Friday, July 01, 2011

John Barclay took his LB Warming Polarizer to Tuscany to glory in the warm Italian sunshine

Freelance nature photographer John Barclay conducts a number of workshops each year, but this year was special. "I have just returned from leading a workshop in the Tuscany region of central Italy. Throughout most of the trip, we were treated to the same amazing blue skies with white puffy clouds that have inspired artists for centuries. Part of the challenge when leading an international workshop is deciding how much gear to pack. As I pared down my bag to the most essential lenses and filters, I realized that, of all the filters I own, there is one that I could not live without. That's my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer. Its very low filter factor lets me use faster shutter speeds, which enables me to hand hold my camera for a number of shots. And, although I know I can warm up my images in post processing, I still like having the slight warming effect built into this filter.

"I made the image above immediately on arrival. In fact, it was made about a half mile from the farmhouse where we stayed. We were on our way to our first predetermined stop, but I had to jump out and make this image first. This is one of the situations where I was able to hand hold the shot because of the lower filter factor of my polarizer. To avoid color banding when using a wide-angle lens, I am careful to not over polarize my image. For this image, I backed off to about half of the polarizing effect the filter offered. When I teach, I like to say that a polarizing filter is not an on/off switch. It's adjustable to provide varying degrees of polarization.

"One of the images I had in mind to take in Tuscany was the classic round hay bale in a freshly harvested field. On this day, we were coming back from Siena and decided to take a scenic road we had not yet taken. We were thrilled and pleasantly surprised when we happened upon this wonderful scene. With my polarizer on my lens and the sun off to my left, I was able to fully polarize this scene leaving very little post processing to do in Photoshop.

"When we scheduled this trip, we were concerned about being a bit too early for the iconic red poppies, however, with luck on our side we were treated to glorious fields full of them! This time the sun was over my shoulder but the LB Warming Polarizer still helped reduce the glare a bit and warm up the scene.

"The final image was shot along the same scenic road as the hay bale. It was taken with just 30 minutes of daylight left. The light this evening was truly magical. When I saw the sheep in the field, I noticed that they were mirroring the shape of the cloud. I literally ran about 300 yards down the road to get the composition right! Once again, all I needed with the amazing yummy light, was the LB Warming Polarizer which in this case helped POP the clouds to create a bit more drama."

John is a freelance photograper based in Bucks County, PA. You can learn more about his workshops on his blog and you can see many of his images on his website, plus you can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jay Goodrich returns from China trip with a rich mixture of images and personal impressions

Jay Goodrich is a professional writer and photographer based in La Conner, Washington, who is always ready and eager to photograph anywhere in the world. "A couple months ago I got to spend 17 days in China with friend and fellow photographer Art Wolfe. We led a group of 12 people on a whirlwind tour of some of his favorite places that China has to offer. It was an unbelievable trip to say the least. When people find out that I have been there, the immediate question they ask is, 'What’s it like?' quickly followed by, 'Did you like it?' After both questions there is a long hesitation before my reply which usually starts with, 'Well...'

"China, although one of the fastest growing countries out there, is very simply a world of contradictions. The class structure is quickly growing farther and farther apart with extreme wealth on one end and extreme poverty on the other. There is a ton of pollution, you are literally surrounded by it, on the ground and in the air--to the point that the sun sets about an hour earlier than its forecasted time.

"The tour food is beyond monotonous. There is really good food, but the guides almost never take you to the “locals” joint unless you press them--almost with brute force. The people live by the beat of a different drum for sure. They are nice, but culturally, extremely different from Americans. This could be bad or good depending on your perspective. If you think about it though, if the U.S. was busting at the seams with population growth, we would act a little differently too. We would be pretty pushy for everything that we needed for our own survival.

"At what point do you sell me on this place Jay? China is a place of stunning beauty. Its history dates back before just about any other location on this planet. You can almost see it growing before your eyes with the 24 hour construction policies. There are cultural practices that are indeed dying there and once they are gone, they will be the lore of a select few. And there are places that possess jaw dropping beauty.

"In short you need to go. And you need to drop any reservations about the photographer you are when you do. If you are a landscape photographer, go. If you are a wedding photographer, go. If you are an architecture photographer, go. If you are a cultural photographer, go. Are you seeing a pattern develop here?

"If you are none of the above, you will go without any preconceived vision of what you are about to photograph and that will be even better. My mission upon boarding the plane in Seattle was to pretend I had never taken a photograph before in my life. I decided to look openly on the world from that point on. No nature, no architecture, and no adventure. Anything that caught my attention was getting photographed.

"Simply, I wanted the broadest scope of subject matter from this location to allow me multiple avenues of use in the end. The thought process was this simple--when will I be back in China? It could be decades and it could be never. There are many other places on the list and now that China has been seen it is on the bottom. Open your eyes to everything.

"There are nay sayers out there that will tell you that you need to specialize in one subject or the other. I couldn’t disagree more. Learn how to photograph great compositions, then no matter what or where you are photographing, apply those thought processes. Your portfolio of images will skyrocket faster than than you can imagine. And don’t forget to bring along all of those Singh-Ray filters because they too know no boundaries. I used my Vari-ND to slow my shutter on the Bund in Shanghai while photographing people. I used my LB Warming Polarizers on every other image to help diffuse the amount of air pollution. And I used my Graduated Neutral Density filters at every sunrise and sunset. And again, I used them like I was just learning how. I tried them with culture images, architecture images, landscape images, and every other subject that I discovered.

Traveling to locations far and wide can be an enlightening experience. Dropping all of your preconceived ideals and styles will allow you to explore like a five-year-old and while doing so, you will create some of the best images of your life. There are always positives and negatives to traveling abroad. You are exposed to the good and the bad almost hourly, in the end though, you will walk away with an experience that you can tell your grandkids about for years to come."

Jay Goodrich writes regularly for Outdoor Photographer Magazine and teaches workshops all over the world. He has two workshops coming up where he will be instructing participants on the many uses of Singh-Ray filters. One is in Colorado in September and the other is in Hawaii in November. Visit his blog for more information and additional articles on a life of discovery through the lens.

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