Friday, January 14, 2011

Here's some warm and friendly Texas sunshine that appeared on Jeff Lynch's blog last week

Soon after we heard from the weatherman last week that just about every state in the nation had fresh snow falling, we found these two images on Jeff Lynch's blog. He titles this one Top of the World and explains that "No, you can’t drive your car to get this shot!

"You’ve got to hike, climb, hike some more, climb even more, hike even further and then climb down and hike back where you started (6 or 7 hours later) just to get this one shot. However, standing on top of the world in the Texas panhandle on a beautiful fall evening makes it all worth while! Enjoy, and don’t forget to click on the image to enjoy the big picture. This shot was taken in Caprock Canyons State Park, about 100 miles southeast of Amarillo in Briscoe County. This park covers some 15,000 acres, including 64 miles of trailway." Jeff mounted his EOS 5D Mark II with a 17-40mm lens on a tripod and made this exposure with the aid of his Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer.

"I love the early fall here in Texas. It’s that time of year when the scorching heat of the Texas summer is past but the cold, north winds from the plains have yet to arrive. When you can almost 'touch' the quiet of a desert afternoon and 'taste' the fresh, clean air as the light breeze tickles your skin.

"I think a lot of that feeling is revealed in this second image, Early Fall in Palo Duro Canyon, I used the same gear for this shot as for the one above, but I also used a 2-stop soft-step ND Grad. For artists, painters and photographers, fall's a time to cherish the light and color before the pale, cold days of winter set in. When the 'golden hours' come early in the day and stay late into the evening. Now that winter's really here, I thought I might stoke up our memories of how nice the weather was just a few months ago."

Jeff recently authored his second book, Landscapes of the Texas Plains and Canyons, published in December. You can see more of Jeff's work at his blog Serious Amateur Photography. Jeff enjoys sharing his favorite locations and landscape techniques with groups of enthusiastic photographers each spring during the Texas Landscape Safari workshop. You can also follow Jeff on Twitter and browse his portfolio on Flickr.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Olaf Bathke highlights the many creative possibilities of photographing water with his filters

Although freelance landscape photographer Olaf Bathke is the "owner of the oldest blog about photography in the German language," he just recently began writing a blog in English titled The Adventure of Being a Photographer. Many of the stories on his new blog offer useful information and ideas for any photographer who lives in or plans to visit Europe. Having grown up in a small German town near the North Sea, Olaf now lives near the Baltic Sea and explores Northern Europe with his camera always at his side.

"One of my very favorite photographic subjects -- besides people -- is water. We can find so many creative possibilities in water photography because it's almost always moving, it takes on different colors, reflects light and forms so many different shapes. In water photography, it is so easy to get really unique results. All that's required is hard work, lots of experience and the right equipment.

"Most of the time water is involved in something interesting like giving sand, stones, poles, and bridges more visual meaning and flavor. Anyone who has seen a sunset unfolding out on the open sea knows how much the water adds to the excitement. The smell and rhythmic sound of the pounding surf is doing good things to our mind. We shouldn’t need any wellness activity if we sleep at the beach from time to time. Even children know water is fun and entertaining. I know lots of stories in which water plays a leading part. These stories are not only about dumping cameras and lenses in the Atlantic Ocean or getting wet feet. They are about deeply felt emotions like falling in love or grieving. It is my task as a photographer to stir the water, emotions and creativity into great pictures.

"To fully achieve my creative goals, I need to use filters. Good filters help me not only control the color and contrast in my water images, they also give me a wider choice of shutter speeds, aperture sizes and ISO settings. If my filters are of good quality, I can also control my exposures to define the water's structure -- like waves, splashes or soft sea spray. Good filters also give me the possibility for long time exposures. The better the filter, the less I have to cope with color problems and loss of sharpness. During rapidly changing light conditions, I must be quick and flexible to capture my image. Water varies not only in color. It varies in movement, speed, shape and reflectivity. I have learned to rely on my Singh-Ray filters, especially in fast changing light conditions. Filters enhance my possibilities.

"The image of the Irish coast at the top of this story represents a favorite setup for me when I want to catch the structure of water or define a coastline. I used an LB Warming Polarizer to saturate the colors in the sky and get some visual penetration into the water. A 3-stop hard-step Graduated ND gave me some additional detail and drama in the sky. By adjusting the ISO and aperture setting, I could freeze the detail in the scene but also blur some movement of the water. Balancing the exposure time between sharp detail and blur depends on the lighting conditions.

"This image of the falling stream of water in Iceland was a bit more tricky. Waterfalls and streams can vary greatly in speed and shape. They are found in various places with constantly changing light conditions. To capture some white streamlines without washing them out, I strongly recommend a Vari-ND Filter because of its flexibility. Sometimes, it is a just a little bit of light energy that must be changed to get the optimal exposure. I can change the exposure in really small steps simply by turning the front ring on the Vari-ND and then examining the result on my camera's display.

"This image of a Norwegian sunrise was also taken with the Vari-ND Filter which allows me to easily extend the length of my time exposure. It also enables me to work longer in sunrise or sunset conditions. With this filter, I am able to take more long-exposure images just after sunrise or just before sunset.

"For this really-long-time exposure taken on the coast of Germany, I used my Vari-ND Filter plus the Singh-Ray 5-stop Mor-Slo solid neutral density filter. This setup enables me to achieve exposures of up to 6 minutes and longer. Such exposures produce very interesting and mysterious images, particularly in terms of the clouds and the surface of the water. With so much darkness in front of the lens it is not easy to focus. Being able to compose the image with the Vari-ND turned to its minimum density is very helpful. If necessary, I can even remove the Mor-Slo while I'm composing and focusing the image, and then replace it on the lens before making the exposure.

"Over the time that I have been using Singh-Ray filters, I have learned a lot about the advantages that filters can provide in various situations. I've also learned there are infinite creative possibilities working with filters in landscape photography. I find it well worth experimenting with my filters as a way to develop my personal style. I'm also discovering there is no rule that cannot be broken and no setup that cannot be changed to achieve my personal vision."

Olaf specializes in landscape and portrait photography. His photos have appeared in print magazines around the world. You can read more by visiting his blog or contacting him via Twitter or Facebook. If you speak German, you can read his main website, or if you don't, you can just go look at the images.