Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Three-month visit to the U.S. enabled David Richter to photograph the scenic wonders of the American West

As a self-taught landscape photographer currently studying international business in Dresden, Germany, David Richter credits his Singh-Ray filters for the "instant gratification" he enjoys when he sees his images appear on his camera's LCD screen in nearly final form. "By using my Graduated ND filters and LB Warming Polarizer, I am able to achieve the proper balance between bright highlights in the sky and the dimly lit shadows in the foreground. They also help reduce the reflections and glare in my images as they're recorded in the camera. My filters save me a great deal of post-processing time and effort.

"Creating landscape images often requires fast action. By having filters I can always depend on, I not only save time and effort, but I also feel more confident in the field knowing the images I'm making will maintain great color and contrast for a very natural result. The three images featured with this story were all taken during my 3-month visit to the US in 2010 with my Canon Rebel XSi and Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens.

"The image above was taken at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz, California. At the time, my home base was San Jose and getting a good image at this nearby location was high on my agenda. Because California's coast is so prone to thick marine layers of fog during the summer months, it's almost impossible to get a great colorful sunset. Near the very end of my visit, I was presented with one lovely clear day. I arrived at the beach to find very favorable weather conditions with just the right tide level to get some interesting waves and reflection, all in the same frame.

"All of a sudden, the sky exploded in color. The setting sun not only lit the clouds nicely but also brought some great color into the rain showers coming down on the shoreline. I wanted to capture these little details in the sky, while showing motion in the water to emphasize the relentless power of the ocean, shaping the coastline with every wave pounding ashore. After a short check with the spot meter, I opted for my 3-stop hard-step Singh-Ray ND Grad to keep the highlights on the horizon in check and to maintain the great color. The ND Grad allowed me to capture the essential elements just as I had visualized them on my arrival at the beach -- balancing the bright and dark exposure levels in the scene and saving me well over an hour in post processing.

"I'm really proud of this second image, which would not have been the same without my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer and 2-stop soft-step ND Grad. Yosemite National Park has a special place in my heart ever since I saw an image of these majestic granite cliffs and smooth boulders. I wanted to photograph the essence of the park, while being off the beaten path and with great clouds building over the Sierra Nevada. The hike to Upper Cathedral Lake is a 2-1/2 or 3-hour trip with a 1000-foot elevation gain to approximately 8,600 feet at the trail head. It's a bit of a scramble but well worth it.

"But arriving at the Upper Lake, partly exhausted, partly excited was not all there is to the story. To reach a spot where I could include in my composition the reflection of the majestic Cathedral Peak in the lake, I had to climb up another 150 feet of steep cliffs and cross several 60-foot crevasses. No time to enjoy the view though, the sun was quickly setting, bathing the tree tops around the lake in a warm, golden light. I chose the 2-stop soft-step ND Grad to maintain good definition in the clouds and balance the natural light. The LB Polarizer was used to deepen the blue in the sky to some degree and to remove reflections on the vegetation and a slight layer of haze in the distance for a nice overall contrast. This image recently won Second Place in Popular Photography's Your Best Shot monthly contest.

"The filter I used to create this third image of Ponytail Falls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge was the Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo, a combination of a variable density filter and an LB Warming Polarizer. The polarizer helped saturate the warmer yellow tones of the vegetation in the afternoon light that was filtering through the remnants of thick morning fog and golden tree tops. The variable ND part of the filter helped to create the motion blur of the maple leaves in the water by lengthening the exposure time, again, not possible without the filter. It was the little details, like the colorful leaves tumbling toward the ground on their way to the falls, that initially drew me to this scene. Having a clear vision in my mind of what the scene could look like and having the right filter in my bag for the situation helped turn my vision into the 16-bit TIFF file and later into the framed print hanging on my living room wall."

David's photographic career has been progressing quickly since 2008 when he picked up his first DSLR. To follow his progress, you can check out his website, or for information relating to prints, image licensing, etc. You can also add him on Facebook for all the latest information.

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