Friday, March 06, 2009

Singh-Ray Filters help make the most of Thanksgiving in the Desert - Part 1

Nature photographer Ernesto Santos enjoys living in warm and sunny McAllen, Texas, but he also relishes any opportunity to photograph anywhere else he can get to in the western U.S. "It was late last summer," Ernesto recalls, "when my wife broke the news to me... 'This Thanksgiving let’s go to Las Vegas, I want to see some shows.'

"The tiny gears in my head immediately started turning so fast I almost lost my equilibrium. No, I wasn’t thinking about hitting the blackjack tables -- I only gamble with my camera settings. I was mentally mapping a photo itinerary that would include Arizona and areas in Nevada within a day’s drive of Sin City. The only thing remaining was convincing my wife that it would be much better to drive than to fly, and it didn’t take much to get her to agree. Whenever possible I prefer driving to my shooting locations so I can go hog-wild and bring all my photo gear with no worries about carry-on limits and beastly baggage handlers.

"So November soon came and we began driving the endless track just to get out of Texas. Living in south Texas means that half of the length of any road trip is spent getting to a neighboring state. The only advantage is that it gives me plenty of time to contemplate my opportunities. As I formulated my plan of attack, my bundle of Singh-Ray filters were ready and waiting somewhere in the pile of baggage in the back. I considered all the variables I could identify into my permutations. My major concern was the drab condition of the desert in late November. Winter was setting in and it is typically very dry, so there would be no colorful blossoms or fall foliage. I had a plan though.

"When we got to Tucson, we made stops at Saguaro National Park, the incomparable Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and San Xavier del Bac -- the most beautiful Spanish mission in the U.S. For the image above, captured during a spectacular sunset on the grounds of the mission, I used the Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer. The polarizer brought out the reds, yellows, and pinks in the sky very well.

"This image is of the Signal Hill area of Saguaro National Park, well known for the rock art created by the prehistoric Hohokam people. In late November, the desert is visually subdued and frankly not very exciting. If I were able to pick the best time of year to visit this park, it would be in the spring. Like any serious photographer, however, I'm learning to make the most of whatever opportunities I find -- regardless of the weather or time of year. I've also learned that, to give my images an edge, it's important to use all my tools to the fullest. That's the reason I rarely leave for a shoot without all my Singh-Ray filters. They can literally make any trip a success, regardless of the compromises I have to make. For this image, I used the Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo on my Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8 (which reproduces excellent color). It proved to be the perfect combination to capture the saturated greens and bold blue sky in this scene.

"Moving on to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, I discovered a very gracious lady giving a presentation on the many raptors living at the museum. She gave me enough time to quickly attach the Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer to my 70-200 mm zoom to take this close up of a barn owl. I think the soft warmth added by the filter greatly enhances this portrait. And because I was shooting my camera hand held it was great knowing that the lighter brighter Singh-Ray polarizer would save me almost a full f-stop.

"When we left Tucson and headed toward Las Vegas, we stopped for a couple of days in Phoenix, where we took time one afternoon to hike in the Superstition Mountains of The Lost Dutchman State Park. This park is also well known for spring wildflowers, but in the typically dry winters of Arizona, the landscape can lack color. My solution was to wait for the “golden hour” and bring along my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer. Here I chose a less-than-friendly cholla cactus as the centerpiece of this image with the Superstition peaks in the background. The warm aura of the setting sun accentuates the needles of the cholla and gives the scene a nice glow. I once again used the Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer reduce the glare of the late desert light and add more clarity and saturation to the peaks and sky in the distance."

Part 2 of Ernesto's Thanksgiving travel story will feature shots from a much more desolate place -- the Valley of Fire in Nevada, which is only a short drive from Las Vegas and offers some great Mojave Desert scenery. Part 2 will be posted next Tuesday, but in the meantime, visit Ernesto's website here.

No comments: