Friday, June 26, 2009

When it comes to shooting ghosts, the Singh-Ray Vari-ND is the right choice

"Colorado photographer Cole Thompson is dedicated to creating strong black and white images that command attention. Here are three of Cole's most recent fine art images to prove the point. "I’ve just returned from England," says Cole, "where I created these images with my Vari-ND filter. I love this filter because it gives me the ability to create images that match my vision, and in many cases it allows me to create images that would not be possible with a solid (non-variable) ND filter.

"I had two goals for this trip: first to photograph the ruins of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England (above), and second to begin a new series of images entitled “The Ghosts of Great Britain.”

"I use the Vari-ND for a variety of effects. For the Stonehenge photo, a 30-second exposure created movement in the clouds, creating an image that draws you in. Another benefit of the long exposure was that the tourists who wandered into the scene, were rendered invisible.

"The next two images are part of the “The Ghosts of Great Britain” series. The second photo was made at the remains of Old Sarum Castle which was built late in the Eleventh Century. The third photo shows Old Wardour Castle which is three centuries newer -- but still lacking indoor plumbing.

"For these images, I used similarly long exposures for a completely different purpose, to create ghosts in my images. In my previous ghost series created at Auschwitz and Birkenau, I used unsuspecting tourists as my ghosts, but in this new series I wanted more control. To do this I used my 13-year-old daughter, wearing a white sheet and carefully orchestrated motion to create a different kind of ghost, a single ghost with more definition.

"I love dark images, contrasty images and images with motion; the Vari-ND makes all this possible. My style relies on dark images with bright subjects. It's this contrast that creates an image that can really jump out at you, so when I go shooting, I'm looking for these types of scenes. The Old Wardour Castle image, for example, appears to have been shot at night, but it was a 30-second daytime exposure. The key is that I knew in advance what I wanted the image to look like."

To learn more about Cole's workflow and see additional images in his latest series, visit his website and blog.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

For softer, muted colors, hitch up your Gold-N-Blue Polarizer to the Vari-ND

Following his recent two-week visit to Japan, Daryl Benson sent us a number of fine images along with notes on how he used his various Singh-Ray filters during the trip. Part one of his report discussing the LB Warming Polarizer was posted on June 16. This time he explains how he captured these luminous images of the famous Torii Gate (above) and Meoto Iwa -- aka The Wedding Rocks -- using the Singh-Ray Vari-ND and Gold-N-Blue Polarizer together.

"Birds don’t see air, fish don’t see water, and we don’t see time," says Daryl. "I find the concept of visually experimenting with time fascinating. Cameras can record the passage of time in ways our eyes can’t. We see time in about 1/30-second slices. That's good to remember if you ever want to photograph something in motion so that it appears in the photo with the same degree of motion as how you saw it. Photography, however, can record the passage of time anywhere from fractions of a second to many hours. It’s always interesting to see the world in new ways, which is why I enjoy using strong Neutral Density filters to extend my exposure times during daylight hours, creating images that have a look very different from what we’re used to seeing. These two images were shot right at sunset using both a Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter and Gold-N-Blue Polarizer together. This combination helped me emphasize the colors as well as create a long 30-second exposure that transformed the chaotic churn of the incoming tide into a smooth surface that softly reflected the subjects.

"To use these filters together, first attach the Vari-ND to the lens and then thread the Gold-N-Blue to the front of the Vari-ND. Depending on how much neutral density you dial in, the scene can become very dark when looking through the viewfinder. By cupping my hand over the top of the camera to shade the viewfinder, while pressing my face closely into the camera, I'm able to create as much of a light seal as possible. I allow my eye some time to adjust to the low light -- usually several seconds -- and I am then able to see the composition and dial the Gold-N-Blue to whatever color I want. I make sure to cover the viewfinder if I'm using the in-camera meter to determine exposure. With so much ND in front of the lens, stray light entering the camera through the viewfinder can seriously throw off the camera's meter.

"I find that using my Gold-N-Blue Polarizer with the Vari-ND delivers soft muted colors with somewhat reduced contrast -- a look I find is often visually exciting. I’ll often bring the contrast back up a bit using Levels in post-production."

We'll soon be posting Daryl's final story with more images from his Japan trip, but you can also find more on his website.