Friday, February 18, 2011

As Joel Addams prepares to return to the "City of Lights," he knows he'll be needing his filters

Although based in the mountains and deserts around Salt Lake City, photographer Joel Addams is traveling the world. "As I prepare to lead another workshop in Paris in June, I'm reminded how surprised workshoppers often are when I demonstrate the importance of my Singh-Ray filters in the midst of one of the world's largest cities. However, for any photographer who has used filters as much as I do, it's just another exciting day -- or night -- behind the camera. To explain what I mean, let's look at a few of my favorite images captured in Paris.

"The shot above of the storm approaching the Eiffel Tower was tricky since I wanted to capture the crowd in the foreground without losing the detail in the sky or overexposing the lights on the tower. Using my 2-stop soft-step Graduated ND filter allowed me to balance the image so I could capture the subtleties of the scene.

"After dark, Paris becomes the "City of Lights," and fresh photo opportunities suddenly appear from every direction. This wideangle image of the Louvre Museum and the Pyramid captures the dramatic size of one of the world's largest museums. I have always had a strong interest in the immediate and raw character of black and white imaging. Whenever I approach a subject that I expect to portray in black and white, I go to my Singh-Ray filters to make sure I can do as much as possible in the camera before I move my RAW images into post production. With this image, I used my LB Warming Polarizer to help control the glare in the scene -- the bursts on the streetlamps occurred naturally. All these images were shot with my Canon 5DII and my Manfrotto Tripod.

"Here's another early evening image that I preferred to do in color to convey the lively traffic on, over, and all around the River Seine. We also see Notre Dame Cathedral in the background. To get this shot, I also used my 2-stop soft-step ND Grad to achieve this nicely balanced exposure.

"Using these filters in the field allows me to make sure I always get the shot while I'm there in the moment at the scene, and not worried about whether I can simulate the effect later when I get to my computer, not to mention the time it saves me in post-production.

"One of the most enticing reasons to visit Paris is its infinite variety of tantalizing food. I captured this example by shooting through the front window of a bakery. Shooting these tempting treats didn't require a filter -- I could have used a polarizer to reduce the reflections, but in this case, I think they add to the visual appeal, conveying a sense of freshness. So, no filter, but still too tasty not to share.

"Whether I'm shooting in the city or the Grand Canyon, I find the photographic challenges are remarkably similar. That's why I never leave my filters at home any time I photograph. I have also learned to shoot images at whatever time of the day I find them. By shooting in full-color RAW and exporting to 16-bit, I can keep my tones smooth in post processing. Whether an image is intended to be black-and-white or color, I count on my filters to provide added density and tonal saturation in the right places at the right time."

You can learn more about Joel's Photographing Paris 2011 - Classic Photography Workshop Series and other workshops by following his website and blog. Joel is also frequently adding new images and insights to his Facebook page, so you'll want to follow him there as well.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

As we reached for our snow shovels in November, Tom Bol was enjoying spring in New Zealand

Back in November, world-traveling outdoor photographer Tom Bol spent two weeks in New Zealand teaching a photo workshop with Photo Quest Adventures. "New Zealand is a truly beautiful country with very friendly people. The west coast of South Island offers so much for the landscape shooter -- including both ocean and big mountain scenery.

"Simply put, New Zealand landscapes are hard to capture without using a variety of filters. The scenery is very dramatic, offering a huge contrast of blue glacial rivers, jagged peaks, and steep coastlines. We were there in their spring, so wildflowers were starting to bloom, and the peaks still had a lot of snow which further improved the mountain scenes. Even better, the fields were green with fresh grass, and since New Zealand is known for its sheep, we captured a lot of rural images complete with grazing sheep, green pastures, and the distant mountains. I used the LB ColorCombo a lot, which further improved the colors in these rural shots. Another characteristic of New Zealand landscapes are the saucer-shaped lenticular clouds that frequently form over the mountain ranges and, here again, the ColorCombo helped bring the clouds to life by adding contrast and color saturation across the sky.

"We also shot a variety of beach scenes which benefited by the use of our ND Grads. Not only did the Grads help balance the exposure levels of the sky and the foreground in this image, but they added drama to the menacing storm clouds and helped saturate the colors in our sunrise exposures by eliminating the risk of blown-out highlights. On the morning that I captured this image, it looked like it was really going to pour any minute. But it just goes to show that 'bad weather is good weather;' the moody clouds made the scene. I was motivated to take this shot because I am a big believer that the process is often more important than the outcome. In other words, even if the image would not have worked, I at least had given it a try. I would have never known unless I tried.

"The workshoppers were constantly using our Singh-Ray Graduated ND filters to balance the very bright overhead skies with the lower light levels in the foreground areas. As we all know, there are ways to do this exposure balancing in the computer by using multiple exposures. However, I prefer to use my ND Grads while I am still in the field. Why? Mainly because I like to get the image the way I want it while I am making the exposure.

"I might add that I like the larger 4x6-inch size of Singh-Ray's Graduated ND filters for hand holding -- they make things go quicker in the field for me and reduce the chances of vignetting my wide angle shots."

Tom is based in Fort Collins, Colorado, but he travels the globe. You can keep up with him and his many projects, workshops, and other photo adventures by visiting his website and blog. Or follow Tom on Facebook and Twitter, too.