Friday, February 25, 2011

Brazilian photographer Marcio Cabral shares these views of one of his country's best photo destinations

From his home in Brasilia, capitol of Brazil, Marcio Cabral has focused recently on conducting photo workshops and expeditions both inside his own country and beyond. "Landscape photography has become my passion," says Marcio. "I'd like to share my experience photographing one of the most exquisite places I have ever visited, Fernando de Noronha, which is a small archipelago off the coast of Brazil in the equatorial South Atlantic Sea. There are 21 islands in the archipelago -- all are the visible peaks of a range of submerged mountains. It’s considered one of the world's best spots for diving, and it’s surrounded by marvelous beaches with crystalline water and a great variety of fish. The main island consists entirely of volcanic rocks and has a number of very mountainous seascapes that offer outstanding opportunities for landscape photography. That makes it an ideal place to use my Singh-Ray filters.

"This first image was taken with my Canon 5D II and 17-40 lens early in the morning when the light was perfect and the great force of the waves helped make the scene appear even more dramatic. I used my Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue to deliver an almost magical effect. I adjusted the filter to create just a little more blue on the ocean and the most intense gold in the sky. I adjusted the color balance in Adobe Camera Raw to correct for the filter's magenta effect, so I was able to increase the blue tones in the sky to contrast with the very warm clouds. To balance the bright light of the rising sun with the dark foreground, I also used a Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse Graduated ND filter to control the brilliant sun and a second 3-stop soft-step ND Grad on the water to help define the waves.

"This next picture was taken along Boldro Beach. I wanted to include the mountains in the background to contrast with the water movement on the coral beach. The low tide made it possible for me to include much more of the coral reef. The mid-day light was a bit harsh but waiting for better light wasn’t an option because the waves would be gone by then. So it was either take the picture as it was or come home without a picture. Fortunately, I had the Vari-N-Duo filter in my bag. I was able to use a long exposure to smooth the water at the same time I used the filter's polarizing feature to increase the color saturation in the sky and foreground. Without the Vari-N-Duo, I could not have taken this picture.

"I took this image after sunset from to top of a cliff that provided an amazing view. The higher clouds were lighter and warm in tone. The lower clouds were darker which created outstanding contrast. I used my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer along with a Reverse ND Grad and a 3-stop soft-step ND Grad to balance most of the sea and sky and capture more detail in the rocks and waves.

"These 'Twin Brothers' are a popular symbol of the island. They are located at Cacimba do Padre Beach, which is well-known to surfers for its great waves. Late in the afternoon, the sun lights these rocks for a very dramatic effect. After searching for just the right place from which to photograph, I discovered the very interesting shoal on my right. To capture the movements of the waves in these rocks with a long exposure, I used my Vari-N-Duo to capture the movement of the waves and also polarize the sky. I also used a 2-stop soft-step ND Grad to balance the sky and the light in the hills. I was very pleased with the color saturation over the entire image.

"This picture features Pig's Bay, which is -- in spite of its name -- one of the most beautiful viewpoints on Fernando do Noronha. From this viewpoint it is possible to observe numerous sea birds and dolphins. Since this site is one of the most photographed on the island, I wanted to make a composition that would be slightly different from the traditional postcards of this location. I decided to include a small cactus and a shrub to frame the sky. With such strong shadows in the foreground, this was a perfect situation to use my LB Warming Polarizer together with a 3-stop soft-step ND Grad to achieve a perfect balance of light to highlight the details of the foreground and enhance the various colors of water and rocks."

Marcio's has gained considerable recognition and awards for his work, and has been published in a wide variety of nature and tourism publications. You can see more of his work on his website. He also was the first Brazilian to produce underwater spherical panoramas -- be sure to visit his portfolio of panoramic work.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brian Rueb reminds us there will be times when conditions are just right -- so it pays to be ready!

Veteran freelance photographer Brian Rueb leads a lot of photo workshop these days, and he pays close attention to the weather reports. "Weather happens," says Brian, "There's no good reason to expect -- or even wish for -- perfect shooting conditions every day we're in the field. In fact, many of our most interesting and dramatic images are captured in rough weather with stormy clouds, high winds and light that changes every minute. And then there are those times when conditions seem almost perfect.

"The Sand Harbor area of Lake Tahoe is one of my favorite areas to explore. There are endless possibilities for photography here. I have tried for many years to find a morning that yielded the conditions I found on this particular sunrise you see above. It was spectacular in every aspect. This image of Bonsai Rock was one I’ve been trying to capture for a number of years. The conditions here are often less than favorable, and the lake itself is notorious for sucking the life out of a good sunset or sunrise by removing the clouds from the area. If by some chance the clouds do stay put, then the wind is usually blowing, removing all the reflections.

"When I arrived on this day, I knew the location well enough to know where I wanted to shoot from and what I was hoping to get. I knew I needed the warming effects and polarizing of the Vari-N-Duo filter to help me bring out the right amount of reflection in the surface of the lake as well as providing a glimpse into the amazing rocks lying below the water's surface. I also used a 4-stop soft graduated ND filter to help balance the tricky lighting and brightness of the morning sky with the foreground. The rest of the shot was simply a matter of balancing me and my tripod in the crevice between two large boulders. It was a bit tough as one of my feet was forced to be submerged in the lake in order to get the right angle. It was so worth it though, because seeing the image I’d had in my head come out great on my screen made the 2:30 am departure time, the 4 hours of driving, and the bitterly cold morning nothing but afterthoughts and details to a good story.

"The Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, California, are amazing in every regard. Towering snow capped peaks loom just beyond this landscape that looks like someplace on another planet. It’s actually a relatively small desert located minutes from majestic mountains. By wandering and climbing over these rocks, I’ve found several places that I really enjoy photographing. On this crisp morning there weren’t any dramatic skies, but the pastel pinks radiated off the fresh snow in the mountains. What's not to like?

"Here again, the conditions were just about perfect for shooting this scene -- as long as we didn't overlook something. The Alabama Hills is another area I find tricky to photograph. It’s been shot a billion times... maybe more, by photographers with stunning portfolios and rich landscape history. I know going into the location I’m not breaking new ground with what I’m bringing back. My goal is to make the best of what conditions I have, and try to find a slightly different take on this spot. I chose this area because I loved the lines in the rock, and the way they lead the eye into the scene. It also was a higher vantage point, which allowed me to show the depth of the scene, and the magnitude of this otherworldly landscape. I didn’t have the best of conditions for this shoot as far as sky goes, but I used the pastel pinks that I did have, which I thought went well with the warm tones of the image. I used my LB Color Intensifier, which works well on warmer tones to really bring out the warmth of the rocks and the sky. I also used a 3-stop soft graduated ND filter to help balance out the top portion of the frame. The whole morning, while not earth-shattering in terms of epic conditions, was a great way to spend time working on composition and trying to find new takes on old locations.

"We’re on pace this year to teach over 1200 students at the Aperture Academy, in our gallery and out in the field. By far the most frequent questions asked by people who have been into photography for a while is how to use filters. We love to talk about filter use. For me and the other instructors, filters play a big part in what we do as landscape photographers. They help balance tricky light, accentuate color, provide or cut out reflections, add time to exposures, and so on. Using filters takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve learned when and how to use them properly, they become a tool in your bag that you can’t live without. I’ve actually turned around and left a photography outing because I forgot to bring my filters."

Brian is based in Northern California and is a full-time instructor with the Aperture Academy in San Jose. He recently completed a 65-day photo trip around Iceland with a full kit of Singh-Ray filters. To check out more of Brian's work and follow his workshop schedule and other projects, just visit his website or add him on Facebook.