Friday, November 28, 2008

Here's your "with-and-without" workshop on using the LB Warming Polarizer

When freelance nature photographer John Barclay conducts his workshops, he's prepared to demonstrate visually the importance of Singh-Ray filters -- and the LB Warming Polarizer in particular. "Recently," says John, "while doing my pre-scouting for a series of workshops in the Pocono Mountains, I came across a fall scene I felt would be an ideal application for my polarizer.

"I've been working on capturing a number of outdoor scenes -- such as these included with this story -- that can almost instantly help our workshop participants see for themselves how various filters might contribute to their photographic success. Showing images taken both with and without the polarizer provides a visual comparison that is quickly understood and appreciated by all my students. However, I must admit I had never before received such an enthusiastic WOW as I did with these two examples.

"The top image was taken using my LB Warming Polarizer. The 'LB' designates the filter's improved lighter, brighter performance -- which transmits some 60% more light than that of Singh-Ray's previous polarizer. This special feature is very beneficial for two reasons. First, I see a brighter image in my viewfinder, especially in low-light situations, so I can more easily judge how the polarizer is affecting the scene. Second, the extra 2/3-stop of light allows me to use a faster shutter speed -- which in this case helped to stop the ripples in the water. Both images were shot using a Canon 1D Mark IIN and 70-200 2.8L lens.

"Although I'm primarily a nature photographer, for some strange reason I am also drawn to shooting old cars. In June, while co-leading a workshop in the Palouse region of Washington state, we happened upon a wonderful place with many colorful old relics. Whether I'm photographing cars, trees, flowers, waterfalls or anything else outdoors, I typically have the LB Warming Polarizer on my lens to eliminate much of the reflected glare as well as warm up and enhance the color. When processing these with-and-without-filter comparison photos, I did nothing in post production except for a simple levels adjustment to each image. Both images were exposed at f/22 on an overcast day.

"For the car image, the top image was taken using no polarizer, and for the bottom one I used the LB Warming Polarizer. If you look carefully at the top right section of each image, you will find there's a dramatic difference. Polarization has eliminated the reflection or glare on that section of the car revealing the full range of colors that could not be recorded without it. Also notice how the surface textures are affected as well. These images were also shot using a Canon 1D Mark IIN with a 70-200 2.8L lens. Most serious photographers remember to use a polarizer to enhance a blue sky in their landscape photos, but it also pays to remember that a polarizer can help solve many other outdoor lighting challenges as well.

"And here's a final thought on the subject. When using a polarizer, I like to suggest in our workshops that it is NOT simply an on/off switch. Try rotating it gradually back and forth to 'fine tune' the degree of polarization that suits your subject and your personal vision. In these three water lily images, you can see the subtle differences between the image with no filter (top), the one with some polarization (middle) and the one with full polarization (bottom). Which is best? That is your choice! Some may like seeing a bit of the lily's reflection on the water's surface, others may like the very black water. You get to decide -- as long as you remember to try several different degrees of polarization as you're shooting."

From his home in Chalfont, Pennsylvania, John travels around the country in his role as a manufacturer's sales representative. He takes time along the way to photograph the roses and share his interest in photography. You can see more of John's work and learn more about his workshops by visiting his website or at his blog.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

We would like to wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving Holiday!

Please note that Singh-Ray's offices will be closed from noon on 11/26 until Monday, December 1st, but our online store is always open at

Also, the introductory pricing on the Vari-N-Duo has been extended through January 1, 2009. Makes a great gift for yourself, or your favorite photographer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Using the Reverse Graduated ND filter in new ways leads to many pleasant surprises

Landscape photographer Adam Barker says, "Singh-Ray filters have been essential to my growth as a photographer and my ability to meet the expectations of clients. I mention clients simply because knowing how, when and -- especially -- why a particular filter will work best often helps me produce a much better image. In fact, a number of my best images are achieved when I have used my Reverse Graduated ND filters in some new way -- beyond the basic application they were designed for.

"When I first started using my Reverse ND Grads, I used them only for their 'intended' purpose -- shooting into the sun, either at sunset or sunrise. I was amazed at the way I was able to capture dramatic skies while holding color and detail in the foreground AND across the horizon. As time passed, I began to experiment with this filter and soon discovered it's much more versatile than I had previously imagined. I'm including these four images as examples of challenging situations where the first filter I reached for was not a Reverse ND. In each case, however, I found that the image I ultimately produced with the 3-stop Reverse ND Grad was more effective.

In the photo above, I had the benefit of first light which always creates a special beauty. This morning scene near Utah’s Alpine Loop Byway was no exception. I was particularly taken by the layered lighting, the juxtaposition of the brightly lit fall foliage and the dissipating mist in the valley beyond. It was a challenge to expose this image correctly, while still holding detail in the mist. I chose to hand hold my 3-stop Reverse ND Grad at an angle and move it up gradually at the end of the 1/8 sec, exposure. The result was a properly exposed image, with detail in the mist and no dark, tell-tale filter line across the mountain peaks.

Is there any place more photogenic than Grand Teton National Park? Possibly, but not by much. In this view from Schwabacher landing, I chose to use my 3-stop Reverse ND Grad to deepen the morning color on the Tetons, as well as accentuate the subtle colors in the foreground sagebrush. I find this filter allows me to slightly over-expose the foreground to give the image a heightened sense of depth and dimensionality. At times, this can appear unnatural so I take care to avoid a filter line or unnaturally bright foreground. I do this by hand-holding the filter and moving it up slightly at the end of this exposure.

Although I don’t shoot much portraiture, I couldn't resist capturing this beautiful family in equally beautiful surroundings while on a recent getaway to a friend’s cabin in Island Park, ID. Despite my documentary intentions with this family photo, I couldn’t shake the scenic photographer within me. The morning sky was a deep, intense blue and I chose to employ my 3-stop Reverse ND Grad to hold detail in a sky that was much brighter than the foreground. Most portrait photographers would probably solve this problem with strobes or other artificial lighting, but I’d much rather hold a simple filter than struggle with an entire lighting setup. By using my Reverse ND Grad, I was able to slightly overexpose the foreground subject to draw the viewer’s eye to the family.

"The Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park is as much a mecca for scenic photography as it is for unforgettable fly-fishing. With this image, I wanted to combine the two. Here again, by hand-holding my 3-stop Reverse ND Grad, I was able to tie in a dramatic sky with a pensive fisherman studying what to throw next at some particularly picky eaters. When using the reverse filter in an image such as this, it is important to either make sure the subject is below the horizon line or employ a dodging technique by moving the filter up and down -- as explained previously -- to avoid any unnatural gradient line.

"While many filters were created with a specific use in mind," says Adam, "that shouldn’t limit our creative vision as photographers. Next time you are out in the field, try something different—you might just be pleasantly surprised at the results."

To keep up with Adam's adventures, and check out his Christmas Print Sale, be sure to stop by his website.