Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Singh-Ray Filters help Srividya Narasimhan capture the beauty of the California Coastline

Photographer Srividya Narasimhan (whose friends call her Vidya) loves living in the San Francisco Bay area of California. "Living here gives me ample opportunities to photograph the beautiful northern & central California coastline," says Vidya. "The seasons here are just made for photographing -- spring brings with it beautiful wild flowers, summer provides opportunities to capture the omnipresent fog, while fall & winter provide dramatic skies when the Pacific storms roll into the mainland. While these subjects hold immense photographic potential, their diversity poses a number of technical challenges to translate my artistic intent into photographs.

"Chief among the technical challenges that I often face are (a) how to expose for the difference in the intensity of light while photographing dramatic coastal sunsets, (b) how to use the oncoming waves or receding waters as suitable foreground elements and (c) how to accentuate the subtle colors and eliminate harsh glares in a typical coastal scene. My Singh-Ray filters are the most important tools that I rely on to overcome these challenges during the photo shoots. I particularly use the LB Warming Polarizer and various strengths of the Singh-Ray Graduated Neutral Density filters to help capture my coastal photographs as I visualize them.

"When I made the photograph at the top of this story, cumulonimbus clouds over sea-side cliffs at Davenport, a severe cold front was developing along the north-central California coast leading to forecasts of snow showers. Closer to home, the presence of puffy clouds from an earlier storm gave me reason enough to venture down the coast in hopes of making some unique photographs. As I approached Davenport, CA, the developing cumulonimbus clouds in the distance were proof enough that the weather forecasts were going to yield exciting photo opportunities. I used the steep sea-side cliffs to connect the clouds to something earthbound.

"My LB Warming Polarizer helped me make this photograph in two ways -- not only did it help the clouds to pop, it also added warmth to the cliffs and the sand. The built-in warming effect eliminates the blueish cast I've experienced with other polarizers. Moreover, the LB Warming Polarizer does not introduce any unnatural looking color casts, thereby helping create an image that was very true to my photographic intent.

"While making this image of pastel sunset hues at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz, the setting sun illuminated the clouds overhanging the beach. I wanted to use a slow shutter speed to make the receding lines of water look soft and ethereal.

"I took a meter reading and found a two-stop difference between the sky and the foreground water. Instead of taking two exposures to combine later -- one for the sky and the other for the water, I created this photograph with a single exposure by using my 2-stop hard-step Graduated Neutral Density filter. Once I was able to get the exposure right, it freed me up to concentrate on the composition. I used a slower shutter speed not only to blur the receding water but also to emphasize the movement in the clouds. The ND Grad allowed me to capture the essential elements of the photograph in-camera, thereby saving me considerable time in post processing.

"For this final image of spring wildflowers at Montara State Beach, the leaves had a surface sheen that I wanted to eliminate to improve the saturation, and ensure that the focus of the photograph was solely on the wildflowers.

"I used my LB Warming Polarizer to reduce glare on the foreground leaves and flowers. The 'warming' component of the polarizer reduced the blueish cast and warmed up the scene just enough. I also used a 2-stop soft-step ND Grad to balance the exposure difference between the background cliffs and the foreground flowers. I chose the soft-step filter since the transition between the bright background (ie., skies and cliff) and the foreground (ie., wild flowers & leaves) was not a clearly defined line.

"Using these Singh-Ray filters helps me translate my artistic goals into photographs right in the camera and spend less time in post processing. That way, I can do more of what I love the most -- being outdoors and photographing."

To learn more about Vidya's approach to outdoor photography, and to see more of her work, be sure to pay a visit to her website.

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