Friday, December 25, 2009

The "professional" filter is one you can trust when you need it

Being raised among Utah's Wasatch Mountains has had a lot to do with Adam Barker's success as a professional photographer. His year-round passion for outdoor action, lifestyle and landscape photography results in an impressive series of images for brochures, advertising, and editorial featuring hikers, fly fishermen, skiers, and other outdoor sports.

"Over the years," says Adam, "I have come to trust and rely on my Singh-Ray filters perhaps more than any other gear in my camera bag. I would feel helpless without that pouch of filters tied to my tripod. They're always ready any time of the day, any day of the year, and -- I should also add -- in rain or shine.

"I was recently hired by a client in the fly fishing industry to produce a number of images over a one-day shoot in Sun Valley, Idaho. On the morning of the shoot, I awoke to 2 inches of snow on my car and a steady rain. Over the course of that day, I experienced shooting conditions ranging from delicious morning light to hellish rain to broken clouds to -- finally -- a gorgeous evening of dramatic skies and golden late light. Through it all, I was using every tool I had to satisfy the client’s needs and create unique, engaging imagery. All of the images in this post were taken that day, and as usual, Singh-Ray filters were vital to my success.

"This first image was one of the last clicks of the day. The light had pretty much faded at the Silver Creek Preserve, but a soft, dusk glow had just begun to come to life. Despite the lack of direct light, the bushes in the foreground seemed to jump out with color and luminance. This image typifies my most common approach to fly fishing and other outdoor-sport imagery, where I prefer to focus on not only the activity taking place but also the environment in which it occurs. An LB Warming Polarizer helped to take the sheen off the foreground foliage. A 3-stop Reverse ND Grad was essential to balance the sky and highlight the succulent detail throughout the entire image.

"These next two images benefited from the simple use of Singh-Ray’s LB Warming Polarizer. The image of the fisherman crossing the bridge was shot earlier in the day. It was raining steadily, and I wanted a bold, rich look to this image. The polarizer made all the difference by removing the glare off the steel bridge, the fisherman’s apparel and the foliage in the background. Additionally, it helped to reveal the rich. water-drenched colors and tones throughout the the image. This photo serves as a friendly reminder that our polarizers can be used for much more than punching up blue skies!

"In contrast to the bridge image, my LB Warming Polarizer was used in a more traditional sense to capture this photo of the two fishermen walking to the river. The evening light balanced perfectly with the dramatic sky, and thus, no ND Grad filter was needed. The polarizer was key in deepening the sky and adding a little extra pop to the clouds. I was standing on a fence to get some extra elevation, so I really appreciated the 'lighter brighter' advantages offered by the polarizer. More light means quicker shutter speeds, and quicker shutter speeds give me confidence to shoot hand-held when a tripod isn't an option.

The sepia panoramic image (at top) of the fisherman in the river was my last image of the shoot. While there was some decent color in the sky, I chose to process the image as you see here, to emphasize the shape and silhouette of the fisherman. A 4-stop Reverse Graduated ND filter was used, as the difference in dynamic range between sky/reflection and everything else was substantial. I chose not to use the polarizer for this image because I wanted as much reflection on the water as possible to set off the dark, silhouetted shape of the fisherman. Some may wonder why I didn’t just expose for the highlights in this image and forget the filter altogether. The answer is 'context.' If I had captured this image without the Reverse ND Grad, there would have been little, if any detail at all in the shoreline and background mountains. As photographers, we’re trying to transport the viewer 'there.' Giving the viewer a greater understanding of the surrounding environment helps immensely.

"Whether you’re an established professional courting big-budget clients, or a serious hobbyist intent on capturing the shot of a lifetime, there’s a lot to be said for choosing the filters, tripods and other tools that will help produce better images day after day."

Adam currently has a 6-page feature story in the February 2010 issue of Outdoor Photographer about shooting black-and-white images in winter. Many more examples of Adam's landscapes and outdoor action images can be found on his blog and website. Details on future workshops and several other projects are listed, too. Social media fans can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Also look for Adam's instructional DVD on mastering the use of landscape filters to be released by Master Photo Workshops in February of 2010.

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