Friday, February 13, 2009

Roving nature photographer checks out the scene in Joshua Tree National Park

Last October, Canadian outdoor photographer Ethan Meleg began to live his dream: "Taking off and traveling North America in a van for a year and a half -- spending every day chasing great light and discovering new landscapes. I can't imagine any better way to live!" Here's Ethan's second update since then.

"After a quick return trip back to frigid and snowy Ontario for some assignment work, I’m glad to be back in the warm southwest. While I was gone, my VW camper van went into a shop in Tucson for some major mechanical work, which I hope will ensure that we can both make it through the rest of the trip. I must admit I’ve been a bit hard on it -- treating it like an off-road vehicle. Why are so many of the best photo locations at the end of brutally rugged roads?

"I’ve spent the last couple of days in Joshua Tree National Park -- a vast place in southern California that has far exceeded my expectations. The desert landscape is dramatic with its piles of smooth boulders and twisted Joshua Trees. The only downside is that the weather conditions have been difficult for photography. In lighting situations like this I rely on filters more than ever to salvage a shoot. It could be a decade before I make it back here again, so I certainly want to leave with at least a few hallmark images. On my way into the park from the south, I stopped at the amazing Cholla cactus patch you see above. The sun was peeking over a bank of dark clouds, which made for dramatic backlight. For all these images I used my EOS 1Ds Mark III with a 17-40mm lens. I combined my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer with a 4x6-inch 2-stop, hard step ND Grad that I handheld in front of the lens. This exposure was 1/20 @ f/22 with the ISO set at 200. I also used my mirror lock up and cable release.

"I camped at the Jumbo Rocks campground, which is a dream for landscape photography. You can walk from your campsite and find endless photo opportunities. The sky went fairly white at dusk, so I used my trusty Gold-N-Blue Polarizer to bring additional color and life to the image.

"I was so enthused photographing around Jumbo Rocks that I kept working well after sunset. This photo of the moon through a Joshua Tree was taken in dark conditions. I handheld a Singh-Ray 2-stop hard-step ND grad (4x6-inch size) to balance the 30-second exposure throughout the scene. With my other hand, I subtly illuminated the foreground plants with a small LED flashlight I keep handy in my camera bag in case I get lost in the dark.

"My next destination is the San Bernardino Mountains, where I’ll be trying to see -- and hopefully photograph -- my first ever Lewis’ Woodpecker. This is assuming that the snow doesn't hinder my travels into the mountains. I woke up this morning to heavy snowfall in Joshua Tree. After trying my luck at finding the woodpecker, I’m going to explore my way up the California coast to photograph coastal scenery and wildlife. I’ve always wanted to see the California coast and can’t wait to smell the ocean air."

We should add that Ethan has just won honorable mention in the Images of the Year contest on Naturescapes.net. "It's a photo I took at the Subway in Zion National Park a couple of months ago using the LB ColorCombo. I think it may be the best photo I've shot this trip." To follow Ethan's adventures more closely, you can also bookmark his website and blog.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Photographer gets to know his Gold-N-Blue better after it captures his first Grand Canyon sunrise

Following a number of intense years in college and medical school in Arizona, Jarrod Mosier decided a year or so ago to buy a camera as a creative release. Last September, Jarrod posted his first story and images on this blog highlighting his impressive progress as a landscape photographer. "After about 500 disappointing pictures," Jarrod recalled, "I took my photos to a local shop and asked the man what I needed. He said I needed three things: photoshop, to shoot in RAW, and graduated neutral density filters. He recommended Singh-Ray filters as the top of the line."

Fast forward to last week. Jarrod now enjoys using a number of Singh-Ray filters, but he's still toying with his Gold-N-Blue Polarizer and his latest camera. He says, "I have had my new Canon 5D Mark II for about a month but been too busy to get out and shoot. There is a particular shot in Flagstaff that I've had in mind and so I planned to go up there. I drove up from Tucson to Flagstaff with this one image in mind and fully determined to get it. Turns out, it had been raining the previous 2 days which melted all the snow. On top of that, the mountains were covered with clouds and would not come out. Needless to say, the first day was a bust. The next day, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to try for a sunrise shot. Again... it rained. I was so frustrated I looked at my watch and decided I could try the Grand Canyon. It is about 75 miles to the south rim and I thought I might be able to make it up there before sunrise.

"So I drove up there, and got there about 30 minutes before the sunrise and set up along one of the overlooks. I had never been there before and didn't have time to scout. As the predawn light started to pick up I noticed...you guessed it, complete obstructive cloud cover! I sat there anyway and waited for some luck. Sure enough, I get my first Grand Canyon image.

"Great sunburst, but boring colors because of all the clouds and cold light. I put on my Singh-Ray Gold-Blue Polarizer and got the second image seconds later. I could not have been happier. Landscape photography can be very frustrating in that your best shots can be complete luck while you are out trying to get a completely different image!

"But then I showed someone my 'final' Gold-N-Blue shot and they referred me to Darwin Wiggett's story on the Singh-Ray blog, Getting 'what you see' with the Gold-N-Blue. The story describes his easy-to-apply method of using the Gold-N-Blue to create images that look like they did when originally viewed through the filter.

"When I applied the gray eyedropper technique to various points in the image as Darwin Wiggett describes, I found that it took away a lot of the warm tones that I liked in the original picture. So I'm sharing the original 'no filter' file (1), the Gold-N-Blue polarizer file that I initially liked so well, (2), and finally a Gold-N-Blue polarizer file after I had applied the dropper-tool color balancing technique to make the clouds a neutral gray (3), and at the top of this story is a "final" combined picture which I like the best.

"I plan to continue working with and learning from the Gold-N-Blue," says Jarrod. "It's an exciting creative tool and Darwin Wiggett's method will help me set the 'reality' baseline on which I can then explore even more of my creative options."

You can see more of Jarrod's expanding portfolio by visiting his web gallery.