Friday, April 22, 2011

When his ND Grads went missing, Joel Addams had to figure out a way to keep on shooting

Two weeks ago, when Joel Addams suddenly realized he was missing two of his Singh-Ray Graduated Neutral Density filters after a recent commercial shoot, he almost went into shock. “I don’t know what could have happened,” he says. “The two missing filters may have been stolen, or I may have just misplaced them. At any rate, I had suddenly lost some of the most important tools I rely on to craft both outdoor and indoor images.

"The loss occurred just as I was headed out to Moab, Utah, the next day to shoot landscapes in Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. Then I was returning immediately to shoot another commercial job, an industrial building where I also planned to use my graduated neutral density filters. I decided to sit down and think how I might temporarily work around the problem. I was missing my 2-stop soft-step Graduated Neutral Density filter as well as my 3-stop Reverse ND Grad. I still had a 3-stop soft-step ND Grad and I also had my full lineup of screw-mount filters -- including my LB Warming Polarizer, Gold-N-Blue and the Vari-N-Duo.

"Without two of my mainstay ND Grads, I knew I would have to try some sort of work-around procedures in Canyonlands and Arches country. When the sun came up over Buck Canyon Overlook in Canyonlands last week, I was ready to make some adjustments. I captured the image above by decreasing -- instead of increasing -- the exposure for the foreground. Knowing that I would have only so much density in the 3-stop ND Grad, I decided to take on the strategy of “flooding” the light from the rising sun since I could not hold it back enough to get a properly exposed scene. The classic landscape shot will have to wait, I thought. The result was a grittier, sun-drenched scene with a unique feeling all its own.

"That evening in Arches National Park, I ran into much the same issue as the moon was about to come up fairly close to sunset, a moment that can be a photographer’s dream as the two light levels are more balanced and need less 'tweaking' in camera and virtually no post-processing.

"As the moon came up, I began making adjustments with the filters I had left. I placed an LB Warming Polarizer filter on the lens, even though the sun had set. I wanted a warm feeling from the very bright moon, so it was important to hold back as much moonlight as possible. In addition, I went for my trusty (and only!) Graduated Neutral Density filter again, the 3-stop soft-step, to hold back more light from the moon. I knew that Balanced Rock would still become a silhouette. I am both pleased with the result and very certain I will never forget the challenging experience.

"I will soon replace my missing ND Grads, but I have learned an important lesson. I will now be even more careful to keep track of all my equipment and make sure it's safe and well-protected. In spite of all such precautions, however, I realize the loss of photo gear may occur again sometime. If and when that happens, I'll remember that there are some excellent solutions if I just take a minute and think!"

Joel will conduct several workshops again this year in two formats for his TravelLight Series. The Classics Series will involve well-established, beautiful locations, and will be take place this year in Antelope Canyon, Arizona; the Grand Tetons, and Paris. Joel describes the new Dirtbag Series as a different way to learn photography, based on the assumption that some of the best photography is achieved while exploring. They will also be taught in scenic locations, but the additional hiking and/or extensive travel involved is geared for those who want to pay less and experience the journey a bit more. The first of these trips will visit Nepal. For more information, go to Joel's YouTube Channel, Facebook fan page, blog and website.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nature photographer Jon Cornforth walks, hikes, and climbs to reach new shooting opportunities

"Why settle for the same view from the 'scenic overlook' that everyone else shoots?" That's the challenging theme of a very helpful 4-page story about photo trekking, written by Jon Cornforth in the May 2011 issue of Popular Photography. Jon fully describes his own choice of gear and how he prepares for day hikes as well as longer treks further into the back country.

"Serious photographers these days are hiking further and climbing to new heights to reach fresh photo opportunities. The four images with this story represent my own persistent efforts to get off the beaten path. Sometimes this involves patience in addition to physical energy as illustrated by the image above of the Ramparts in the Tonquin Valley in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. I first visited this valley 8 years ago, when I was just getting serious about photography. The results from that trip taught me that I had more to learn, and I was determined to return and get it right. I got the chance in August, 2009. Reaching the area required backpacking 21 kilometers each way, and since the Ramparts are what I consider a sunrise-only location, I hiked in the day before to give myself the best possible shooting opportunities the next morning. Fortunately, the next morning the shooting conditions were perfect: no wind and plenty of clouds in the sky. Amethyst Lake in the foreground is very large and so I was pleasantly surprised to see a perfect reflection in spectacular early light. Orange clouds lit the sky, but none of them were covering the peaks or the lake. Over the next two hours of shooting, I waited patiently for the 'perfect' combination of low-angle light, clouds and the reflected image. This was my favorite image of the entire trip, and it was taken with my Singh-Ray 4-stop soft-step Graduated ND filter.

"One of the most important things I teach my photo tour clients is how to anticipate the right moment to take a shot. This new image of the fall colors on Mazama Ridge is a good example of knowing when to shoot. Last October I was at Mount Rainier National Park when the sky was clear blue without a cloud on the horizon. Under such conditions, I knew I could anticipate the best shots would occur when the angle of the evening sun was just a few degrees above the horizon and still had its yellow or orange colors. Experience also told me where the setting sun would be on the horizon -- but I confirmed my guess by checking my SunSeeker app on my iPhone. I wanted to capture this scene as the sunlight settled into the trees and danced across the foliage in the foreground. The tree shadows along the right side added depth to a beautiful but non-dramatic scene. This light only lasted for about 30 seconds before the foreground went into complete shade. I used my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer and a 2-stop hard-step ND Grad to balance the exposure.

"Here is a photo of the Siffluer River in Banff National Park that I created during my Fall 2010 photo tour. I am surprised by how much I like this image, since I remember walking away from this shoot in a dour mood after being denied an epic sunset. While scouting the river on my own, I discovered this clearing which framed the mountains and allowed flowing water for my foreground. The spot-light illuminating the mountain happened so briefly that I could not have created this image had I not had my camera set up in advance. Using my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer in the shade of the river bank required an exposure of a 1/2 second or longer. This exposure rendered the water silky smooth. I also used my 3-stop hard-step ND Grad filter to balance the light on the mountain with that in the foreground. I placed the Grad filter above the trees at a slight downward angle to the right. It was a beautiful fall day to be out in the woods. I can still hear the gentle rush of the river as I hiked the mile or so back to the car. As I say in the Popular Photography story, if you want pictures like no one else's, you need to hike or backpack with your gear."

Always busy, Jon is currently adding a number of new images to his website gallery, while still staying on top of his blog, his Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube pages. In addition to the article in the May magazine, John contributes stories to the Outdoor Photographer Blog.