Friday, August 07, 2009

Shooting from sea-level or high in the sky, Kauai's beauty calls for an LB ColorCombo

Oregon landscape photographer Dennis Frates began shooting professionally almost 25 years ago. "When I first started," says Dennis, "I went on many one- to two-day excursions in my home state of Oregon. I got some good images early on, but I soon learned that spending a longer period of time at a location forced me to see beyond the obvious and create my best imagery.

"Over the past two years, I have spent a total of 36 days photographing on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and my heart sings for this tropical environment. I love being able to get up at the crack of dawn, put on shorts and a tee-shirt, and feel perfectly warm for a morning of comfortable photography. The image above was made off the southern coast of Kauai on my first trip in 2008. I shot some 200+ images with my LB ColorCombo from this exact spot, but it wasn’t until later when I viewed them on my computer that I realized I had captured a wave that perfectly mimicked the cloud pattern above it.

"Although Kauai is very tropical, its volcanic peaks make it one of the world's wettest places in terms of annual rainfall. Over the past 7 million years, the heavy rains have carved deep valleys in the mountains and created many lovely waterfalls. During my latest trip to Kauai in May, I took these next two images of the eroded cliffs along the Na Pali coastline from a very small helicopter. On this day, however, I was not able to enjoy the tropical environment because it got really cold hovering high in the air in a helicopter with the doors removed. With an occasional rain shower and the queasiness I felt after looking through my lens while the chopper made several banks and turns, I realized I had left my tropical comfort zone. Although I had been a helicopter crew chief years ago in the army, and quite accustomed to hanging out open doors, I found it very unsettling to do it while looking through a camera lens.

"Anyway, I made many exposures during the hour-long trip -- while keeping an air bag in sight at all times -- and came away with some fine images. I used my Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo Polarizer for all these images. Not only did this versatile polarizer remove reflections from the wet foliage and deepen the color, it also added a touch more saturation to all the colors, which meant the images needed only slight work in Photoshop to bring out the their full color intensity. All the images were made with a Canon 1ds Mark III, using a 24-105mm f/4 IS lens. Shutter speeds varied from 1/320 to 1/500 sec. and the ISO varied from 400-800. The aerial images were all shot wide open at f/4.

"Often my best images occur during return visits to an area or by spending extended time there. This has certainly been the case in Hawaii. I keep thinking that I have photographed all I want there, but each time I return I find new subjects or ways of seeing things."

Dennis currently has a 4-page story with photos featured in the August 2009 issue of Outdoor Photographer and is seeking a publisher for his book, Lightdances Across the Landscape -- how to create stunning fine-art landscape photographs. He's also uploaded more of his most recent photos taken in Kauai to his website... start your visit by clicking "New Images."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Mount Rainier's wildflowers look even better this year with the LB ColorCombo

As preparation for an August workshop on the wildflowers of Mt. Rainier National Park, Jamie Fullerton recently scouted the area between Chinook Pass and Sunrise to see how they were coming along. "Rainier is known worldwide for spectacular views and stunning wildflowers, and this year the wildflowers are absolutely incredible," says Jamie. "With any luck, it’ll stay that way throughout August. On my scouting trip, I brought along my 150-mm macro lens and a Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo -- which combines an LB Warming Polarizer and an LB Color Intensifier. When creating close-up images of flowers, I'll often use this filter to achieve additional saturation and vibrancy. I prefer this approach over pushing the saturation during post-processing because the results are achieved immediately in the camera and often appear more pleasing to my eye.

"Upon reaching one of the workshop locations, I was greeted by clear blue skies and a constant breeze. Any hiker would welcome such conditions. However, I knew that they would present challenges as I tried to create sharp close-up images of wildflowers in the bright sunlight with the wind blowing gently but almost constantly! Luckily, I was prepared with a two-part solution.

The first was a diffuser disc that I used to shield my subjects from the direct sunlight and wind. The second was the LB ColorCombo -- chosen for reasons beyond color saturation and vibrancy. This versatile filter also adds a touch of warmth to offset the cool shade of the diffuser disc. Also, the LB ColorCombo consumes only 2 additional stops of light, allowing me to use faster shutter speeds and work under more breezy conditions.

That morning, with the 150mm macro lens mounted on a sturdy ballhead and tripod, sheltered from the direct sun and wind, I created several fine images. I'm looking forward to sharing this technique with our workshop participants. I also thought I would share these images on the Singh-Ray blog for the benefit of any visitors seeking to improve their close-up photography. As for the filter, it never left my lens, even with a breeze blowing the entire time. Combined with the clean ISO 400 of my D700, shutter speeds remained quite manageable. Of course, at the workshop I'll be sharing the LB ColorCombo with anyone who wants to become a filter addict like myself!

To learn more about Jamie's August 21-22 workshop, or see more examples of his work, you can visit his website here.