Friday, June 17, 2011

Getting the exposure balance right is an important first step for Joe Rossbach

Noted author and landscape photographer Joe Rossbach recently shared some outstanding new images with us. "I was leading a workshop on the southern New Jersey shore based out of Cape May. We were chasing a dramatic sunrise at one of my favorite locations on the shore, this broken down fishing pier on 59th street in Ocean City, NJ. I have been trying for over two years to produce a dramatic image of this location, but each time I visited, either the weather or the light did not cooperate. Finally on the last morning of this latest workshop, I got the conditions I had been waiting for -- and so did all of my attendees as well. We left our base in Cape May at 4am and arrived on location with about 30 minutes to spare before first light. We lucked out and the dramatic clouds from the thunderstorms of the day before had lingered over night.

"I got low to the water with my wide angle lens picking up as much of a reflection as possible in the wet sand and small pools of water where the surf was breaking. The sky was much brighter than the beach, and in order to hold detail I used my Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad for an exposure of 2 seconds at f/14. This did a great job of perfectly balancing the light, so I could capture a vastly wider dynamic range in-camera than I could with no filter.

"In addition, I wanted to create a more surreal image by using a longer exposure time to ghost out the water and record some cloud movement in the sky. Normally I would use my solid ND filter to slow the exposure time, but with my lens set for a 16mm focal length, mounting my solid ND filter was not an option due to vignetting.

"So I decided to use a technique that I developed about two years ago while building my Impressions Portfolio which relies heavily on using the 'multiple exposure' function found in professional-level Nikon cameras, such as the D-3 and D-300. By setting my Nikon D-3 to do a 'multiple exposure' of 10 frames at the 2-second base exposure -- shooting each image, one after the other -- I recorded the water and clouds at different places in each frame. After enabling multiple exposure, I locked the shutter release to record ten 2-second images. Then the camera combined the ten exposures into one final image -- the equivalent of a 20-second exposure that approximated the long-exposure effect I was after.

"This next image was made under similar circumstances at Stud Horse Point outside of Page, Arizona, about a year ago. The rocks over to the right -- away from the main group of hoodoos -- have always fascinated me, and on this particular evening all the cards were stacked in our favor with heavy storm clouds to the east and clear skies in the southwest at sunset. As cloudy as it was, the scene still required the use of my Singh-Ray 3-stop ND Grad to hold back and capture the intensity of the sky and allow me to properly expose for the fantastic foreground landscape.

"As with the image at the top of this story, I wanted to further emphasize the drama with a long exposure of the scene. However, my ultra-wide-angle lens at its widest setting prevented me from mounting my solid ND filter without vignetting. The multiple exposure ability of my Nikon allowed me to simulate a time exposure. With a base exposure of 15 seconds at f/16, and hand holding the 3-stop ND Grad to reduce the brightness of the sky, I made a 10-image multiple exposure, approximating a 90-second exposure time.

"If your camera does not do automatic multiple exposures, and conditions don't permit using a solid ND or variable density filter, it's also possible to simulate the long exposure effect by capturing multiple frames manually, then overlaying them together in layers using image editing software. It does become important to use a sturdy tripod to prevent camera movement, and manual settings for focus and exposure so stationary things in the image remain sharp."

Learn more about Joe's upcoming workshops and his various eBooks -- as well as see many more images -- by visiting Joe's website. You can also follow Joe's updates on Facebook.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How Susan and Neil Silverman relaxed the background to keep our attention on the main subject

Based in Santa Rosa, CA., Susan and Neil Silverman travel across North America to conduct a busy schedule of photo workshops. "But it's difficult to imagine a more exciting place to photograph Mother Nature than our nearby Yosemite National Park in Spring," says Susan. "Whether you're a serious photographer or not, it's always a wonderful experience.

"This has been an excellent year for water at Yosemite. During the middle of May, we were leading a workshop and the mountain streams and falls were really full and flowing. We were even blessed with a soft snowstorm which transformed the scenery into a lacy white wonderland during the early morning hours.

"This year we were especially drawn to the Dogwood Trees that lined many of the streams. We always wanted to capture the blossoms with the flowing water in the background --- for us that's a defining image of Yosemite in the Spring. We found the fragile looking Dogwood blossoms, however, to be a challenge to photograph. Our group spent considerable time and effort locating blossoms that were fresh and not partially spent with no wind blowing them around. It was a rewarding experience to successfully capture their color and graceful design.

"Eventually we found a beautiful branch with the roaring flow of the Merced River running rapidly in the background. The lighting was in our favor -- somewhat overcast and protected from direct sun by the dense forest. The rapidly flowing white water in the background, however, would be a real visual distraction. Too bright and contrasty and much too busy. (See image at left)

"In order to 'relax' the background to better complement the Dogwood blossoms, we put our Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter on the lens to slow our exposure by about 4 f/stops. This gave the water a much softer, almost silky appearance. Perfect. Then we added our Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer to reduce the glare off the water, which darkened the river and helped accent the white blossoms. (See image at top.) It was such a rewarding experience to see our final image of these lovely trees and to see how well our filters captured the moment."

In addition to their workshops, Susan and Neil photograph for magazines, their own gallery and stock photo clients. Their work is represented by both national and international stock agencies and has appeared in a variety of publications. You can visit their website for complete information.