Friday, February 11, 2011

The Intimate Landscapes of William Neill

In a new column on the Outdoor Photographer site, William Neill discusses his efforts to photograph "the intimate details of nature." As Bill says in his column, "Although I enjoy trying my hand at many types of photography, I’ve focused on the intimate landscape. Rather than simply describing the wide view before me, I try to imbue my images with some magic and mystery by isolating special details I discover."

As an example, he describes the method he used for capturing the image above. "I was in my element, focused on a small part of the overall scene -- just a few rocks with waves washing over them. Positioning my camera and tripod so the sunlight would reflect on the sand and water, I timed my exposures for when the waves came in over the rocks. I used my favorite filter, the Singh-Ray Vari-ND for this image. The filter allowed me to use a 10-second exposure, even while shooting into bright light. I worked on catching the best timing with the waves for the misty, blurred effect, plus catching the light reflecting off of the wet sand. Only one frame worked."

Be sure to read the entire column, and browse the archive of his past columns for Outdoor Photographer.

To see many more examples of Bill's "intimate landscapes" made with the Vari-ND, you can download his e-Book, Impressions of Light for just $10. He also teaches on-line courses for And be sure to stop by his website for information on his other projects, his photoblog, as well as links to his Facebook and much more.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Dennis Frates advances his continuing pursuit of the big -- and the really big -- picture

Oregon-based landscape photographer Dennis Frates recently posted on his website a new group of images produced over the past few months. "I have just placed 178 new images from my most recent trips this past fall to Hawaii, Utah, Nevada as well as some images from several locations closer to home. Virtually all the images in my gallery have been captured with the aid of my Singh-Ray filters, but I thought I would highlight another aspect of my photographic technique that's also essential to my business. The three images seen here represent the three shooting techniques I have been using for years to serve the requirements of my clients for very large images -- as large as 10 to 14 feet -- for their corporate offices and large open-space commercial and public facilities.

"Let me first openly confess that, after some 20 years serving such big-picture clients, I am perhaps certifiably crazy about achieving image sharpness. Not only have I been using the very-high-resolution Canon 1Ds camera for many years, but often I have been stitching three vertical image files together to make one very large file -- and I don't always stop there. I will often shoot each of the three frames with my Canon 24mm TS lens at three different focal distances and post-process the 9 shots with Helicon software to achieve amazingly sharp final image files. Needless to say, all this computer-based refinement of images represents a major investment in time that I don't get to spend with my family or out in the field with my camera.

"The beach scene at the top of this story was captured on Maui, Hawaii, with a single exposure using a Singh-Ray 2-stop soft-step Graduated ND filter and an LB Warming Polarizer. Although a number of my images are single exposures, this next stitched-three-frame image taken in Zion National Park represents the approach I frequently prefer to gain much larger image files. Of course, such shots require the camera to be mounted on a sturdy tripod. Although this image was taken with my LB Neutral Polarizer, the overcast sky turned totally white in the original file and was replaced by a file image of this nice blue sky. The third image, below, features the iconic Subway in Zion National Park. It's the result of shooting three images at different focal distances for each of 3 frames that were then stitched together via Helicon software. I used my LB Warming Polarizer to control reflecting glare and improve color saturation.

"I can now pass along the news that I am immediately adopting an entirely new approach to achieve the high resolution images I need without spending so many hours in front of my computer screen. I have stepped up to a medium-format digital Pentax 645 D camera with a sensor that provides a 40-megapixel file size -- fully equal to the file size I have been getting by stitching. In addition, the detail, sharpness and extended tonal quality of my new files are amazing. All my future new images will be from this camera.

"I'll be using this new camera with a full complement of five excellent lenses, each with its own Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo filter. I'm busily learning this entirely new and exciting system before leaving on a 10-day trip to Death Valley and the Eastern Sierras later this month. I'll be taking my Canon gear along as a back-up and for possible handholding situations, but the Pentax system is certain to be my mainstay for years to come."

To follow Dennis and his new camera to the Virgin Islands in April, you can visit his portfolio at: