Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Photographing Oregon's Willamette Valley wine country is best done in the morning light

Living in nearby Seattle, Washington, outdoor photographer Rod Barbee may be a bit biased about Oregon's wine country. "Their vineyards and wineries rival those of Napa and Burgundy," says Rod. "In fact, the Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs are being recognized as some of the best in the world.. . and they are certainly among my favorites. So what better way to combine two of my favorite pastimes, wine and photography, than with a photographic tour of the Willamette Valley wineries? This is just what I did last October along with my co-leader and wine guru Dick Badger, and our six clients for a vinaceous photography tour.

"Autumn is the best time to visit, right around harvest time in mid October. You’ll find colorful rows of yellow grape leaves (with a few red leaves thrown in), full and juicy grape bunches, a few trees displaying their best fall foliage, and thinner crowds. The mornings are crisp and cool with dew-covered grapes and spider webs. What's more the sun doesn’t come up too early, making the mornings just that much more pleasant.

"Sunrise and early morning are the best time to photograph in wine country. The most efficient way to photograph the vineyards is to first scout out the wineries in the late morning or afternoon (tasting time!) when the light’s not that good anyway. Wander around looking for good vantage points. Talk to the folks at the winery and ask permission to return the next morning to photograph. These people are the greatest, and we’ve yet to be turned down (though during harvest you may be asked to not go into certain areas due to safety concerns).

"You’ll need your usual assortment of Singh-Ray filters. Polarizers will help cut the glare off of grape leaves, bringing out the true colors. Because there can often be a slight breeze, I’ll use my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer on both the Pinot Blanc (above) and Pinot Gris (below). It allows me to shoot at a faster shutter speed, which helps stop any wind induced motion. And speaking of color, the LB Color Intensifier gives a nice, natural punch to the fall colors. The LB ColorCombo would also be a perfect choice here.

"You’ll also want to have several Graduated Neutral Density filters along for the wider landscapes. The sky can be anywhere from clear and cloudless to overcast (this is Oregon, after all) and being able to balance light levels is critical. I generally like to keep things simple and get the image right in-camera by using a graduated filter, The horizons here are relatively straight (no jagged mountains) so using an ND Grad is pretty easy. I’d rather do that than having to blend two images in Photoshop. Since the horizons here are often tree-lined or have a hilly curve to them, a soft-step filter will usually work best. If you’ve read any of my other blog entries, you know that I prefer to hand-hold my ND Grad filters. The Singh-Ray 4x6 grads make hand-holding a lot easier, especially if I’m using my ultra-wide zoom.

"Once you’re done photographing for the morning, its time to visit the tasting rooms where I’d recommend trying the Pinot Noir filter. Excuse me… I don’t think Singh-Ray makes one of those... yet." You may be surprised to hear that Rod will be leading a photo tour of Oregon’s Willamette Valley wineries this coming October. To get more details on this and other workshops and tours, visit Rod's website at www.rodbarbee.com

No comments: