Friday, November 20, 2009

Painting images with the Vari-N-Duo to express the joys of color in motion

Since his retirement a few years ago, Suresh Mehta's passion for photography has become an intensely personal experience. "I've been an active member of the RA Photo Club of Ottawa, Canada, throughout those years," he says, "yet even today I feel a sense of self-discovery each time I look through the viewfinder of my camera. I've found a new way to interact with the world and see it unfolding around me.

"At this point, I am especially interested in 'painting' my images by moving the camera or zooming my lenses as the shutter is kept open for long exposures. To achieve such long exposures, I rely primarily on my Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo. My ISO is set at 100, the lens is stopped down to f/16 or f/22 and the camera set on 'Manual' mode. Because the Vari-N-Duo combines both a variable density function and a polarizer in one filter, I adjust the polarization ring before I determine the exposure time with the aid of the camera's meter and histogram display.

"For 'blurry' and most other impressionistic images, I use my wideangle lens at its closest focusing distance. I make sure the subject is in focus and covers the entire frame. I hand-hold the camera and release the shutter. While the shutter is open, the camera is moved slowly and smoothly in any of several directions -- up-and-down, sideways, zig-zag, jiggle. Beautiful patterns and the effects of various colors are captured as a result of these slow exposures.

"For my 'circular' images, I attach the tripod collar of my 70- 200-mm lens directly onto the tripod's ballhead and then I mount the camera body onto the lens. After composing my image, I manually determine the focus, filter settings and exposure times. At that point, I loosen the tripod collar on my lens just enough to allow me to smoothly rotate the camera body around the axis of the lens. Once the shutter is tripped, I begin rotating the camera during exposure for at least half a turn (180 degrees). Sometimes I also slowly zoom the lens in and out. Most of my zooming shots are achieved during exposures ranging from 8 to 16 seconds.

"The real challenge in capturing these images is to maintain the ‘correct' shutter speed while the lens is stopped down (f/16 or f/22). That's where the Vari-N-Duo really makes the painting experience a lot more fun and productive. This unique filter’s minimum/maximum density from 2-2/3 to 8 f-stops affords full control of the exposure as needed simply by rotating the front ring. The shutter speeds for most of my images in bright daylight ranged from 2 seconds to 8 or more seconds at f/22. The built-in LB Warming Polarizer allows me to fine-tune the color contrast, and there are many times when I will also add my Singh-Ray LB Color Intensifier to further saturate the colors."

Suresh held his first solo exhibition at the National Press Club in Ottawa in 2003. His work continues to be displayed at the RA Photo Gallery in Ottawa.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gold-N-Blue Polarizer helps photographer discover the scenic wonders of Ruby Beach

After living in Washington state for 30 years, Ron Southworth continues to be amazed at all the beautiful places in the state he's not yet been able to explore. "I've been a hobbyist photographer most of my life," says Ron. "Then several years ago, I decided to make it a serious hobby, and just recently I've entered the professional arena, complete with a new website. I have a growing list of places I want to photograph, and fortunately I don't need to board a plane to shoot some of my favorite subjects -- Puget Sound, the Cascades, Mount Rainier -- they’re all easily accessible. And now -- after my visit to nearby Ruby Beach a few weeks ago -- I realize that Washington's Olympic Coast should be on that list, too.

"In August my wife and I decided to do a photo trip to the 
Olympic Coast. Over the past 30 
years, we have only been out to the Olympic Peninsula a couple of times. Just before we left, my new Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer arrived at our door, which proved to be perfect timing. Early on the day that I shot these photos, I had left my wife snuggled in her 
sleeping bag and quietly (sort of) slipped out of the tent and drove over to Ruby 
Beach. As soon as I arrived, the new Gold-N-Blue was placed on my Nikon 24-70mm lens, where it would stay for the rest of the day. I was soon thrilled with a most spectacular sunrise bursting through the treetops (see image above).  The morning 
light was magical in its color, and how beautifully it played with the 

"As you can see in this image, there was a low minus-tide that morning, so the rocks which are usually covered by the ocean were fully exposed to the morning light. The starfish were fascinating and their abundant show of sea life made the rocks appear to be jewel encrusted treasures.

"For this next image -- as you can see by the camera position -- I had to wade out into the incoming tide and waves with tripod in hand for this most special moment. I truly felt privileged to capture this spectacular beauty as the rest of the world slept. Having chosen a camera position approximately 18 inches off the ground to get up-close to the starfish, my depth of field was critical in achieving focus throughout the image. The image was shot at a focal length of 24mm (Nikon 24-70) at f/20 with a shutter speed of 4 seconds.

"As I followed the setting sun, I kept waiting for the mist to burn off in the background to expose the distant sea stacks, but I had to abandon that idea as the incoming tide kept rising and each new wave was coming up higher and higher on my legs and my tripod. I used a 4-stop Solid ND filter to slow the exposure to 4 seconds to help soften the waves and give a feeling of movement to the water. I also used a 3-stop, hard-step ND Grad to balance the bright sky with the foreground. And, once again, I used the Gold-N-Blue Polarizer to add the most wonderful colors to the image. I must say, I was so impressed with the images that I was getting with that filter; I had a hard time taking it off the lens. 

"I use my Singh-Ray filters for both artistic and technical reasons. The technical reasons, which include controlling light, color and exposure, are important. Even more important, however, are the artistic reasons to use Singh-Ray Filters to influence how the subject is viewed and the emotions it creates. In the end, it is the viewers who judge whether our images truly engage their minds and emotions."

Ron's images are featured in a variety of galleries on his website.

Tip: The Gold-N-Blue Polarizer is a creative tool. Its potential can range from natural to more dramatic by adjusting the camera's white balance setting in the field, or when processing RAW images.