Friday, April 24, 2009

Veteran Gold-N-Blue shooter happy again since his adjustment to the digital age

As a well-known landscape and travel photographer, Bob Krist is quick to admit his successful transition from film to digital photography didn't take place overnight.

"One of the things I missed about the passing of film-based photography (besides the fact that I had a very happy life outside of the computer-based world) is using Velvia color transparency film. I loved the look and rich color palette of that film. And I loved using it with the Gold-N-Blue Polarizer from Singh-Ray. This filter allows you to punch up the areas of reflected (polarized) light in a scene into dramatic blues or golds, and when used correctly in the right conditions, it seemed able to make late-afternoon 'magic light' appear much earlier in the day. It also helped me punch up the colors in a twilight or sunset scene.

"Upon making the move to digital cameras, however, I experienced a major problem. My Gold-N-Blue images -- which had always looked great on film -- were emerging from my digital camera looking almost unusable. The way the images appeared on my camera's LCD almost sent me running to the repair shop. They were very low in contrast with a horrible magenta/red cast over the whole shot. Yes, I knew I could clean it up in my RAW processor, but even then my results were often much too magenta. For a time, I thought I had lost one of my favorite filters to the digital revolution, but then one day I was really fooling around with the sliders in ACR conversion software and I stumbled upon the the white balance adjustments that brought back the good old Gold-N-Blue excitement of my film days. My new way of using the Gold-N-Blue involves a counterintuitive set of processing instructions, but here's how it works for me.

"So I'm now able to quickly convert my RAW images made with the Gold-N-Blue -- see the 'uncorrected RAW Image' above -- into a 'Corrected Image' (see photo at top) that looks just the way I wanted as I composed it in the field. At first, I couldn’t believe that these weird settings were working, even though I could see that they were. So, I kept my new technique to myself because I’m no software or processing guru and I was sure this was some sort of anomaly and that I’d be branded a heretic or an idiot if I mentioned it. Then I read a post on the Singh-Ray blog by master landscape shooter and filter maven Darwin Wiggett, and he said he did more or less the same thing. Then and only then, did I feel safe to come out of the closet, so to speak. When it comes to the backshop stuff of digital, I’m one insecure hombre. But I was glad to stumble onto this formula for using the Gold-N-Blue again, because it gives me a little boost in colors over my regular polarizer and it brings me back to my Velvia days.

"To illustrate my point, let's fast forward to my recent assignment to shoot a Big Island of Hawaii story for Islands Magazine during one of these hazy, steamy, periods last year. The writer of the story went on and on about the landscapes, the lava formations in the water, the scenic views, and I had just 6 days to shoot it all (they don’t call it the Big Island for nothing -- it’s roughly the 4,000 square miles and you could fit about four Rhode Islands on it).

"You don’t normally think of weather problems in the tropics and certainly not in Hawaii, land of palm trees, hula dancers and -- during my trip -- lots of heavy haze. Of course, the big island of Hawaii is also home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. When it’s not putting on a spectacular eruption show with glowing orange ropes of lava pouring into the steaming seas, it’s just venting. That’s right, it’s just venting steams, gases, and other things that keep the Big Island in a kind of haze a lot of the time.

"Early in the shoot, I wasn’t having much luck dealing with the haze, but before dawn each morning, I hiked out to the Kona coast hoping to shoot the lava formations. It was gray, so I put on my Gold-N-Blue Polarizer and did some long exposures with the blue pumped up. Then as sunrise approached -- and the sky went from dark gray to medium gray -- I swung to the other end of the filter’s spectrum and put a nice warm glow over the writer’s favorite stretch of lava rocks on the coast. Chalk up another successful rescue for my trusty Gold-N-Blue.

"Soon after, while shooting on the island's north coast, the daily rains blew through but so did a couple of shafts of sunlight. Again the surroundings were very gray, but the Gold-N-Blue helped put enough pop back into this last scene to make it well worth publishing.

"Now, if only I could get some semblance of my free time back from those days, when all I did was shoot and somebody else did all the processing and backshop work... ah well, we can always dream, can’t we?"

And the next time you're ready to dream of far off places, Bob's impressive new website and blog will take you a long way.

Editor's note: By setting a "Custom White Balance" in the field with the Gold-N-Blue in place on the lens, virtually all digital SLR cameras can compensate for the magenta tint and display a correct image on the LCD. The color temperature and tint settings on the RAW file will be similar to what Bob describes here, and should require minimal correction. Refer to your camera's manual for specific instructions on setting a Custom White Balance.


Andoni said...

Excellent post! I am in love with this filter. This post is very helpful for those who have the Gold N Blue and don't know how to achieve the perfect settings in order to get the best possoble results. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I am using canon dslr, and what one can also do is shoot RAW+JPEG, go to the Kelvin scale and adjust it to 3200K-4200K according to taste and WB trim to G2 or G3, I usually shoot in landscape picture style, with saturation to +3, since pre dawn light is usually very blue, I go a little warmer on the Kelvin scale(around 4000-4200)constantly checking the magenta histogram making sure it's not waaay to the right, with this setting it's pretty close to PP on ACR.