Friday, September 23, 2011

After 18 days of frustrating weather, Marcio Cabral is eager to return to the immense landscapes of Patagonia

Brazilian landscape photographer Marcio Cabral recently spent 18 days in Patagonia visiting the amazing National Parks of Los Glaciares in Argentina and Torres del Paine in Chile. "These parks are two of the best places in the world for landscape photography," says Marcio. "We arrived to find the vibrant colors of Autumn making the scenery look even more beautiful. The trip began with camping for 5 days in El Chalten, which is Argentina's newest town -- established to serve the many trekkers and mountaineers attracted to hike and camp in the foothills of the majestic Fitz Roy and Torre mountains. Although weather predictions were favorable, my first days were so cloudy that I couldn’t get good images.

"After my second day camped close to Capri lagoon, my luck seemed to be changing. Just before sunrise I saw an unusual cloud formation just above the mountains. It was exactly what I was expecting. The view was magnificent and I knew I had found the right place. I set up the tripod and waited for the sun to rise. Everything seemed to be perfect but then a dark cloud appeared and blocked the sun just as it was rising. This was a very disappointing moment because I had spent much of my time and resources to be there in that place at just the right time.

"Since my tripod and equipment were set up and ready to use, I decided to try using my Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue polarizer. It proved to be the perfect tool for this situation. I also used my Singh-Ray 2-stop Reverse ND Grad and 3-stop soft-step ND Grads. I was delighted to see how the combination of these filters recovered part of the magic of the scenery which the dark cloud had blocked and how the grads balanced the brightness of the sky and mountains with the foreground. I was happy with the result and decided that it was time to move my camp to explore other locations.

"As the weather improved, I packed my stuff to go to one of the most magnificent views of the park, Laguna de los Tres. That night I camped at Poincenot camp near the lagoon. A few hours before sunrise, I started on the trail to reach the lagoon. When I arrived and choose the perfect spot, I saw a cloudy sky. So I mounted my tripod and waited patiently until sunrise. Because the sun was partially covered it couldn’t reflect its light to the clouds. I took as many shots as I could from different points along the shore of the lagoon until another cloud completely blocked the sun. For this image, I used an LB Warming Polarizer with a 2-stop Reverse and a 3-stop soft-edge ND Grad.

"After shooting the lagoon in the morning, I came back to lunch at the Poincenot camp. In the afternoon, I followed the Blanco River near camp and searched for a place where I could capture the sunset and show the cascades and Fitz Roy in the background. The winds in this place are very strong and wisps of water were constantly striking the lenses. It was a real challenge to photograph in such conditions. The weather again was not helping. The absence of clouds produced an intense glare that left the colors desaturated and less attractive. To compensate for the lighting problems, I once again chose to use my Gold-N-Blue polarizer, which added a golden reflection on the water and more color to the vegetation and mountains. To balance the very bright sky with the foreground, I also used a 3-stop Reverse and a 3-stop soft-step ND Grad.

"After 10 days in Argentina, I moved on to Chile and Torres Del Paine National Park. When I arrived at the park it was raining a lot so I decided to stay a few days in Puerto Natales and wait for the best time to photograph the towers. After 4 long days, the sun finally appeared and I could continue on my way. I decided to camp near Lake Pehoe. The sunrise brought beautiful cloud formations. This time there were no clouds to obstruct the sunlight. Finally my luck had changed, and I realized that my patience was paying off.

"I used the LB Warming Polarizer along with a 2-stop Reverse stacked with a 2-stop and 3-stop soft-step ND Grad. I liked the results very much and proceeded to make a number of images, including some panoramas. I made many photos and several spherical panoramas on this site. For this trip, I used a Canon 5D Mark II with the 17-40 and 24-105 lenses. Next year, I want to return and stay longer to make the most of Patagonia."

Marcio has had photographs 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, September 20, 2011

Joel Addams weathers Nepal's monsoon season with his Singh-Ray filters

While visiting Nepal in July, outdoor and travel photographer Joel Addams pursued several projects that involved shooting both motion and still photos. "Whether I was going for video or stills, I found my Singh-Ray filters to be very important tools." Joel explains, "being in Nepal's capital city of Kathmandu during the monsoon season is the least appealing time for tourists to visit the area. But even though we were challenged by the constant rain and heat, we found that the continuing cloud coverage was a gold mine whenever the sun finally did appear for brief moments at sunrise and sunset.

“Whenever I'm faced with tough weather, I remind myself that unless I'm out there, the photographs won’t come. I've learned that just being out in the early hours in the rain can lead to dramatic photographs. When the great light suddenly does appear out of nowhere, I just want to be ready. A friend and I went out to the Hindu Temple, Pashupatinath, around 5 a.m. one morning with no real promise for interesting photographs. Besides the added benefit of not having to pay entrance fees that early (no one at the ticket gates), the weather was generally cooler and more pleasant.

"To capture the image above, we set up on an area above the holy Bagmati River that looked down on the temple site, where a traditional funeral was taking place. Funeral customs and practices are much different in Nepal and very open to the public, as long as you are reasonably respectful. Using a 24mm tilt-shift lens, I limited the area of sharp focus in the image to draw the eye to the family proceeding with the ritual of the funeral. To suppress the busy background of the temple itself, I used a 3-stop Graduated Neutral Density filter to place even more interest on the main subject.

"Instead of leaving the temple by taking the normal path, I hiked north through the small jungle area where tourists normally do not travel. I was delighted to find additional photographic treasures, including this image of a small Hindu holy place, set gently in the lush forest next to the river. Using the same tilt/shift lens, I felt that a natural vignette occurred with the heavy use of the tilt function on the lens. This time, I used a 2-stop Graduated Neutral Density filter to mildly balance the sky with the foreground temple. The result is an interesting, colorful vignette in an exotic location. In fact, the weather had broken by this time and a pleasing warm light softened the colors of the scene.

"In addition to the abundance of Hindu temples and the Hindu culture (about 80% of Nepal's population), the Buddhist population is also strong and integrated (about 20% of Nepal). I found that the monsoon clouds cleared just in the nick of time as I was at the famous Monkey Temple (Swayambunath), an old and famous Buddhist temple on the west side of Kathmandu.

"To capture this image, I chose my 70–200mm lens and decided the best composition would include the many prayer flags that dotted the area. Looking into the sun, I needed some really heavy neutral density to hold back enough of the bright sky to achieve a balanced exposure. I used all the ND Grads I had on me at the time -- that included a 2-stop and a 3-stop grad as well as my 4-stop Reverse ND Grad. They were carefully stacked together and handheld in front of the lens. The result was a cloud-filled exposure that left the foreground reasonably exposed and a dreamy feel in the sky. I always try to carry enough ND Grads for the 'just-in-case' situations like this. Up to 9 stops of graduated density is quite a bit, but I find that my larger 4x6-inch Singh-Ray filters can be easily stacked and hand-held without inadvertently including a finger or edge of the filter in the frame."

Joel is now completing his motion project on Kathmandu and will soon share it with us. He found the Vari-ND, his LB Warming Polarizers, and ND Grads helpful for this video work as well. You can continue to follow Joel's ventures and workshop schedule on his website. Also stop by his Facebook fan page, blog and YouTube Channel.