effect I'm witnessing in the viewfinder. Sometimes I'll want the full effect, and other times I can choose to dial it out of the picture.

"Some of the most common remarks I hear now are 'I love the colors,' 'the sky looks amazing,' or 'how do you make the water look so good?' I'm happy to share my secret! No, I'm not boosting saturation over the top. The color and contrast are already there in the scene; effective use of the LB Polarizer just allows me to reveal them."

For Peter Lyons and anyone else who's serious about photographing on the open water, the LB Warming Polarizer means business. You'll enjoy seeing many more of Peter's colorful photos on his website -- be sure to hang on to the rail!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Can you guess which two Singh-Ray filters captured these three sunsets?

He's always had a passion for graphic design and imagery but, until four years ago, Californian Stephen Oachs had never pursued his interest in photography. "What I've learned," he says, "has been acquired from a lot of trial and error, visiting various photo websites and reading books. I've often been asked, 'How do you get such fine images?' My answer is always the same. I've learned to use the right equipment and get as much information about my intended locations as possible before I go there to shoot. I've also learned that light is everything. As these three sunset photos suggest, I prefer to take photographs during the pristine, early morning and evening light and then use the remainder of the day -- when the sunlight is often more harsh -- scouting for other locations.

"The afternoon I arrived at Horseshoe Bend -- near Page, Arizona -- I was at first disappointed there were no clouds in the sky to help diffuse the bright setting sun. As the sun reached the horizon, it cast a warm glow across the landscape, so I slipped on a Galen Rowell 3-stop, hard-step Graduated ND filter. I chose this filter for its hard-step gradient pattern, as the horizon of my composition was very straight. I found the scene was still too bright and I was losing detail in the foreground shadows, so I added a Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter to the camera and used it to reduce the overall light. This then allowed me to greatly extend the shutter for a longer exposure, which helped fill in the shadows as well as lend a nice effect to the high clouds. I’m always amazed at how a little knowledge and the use of the right filters can turn an ordinary scene into a dramatic moment in time.

"I now use filters for nearly all my landscape photography. In these next two sunset images of Napili Bay in Maui, Hawaii (upper of two images below) and Soberanes Point at Big Sur, California, I was also able to achieve effects that make for rich, dramatic scenes by using the same combination of filters used for the first image -- the Singh-Ray Vari-ND and 3-stop hard-step Graduated ND Filter. My camera was the Canon 5D with a 17-40mm lens.

"By using the Vari-ND for the Soberanes Point sunset, I was able to achieve the ghosting effect of the waves as they lapped against the rocky shoreline. By placing the hard-step Graduated ND filter in front, I further reduced the amount of light from the bright setting sun, which allowed me to use a long exposure (20-30 seconds) to 'paint' the scene.

"When I first became serious about photography, I underestimated the importance of using filters to capture a scene 'in the camera.' As a long-time Adobe Photoshop user, I naively felt I could 'fix' an image during post processing and -- by not using filters -- save what I felt were unnecessary costs and hassles. However, what I came to discover (and now live by) is that the better the image is at the moment of capture, the better the quality and the more dynamic the final image will look and feel."

To see more of Stephen's impressive images, be sure to stop by his website and be sure to also check out his very interesting blog.