Tuesday, August 03, 2010

After second successful visit, Kah Kit Yoong ranks New Zealand as the "world's best" for landscapes

Since he first discovered his passion for outdoor photography in 2005, Australian physician Kah Kit Yoong has quickly progressed from novice to highly successful landscape and travel photographer. "Over the past year," he says, "the scope of my website Magic Hour Travelscapes has focused on the broader subject of my travel photography rather than featuring only landscapes. In 2009, our constant pursuit of the decisive moment spanned five continents. Although dealing with an expanding range of subjects and styles, Singh-Ray filters remain as relevant to my photography today as they have always been.

"I previously reported on this blog the success and recognition that two images from our 2008 trip to New Zealand's South Island have gained. So, I decided to return to New Zealand this year for a longer 5-week tour. Now, following the success of this most recent visit, I would rate New Zealand as the best location for landscape photography that I have visited anywhere in the world. I timed my trip to coincide with the peak of their fall colour in April and May. During the trip, I photographed a wide variety of vistas including towering alpine peaks, glaciers covered by deep crevasses, primeval rainforests, rivers, floods, as well as some truly amazing windswept beaches. I was shooting from dawn until dusk and sometimes even longer. Mother Nature pulled out all the stops; the light was rarely less than impressive.

To make the most of all these spectacular opportunities, I had to apply the full range of my filtering experience and skills. For example, the above image, entitled Beach at the End of the World, was taken with my Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad on a Canon 16-35mm 2.8 lens for 1.6 seconds. To provide some idea of how important this filter was, click the image at left to see a side-by-side comparison of the scene taken at the same exposure with no filter and with the Reverse ND Grad.

"In recent years, I've found that seascape images are becoming more commonplace, especially in Australia, where there’s no shortage of coastal locations to shoot. To set myself apart, I look for beaches with some sort of outstanding component. This remote black sand beach fit that bill completely. It features an extensive dune system, sea caves and several massive rock formations with arches. Some advance planning allowed me to arrive when the tide best coincided with sunrise. Shooting into the direction of a rising sun is always a challenge, but I have found the Reverse ND Grad to be the best tool to tame the excess brightness along the horizon.

"I captured this image at Lake Wanaka on one of those bright, cloudless blue-sky days that often prove challenging for a landscape photographer. In this case, however, conditions were perfect for the shot I had in mind. With the clear mid-day sky reflected in the lake, the blueness of the water was maximized. I knew the complementary colour of the yellow foliage would really pop. However, under these bright conditions, the glare from the water could have been a problem. Here’s where my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer comes to the rescue. By rotating the filter to its maximum effect, I reduced the glare from the lake and the foliage and increased color saturation right in the camera. An additional benefit of the polarizer was being able to slow down the exposure a bit more. In recent years, I’ve switched over to the larger size graduated neutral density filters. I was able to position the entire dark half of a 3-stop ND-Grad filter over my 300mm f/4 lens to slow down the exposure to 1.6 seconds and give a smoother look to the water.

"This image, titled Starfish Swirl, is an example of combining an LB Warming Polarizer with a more conventional use of 2-stop hard-step Graduated Neutral Density filter on my Canon 16-35mm 2.8 lens. I came upon this remarkable scene while photographing the amazing west coast of New Zealand. The sunrise didn’t hold a lot of promise, so I was keen on eking out every bit of colour in the sky, which was deep blue with a faint band of pink on the horizon. The two filters did a great job keeping these colours rich and saturated. The polarizer also reduced much of the glare off the surface of the water, which added definition to the swirls of moving water.

"Some of New Zealand's west coast beaches are known for the interesting pieces of driftwood washed up by the Tasman Sea. The random arrangement of these pieces on the beach was a compositional challenge, but scouting the area beforehand prompted me to return to this scene after sunset. I have found that, under the right conditions, a very long exposure can pick up a lovely afterglow that is barely discernible to the eye. There was no light painting of any sort. The light on the driftwood (and also the Southern Alps in the background) was coming entirely from the afterglow of the sunset. I used a 2-stop hard-step Graduated Neutral Density filter during the 5-minute exposure at f/11 to capture the rich colours in the sky. Since I always hand hold my ND Grads, I found the larger 4x6-inch size of this filter easier to handle during this exposure.

"Last month my best photo from that first New Zealand trip two years ago, Moody Moeraki (previously featured on the Singh-Ray blog here), was named runner-up in the 2010 International Conservation Photography Awards. Another of my images from Namibia received an honorable mention in the same competition. Both images are currently part of a 3-month exhibit at the Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington."

Kah Kit has recently started a new blog www.magichourunplugged.com where he will soon announce the dates for a 2011 Autumn workshop in New Zealand during April-May. To see more of his recent images of New Zealand, you'll want to visit his website.

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