Friday, November 12, 2010

Once Mark Kosztaczky got around to learning photography, he quickly made up for lost time.

When Hungarian photographer Mark Kosztaczky was 14 years old, he wanted to learn photography. "I tried to understand the basic concepts, but at that time I could not do it. So I let it rest for 20 years. Three years ago I bought my first serious camera, a Nikon D200 with a Nikkor 18-200mm lens. From that moment on, there has been no stopping. I am not a full-time photographer however. Making photos is my hobby. I have a printing business in Budapest, and I find that my hobby helps my mind relax quickly and completely. This year one of my photographic tours took me to Barrika in Spain, where my photographic companion and I were enchanted not only by the scenic Atlantic Ocean coastline but by the kindness and helpfulness of all the people we met. We had everything we needed to make good pictures. Because of the ocean tides, the dramatic weather, and ever-changing surf, almost every day provided us with different light conditions and scenery.

"The image above was made near sunset. In order to make a long 4-minute exposure, I used a 4-stop Solid ND filter, and to balance the difference in light levels between the foreground and background, I used a 3-stop hard-step Graduated ND filter. And of course to cut off the ocean’s glare on the rocks, I placed my LB Warming Polarizer on the lens, which also added 1-1/3 stops of density.

"This picture was made on the last day of our Barrika tour. We were following the tide from its lowest to highest level, and I captured this image with the help of an LB Warming Polarizer. I also stacked together a 2-stop hard-step and a 3-stop soft-step ND Grad and then hand held them in front of my lens.

"Last year I managed to catch this wonderful scene in Norway on an autumn morning. The winter came a bit earlier than it should have. The temperature was so cold this particular morning that the water hitting my tripod legs froze on it immediately. I made two vertical pictures and later stitched them in Photoshop to make a square panorama. I like the unique look of long exposures, so I used a 5-stop Solid ND filter to achieve this 25-second exposure. I also used a 3-stop hard-step ND Grad to balance the scene. Finally, in order to emphasize the colour in the clouds, I also used my LB ColorCombo filter, which also added 2 stops of density.

"As my camera technique continued to improve, I started photographing birds but soon discovered I really prefer flower and landscape photography. I am now part of a small group of photographers who are eager to travel anywhere we can find Hungarian wild flowers. We have favorite locations we visit every year. To find scenic locations abroad, we follow the blogs and posts of other photographers on sites like Wild Wonder Europe. In fact, that's how we decided to visit Barrika and Gargano National Park.

"This image of a wild cyclamen was made this August in Hungary. In order to catch the wonderful pink colour of this flowering perennial herb in the field I used my LB ColorCombo. There was no need for any adjustments to it in post production.

"This final image features an interesting wild orchid that was captured in Gargano National Park in Italy. Whenever I am photographing orchids, I use either my LB Warming Polarizer or LB ColorCombo to assure full color saturation.

"When I began getting serious about producing quality images, I found the Singh-Ray blog to be a big help in learning how to use filters, and I also started looking closely at a lot of pictures on the internet. Currently, my main gear for photographing landscapes is my Nikon D3 camera with several Nikkor lenses, including a 70-200 F2.8, 17-35 F2.8, PC-E 24 F3.5 and my 16 mm fish-eye lens and of course my set of Singh-Ray filters. I never know which lens or filter I will need to turn a beautiful scene into a fascinating picture."

For more information about Mark and to enjoy a number of his landscape and flower images, be sure to visit his website.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Adam Barker returns from three weeks of photographing an unexpected world in Indochina -- Part I

Adam Barker just returned to his home in Utah's Wasatch Mountain range after leading a three-week photo tour through Indochina. "We visited and photographed the countries of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam and I must say the shooting opportunities were greater than I could have ever imagined. As I’ve been reviewing the images captured during the trip, I can’t help but think about how -- no matter where you might be in the world -- exceptional imagery is about consistently finding unique visual circumstances and superb light. And the way we put it all together is perhaps the best indicator of our ability as photographers to tell a story to the viewer.

"There is an impulsive desire among many photographers to 'use what the pros use.' I well understand that feeling, since I was in the same boat for many years before I began pursuing photography as a full-time professional. In fact, I still read blogs and articles regularly to better understand what may be the next tool I need to produce more five-star images. The key to using any of these tools effectively, however, is to understand the where, when, why, and how to apply them. That's especially true for Singh-Ray filters. I can say with confidence that understanding the application of Singh-Ray filters will make you a better photographer. That’s a promise. However, I’m not saying that simply having the filters will make you a better photographer -- it’s the understanding of when, where, why, and how to use them that will increase your success behind the lens.

"I found that shooting conditions in these foreign countries were far different than what I’m accustomed to in the American West. Temperatures soared and humidity was high. The landscape and people were diverse and alien to some extent. As soon as I raised a camera to my eye, however, things began to feel more familiar.

"As evidenced by this first image (above) of the Bayon in Angkor Thom, Cambodia, twilight is one of my favorite times of day in which to shoot. Colors saturate, shadows reveal greater detail, and everything seems to take on a visual calm. It’s important to note, however, that even with reflections at twilight, the sky’s brightness far exceeds that of anything on the ground. This image is a three-exposure panorama capture with my tilt-shift lens and a 3-stop soft-step ND Grad filter. The scene is a perfect candidate for a soft-step grad, given the intrusion of numerous objects across the horizon. Typically, I am very particular about unnaturally darkening any part of the image with filter usage. The silhouetted framing with the trees in this image allowed me to balance the sky without worrying about any telltale signs that an ND Grad was used.

"These next two images benefited from a filter that rarely leaves my lens. The LB Warming Polarizer is very effective at reducing glare and haze, revealing rich color and detail that would otherwise be lost.

"The terraced rice fields of Sapa, Vietnam, are part of an agricultural dream world that rises from the valley floor to the mountain tops. Built up over hundreds of years, these rice fields are a visual feast, waiting to be figuratively devoured by camera toting tourists. It was an overcast morning, perfect for capturing the terraces without harsh shadows. My polarizer was was essential in revealing the rich greens and yellows of the harvest-ready rice terraces. Shot with a 70-200 telephoto lens, the polarizer also helped to reduce the haze brought on by farmers burning excess vegetation in the distance.

"This image of a worker in the fields outside Hanoi, Vietnam, is a study in composition, helped by the use of the LB Warming Polarizer. The rows of vegetables make for engaging filler, and careful placement of the woman working completes the colorful image. The polarizer was essential in revealing the full spectrum of green emanating from the fields. Despite, or perhaps because of its simplicity, this image is one of my favorites from the trip.

"This last image of Phnom Bakheng, Cambodia, is a testament to the difference that an ND Grad can make. Light rain was falling, and there was a significant glow coming from the horizon behind me. Dark rain clouds occupied the space behind this temple, making for gorgeous contrast in color and tone. By using a 2-stop soft-step ND Grad, I was able to slightly overexpose the orange brick, making it burst with color. An LB Warming Polarizer was also helpful to take the wet sheen off of the rocks and FG grasses. Many would think this was an HDR image with the complete range of color and tonality. It is, however, one capture with only minimal post processing required.

"As has been mentioned above, it doesn't matter much where you may find yourself with your camera in hand (or on a tripod). What matters is that you understand where, when, why, and how to use the tools you have to create memorable and meaningful images, and that you understand how your filters can help you achieve success."

You can find more of Adam’s work on his website and blog, or become a fan on his Facebook page. You also may be interested in his new instructional DVD on capturing the complete outdoor image. His next photo tour will be to the spectacular wilds of Patagonia. Visit this page for more details.