Friday, November 20, 2009

Painting images with the Vari-N-Duo to express the joys of color in motion

Since his retirement a few years ago, Suresh Mehta's passion for photography has become an intensely personal experience. "I've been an active member of the RA Photo Club of Ottawa, Canada, throughout those years," he says, "yet even today I feel a sense of self-discovery each time I look through the viewfinder of my camera. I've found a new way to interact with the world and see it unfolding around me.

"At this point, I am especially interested in 'painting' my images by moving the camera or zooming my lenses as the shutter is kept open for long exposures. To achieve such long exposures, I rely primarily on my Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo. My ISO is set at 100, the lens is stopped down to f/16 or f/22 and the camera set on 'Manual' mode. Because the Vari-N-Duo combines both a variable density function and a polarizer in one filter, I adjust the polarization ring before I determine the exposure time with the aid of the camera's meter and histogram display.

"For 'blurry' and most other impressionistic images, I use my wideangle lens at its closest focusing distance. I make sure the subject is in focus and covers the entire frame. I hand-hold the camera and release the shutter. While the shutter is open, the camera is moved slowly and smoothly in any of several directions -- up-and-down, sideways, zig-zag, jiggle. Beautiful patterns and the effects of various colors are captured as a result of these slow exposures.

"For my 'circular' images, I attach the tripod collar of my 70- 200-mm lens directly onto the tripod's ballhead and then I mount the camera body onto the lens. After composing my image, I manually determine the focus, filter settings and exposure times. At that point, I loosen the tripod collar on my lens just enough to allow me to smoothly rotate the camera body around the axis of the lens. Once the shutter is tripped, I begin rotating the camera during exposure for at least half a turn (180 degrees). Sometimes I also slowly zoom the lens in and out. Most of my zooming shots are achieved during exposures ranging from 8 to 16 seconds.

"The real challenge in capturing these images is to maintain the ‘correct' shutter speed while the lens is stopped down (f/16 or f/22). That's where the Vari-N-Duo really makes the painting experience a lot more fun and productive. This unique filter’s minimum/maximum density from 2-2/3 to 8 f-stops affords full control of the exposure as needed simply by rotating the front ring. The shutter speeds for most of my images in bright daylight ranged from 2 seconds to 8 or more seconds at f/22. The built-in LB Warming Polarizer allows me to fine-tune the color contrast, and there are many times when I will also add my Singh-Ray LB Color Intensifier to further saturate the colors."

Suresh held his first solo exhibition at the National Press Club in Ottawa in 2003. His work continues to be displayed at the RA Photo Gallery in Ottawa.

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