Friday, July 15, 2011

Capturing an image every day for a year gives Craig Brown a way to perceive 'Life Through The Lens'

On June 1, Craig Brown completed a year-long photographic project he calls Life Through The Lens. "This journey called for me to capture an image every single day for a period of one year. It was both challenging and rewarding. When I started back in June of 2010, I did not really know what I was getting into. I thought I was pretty good at 'seeing' pictures everywhere I looked. Boy was I wrong! There is so much beauty out there, it's unbelievable! I soon learned, however, that I would only succeed if I kept my mind on the goal and gave it my full commitment... 100%. There were many days when I was exhausted or going crazy with my day job, and I would look at the clock and see I only had a couple of hours left to get my image for the day, process it and upload it to my blog. Off I would go to find an image to capture. This journey has taught me to slow down but keep right on going.

"For some people -- me included -- photography seems to be a process of one journey leading to the next. The first journey started back in 1992, when I took a trip to Australia with a borrowed 35-mm camera with two lenses and bag of stuff I didn't understand. Arriving in Australia, I managed to royally screw up the first roll of film loaded into the camera. Someone there showed me how to do it properly, and I was good to go. When I returned home to Canada, I took the film to a camera store and got back 7 rolls' worth of prints. I had taken some great photos, and I was shocked! I went back to the store and bought my own camera and a couple of lenses.

"Over the next few years, along with getting married, starting a new job, and buying a house, I continued to buy photography gear. One day my wife mentioned that if I really wanted to continue on my quest, I should find a way to make money at photography. Bad idea, I thought. But a short time later a neighbor on our street came to me and asked if I would photograph their wedding. Oh gawd! They had very little money and could not afford a pro. After weeks of sweating, and gaining more grey hair, the wedding day finally arrived. I had done a bunch of reading but I was still stressed to the max. The day went okay, and I waited nervously to get the prints back from the lab. They were wonderful and the bride and groom were very happy!

"That started 10 years of wedding and portrait photography. I started my own business, took night school courses and obtained my Commercial Photographer certificate. Then the digital age arrived. Everyone was buying a digital point-and-shoot camera and becoming their own photographer. Couples started asking for a CD of their images and wanting their weddings photographed for almost free. Since I work full time as a sales engineer and travel a lot all over North America, I decided to shut down the wedding photography business and spend more time with friends and family.

"In 2009, as a result of an inspiring trip to Glacier National Park, I decided to dive back into outdoor photography more seriously -- spending more time improving my imaging skills and mastering my digital workflow. I also decided to spend more time in the field. The images with this story are all part of the Life Through The Lens project. The sunset image at the top of this story was taken at Mount Baldy in Ontario, California. Sunrises and sunsets like this truly amaze me with all the incredible colours! While I was photographing this image, I stepped away from the camera for a bit and simply took it all in! It was so calming to just stand and watch nature at play! I used my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer and a 4-stop ND Grad on my 17-40mm lens to control the brilliant sky.

"The above image of Niagara Falls in Ontario is a 13-second time exposure at f/16 exposed after sunset through my LB Warming Polarizer. Niagara Falls of course is a very heavily populated tourist area and hundreds of thousands of images are taken of it every year. The trick is to capture the beauty and power of the immense falls in a way that's most meaningful for me. The spot where I captured this image is known as Table Rock and brings you to within a few feet of the edge of the falls. I have always loved the feeling I get when I stand here and just watch the water as it tumbles over the precipice.

"This image was taken at sunset on Bandon Beach on Oregon's Pacific coast. I had just arrived in the area in the late afternoon and it had been raining pretty much all afternoon and evening. Just as I was setting up my tripod and hoping I might catch a glimpse of the sun, the clouds parted and I was rewarded with a spectacular display! Shortly afterwards the clouds moved back in and the rains resumed. Made with a 24-125mm lens, 1/4 second at f/11 using the LB Warming Polarizer and 4-stop ND Grad.

"Here's a shot of Wedge Pond in Kananaskis County, Alberta. It was late in the afternoon and although the sun was beginning to make its way down, the sky was pretty bright. I used a Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer and a 4-stop Graduated Neutral Density filter to darken the sky a bit. The magic of the reflection and the stunning contrast in colors makes this image one of my favourite images from the Rockies!

"Moving now to southern Ontario, I visited a friend's cottage on Lake Belwood on the Grand river. The day was partly cloudy and I had been hoping for a pretty sunset. I was not disappointed! The sun underlit the clouds and the sky was spectacular with a little help from the LB Warming Polarizer, a 4-stop Graduated Neutral Density filter and a 2-stop Reverse ND Grad.

"Moving on to the most easterly point in North America: Cape Spear, Newfoundland. I drove the road to Cape Spear from St. John’s several times in the early morning darkness hoping for a spectacular sunrise only to find a very overcast sky or rain. On this particular morning the use of a longer shutter speed -- courtesy of my LB Warming Polarizer and 4-stop Graduated Neutral Density filter -- gave the fast moving clouds a nice dreamy look. I was also given a spectacular light show courtesy of Mother Nature!

"I am currently working on a book to showcase many of the images from this journey. In addition to the 365 images, I have 365 wonderful memories and 365 stories to tell. I am also working on a few other projects including teaching photography courses out of my home. I've just recently begun a new project, which I may be calling Painting With Light. I absolutely love the movement of trees, flowers and plants in nature. I find using a slower shutter speed with my LB Warming Polarizer or Vari-N-Duo helps saturate the colors and give the plants that dreamy look!"

You can find more of Craig's outdoor images on his website and keep up with his projects on his blog, or add him on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When Loscar Numael visited Oregon, he was glad he brought along his Singh-Ray filters. So are we!

Aspiring landscape photographer Loscar Numael recently had an opportunity to try out his Singh-Ray filters while visiting Oregon. "I brought along my entire kit of filters and I was glad I did because Oregon has to be one of the most photographically diverse and beautiful places a landscape photographer can find.

"Only knowing Oregon from seeing the images made by other photographers, I wasn’t sure what to expect. With each passing day of the trip -- as I discovered how unpredictable and ever-changing the weather was -- I was increasingly glad to have all my filters with me. The challenging and continuously changing lighting conditions were a true test of my ability to achieve well-balanced and accurate exposures. Getting each shot the way I wanted it in the camera would have proved extremely difficult without my filters.

"This image was captured in the Columbia River Gorge, which was the first stop of the trip. I discovered a paradise of streams and waterfalls like no other place I have seen. At first we were blessed with a cloudy morning and a very pleasant diffused light -- perfect conditions to use my LB ColorCombo to help remove the glare reflecting off the rocks and saturate the colors of the foliage. During the morning, my results were very consistent from shot to shot, but that would change soon.

"As the day progressed, the clouds started to dissipate and the light became a little unkind -- leading me to reach the limits of my ColorCombo. I decided to use my Vari-N-Trio to help obtain the extended exposure time I wanted to soften the appearance of the flowing falls.

"As this next image from the Gorge illustrates, the Vari-N-Trio was the perfect tool for the situation. Just by rotating the polarizing ring I was able to control glare and then -- after I had composed and focused the image -- I dialed in the appropriate amount of neutral density to achieve the longer exposure time and the smooth flowing look I had envisioned for the stream. Not only was I able to stretch the exposure time by controlling the density, I also had the benefit of a polarizer and a color intensifier -- with one filter and one exposure.

"We also were able to venture along the Oregon coast, which offered mile after mile of breathtaking vistas. Once again the extremely unpredictable and volatile weather proved to be a true test of my perseverance. With some uncertainty, we visited the Seal Rock area and just as we decided to call it quits, the sky opened up momentarily to provide a great display of light and color combined with marvelous reflections. To help me capture this moment of beauty, I used a 2-stop Reverse ND Grad along with my LB ColorCombo to balance the lighting and add a little more pop to the colors.

"The last part of the coastline trip was a visit to Cannon Beach. The image of Haystack Rock at low tide (that appears at the top of this story) was captured on a day that offered a very ominous atmosphere. That didn’t stop me, however, from trying to make the best shot possible. I set up my tripod and camera on an almost desolate stretch of the beach and placed a Singh-Ray 5-stop Mor-Slo ND filter and a 1-stop hard-step ND Grad on the lens to capture this long exposure. I was very pleased with the result, and consider this one my favorite shots from the whole trip. I am already planning my next trip to Oregon, and without a doubt my Singh-Ray filters will be traveling with me."

Loscar recently decided to begin working toward a career as a professional Fine Art landscape photographer. From his home base in Florida, he has photographed mostly along the Gulf of Mexico. You can find his website at www.loscarnumael.com. You may also want to follow Loscar's work on his Flickr page or 500px.com.