Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nebraska's big skies are a perfect application for your Singh-Ray Graduated ND filters

"Living most of my life on the plains of Nebraska, I have experienced some truly phenomenal sunrises and sunsets," says Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston. "In few other places can one really see the full uninterrupted drama of the sky over such a large expanse of land. Capturing the various colors, contrasts, and textures of the sky while retaining the detail in the foreground in this situation is a necessity. When I'm photographing on the plains I use my Singh-Ray hard-step ND Grad filters more than any others. By using my filters in the field as my images are made, I'm able to really cut down on my time spent in the digital darkroom, which gives me back more time to do what I most enjoy -- nature photography!

"I often hand-hold my graduated ND filters and then use a bit of dodging to minimize the effect of transition line, especially with the hard-step filters. In order to accomplish this, I hold my remote release in one hand and with the other I stop down the aperture to achieve the depth of field I need -- usually between f/11 and f/16 -- I often activate the depth-of-field button on my camera (usually with the same hand that's holding the remote release) as I carefully place my filter where I want the line to fall. I then carefully release the depth-of-field button, hit the remote release and gently move the filter up and down slightly.

"For this image of Frank Shoemaker Marsh near Lincoln, Nebraska, I used my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer to help reduce reflections and bring out the warm colors and my Singh-Ray 3-stop hard-step Graduated ND filter and retain the texture in the foreground grasses and marsh. In this instance I used a large 4x6 filter which I hand-held to dodge the horizon a bit to minimize the filter line. The sky was especially dramatic this evening so I worked fast. By hand holding the ND grad, I was able to recompose more quickly as the light changed second-by-second. By capturing the exposure 'spot-on' in the field, my time spent with the image in post processing was reduced greatly. Beyond a bit of cropping and color correction, there was not a whole lot to change.

"While there are times when I furiously work during the 'golden hour' to capture multiple compositions, there are other times when I relax in one place and let the light be the only change occurring in the scene. The image at the top of this story was made at Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska. I pre-visualized the composition, set up my tripod and camera, and then simply waited. As I was shooting into the sun, I started with a Singh-Ray 4-Stop Reverse ND Grad to hold back the bright light of the sun as it approached the horizon. I then switched between my 2-stop and 3-stop hard-step ND grads as the clouds and light changed. After more than an hour in the same spot, I captured this on one final image that really highlighted my day's experience.

"This last shot features Chimney Rock, our state's legendary landmark along the Oregon Trail which is visible for many miles. It's not only the most recognizable landmark in Nebraska, it's one of the most photographed. I wanted to show it in a composition that was unique, yet characteristic of the frontier. I started early in the morning, while the sun was fresh in a cloudless sky and hiked around to different vantage points, hoping for something new and different. I soon realized the winds were blowing in some high clouds that were really adding an excellent dynamic to the sky. I selected my Singh-Ray 2-stop soft-step ND Grad to properly balance the exposure of the bright sky in order to reveal the layers of clouds while keeping detail in the landscape below. I was able to place the transition low across the horizon line while allowing the sky to dominate much of the composition. I took several photographs zooming in and out before the clouds dissipated. All the while I was able to easily change the position of the 4x6-inch filter to get perfectly balanced exposures."

To enjoy many more of Derrald's impressive big-sky landscapes, you'll want to look up his website, Journey of Light, and his blog.


Renato said...


These are some super great photos! Love them all!!!

Renato said...


Love them all! Super great photos!

Thanks for sharing

Renato said...

These 3 photos are really great!!! It's the combination of the light and the clouds that I like so much!

Thanks for sharing!