Friday, October 28, 2011

As Russ Bishop chases the light on California's central coast, his filters are right on the scene

Based in Ventura, California, Russ Bishop has been shooting stock and fine art photography for the past twenty years. "Throughout my career, I have relied on Singh-Ray Filters to give light that special quality. On a recent trip to Big Sur on California's central coast, I found the dynamic landscape provided no end of subject matter, but there were times the light conditions had too much contrast or needed just a little more spark. The images I'm including here illustrate three occasions when I reached for my favorite Graduated ND filters as well as the Gold-N-Blue polarizer or the LB ColorCombo, to complete the picture.

As a way of working with and improving the light before I open the shutter, I find filters are as important today as in the days of shooting film. I often hear photographers say 'I can just fix that problem in post,' but I find it's always an advantage to get the image right while in the field. I have also found Singh-Ray Filters to be of the highest optical quality, so they are the perfect complement to my Nikon D300 and range of professional Nikkor lenses.

"The image above was made at Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel, California, just as the sun was about to set. I wanted the aquamarine color of the water to be prominent in the scene, but the contrast between the bright sky and the cove was quite strong. It was a perfect opportunity to use my 3-Stop Graduated ND filter to properly balance the exposure and emphasize the water.

This second image was also made at Point Lobos in the Allen Memorial Grove. On this almost continuously foggy and wind-swept point, one of the last remaining wild stands of Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) in the world can still be found. The striking orange coloring is actually green algae that doesn't harm the tree, but certainly adds a wonderful contrast to its graphic quality. For this image I mounted my LB ColorCombo on a Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VRII to increase the clarity and color saturation of the cypress.

"About a century ago, noted landscape painter Francis John McComas described Point Lobos as 'the greatest meeting of land and water in the world."' It's easy to see why. Ansel Adams and Edward Weston were both frequent visitors who drew inspiration from its wild vistas and dynamic light.

A little further down the coast at Soberanes Point, in Garrapata State Park, I captured this magical sunset. Here the rugged coastline features some of the most dramatic scenery anywhere on the Pacific coast. Sunsets such as this can be truly unforgettable. On this particular evening, the clouds began to fill the sky almost to the horizon. The image I pre-visualized was a fiery sky mirrored in a glowing sea, and I knew that with just a small opening for the sun on the horizon (and a little help from my Singh-Ray filters) it would all come together. For this image, I used a Nikkor 17-35mm f2.8, with a Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue polarizer to enhance the liquid gold effect on the water and provide that mirror to the sky I had envisioned."

Russ' images can be seen in advertisements, books, calendars and international publications from a diverse clientele. He is a member of American Society of Media Professionals (ASMP), North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), and Stock Artists Alliance (SAA). To view more of his images, visit his website and blog. You can also connect with Russ on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Landscape photographer Ethan Meleg counts on his filters to help him capitalize on Ontario's tourism market


With the balmy days of summer and fall fading so quickly, Canadian photographer Ethan Meleg has more time to reflect on one of the busiest summers he's ever had. "I've been almost continuously traveling around Ontario and working on photo shoots for tourism clients. Although there was minimal sleep time, I was fueled by grand ideas for photos and a steady flow of medium roast coffee. For example, capturing the above sunrise image at the marsh in Point Pelee National Park called for several hours of preparation and setting up in the dimmest of twilight. Using my Canon 5D mark II with several Sigma and Canon lenses, I selected my Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo Polarizer to control the reflections, along with a Singh-Ray 3-stop hard-step ND Grad to properly balance the bright sky with the foreground.

"I started out in photography shooting birds and wildlife almost exclusively before gradually shifting toward landscapes. As my landscape photography evolved, I found myself looking for ways to convey depth, perspective and scale in photos. Often I would incorporate people in the scene to achieve this. It was through this process that I more or less stumbled into tourism photography, which has now become an important part of my business.

"Photographing people actively enjoying nature -- hiking, biking, shooting photos, canoeing, camping or kayaking -- is especially satisfying for me because those are activities I enjoy myself. My style of outdoor adventure photography is rooted in landscape photography. I strive to create visually strong images that tell a story by showing people interacting with their surroundings. If my photos end up giving the viewer a feeling of sense of place and a desire to be there experiencing it, then I’ve succeeded. For this sunrise image at Point Pelee National Park, I used my LB ColorCombo with a 2-stop soft-step ND Grad.

"Tourism photo shoots are logistically complex and highly dynamic, which makes them both exciting and downright stressful! The weather needs to cooperate. Props need to be coordinated. Models must be looking in the right direction, smiling and have their eyes open. This sunrise shot of hikers along the shoreline of Georgian Bay at Bruce Peninsula National Park called for the LB ColorCombo and a Singh-Ray 3-stop hard-Step ND Grad.

"Here's an image taken at Killarney, Ontario, on the northern shore of Georgian Bay. I used the LB Warming Polarizer and a hard-step ND Grad. One of my favorite parts in the tourism photo process is conceptualizing the images. After discussing the key elements and objectives with my clients, I think about locations, lighting/time of day, perspectives, and the props we'll need before I begin to pre-visualize potential images. When I lock onto an idea for a shot, I often draw rough conceptual sketches on a note pad (my drawing skill is limited to stick people!). Once all of the planning and legwork is done, it's time for the best part... shooting the photos! There are so many variables to consider, and the client is paying big bucks, so at the end of the day I need to have the shots. There are no excuses.

"I rely on my gear to perform flawlessly on all my tourism shoots, and Singh-Ray filters are particularly important to my success. My clients want vivid, punchy images, so I use LB Polarizers (either the Warming or ColorCombo) for almost every image to increase saturation and reduce glare. The low filter-factor of these "lighter, brighter" polarizers means better light transmission for faster shutter speeds to help freeze the movement of my models. I also use Singh-Ray 4x6-inch Graduated ND filters to balance the exposure range in images with bright skies. Typically I hand-hold the filter and move it around during the exposure to further blend the edge of the Grad into the image. I find this is a much better technique than trying to do HDR or exposure-blended images, which don't work well whenever there is movement in the image."

Ethan is looking forward to a bit of rest before taking off on his next adventure. "I'm currently researching a big trip for this winter. I haven't settled on the location yet, but the criteria are simple -- warm weather, high biodiversity, and stunning landscapes."

To find out where Ethan decides to travel this winter, watch for updates on his blog or Facebook page. As always, you can see a wide variety of his images and learn more by visiting Ethan's website.