Friday, June 19, 2009

Working with the 5-stop Mor-Slo ND filter is "pure fun" when you're in Maui, Hawaii

Kevin McNeal tells us, "One of the best things about getting to shoot on a tropical island is the ocean." And for this Pacific Northwest photographer, shooting in Maui this past month was as good as it gets. "One of the first things I ask myself when choosing a place to visit is how unique are the beaches? I have to admit there is nothing I like more then waiting for the sun to go down as I stand in the surf with tripod in hand and my feet feeling the water rush against me. I enjoy the chance to translate the beauty and power of the ocean into a meaningful image for my viewers.

"When trying to capture such images, the challenge is to combine the natural elements into some kind of visual order. For example, I look for patterns within the chaos of crashing waves to find something that speaks to me. One way which I try to do this is to combine the warm tones of the sun with a colorful sky. This can be tricky and takes some pre-visualizing where you want to be when the sun meets the horizon and how this will enhance your composition. To accentuate the warmer colors in the foreground as well as the sky, I use a rather unlikely filter -- the Singh-Ray Mor-Slo 5-stop Neutral Density filter. By reducing the light that reaches the camera’s sensor, I am able to greatly extend the length of my exposures. By extending these twilight exposures, my images tend to gain more color saturation.

"I've adopted this technique as a result of my own experiments with various Singh-Ray filters -- looking for a filter that enhances the warmer tones of an image in a realistic, natural-looking manner. Although I was also pleased with the results achieved with my Gold-N-Blue Polarizer, it can’t give me enough density -- as measured in terms of f-stops -- to achieve the really slow exposures I now look for. So my best option is to put on the Mor-Slo 5-stop ND filter to block the light as the setting sun is still above the horizon. I really like the way it highlights the rocks in the foreground. If I had tried to shoot this with just a polarizer I would have had blown the highlights on the sun. But by using the Mor-Slo ND at just the right time I was able to effectively capture both the sun and the reflected light off the foreground rocks.

"I often will go for two different types of images when shooting at the ocean. Both include trying to convey motion and a sense of depth in the image. The magic of the ocean is in the movement and patterns. And patience is needed to see how this relationship works between the landscape and the ocean. First, I will convey motion in the image by shooting a half-second exposure where the water is blurred. Then I will try creating a longer exposure from five seconds to several minutes. Both shutter speeds create different types of images although equally interesting. The Mor-Slo ND blocks enough light out even with the sun at the horizon to capture a long enough exposure of several seconds. With other filters you have to wait several minutes after the sun is set to get a long enough exposure to achieve the added saturation.

"The value of my Mor-Slo filter really became clear to me while shooting in Maui since I was able to start shooting earlier. This gave me extra time to shoot and try different compositions. Often it is not the first composition that works, but the effort leads to a better result later as we begin to really look. Twilight in most places I have photographed can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Maui, on the other hand would only last ten to fifteen minutes, making the advantage of having the Mor-Slo even more beneficial.

"For me, there's been great value in experimenting with my different Singh-Ray filters under various lighting conditions. That's how I've discovered that my Mor-Slo ND is not just for shooting waterfalls. The added color gained by using the filter can give images that extra impact we're all shooting for."

You'll find many more examples of Kevin's impressive fine-art photography when you stop by his website.

1 comment:

2sweetnsaxy said...

Wow! These are amazing!