Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Singh-Ray filters help capture the natural beauty of Norway's sub-arctic environment

Born in Seoul, S. Korea, outdoor photographer Seung Kye Lee is now based just outside Oslo, Norway. He loves to hike, ski and to sleep under the stars in the Norwegian wilderness, exploring and photographing its unique sub-arctic nature. His favorite subjects are grand landscapes, but he also loves to shoot close-up and macro images as well.

"This first image (above) was made in June on one of my treks into Rondane National Park in eastern Norway. Waking up in the middle of the night is a challenge for most landscape photographers, but we all know how often it can result in spectacular photographs. On this cloudy night I woke at 3 a.m. and hiked for an hour to arrive and be ready for sunrise here at Storulfossen Waterfall on the rugged Ula River. Located just above the treeline with the snow covered Smiubelgen Peak (6621 feet) in the background, this rocky scene is really moody and takes on an almost pre-historic look until the sun begins to rise above the horizon.

"To capture this image I used the Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer. Even though the horizon line is quite straight, except for Smiubelgen Peak, the difference of light levels from foreground to sky was too extreme to capture with my Graduated ND filters alone. Even though 90% of my images are captured as one RAW exposure, there are the 10% of scenes, such as this, where the light conditions or other characteristics of a landscape are too much for a single in-camera exposure to handle. For this scene, I shot one exposure for the sky and one for the foreground landscape. I then manually blended them on my computer to make it look like the scene as I experienced it. The LB Warming Polarizer allowed me to get a short enough exposure to keep the details in the water and to warm up the scene a little bit. I used a 17-40mm f/4 USM on my Canon 5D, tripod, mirror lock-up, and remote shutter release.

"In recent weeks, the fall foliage has been quite stunning in certain parts of Norway. One special place where fall colors and a wild river converge perfectly is Asdøljuvet Gorge, one of the most famous geological areas in the world. Some 250 million years ago, there was volcanic activity there and it is one of the only places in Norway where volcanic rocks are still visibly present. This image was shot on a rainy day along a more or less hidden part of the river. Again, the LB Warming Polarizer came to my rescue by warming up the light and foliage on a heavily clouded day deep in the forest. In shade, a normal polarizer can add a slight blue cast, especially in the shadow areas of an image. As a RAW shooter, I am well aware of how we can adjust white balance in post-processing to warm up the image, but in many cases the overall WB becomes too warm in the process. And, if I can capture what I want on location, I also minimize the time spent behind my computer. A blue cast was not a part of my vision for this image and at the same time I wanted the shortest exposure possible to keep the details in the running water. I quickly arranged a few leaves on the foreground rock to add some interest, and halfway into the 3-second exposure I breathed slightly on the lens to fog it up which created a luminosity that I think enhanced the magic of the scene.

"Taken at Tyri Fjord in September, 2009, about half an hour after the sunset image I had been hoping for never materialized. I decided to shoot some very long exposures to pull out as much available light as possible, even colors that were not visible to the naked eyes at the time. If I shot this image with my standard sunset setup (LB Warming Polarizer and Graduated ND filter for the sky), the color palette in this image would not be recorded by the sensor. But, by using two Singh-Ray 3-stop ND Grad filters (one used as a solid ND-filter with the dense part pulled over the entire lens opening and the other positioned carefully over the sky and horizon) together with the Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer I was able to shoot 'Tides Of Time" at 135 seconds. And the image on the LCD had everything I could have wished for.

"In addition to landscapes, I enjoy photographing interesting details found in nature. Whenever I shoot insects using a macro lens, I enter a totally different world of photography. This Coenagrionoidea (damsel fly) was captured at a small lake near my home in Akershus, Norway in June -- just as the first morning rays lit up the background with warm, soothing colors. By using a tiny mirror, the size of a fingernail, I reflected the light exclusively onto the damsel fly to create an unusual image. In the early morning, damsel flies have not yet started their daily activities and this one was a very cooperative subject. I used my LB Warming Polarizer with a 100mm f2.8 macro lens. I have found that a polarizer is a must for macro shooting to get rid of distractions like bright reflections on leaves, flowers, and water. Since many of my macro images rely on light and background, it can be a real pain if I already have a good image, but a blown-out highlight distracts the viewer's experience.

"This next image, taken at Østensjøvannet Lake near Oslo in April, is one that could easily have been lost if the technique and equipment were not just right. There are many ways of capturing moving subjects, from very short shutter speeds to freeze the action to longer shutter speeds to create the impression of movement. I had spent the entire day on the same spot -- shooting different kinds of birds -- and I kept hoping for that some of the swans in the farthest end of the lake would come close enough. In late afternoon, they heard my silent prayers, and these two swans came flying gracefully towards me. I had just enough time to dial in a sufficient shutter speed to capture a little motion and still have the point of focus sharp before their feet touched the water surface and I panned their motion. Again, if I had used an ordinary polarizer I would need to either turn up the ISO or dial in a longer shutter speed and accept a different kind of image that would result in more blur of details. The Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer -- with its lighter, brighter quality (66% more light transmission than previous polarizers) -- became crucial in making this image as the sun was already approaching the horizon. For this image, I used my 70-300mm lens on my Canon 5D."

To appreciate more of Seung Kye's award-winning images, as well as the dramatic beauty of Norway, you'll want to visit his website: www.leeseungkye.com and his blog: seungkyelee.wordpress.com

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