Tuesday, August 07, 2012

To help workshoppers take better landscapes, Scott Schilling starts by explaining what ND Grads do.

In the past few years, Scott Schilling has worked closely with many workshop participants. He often spends extra time teaching the importance of capturing in a single frame the full dynamic range of light in a particular scene. "Many locations we visit in our workshops feature some of the most beautiful scenes in the world, however, we are often shooting such scenes when they are illuminated by a very wide range of light levels.

"There are several ways of fitting both the very bright and the more shaded areas in a scene within the limited dynamic range of our camera's sensor. One of my favorite methods is to use Singh-Ray Graduated ND filters to help control the most brightly lit areas of a scene so that my camera's sensor can record greater tone and detail in those areas. When the density of the ND Grad is well matched to the brightness of the highlights, the resulting image can be excellent and it's all there in just one exposure.

"The image above was taken on a recent trip to the Glacier Point area in Yosemite, California. This is one of my favorite locations for photography because it offers such a grand view of the Sierra Nevada Range. Because the high clouds are still touched by the last bit of sunlight, and at the same time Yosemite Valley is in deep shadows below, I chose to use a Singh-Ray 2-stop hard-step ND Grad across the sky in order to capture the entire range of light in one exposure. This allowed me to avoid overexposing the sky and at the same time capture detail in the shadows. The advantage for me is the minimal processing time required to create the final image. I can begin immediately using my typical image processing methodology and techniques to create the final work for printing or for web use.

"In our workshop on the island of Kauai, we are often blessed with sunrises and sunsets that include color tones of yellow, orange, and sometimes red. In late June this year, the last morning of our recent Kauai Photography Workshop, we were treated to partly cloudy skies and a mix of warm colors as the sun rose in the east. This is a location along the south shore that we visit each year with workshop participants near the town of Poipu, Kauai. I used the Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo Polarizer to reduce the amount of glare on the water and at the same time maximize the color intensity of the scene as each frame was exposed. The clouds in this scene caught color from near the horizon to overhead and the polarizer allowed me to maximize the color saturation.


"Here's is another example of an image taken in Kauai using the LB ColorCombo Polarizer. This was taken with our workshop group along the north shore. A 4:30 AM departure from the hotel allowed everyone time to hike down and set up for this fantastic sunrise. Another helpful use of this polarizer is the ability to adjust for the desired amount of glare when shooting scenes with water, foliage, rainbows, and crepuscular rays (godbeams). In this image I was able to use the polarizer to maximize the details of this scene along the north shore by controlling the glare on the water in the foreground and increasing details and depth in the cloud cover.

"One of the advantages of a Graduated ND filter is the ability to capture a single moment with perfect timing. If I'm trying to bracket a scene to create an HDR image with processing software, I will often blend portions of a particular image that contained the exact moment I was looking for. For example, if I am shooting an ocean scene, and I am going to bracket my images for a final HDR image, and I shoot a quick series of 3 frames, 1-stop apart, one of the images may have a slightly better wave splash than the other 2 images in that series of bracketed frames. I will have to take additional time to blend and process the images in order to get the desired result. Compare all those steps to simply shooting the scene with a Graduated ND Filter (and careful timing) and getting multiple images of the wave splash to chose from, the correction made in-camera with each exposure.

"For this image from Yosemite, I was using the Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad. This filter is particularly useful when shooting sunrises or sunsets that may be very bright along the horizon line and then darker as you move up into the sky. At this location I had set up to use the filter and was ready to shoot in order to take advantage of the incredible color in the sky. A tourist decided to jump over the railing and ignore the warning signs that were posted. He wanted his girlfriend to take a picture of him as he climbed out onto the precipice. It is over 3,000 feet straight down to the floor of Yosemite Valley from where this man is standing!

"As he stood on the rock, I was already set up and simply had to take a few quick exposures as he raised his arms in the air. The Reverse Grad ND filter held the light down along the horizon and also helped me capture the detail in the clouds higher up in the frame."

Scott will be co-instructing workshops in 2012-2013, including Arches/Canyonlands and Bryce/Zion National Parks. He is also offering private instruction for small groups, up to 6 participants, in Yosemite this Fall. For more information, check his links below!

scottfschilling.com | blog | podcast

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