Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What makes the versatile LB ColorCombo so essential when shooting in Hawaii

Every winter, Kevin McNeal travels from his home in Olympia, Washington, to visit a different island in Hawaii. "My goal," says Kevin, "is to produce images that catch the unique spirit of each of these breathtaking islands. Reproducing the full vibrancy and colors of Hawaii would not be possible without the right tools, and by far the most important tool in my kit is the Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo. Using this one essential filter -- in various situations ranging from the bamboo forest seen above to close-up shots of tree bark to vast scenics at sunrise -- I'm able to create images of Hawaii that capture right-in-the-camera all the magical colors and visual impact I'm shooting for.

"This winter I visited the island of Maui to shoot the east side of the island known as 'the long and winding Hana road.' I quickly discovered that it is indeed a long, winding road surrounded by lush green forests -- and waterfalls at every turn. What distinguishes the island of Maui from other islands is its highly diverse landscape. Everything from coastal beaches, wild flora, and even tropical rainforests can be seen on the island. It was my goal to capture the endless moods of Maui and illustrate how its profound colors leave such a lasting impression on every visitor. I felt it was most important to bring out in my images all the color vibrancy that my eye was seeing.

"What makes the LB ColorCombo Polarizer unique is that it combines a warming polarizer and a color intensifier in one filter. When photographing this image of the white flowers along the coastline, I was able to capture detail in the foreground flowers and hold the warm tones of the sky. I needed the polarizer to accent the deep blues in the sky and also get vibrancy out of the immediate foreground. This 'lighter, brighter' polarizer also allowed me to use a faster shutter speed to freeze the foreground flowers. During my entire trip around the island, I found that this filter really brings out the detail and gives each image added color saturation. First of all the polarizer accentuated the warmth of the early morning and late afternoon light. Without it, I would have sacrificed too much color saturation and depth due to the specular highlights and haze. Most scenes I came across featured several important elements that lead the eye through the image, and I found that quickly adjusting the polarizer allowed me to capture the subtleties of the light and produce more vivid images.

"In shooting the eucalyptus tree image at the left, I wanted to really bring out the saturated colors in the tree and balance the colors with the colorful foreground plants. In order to get the most of the scene I waited until it rained and the trees were still wet. I knew the combination of the wet bark and the polarizer would produce the best saturation of the unique colors in the tree.

"Because the ColorCombo has only a 2-stop filter factor, I can use a fast shutter speed when trying to avoid foreground foliage from 'blurring' in the wind. I need the polarizer for color saturation but with other polarizers the extra filter factor can require a shutter speed that's too slow to freeze moving subjects. This extra brightness of the ColorCombo is especially helpful in the hours of low light when all the magic happens. The low-light hours are prime time for a landscape photographer and it's the time when I strive to combine the colors of the foreground flowers with the warmer colors of sunrise or sunset to balance the scene.

"This image of the Iao Valley Waterfall illustrates the most critical benefit of using the LB ColorCombo -- its ability to reduce glare from flora, vegetation and rocks that are wet.
This shot was taken on a cloudy day to get the longer shutter speed. As with most tropical places, Maui tends to rain a lot, which works in your favor when trying to shoot these rainforests in their prime weather conditions. Although not ideal for most people, wet conditions provide exciting opportunities for nature photographers. The camera really gets the best color saturation in these wet conditions. The polarizer accentuates this even more -- making images really stand out. The challenge in wet conditions is to minimize the glare reflected from the rain on the vegetation. Trying to correct glare from rain is not something that can be done in post processing and using the polarizer can save you from an unusable image.

"In this final image, the morning sun was making its way over the horizon as I was shooting up at Hakleaka Crater. Rather then go for the traditional image usually taken from this spot, I looked for patterns within the scene. I noticed the light making its way through the mist in the low part of the crater and decided to really bring out the rich sunrise colors. In this image, I was able to capture the experience just as vividly as I remember it.

"I should add a note of caution," adds Kevin. "Anyone using this versatile filter should remember one important point. The ColorCombo is not a 'point and shoot' filter that can simply be placed on our lens and then taken for granted. It's a polarizer -- if we want to get the best image, we must remember to adjust the front ring each time before we click the shutter. Take it from me, it's well worth the effort!"

You'll find more of Kevin's images from his visits to Hawaii as well as many other examples of his fine work at his website.

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