Friday, December 02, 2011

Bret Edge goes to work in Grand Teton National Park for three days of "preparation"

From his home in Moab, Utah, outdoor photographer Bret Edge devotes a generous share of his time to organizing and leading workshops to many of the surrounding national and state parks. That's what took him to Grand Teton National Park in late September. "I was preparing for a three-day photography workshop. I arrived three days before the workshop to scout some areas for fall color photography, so my total time in the park was just three days. I got right into it. Each day was interrupted with dramatic thunderstorms which led me to capture this photo (above) of an approaching storm over Jenny Lake. Here we see the Tetons rising above the lake with Cascade Canyon out beyond. I used the 3-stop soft-step ND Grad to hold back the bright sky and the longer exposure made possible by the Vari-ND to smooth out ripples in the lake caused by high winds during the longer exposure. I like using my Vari-ND on windy days to smooth ripples or allow leaves or wildflowers to blur into swaths of color as they sway in the wind. It's also a good way to use the elements to my advantage rather than cursing the wind!

"Over the years I've developed a better sense for what works as a black and white image and what doesn't. Generally speaking, images with very colorful elements (wildflowers, fall colors, alpenglow) work best when presented in full color. I find that images with strong textures, interesting patterns, and/or stormy spotlighting make excellent black and white photographs. It's all about contrasts -- when I'm working with shades of gray I'm relying heavily on contrast to develop a successful image.

"Looking south from Shadow Mountain toward Snow King Mountain, I discovered this riot of fall color (above). I used my Singh-Ray thin-mount LB Polarizer at about 1/2 polarizing power to give the sky more pop. I also used a 3-stop soft-step ND Grad to balance the brightness of the sky (only pulled down slightly to around 2 stops) with the shaded foreground.

"Any time I'm using a wide angle lens to photograph a grand scenic, I'll limit how much polarization I use. This often means only using the polarizer at 1/4 power. If I'm photographing an interior forest scene or an intimate landscape that involves a creek, waterfall, leaves or any other reflective surface, I'll crank up the polarizing power to 1/2 or even full power.

"Here we see fog beginning to clear, exposing the high peaks of the Teton Range in early summer above the placid waters of Jackson Lake. I used the 3-stop soft-step ND Grad pulled part of the way down (about 2 stops) to hold back the brightness of the snow covered peaks and fog. I also used my Singh-Ray thin-mount LB Polarizer to reduce the glare reflecting off the water. When photographing in the Tetons I do not advise traveling light! Most of the landscapes are best photographed with wide angle to moderate telephoto lenses, i.e. 16mm to 100mm. In early summer and autumn, macro lenses may be handy to photograph wildflowers and intimate scenes of aspen or cottonwood leaves.

"It was a real thrill to see these crepuscular rays emerging during a stormy sunset over the Teton Range. This is a classic scene photographed from the Snake River Overlook. I used the 3-stop soft-step ND Grad to balance the exposure of the bright areas of sky with the colorful aspens in the shaded foreground.

"I really don't change the way I photograph for different markets. I create photographs knowing that I might some day need to make a large (32" x 48") fine art print for a client. Any image that prints well at 32" x 48" will also print well in an 11"x14" calendar or in a magazine. Obviously, images with lots of fine detail are going to look best as a large print where all that detail can truly be appreciated. I do a fair amount of business in stock imagery and it's always good to have both a horizontal and vertical of the same image when possible. When I can, I always try to shoot both but it doesn't always work out. Something I learned a while ago is that it never hurts to have two verticals -- one with lots of extra sky and another without it. Photo editors love it when you can give them a photo with plenty of negative space in which they can drop in text.

"Another afternoon storm swirls around the Grand Tetons above Jackson Lake in early autumn. I used the 3-stop soft-step ND Grad to hold back the brighter clouds and darken the exposed areas of sky. Here again, I feel the black & white version is the stronger image. Puffy clouds in the sky add tremendous depth to any image and when included in a black and white photograph, the stark contrast of deep black sky to bright white clouds is stunning. I do believe one needs to pay more attention to composition with black and white photography as I don't have bold colors to "hide" a lackluster composition."

Bret's main website has many more images, plus information about his upcoming workshops. He recently released his first e-book, The Essential Guide to Photographing Arches National Park. It includes tips for getting the best shots, maps of the park and trails, schedules of when the light will be optimal, and suggestions for what gear you'll need. You can keep up with Bret's adventures by following his blog or adding him on Facebook.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reverse ND Grads help Dave Hutchison find the right balance for dramatic sunset images

Although Dave Hutchison was born and raised in Ontario, Canada, he's been a resident of Vancouver Island for the past 10 years. "I became seriously interested in outdoor photography about 5 years ago and I am still discovering all the benefits of living in one of the world's most scenic areas.

"In my efforts to promote nature conservation through photography, I am also discovering the benefits of using Singh-Ray filters for optimum results whenever I'm shooting landscapes. Here are two recent examples of how the Reverse Graduated ND filter helped me capture the full range of exposure levels in a single shot by holding back the intense light of the sun at sunset. I captured the photo above at Chesterman Beach in Tofino, BC, and the image below at Florencia Bay in Ucluelet, BC. Both locations are about 5 hours drive from my home in Sidney, BC.  Florencia Bay is part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

"With both the 3-stop and 4-stop 'reverse ND’s' in my camera bag at all times, I strive to get the image 'right' in camera. I handhold my graduated filters and sometimes gently move the filter during the exposure to further 'soften' the transition along the horizon. I also use the Live View option on my Nikon D700 to assist in positioning all of my ND Grads. I find that I can control the transition area better on the 3-inch EVF screen and still be able to look around the scene for other compositions. I always use a remote shutter release to help reduce any vibrations."

Dave communicates his love of nature through his fine-art images sold for homes, offices, gift shops and galleries across Canada. He also sells his art cards and prints through a national distributor. He will be offering three-day workshops in the Tofino/Ucluelet areas next spring. You can learn more about these workshops and see more images on Dave's website. You'll also find him on Facebook.