Friday, August 14, 2009

Learning to photograph where we are, prepares us to photograph anywhere we go

Like many serious landscape photographers, Chris Moore finds that balancing the demands of a busy career, family life, and the search for dramatic landscapes is a challenge. "With just a couple of weeks a year to travel to exotic places," says Chris, "my appetite for landscape photography has to be fulfilled close to home most of the time. Since integrating Singh-Ray filters into my workflow over the past year, however, I'm capturing more dramatic images wherever I'm shooting. It's mostly here today, but anywhere tomorrow.

"My first, and favorite, filter is the Singh-Ray Vari-ND which I use regularly to allow longer exposures and capture the serenity of a setting. Unlike standard neutral density filters, the Vari-ND allows me to quickly and accurately control my long exposures based on the instant feedback provided by my histogram. I frequently stack the LB Warming Polarizer with the Vari-ND to add an additional stop and bring out the vibrant colors of trees and flowers.

"Recently I spent a long weekend in Birmingham, Alabama, and hiked down to Peavin Falls. It was late morning, just after a heavy rainfall which gave a sheen to the rocks. The sun was diffused by the trees, giving the falls a soft glow. I composed the shot above using my Canon 5D at f/16, with my ISO on 100 for a 10-second exposure. I stacked the Vari-ND and Warming Polarizer to accentuate the motion of the water and warm glow of the rocks while also reducing the glare and reflections.

"Another favorite location of mine is Washington Oaks Gardens State Park in Palm Coast, Florida. Stretching along the Atlantic Coast about an hour from where I live, this rocky shore is unique to the florida coast. On a recent sunrise shoot I used the Galen Rowell Graduated ND filter to expose the scene for the rising sun and to emphasize the water breaking over the rocky shore.

"After sunrise I changed the mood by using the Vari-ND to soften the water with a longer exposure and diffuse the bright rays of the morning sun.

"I have found the Hi-Lux Warming UV filter is excellent for portrait photography, and I've also incorporated it rather effectively into my landscape workflow as well. As seen in the photo above, the Hi-Lux gives me a more subtle warming effect along with excellent color quality and contrast for certain situations.

"Although used less frequently, the Singh-Ray I-Ray Infrared Filter is a favorite for exploring my own creativity. Big Talbot Island, also known as Driftwood Beach and Boneyard Beach, is a State Park in northeast Florida, featuring a very unique eroding coastline and beach scattered with driftwood and fallen trees. I was lucky enough to capture just the right moment when the roots of this large tree split the sunlight to cast an interesting shadow along the beach.

Chris is a physician in Orange Park, Florida. He has several photo projects in progress -- to be released later this year -- involving night photography, star trails, painting with light, and infrared landscapes. You can follow his ventures and extensive gallery by visiting his website.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Creating winning outdoor sports images with ND Grads and Reverse ND Grads

Although globe-trotting photographer Joel Addams enjoys shooting dramatic landscapes, he says, "I'm becoming more and more involved in outdoor sports photography. Here are some recent images that show how useful Singh-Ray ND Grads and the Reverse ND Grad can be for this type of work.

"When a suddenly rising river flowing in front of my Subaru kept me from photographing at the Temple of the Sun and Moon in Capitol Reef, Utah, I had to scramble for a second option. Realizing the sun would rise in the next 30 minutes, I drove east and found some of the most interesting, lunar-like landscapes I had ever seen. I had an athlete with me, already dressed and ready for a trail-running shoot anyway. So I put her to work. We headed out to the huge lumps that jutted up out of the bare. dry land. As the sun finally peeked out from the east, I started shooting. After a few minutes, I did what I always do when shooting outdoor sports: I experimented.

Example 1 (above). The Graduated ND filter does more that hold back the sky.
"The athlete had direct light on her as well as on the tips of the jagged earth, but with this one experimental use of the ND Grad filter, I could hold back extra light on the hills behind her. I had eliminated the sky anyway, but the result of the darkness above and below the athlete was stunning in the LCD. I was truly amazed that I had crafted such an amazing result in-camera with the help of the one Singh-Ray ND Grad. In addition to the increasing the density in the upper portion of the image, the filter also darkened the glowing red rock and intensified its colors.

Example 2. The Reverse ND Grad really helps control the sun.
"During a similar shoot in southern Utah, the athlete was on a mountain bike, and I was scrambling to get her into a position for a ride. The sun had not yet peaked over the hills, but I knew I was running out of time. I finally made my decision: keep her directly in front of the rising sun and stop down to a small aperture to see if I could starlight the sun’s rays. I usually use a cell phone or two-way radios during these shots, and I called to her to stay where she was, and to stay very still!

"The use of the Reverse Graduated ND Filter on this particular shot was imperative because the horizon was so flat. I could have selected a Graduated Neutral Density filter, but I would not have isolated the mountain biker quite as well, possibly leaving some excess light at the horizon. The reverse nature of the density of the filter (denser near the middle of the filter) made for a more even shot.

Examples 3 & 4. Graduated Neutral Density helps highlight the subject.
"This is one of my favorite uses of the ND Grad. I like to use this filter to block light that is bouncing from rocks, canyon walls, or even poorly lit areas. The result is that I can 'tone down' areas that are too bright and distracting and isolate the subject more naturally. When I say 'more naturally' I am comparing this method to using Photoshop, which I prefer to use as little as possible.

"This first image was taken in the famous Narrows in Zion National Park. The morning was continuing on, and the light that remained in the sky and upwards in the canyon was simply too much for the sensor (capturing usually only 3-4 stops). I had my friend hold her pose while I blurred the water by using a long exposure. While so doing, I used my Graduated Neutral Density 2-Stop to hold back the brighter light at the top of the wall. Use of the grad filter here shows an interesting effect. The less exposed an area in the frame is, the more color saturation we see. So while my eye was seeing a brighter but less colorful wall at the top of the canyon, using the GND filter produced a much richer color. I will fully admit that I bumped up the 'blacks' in post-processing.

"The second image was more of a classic use of the ND Grad -- to hold back light in an overly bright sky. I use this image here to show that the ND Grad is useful for more than landscapes. My friend Josh Walker was pretty tired after hiking this Little Cottonwood Canyon trail, so he served as a great foreground subject for this image. He didn’t even stir as I set up early morning and metered off him while hand holding the ND Grad to preserve detail in the clouds. Later on, he summer-skied the high Utah glaciers while I took some action shots.

"I love using the my Graduated ND filters to create my sunrise and sunset landscapes, but I also realize they can do a great job toning down overly bright areas in any outdoor situation. Enterprising photographers will appreciate how versatile these filters can be for shooting any kind of outdoor sports."

Joel is now moving his outdoor and travel photography business to Hawaii for the rest of 2009 and spring of 2010, "gearing up for a year of outdoor sports and amazing scenery." Continue to follow his international work at his website or his Facebook page at Joel Addams | Photography.