Friday, July 29, 2011

Jim Patterson took his new Gold-N-Blue Polarizer for a trial run to Lake Tahoe and returned fully convinced

Living in Santa Cruz, California, on the edge of Monteray Bay first led Jim Patterson into his love for SCUBA diving and then into underwater photography. "I wanted to share my experiences diving the amazing kelp forests of California by creating compelling images. After several years shooting the underwater world, I began photographing the coastal seascapes near my home. This love of shooting landscapes has now expanded into areas further inland as I begin to explore the state and national parks of California.

"Last Thanksgiving I decided to spend the long weekend exploring around Lake Tahoe, the largest freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. About two weeks before my trip, I had decided to add the Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer to my arsenal of photographic tools. I chose the thin-mount in order to use the entire focal range of my wide-angle Nikon 12-24mm lens on my Nikon D300. I knew the Lake Tahoe venture would be a good opportunity to try this unique filter.

"My childhood winters were often spent on the snowy slopes of Lake Tahoe, but this was my first trip as a photographer. Bonsai Rock, located along Nevada’s northeastern shore, provided my first opportunity to use the Gold-N-Blue. As I worked the scene in front of me, my initial impression was how dramatically this filter altered the blue and gold colors in the viewfinder. A simple turn of the polarizing ring gave the scene an entirely different look and feel. I must admit I almost got too caught up in the moment as the sunset light intensified. My Gold-N-Blue was dialed such that the lake reflected a strong gold cast. Then the little light bulb flickered in my brain, and I thought, 'Hey, wait a minute. Maybe the lake would look better blue!' As we see in the final version (at the top of this story), the lake was still illuminated enough in the fading light that my fifteen-second exposure captured nice reflections.

"Having previously read Bob Krist’s article about the Gold-N-Blue on the Singh-Ray blog, I was well prepared to immediately adjust the white balance of my RAW images made with the Gold-N-Blue during post processing. The standard white balance settings for the digital sensors on most cameras can't quite get the colors right with this filter, so I used a custom white balance setting during raw conversion to help get back to the original colors seen through the viewfinder. For my Bonsai Rock image, I ultimately double processed the RAW file -- once for a corrected blue lake color and again for the sky -- leaving in some of the magenta to enhance the sunset colors.

"The next day a storm rolled across the lake which presented prime conditions for landscape photography and my continued introduction to the Gold-N-Blue. Sand Harbor, a popular recreational area for boaters, kayakers, divers, and photographers, is located just up the road from Bonsai Rock and I was immediately drawn to its golden sands. I quickly realized the Gold-N-Blue offered more impact if the scene already contained some blues, yellows, or greens. As a result, I started seeking out compositions that included these colors. The lake was choppy and although I tried some faster shutter speeds, this seventy second exposure helped simplify the chaotic water which allowed the sandy details and color to take center stage.

"Sunrise the next morning was a winter wonderland with freshly fallen snow blanketing the landscape. Luckily, the highway remained open all the way to Emerald Bay which is located on Lake Tahoe’s southwestern shore. I purposely started the morning with the Gold-N-Blue still in the bag. I felt I was overusing it, practically addicted to its gold and blue powers. In order to break the addiction, I decided to go ‘cold turkey.' That lasted all of twenty minutes. The overcast sky and fresh snow created a near monochrome palette, and I was soon reaching into my bag to see what I could do with my new filter.

"As I now think about my new filter, ‘surprised’ and ‘impressed’ are the two words that come to mind. First, the Gold-N-Blue has the ability to pull blues from the lake and sky without affecting the natural look anything else in the scene. And no matter which way I dialed, I couldn’t make the lake turn golden like I previously did at Bonsai Rock. This filter truly was accentuating light in a specific spectrum, not just an arbitrary blue or gold across the entire scene. This final panoramic image of Emerald Bay is a stitch of seven vertical frames exposed at the 24mm focal length on my D300 using ISO 100, f16, and 1.6 second exposures.

"By the final evening, the storm cleared completely and a return visit to Sand Harbor concluded my trip. The air was cool and crisp, and the lake was very calm. I chose this rock garden composition and patiently waited for the sun to start dropping behind the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west. In order to capture the sun burst, I stopped my aperture down to f22 which required a 1.3 second exposure at ISO 100. Once more, the Gold-N-Blue worked its magic, adding a pleasing golden hue to the sky while alternatively picking up the blues in the lake. Much like a normal polarizer, this filter has the ability to dial in as much or as little effect as I wanted.

"After four straight days of consistent use, I was quite impressed with my Gold-N-Blue. Not only could it accentuate the natural colors in scenes such as Bonsai Rock and my first outing to Sand Harbor, but I was equally impressed by how it could turn an otherwise flat scene into something more pleasing as it did at Emerald Bay. This ability will help me increase the number of 'keepers' I'm able to shoot in less-than-perfect light. And that is exactly what I was aiming for."

You can view more of Jim's work by visiting his website, his Facebook, or his Tumblr feed. He is also a co-founder of Sea-to-Summit Photography Workshops, which offers both private instruction and group workshops along the coast of California and beyond.


Serban said...

This article certainly clarified for me how the filter works. I wasn't very aware of the fact that the filter enhances only the colors from the available light. This is good, because you are still able to create more natural looking images.
And not the last, great images, Jim!

Jeff said...


Daniel said...

Fantastic work Jim, I'm not sure about f/22 on an APS-C DSLR though, did you absolutely need the longer exposure? The image would have been noticeably sharper at f/5.6-f/8.0 beyond that diffraction causes serious problems for APS-C. ~f/22 is my working aperture for large format and I rarely stop down past f/11 on 'full frame'. But as I said, on web images, these look great!

Francis Pena said...

Great work as always!

Xavier said...

Great article. I am looking for some directions on how control the white balance in camera to maximize the filters effect and avoind too much postprocessing...
Any recommendations?
Do I need to create a customn white balance on site for the blue then for the yellow or only one is enough?

Singh-Ray Filters said...

Xavier, the Gold-N-Blue can be at any setting when you set your custom white balance. The purpose is to neutralize the magenta cast the filter can introduce, which is the same regardless of the filter ring position. Your camera's manual should have instructions for setting a custom white balance, usually having a grey card or other neutral "target" is the key.