Friday, July 09, 2010

Aerial photographer explains how he shoots for success with his high-flying ColorCombo

Veteran editorial and commercial photographer, Tom Bol, also does great aerial photography. In fact, he's in Alaska again this summer shooting a variety of the state's vast natural resources from the air. "After years of trial-and-error experience," says Tom, "I've learned a few important things about shooting landscapes from the air. Here's how I do it these days.
• First, I use the fastest shutter speed I can to ensure tack-sharp images.
• Next, I make sure I have the image stabilizer on my lenses turned on to help stabilize my exposures.
• Then, if at all possible, I prefer to shoot from a plane or helicopter with the door removed.
• If the door must be kept on, I hold my lens right near the window to reduce extraneous light reflections.
• To avoid transferring window vibrations to my camera, however, I press my hand hard against the window as I'm shooting.
• I also use a large memory card so I don’t have to switch cards as often during the flight.
• I always bring two bodies with different lenses to avoid changing lenses (especially with the door off!).
• I never use a lens hood because it might blow off or prevent me from getting the lens close to the window.
• And last, but not least, I use a Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer or ColorCombo.

"Many people seem to forget about using filters when shooting aerials. After all, there's always a lot going on, and much of my attention is taken by talking on a headset to the pilot. It's not exactly a peaceful morning by the lake. But a polarizer can make or break many images, especially when there's water in the shot. I have learned by experience that there's really no way to compensate in post-production for not using my polarizer.

The photo at the top of this column shows the importance of using a polarizer -- in this case, I was using the LB ColorCombo which incorporates both Singh-Ray's LB Warming Polarizer and the LB Color Intensifier in one easy to use filter. On this particular day I was photographing Mount Foraker and Denali -- also known as Mt. McKinley -- the highest mountain peak in North America. The glacier pools in the two aerial photos below are on the Knik Glacier near Palmer, Alaska. I really lucked out with a perfectly clear day, and all 20,320 feet of Denali was soaring into the clear blue sky. I realized this was a rare opportunity. I tried a few shots without a polarizer, and the images just didn’t have the 'snap and pop' I knew they should. Then I threaded the LB ColorCombo onto my lens and instantly the lush tundra and turquoise glacier lakes came to life. Nice color, less glare and added contrast from the filter made the shot. You simply can’t duplicate in the computer what a polarizer can do in the field. For instance, a polarizer reduces glare on the water revealing what is underneath, maybe red salmon or interesting rocks.

"I shot several gigabytes worth of images on this day, one of the clearest I have seen on Denali in many years. Lucky for me, I keep my LB ColorCombo ready to roll or I would have missed these great images. So, if you do find yourself flying in an airplane shooting aerials, don’t forget your polarizer. And bring lots of memory cards."

The best way to follow Tom's many projects, workshops, frequent travels and other photo adventures is to plan regular visits to his website and blog.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Two-minute video demonstrates how a Graduated ND Filter balances the light

From his vast outdoor studio not far from Alberta, Canadian photographer and author Darwin Wiggett sends this unedited video showing how easy it is to balance the dynamic range between the sky and the foreground of this outdoor scene simply by using a Singh-Ray 2-stop hard-step Graduated ND Filter.

"I shot the video using a Canon Rebel T2i and a Tamron 17-50 f2.8 lens. I shot the scene at 17mm. A Cokin P-Series filter holder was mounted on the lens to hold the ND Grad. I used an Azden ECZ-990 microphone mounted on the Rebel's hot shoe to pick up my sexy voice. The video was just shot off the cuff because the light and opportunity were perfect to show the benefits of using an ND Grad filter.

"As we can see by comparing the final 'with-filter' and 'without-filter' photos, using the Graduated ND Filter really improved the photo without having to do any post-production."

It seems safe to say, we'll soon be seeing more video demonstrations from Darwin in the near future. He shows real talent.

With Graduated ND Filter

Without Filter

Darwin is one of Canada's most published landscape, nature and travel photographers with 11 books published including Dances with Light - The Canadian Rockies and How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies. Darwin is also a contributor to photo magazines including Outdoor Photography Canada, Popular Photography, Outdoor Photographer and more. For more information on Darwin's adventures and workshops, visit his website and blog.