Friday, August 01, 2008

Singh-Ray ND Grads capture the light on White Sands and Lake Powell

From his home base in Utah's beautiful Wasatch Mountain range, Adam Barker recently traveled south -- first to New Mexico and the White Sands National Monument near Alamogordo and then again to Lake Powell in Southern Utah. "From the sprawling ivory sandscapes to the red rock canyons filled with emerald water," says Adam, "my Singh-Ray filters have helped capture a number of memorable images this summer.

"Call me cliché, but the vast White Sands landscape is truly as unique as they come. Located in the middle of nowhere -- otherwise known as southern New Mexico -- pearl white dunes stretch across 275 square miles to make up the world’s largest gypsum dune field. Frequent and unpredictable winds guarantee fresh views nearly every day as the dunes constantly change shape and character. For photographers, this means you could be the first and last to ever capture any one image in particular. Not too shabby.

"As I parked my car at the edge of the dunes and walked into the white wilderness shrouded in darkness, I was hoping for a fiery sunrise -- one filled with drama and texture. Go ahead and call me lucky, because I felt like the luckiest -- albeit well prepared -- person in the world as the early sky filled with red, purple, magenta, orange and gold.

"I was prepared with my go-to filter, Singh-Ray’s 2-stop hard-step ND Grad. This meant I no longer had to worry about balancing the exposure of the bright sky and the foreground, so my mind was free to focus on other aspects of the scene that would contribute to an unforgettable image. In White Sands, the crests and troughs of the dunes make for exceptional compositions.

"Placed properly, the clouds, sand, desert, and other components can convey the full texture of the landscape in a striking manner. They also serve as a visual “pied piper” that leads the viewer into and through the various areas within the image.

"Soon after my return from White Sands National Monument, I headed down to Utah's Glen Canyon Recreation Area, better known as Lake Powell. An intricate maze of red rock canyons and towering buttes, Lake Powell is a sight to behold. Yes, there are those who will never see this place as anything other than a blemish that has flooded Glen Canyon, but I must say I do enjoy it—and what exists presently is very, very beautiful.

"On the particular morning that I made this image, I was 'roughing it' on the houseboat and was not too enthused by the crystal clear skies at sunrise. I struggled with the decision to get up or not, and then suddenly thought of a particular image that would be perfect for a client of mine.

"Racing up to the marbled red rock shoreline, I set up my tripod and placed my Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad in the holder. With this filter, I’m able to maintain the color and detail in the sky, obtain a striking sunburst, and keep my foreground exposed properly, all at once. Without this trusty filter, this dramatic image would only have been possible by capturing the image at several different exposures and then performing some tedious digital blending back in my digital darkroom.

"Whether it’s the ND grad's ability to balance even the most challenging exposures, or the resulting freedom it gives me to deal with the other aspects of capturing the image, my Singh-Ray filters never fail to enhance my shooting experiences. They help me let the light shine."

You'll find a gallery with more of Adam's scenic landscapes plus a blog that features both entertaining -- often opinionated -- stories with the photos to back them up. Also note his "Fall Foliage of the Wasatch" workshop, September 26-28. It's all right here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

E.J. Peiker looks into the LB Warming Polarizer during his recent Alaska trip

Nature and landscape photographs by E.J. Peiker have appeared in the leading nature and photography magazines for a number of years, so it's a pleasure to post these three images he made in Alaska recently. During the trip, E.J. was checking out the Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer and had some important things to say.

"I recently started using the Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer -- the LB standing for 'lighter and brighter.' Singh-Ray has come up with a polarizer that requires 2/3 of a stop less light than a standard polarizer. The photo above of a male Brown Bear was taken at the famous Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park in Southwest Alaska. I was using my Canon EOS 1D Mark II with a 70-200mm f/2.8L and the LB Warming Polarizer.

"Like anything," says E.J. "this LB feature has both its pros and cons but there are many more pros than cons. The upside of a brighter polarizer is huge. Some of the benefits are obvious and some less so. Just having more light, thereby allowing faster shutter speeds for a given aperture, can often lead to sharper photos as subject motion becomes less of a factor. A 2/3-stop faster shutter speed can be the difference between a sharp flower in a breeze and one that is blurred. It can be the difference between stopping slight head movement of a wildlife subject or having a slight blur. Landscape photographers often work in the relatively low light of early morning or late evening, but we still want some of the benefits of polarization. This often leads to the autofocus system either giving up or becoming slow and somewhat inaccurate.

"The first thing I noticed when using the LB Polarizer with my EOS 1Ds Mark II is that the autofocus was snappier in these situations and allowed me to accurately focus in light conditions where I was having to manually focus before. Faster and more accurate AF and faster shutter speeds in these situations are a big bonus. Additionally I can use the increased light transmission properties of the LB Warming Polarizer to select a lower and less noisy ISO than I could get away with using a traditional polarizer.

"The only con is that sometimes I like to use a polarizer for both its polarizing and neutral density qualities. For example when photographing little cascades or waterfalls, I like to cut the wet reflections off of the rocks with the polarizing function and slow my shutter speed down a normal polarizer’s 2 full stops to get that wispy water feeling in the photos. With the LB polarizer, you can’t slow your shutter speed as much since it allows more light to transmit to the sensor plane. This however is a minor issue as there are always other tools in the bag to deal with that -- such as ND flters. The Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter is a very flexible option for this sort of thing. Here are two landscape images, both were taken on the same trip with the LB Warming Polarizer.

"While walking back from a late night trek up the Brooks River in waders, the sky started to light up around 11:00 PM, giving the puffy clouds a nice pink color. I used the LB Warming Polarizer on a Canon 24-105 f/4L lens mounted to an EOS 1Ds Mark II to make the cloud pop off of the blue sky in the warm late light.

"This is the view from the our campground at Katmai National Park captured in the early morning just before sunrise. A Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II with 24-105 f/4L lens and Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer was used to increase contrast while retaining some pink color on the water and enhancing the pink/blue contrast in the sky.

"While I would prefer that the LB Warming Polarizer came in a non-warming version, having the slightly warm tone is not a problem. It is very easy to dial out the warming when not desired with white balance either in camera or in post processing. Overall the LB warming polarizer has quickly become my polarizer of choice."

In addition to his photography, E.J. is co-founder and technical editor for NatureScapes.net and his personal website -- www.EJPhoto.com -- featuring over 6,000 photographs of landscapes, wildlife and birds from around the world. He's also recognized for what many consider the world's largest collection of waterfowl photographs.