Friday, September 18, 2009

A basic demonstration to show how the Gold-N-Blue Polarizer can save the day

From their home in Santa Rosa, CA., Susan and Neil Silverman travel across North America to conduct a busy schedule of photo workshops as well as teaching online classes and shooting for their own stock. "On our return from leading a photo workshop at Banff and Lake Louise," says Susan, "we took a sideroad off the Kananaskis Highway in Alberta, Canada. We pulled in too late for sunset, but in enough time for the last campsite at Lower Kananaskis Lake. The sunrise location was readily accessible, with a nice view, and the only real consideration were the bear paw prints covering the beach.

"Next morning, the sunrise was a fizzle, but we always have our Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer with us, particularly for this type of situation. For us, the filter is a 'why not always have it with you' piece of equipment. For this drab type of morning (where it's likely that we'll never have the chance to revisit for another photo), the Gold-N-Blue becomes an indispensable way to save the day. Here was the perfect opportunity, we decided, to capture an image to demonstrate to our students what can be done with this very special polarizer. So we promptly set up our camera, composed and focused, and took the first photo (above) with no filter on the lens.

"This next shot was taken with the Gold-N-Blue Polarizer on the lens without making any other camera or exposure adjustments. Then in post-processing, the only image adjustment we made was a minor layers adjustment. We dragged the small triangle at the bottom of the histogram in towards the center on each of the individual colored channels to remove the color cast (see diagram). The red arrows indicate the direction that the small triangles were moved. After doing this, the Gold-N-Blue gave us more color and more vibrance for a much more striking and dramatic image (below).

"We were not only pleased with this final image and the fact that the filter really saved the shot, but we had also produced an image improvement that was entirely the result of the filter -- no complicated or extraordinary effort required.

"It is a great filter, not only for salvaging an image in poor light (when appropriate), but it can also give some great effects that are not over-the-top and produce a very satisfying result with a minimum of post-processing. This quick demonstration photo tells a short and simple story, and that's what is so cool about the Gold-N-Blue Polarizer."

Susan and Neil not only teach workshops, they photograph a wide variety of subject matter for their own gallery and stock photo clients. Their work is represented by both national and international stock agencies and has appeared in a variety of publications. Visit their website for complete information.

*Tip: The color cast mentioned in the article can also be removed by setting a "Custom White Balance" in the field with the Gold-N-Blue in place on the lens (in any position) prior to making an image. Doing so will display a "normal" image on the LCD (no tint). This step can minimize the need for post processing, although as the article illustrates, you can adjust your settings for a wide variety of creative effects. Refer to your camera's manual for specific instructions on setting a Custom White Balance.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Photographing Hawaii's miles of seacoast calls for special precautions... and filters

Joel Addams recently relocated his sports and travel photo business from Utah to Hawaii for the rest of 2009 and spring of 2010. "Among the early adjustments I've had to make," says Joel, "was learning to work successfully along the many miles of beautiful coastline. The edge of the ocean presents special challenges to the photographer not fully familiar with how the light works on the water's highly reflective surface, how the salt-air environment affects equipment, or how the right filters can benefit almost every image. Once I began photographing on Oahu, during July and August of this year, I developed an approach to photographing Hawaii's coastal beauty that other 'ocean-naïve' shooters might want to consider when visiting the islands.

Sunrise and sunset happen before
and after their 'scheduled' arrivals
"I noticed this the first time I drove out to the coast, thinking the sun would rise at precisely 6:50 a.m. on Oahu’s east coast. On the drive along the Kamehameha Highway, I realized I was missing some of the most brilliant oranges and reds that rivaled the colors of the western United States. The difference? They were happening long before the sun actually came up due to the lack of mountains and landscape. With just an ocean skyline out to the east, gorgeous colors cropped up about 45 minutes before the allotted time and then disappeared -- became a bit 'washed out' -- until the direct sunlight hit the landscape.

"This first image (above) was an early morning sunrise on the southeastern side of Oahu. It was a long, slow hike up the mountain in the dark, but it was well worth it. As I started seeing the reds in the eastern sky, I experimented with the Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo filter, which combines an LB Warming Polarizer and an LB Color Intensifier. I used the thin-ring version, as I was shooting with my Canon 17-40 L series lens and did not want any vignetting. In addition to the ColorCombo filter, I used my Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse Graduated ND filter to even out the brighter light in the sky. This Reverse ND Grad is a 'must-have' for many oceanscapes: its hard-step density is strongest across the middle of the filter, which is a perfect fit for the correspondingly harsh light across the horizon at sunset and sunrise.

"One added benefit of using the Graduated or Reverse Graduated ND filter is that the landscape photographer can retain more color out of the area that is 'held back.' Overexposed areas can become faded and lose color as well as detail.

"In addition to early pre-sunrise colors, post-sunset light can also yield great images by using long exposures. This example shows that there is still color in the sky well after the golden light, and the required long exposure makes the moving coastal surf seem like an ethereal mist. This was a 30-second exposure with the LB ColorCombo and a Graduated ND filter to hold back the last of the light in the sky.

Protecting your equipment
"After a first outing near the water, photographers will be unpleasantly surprised by the cake of salty film on their equipment. Be prepared! If being splashed directly by seawater is a possibility, having full camera protection is important. I use a Kata clear-cover camera protector. It's sometimes cumbersome, but it has saved my equipment both in heavy rain and ocean spray.

"Even if you are far away from the ocean surf, the film of salt will eventually collect. I try to keep a protecting filter on the len. A UV would be fine, but I now prefer to using either my LB Warming Polarizer or LB ColorCombo filter. After about 30-45 minutes, I may notice the scene becoming 'fog-like' with the grime. I then have the option of either trying to use this diffusing effect as a 'soft focus' filter -- which you can see in this example of the Makapu’u Lighthouse -- or swapping it out with a clean filter. If I need the filter immediately, I rinse it carefully with fresh water (not ocean water!) and carefully wipe with a lint-free cloth made for lens cleaning.

"When I’m safe at home or in the hotel room, I will drop the filter into a small dish of water and dissolve the salt, let it air dry, and carefully clean it with a special lens cloth. I do this as soon as possible, as salt can be detrimental to filters and their metal rings."

Editor's Note: As with a camera lens, filter cleaning should be done with great care, using clean microfibre cloth and gentle cleaner such as RavVu. Avoid immersing ring-mounted filters, and do not submerge Vari-ND or Vari-N-Duo filters. Avoid excessive cleaning. Exposure to sand, salt, dirt, moisture and other harsh conditions, and filter cleaning is done at the owner's risk.

Maximizing color color saturationwith Singh-Ray filters
"Singh-Ray’s technology just makes shooting on the coasts better and better. I’ve used the LB Warming Polarizer (thin mount) and the LB ColorCombo (thin mount) on both my wide-angle lens and my telephoto lens at the coast. The combination of a polarizer and a warming filter is a perfect natural-looking combination in an area where I often want to cut through the glare of the water and retain the warm sunrise/sunset feel of the islands.

"I’ve used the LB ColorCombo to bump up the scene to a level of radiant color, reduced glare, and a bit of warmth. The image above of the sunburst far off in the clouds is a great example of how the warm tones can be bumped slightly and enhance the morning sun, as well as the warm reflection on parts of the water.

"The rocky lava coast on Oahu’s southernmost coast adds a nice foreground to the lush greens of the vegetation and mountains in the background. This second shot with the water lapping at my heels reminded me to always turn around and see what the sun is doing in the opposite direction. The Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo warmed and enhanced all of the colors in the photograph, and my hand-held ND Grad filter evened the highlights on the mountain."

Joel will continue his Hawaii photo ventures over the next two seasons; gathering images for a book, increasing his stock files, and teaching a three-day course on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is slated for May 2010. You can continue to follow his Hawaii work as well as his international travel photography at