Tuesday, February 15, 2011

As we reached for our snow shovels in November, Tom Bol was enjoying spring in New Zealand

Back in November, world-traveling outdoor photographer Tom Bol spent two weeks in New Zealand teaching a photo workshop with Photo Quest Adventures. "New Zealand is a truly beautiful country with very friendly people. The west coast of South Island offers so much for the landscape shooter -- including both ocean and big mountain scenery.

"Simply put, New Zealand landscapes are hard to capture without using a variety of filters. The scenery is very dramatic, offering a huge contrast of blue glacial rivers, jagged peaks, and steep coastlines. We were there in their spring, so wildflowers were starting to bloom, and the peaks still had a lot of snow which further improved the mountain scenes. Even better, the fields were green with fresh grass, and since New Zealand is known for its sheep, we captured a lot of rural images complete with grazing sheep, green pastures, and the distant mountains. I used the LB ColorCombo a lot, which further improved the colors in these rural shots. Another characteristic of New Zealand landscapes are the saucer-shaped lenticular clouds that frequently form over the mountain ranges and, here again, the ColorCombo helped bring the clouds to life by adding contrast and color saturation across the sky.

"We also shot a variety of beach scenes which benefited by the use of our ND Grads. Not only did the Grads help balance the exposure levels of the sky and the foreground in this image, but they added drama to the menacing storm clouds and helped saturate the colors in our sunrise exposures by eliminating the risk of blown-out highlights. On the morning that I captured this image, it looked like it was really going to pour any minute. But it just goes to show that 'bad weather is good weather;' the moody clouds made the scene. I was motivated to take this shot because I am a big believer that the process is often more important than the outcome. In other words, even if the image would not have worked, I at least had given it a try. I would have never known unless I tried.

"The workshoppers were constantly using our Singh-Ray Graduated ND filters to balance the very bright overhead skies with the lower light levels in the foreground areas. As we all know, there are ways to do this exposure balancing in the computer by using multiple exposures. However, I prefer to use my ND Grads while I am still in the field. Why? Mainly because I like to get the image the way I want it while I am making the exposure.

"I might add that I like the larger 4x6-inch size of Singh-Ray's Graduated ND filters for hand holding -- they make things go quicker in the field for me and reduce the chances of vignetting my wide angle shots."

Tom is based in Fort Collins, Colorado, but he travels the globe. You can keep up with him and his many projects, workshops, and other photo adventures by visiting his website and blog. Or follow Tom on Facebook and Twitter, too.

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