Friday, May 07, 2010

When shooting low-light close-ups in the rain forest, he always uses his ColorCombo

Jamie Fullerton lives in Redmond, WA near the Olympic National Park's well-known temperate rainforest. "We live in a relatively dry area that receives a mere 40 inches of rain annually," says Jamie, "whereas many nearby areas can be doused with over 100 inches of rainfall per year. This heavy precipitation allows the surrounding forest to grow at an alarming rate. Typical of a rainforest, most of the sunlight is absorbed by thriving plant life in the upper canopy of tree tops and vines so that very little light reaches the forest floor and vegetation is not as dense. Nevertheless, it teems with life, and I spend many enjoyable hours creating close-up images of the various flora and fauna that inhabit the dimly lit but fascinating world below the canopy.

"My Singh-Ray ColorCombo is one of the main reasons I am able enjoy photographing in our rainforest, where only about 2% of the overhead sunlight reaches the forest floor. With so little ambient light to work with, I find it necessary to rely on shutter speeds below 1/100 and ISO speeds above 400. Now why -- with so little light to work with -- do I always keep this filter mounted on my lens? Because the ColorCombo is both an LB Warming Polarizer and an LB Color Intensifier. So it gives me close-up images with much greater color saturation in exchange for a minimum amount of exposure increase. Then there are the various other challenges of close-up photography -- including the use of extension tubes, light reflectors, and very limited depth of field -- which make for even more fun. This kind of photography takes extra patience and can be frustrating at times, but I love it.

"I create nearly all of my close-up images using only natural light. I will employ reflectors without pause, but I dislike artificial light sources. In a rainforest, where available light is at a premium, my approach might seem unorthodox at best. It is common for me to shoot at ISO speeds as high as 1600 with shutter speeds ranging from several seconds to 1/60 of a second -- but rarely faster. One of the challenges I face is that almost every subject is wet and shiny. Specular highlights and reflective glare are constant problems that demand the use of a polarizer. Of course, a standard polarizer plus a color intensifier would require a slower shutter speed than I can spare. That is why I rely on my lighter, brighter ColorCombo.

The LB ColorCombo helps me preserve valuable shutter speed by consuming less light than a standard polarizer. The 'lighter, brighter' aspect of the filter is also very helpful when framing a subject through the viewfinder in low light conditions. The LB ColorCombo provides a subtle punch of color to images created in low-light conditions where color saturation can be diminished. Spending time trying to adjust color saturation in post-processing is no longer necessary.

"Each of the images in this blog post was created with a Nikon D90 SLR equipped with a 150mm macro lens and a Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo. I also use a tripod at all times. Post-processing was limited to simple dodging and burning, minor level adjustments, and a mere -50 degree white balance shift to compensate for the nearly perfect auto white-balance performance of my D90 while using the polarizer. I simply love that I can use this filter without experiencing wild color shifts or temperature swings. I have become so very satisfied with this filter for low light close-up work that it has not left the front of my 150mm macro lens in months.

"A few days ago, I spent several hours photographing in the beautiful forest behind my home. I must have been down there for quite a while, because my wife sent the kids and the dogs out to look for me! When they found me, I was lost inside my viewfinder photographing a Redback Salamander. I had been so still as I shot that a garter snake slithered onto my pants legs and was using me as a heat source until our dog "Bear" found me and scared it off into the underbrush. Needless to say, photographing that snake is now on my 'To Do" list."

For more examples of Jamie's photo ventures, be sure to stop by his website.

No comments: