Friday, June 06, 2008

LB Polarizer's greater light transmission assures sharper outdoor action photos

Outdoor photographer and naturalist Ethan Meleg says, "It's been a long, cold winter here in central Ontario with far too much snow to shovel. You can imagine how energizing it is to finally see the spring migration in full swing, wildflowers carpeting the forest floor and vibrant green foliage on the trees. To take full advantage of the spring season, I spend as much time as I can shooting outdoors.

"These 'outdoor recreation' images were shot for stock licensing to various outdoor publications and ad agencies. They are the money makers in my business -- the market for them is much larger and better paying than for traditional nature photos (ie. birds, flowers). They essentially subsidize my photography so I can chase birds around!

"Camping trips are particularly productive because my friends will model for me in exchange for BBQ steaks and beer. After travelling together for years, they've become very patient and understanding, even when I need to reshoot a scene a dozen or more times. And, best of all, they wear bright red clothes that stand out against nature's greens and blues. I'm lucky to have such good friends!

"I also feel lucky to have my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizers on both my wide-angle and medium-telephoto lenses almost all of the time. To explain what I mean, here are some outdoor recreation photos taken this week during a camping trip with my friends to Oastler Lake Provincial Park. The park is about 2.5 hour's drive north of Toronto, conveniently located just off Highway 400/69. It's a small front-country camping park with some beautiful granite shoreline, towering pines and hemlock. When shooting potential stock images like these, I try to compose the photos primarily as dramatic natural landscape images with an added human element. This requires enough depth of field to keep both the foreground and my human subject in sharp focus. For more punchy, vibrant colors, I shoot at sunrise or sunset when the light is most dramatic. I almost always use an LB Polarizer to reduce the glare and increase color saturation.

"This use of a small lens opening along with a polarizing filter means that I usually end up exposing at somewhat slow shutter speeds. This in turn makes it a challenge to stop the movement of my subjects (despite their best efforts to not move). This is when my Singh-Ray 'lighter, brighter' LB Warming Polarizer gives me a break -- by being almost a full f-stop faster than other polarizers, it enables me to use a significantly faster shutter speed that often means the difference between a sharp photo and one I would end up deleting. For these images, the exposures fall within a range from 1/60 second @ f8 to 1/13 second @ f18 at ISO 400. All were shot with a Canon EOS 1Ds mark III and EF 24-70/2.8 L lens.

"As I said, I feel lucky when have my LB Polarizers always on the job. Over the coming summer," Ethan says, "they'll help me get a lot more keepers." Twelve pages of Ethan's photos and comments are currently featured in Outdoor Photography Canada, and you can check out his blog at to follow his tracks this summer.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

In Yosemite National Park, you'll find dramatic landscapes come in all sizes

"At an elevation of only 4,000 feet," landscape photographer and workshop leader Steve Kossack points out, "the beauty and grandeur of the Yosemite Valley is accessible even in winter. And yet our Yosemite in Winter workshop each February always seems to encounter the unexpected. Whenever heavy snow conditions make it difficult to travel very far on foot -- as they did this February -- we're reminded to take a closer, more thoughtful look at the scenery right where we are.

"All across the 12,000 square miles of Yosemite National Park we find a wealth of 'big' pictures... deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, and vast wilderness areas, but there's also much more. It’s the 'much more' I frequently discover simply by looking for the 'mini landscapes.' Blessed with today's mega-resolution cameras, precise lenses and professional-grade filters, we outdoor photographers can detail as never before the full range of textures and colors that nature delivers right to our feet. All three of these mini-landscapes from Yosemite convey that dramatic detail. They also demonstrate the benefits of the Singh-Ray LB Color Intensifier -- whether used by itself or as a built-in feature of the LB ColorCombo.

"The 'mirror' image (above) is a personal favorite that was recently featured in our Yosemite in Winter DVD. Attracted initially by the pattern of 'the diamonds,' we then refined the composition as you see here. The strong highlights in the scene were reduced considerably by the LB ColorCombo's polarizing effect. The result was a more even exposure. The ColorCombo, with both its polarizing and color intensifying ability, also cut the glare from the rocks to reveal more shadow detail and heightened the color contrast -- notice the darkened green just below the water line. In my opinion, this gentle reinforcement of greens is one of the filter's best features. Also note that the polarizer helps us see into the water down to the river's bottom while at the same time seeing the reflection on the water's surface. As I rotated the filter I could easily judge the best polarizing effects in the viewfinder. A bonus indeed!

"Because nature’s clutter is not easily undone or sorted out visually, this next 'forest floor' image may take more effort to appreciate. I try to compose my 'mini landscapes' by observing each element's shape, color, light and texture and then selecting and scaling down the various and random design elements. Here the impact of the green led to the selection of the LB Color Intensifier instead of the ColorCombo. The composition is what might be called 'backwards' -- meaning that the foreground and background are reversed in terms of their relative impact. The mystery presented by the light in the background is what interests me. The foreground shapes and design were just a way of getting there. The polarizing effect of the ColorCombo would have reduced or eliminated that effect. The greens were “punched” subtly with the Color Intensifier!

"This third mini-landscape from Yosemite was made with a Canon 24MM T/S (tilt/shift) lens. The capability of this lens to tilt forward and thereby increase the depth of field at a large aperture proved very helpful in the rapidly changing light. I wanted to capture that patch of sunlight at the bottom -- that I saw while setting up -- to help lead the eye into the composition. I also wanted the fastest shutter speed possible to capture this light as soon as it became possible, and I also wanted to use the LB ColorCombo's polarizing ability to cut some of the glare off the wet leaves. This setup allowed me to shoot wide open, use the filter and still obtain a fairly quick shutter speed that caught the light just when and where I wanted. Since the filter size for most of my Canon lenses is 77mm, I use a step-up ring to adapt my other lenses that have smaller front elements. While this works well in most cases, there are times when using a step-up ring creates an extra step that presents nearly as many problems as it solves -- as I was jamming the adapter-ring in the lens mount, I also managed to move the focus and, in this case, the tilt adjustment of the T/S lens. As a result, I almost missed the last light for this composition. This problem has now been solved by always taking along a 72mm ColorCombo just for the T/S lens! There's nothing better than having the right tool for the job."

To see more of Steve's landscape images and learn about his 2008 workshop schedule, visit his website.