Friday, July 03, 2009

Adding the finishing touches to the waters of Vermont

In recent years, Montreal-based nature photographer Rob Servranckx has headed south to northern Vermont for the first half of his June vacation. "For four dawn-to-dusk days, I'm the co-instructor for a photo workshop conducted by Gustav W. Verderber. Many don't understand that, for me, this is not work. It's an opportunity to do and think photography in beautiful locations. It's also fun to share ideas and images with other photographers and to see their reaction when they discover how Singh-Ray filters can improve their images.

"The Green Mountains in northern Vermont include many spectacular waterfalls, beautiful landscapes and magnificent lakes, making it a fantastic area for outdoor photography. I can't imagine going to our workshop without demonstrating how my Singh-Ray filters -- especially the Gold-N-Blue Polarizer and Graduated ND filters -- can help them.

"I find the Gold-N-Blue especially useful to enhance woodland waterfalls and streams surrounded by deep green foliage. For these first two images, I used it to insert a subtle touch of gold in the specular highlights and glaring reflections on the wet rocks and still water, and to gently warm up the deep green foliage. Under cloudy conditions (the only time I shoot waterfalls!), using this filter is enough to slow down the exposure time to about half a second, just about a perfect shutter speed to start blurring the water while holding some detail and texture in the highlights. By adding just a light touch of gold in images like these -- it keeps the image looking very natural.”

“When using the Gold-n-Blue Polarizer on a digital camera, a magenta cast is introduced, but it is very easy to correct for this and get the white balance just right. After shooting my images in RAW mode, I select the white-balance eyedropper in my RAW converter software, place it on the white water, click once... and voila! A perfectly color-balanced image. Another method is setting my camera's custom white balance in the field with the filter on the lens -- it gives me the same results, and allows me to preview the corrected settings on my camera's LCD in the field.”

"One of my favourite destinations during our workshop is Willoughby Lake in northern Vermont. This beautiful lake with pristine waters was carved by glaciers a long time ago. These glaciers created high, fjord-like carvings, with steep cliffs and a deep bowl where the lake formed. There are so many compositions here –- I could easily have spent 2 or 3 days in this one place alone. I really like this composition of the lake, with the skeletal-looking roots reaching towards the skull-shaped rock. This contrasts nicely with the lush greens of the forest and the aqua-colored waters. But the bright cloudy sky was making the exposure a little tough. By very carefully placing my Singh-Ray 3-stop hard-edge Graduated ND filter to follow the edge where the mountain meets the sky, I was able to darken the sky sufficiently to get a great exposure."

You can see more of Rob’s work on the Sojourns In Nature web site and on their blog.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

From sunrise to sunset, the LB ColorCombo is always ready to brighten your outlook

Here's the third of three parts from Daryl Benson recalling his recent two-week visit to Japan. This time we see two distinctly different but equally impressive images of the two-story Tahoto Pagoda on the tiny island of Miyajima.

"Sunrise and sunset are always favourite times to photograph," says Daryl. "It’s rare, however, that I’ll shoot the exact same location at both of these times. Most subjects are usually positioned to catch either the morning or evening light best. However, on this little island there are not a lot of places to go. After photographing sunrise at the floating Torii Gate, which this island is famous for (see last week's post), I ended up returning to a lookout that had provided a nice view of this pagoda surrounded by cherry trees in full blossom. I had, in fact, photographed this same pagoda at sunset the previous evening as the light was really enriching the pagoda’s colors. By shooting with the aid of my Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo Polarizer, I captured the whole scene snapping with intensity and contrast.

"When I returned the next morning, I wasn’t expecting the pagoda to be nearly as interesting in the late morning light. The sun was getting higher, harsher and had lost most of its early morning warmth. When I got to the lookout it was exactly as I expected, although many of the cherry tree blossoms were glowing from the backlight. There was a fair bit of haze, which was mostly pollution from the nearby city of Hiroshima, just across the bay. I couldn’t see much of the hillside behind the pagoda. I was looking almost directly into the sun, so I didn’t expect much color boost from the ColorCombo Polarizer but I thought it might cut a little bit of haze. So I pulled it out of my pocket and had a look. To my surprise it did both jobs beautifully! It cut through enough haze that I could make out more detail in the background hills and I could see the colors intensify. Polarizers perform their best magic when directed at a 90-degree angle to the light source. But even when shooting 180 degrees from the sun or directly into it, there will still be some surfaces that are at 90 degrees to the light, from your point of view, and will therefore block the polarized light reflections. The color intensifying effect produced by this filter works regardless of the polarization, but it's most pronounced when the polarizer is working at maximum effect.

"I was careful to shade the front of the filter during the morning shoot as the camera was pointing almost directly into the rising sun. The blending of color enhancement and a polarizer in one filter makes this filter a favourite tool. I often carry it in my shirt pocket, pulling it out just to visually check a scene. After more than 25 years of shooting, I understand well enough the concept of how light works. However, I’m surprised often enough that I try to never prejudge anything until I actually see it."

Now that Daryl is back home in Alberta, Canada, we're guessing that he'll soon be posting many more images from his trip to Japan. You can check his impressive website here.