Friday, March 16, 2012

Joel Addams solves different light balancing challenges with the same combination of ND Grads

While shooting both commercially and for his outdoor print business, Utah-based photographer Joel Addams continues to use a variety of Singh-Ray filters to get each shot just right. "Whether I'm shooting indoors or outdoors, I'm well accustomed to pulling out the right set of filters for each situation. Several recent shooting opportunities have convinced me that at least one filter could be used on every image I shoot, whether I'm in the mountains of the American West, on a commercial job in a warehouse district, or in the misty mood of Yosemite National Park. Recently, I noticed that one of my most frequently used filter combinations is a 4-stop Reverse Graduated ND filter along with a 3-stop soft-step ND Grad.

"The image above was captured in Utah's Albion Basin, near Salt Lake City, which attracts huge flocks of skiers every winter. In the summer, however, this gorgeous basin explodes with wildflowers in red, yellow and purple. I was up very early with a client shooting across the basin onto some private property when I noticed the packs of lupine, indian paintbrush, and daisies. With the outline of the Wasatch Mountains in the background, I took a minute to compose several shots of the highly colorful scene. I already had my LB Polarizer on my lens, and the sunrise light on the peaks seemed to balance with the floral foreground very nicely with a combination of a 4-stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density filter stacked on a 3-stop soft-step Graduated Neutral Density filter. This retained the natural color of the flowers seen in the lower half of the frame.


"A few weeks later I was given a particular challenge on an assignment to photograph several large warehouse-type buildings for a commercial real estate company. Though not as enticing as a mountain scene with wildflowers, I went to work--again at sunrise--with my Singh-Ray filters. This time, I tried various other combinations, but the only combination that seemed to give the 'pop' to the buildings was the one that I would not have chosen first: it was the same combination of a 4-stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density filter and a 3-stop ND Grad. I thought the hard line on the 4-stop RGND filter would look very unnatural. But while it didn’t look quite real, it did make the building stand out. It almost gave the building a bionic feel. The image in the camera looked like it was already processed for a commercial use, and I hadn’t even brought it into Lightroom or Photoshop yet. I left the images just as I took them, and the client seemed to like their radiant, colorful look.


"Yosemite National Park for me has always produced something special. Even when I wasn’t ready for it. Winter is particularly rewarding in Yosemite as the storms come and go so fast and are so dramatic. I am a sucker for mist, fog, and clouds, so its positioning in the Sierras gives it some lingering clouds when the storm breaks. And when they break around sunset, you are in for a treat. This was the second sunset I had caught in a three-day period, but this is the one that really kicked it in. Can you guess which two Singh-Ray filters I used on this exposure? Yes, my 4-stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density filter and 3-stop soft-step ND Grad."

Joel continues to use all his Singh-Ray filters in a variety of ways and in many different lighting situations. “They are a staple in my outdoor photography, and I wouldn’t consider shooting outdoors without having them in my bag."

You can keep up with Joel’s travels this year as he photographs and teaches workshops in several areas of the world. Joel conducts various types of workshops for his TravelLight Series. Check out his updated website and social media pages at the links below. | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | YouTube

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Emmett Quaine making his move to full-time photographer with the help of his Singh-Ray filters

Having just retired this month from a career in law enforcement, Emmett Quaine is now launching his own business as a portrait and landscape photographer. "I'll be based in the Detroit area, but I realize the importance of traveling wherever the opportunities arise. Last October, I took what was the first of many trips I'll be taking to build my gallery and stock image files and explore potential workshop destinations. This image, taken at Zion National Park, was one result of that trip. Just a few days earlier, Zion received a ton of rain and the Narrows had been closed briefly due to flooding. Even though it had reopened, I knew that the water temperature of 40 degrees was cold enough to keep me from wading through the Narrows. However, as I approached this entrance to the Narrows, I came upon these pleasant cascades flowing, and I was able to maneuver my way out onto some boulders to a better composition. The sun was almost directly overhead, painting the steep canyon walls with bright color.

"As I set up for this shot, I knew I would want to slow my shutter speed down and blur the motion of the water. I tried to use an aperture of f/22 to slow the shutter, but I still couldn’t achieve my desired effect. Fortunately, I had my Vari-N-Duo thin-mount with me. I quickly placed it on the 24-70mm lens on my Nikon D700 and opened the lens to f/18 while adding enough density to achieve a shutter speed of 1.6 seconds. The LB Warming Polarizer built into the Vari-N-Duo effectively cut the glare off the boulders while adding warmth to the overall scene. For scenes in regular daylight, requiring longer exposures, and/or reduced reflections, the Vari-N-Duo is an essential tool for my landscape photography.

"This next image was taken on another leg of our ten-day trip, as we were headed to Bryce Canyon National Park. We had left Zion the same afternoon with just enough time to make it here for sunset, and we did. I made it out to Sunrise Point, and it was packed with photographers all waiting for that magical light, the colors were lovely, but nothing that blew me away. It wasn’t until the next morning that I received my first real display of Bryce. I had to make a decision on where I wanted to shoot in the morning since we were leaving later that day. With so little time to spend at Bryce, I decided to return to Bryce Point for sunrise. I made it out there early, setting up on the edge of the point and then waiting. I liked how the canyon floor was covered in pines, we see the typical hoodoos there, and I was hoping for something a bit different.

"The sun began to show itself as it approached the horizon, I could tell I would need to balance the differences of light in the bright sky and in the canyon below. I wanted to capture the scene in a single exposure, I like knowing that when I walk away from a scene, I have my shot. This particular morning was cold and windy up there. I wanted to capture the moving sky, vibrant colors all the while maintaining a well balanced exposure. I already had my LB ColorCombo fitted on the 24-70, and I knew that the horizon would be tough to handle, I used my 3-Stop Reverse ND Grad to hold back the strong light as the sun approached. I could see on my histogram that this was the right choice. I was able to achieve an exposure setting of f/18 for 30 seconds. The LB ColorCombo took away any reflections the pines below may have cast and added a fantastic warming effect to the sky and hoodoos.

"In addition to the successful ten-day trip in October, I also made it down to Charleston, SC, twice between August and late December. These trips were more personal, but there is always time for shooting landscapes. For example, Angel Oak is an iconic southern Live Oak tree in a park owned by the city of Charleston. It's estimated to being close to 1500 years old and it has survived everything Mother Nature and man have thrown its way. I knew that this park gets very busy with visitors, so I made it a point to be there before it opened and ready to go. This was mid-August, meaning hot and humid.

"I was allowed to enter the park a few minutes early, and found myself looking for the best vantage point to capture this mammoth tree. The branches so large that they need supports so they don’t break off. After spending some time looking where to set up, I set up my tripod with my D700 and a 24-70 f/2.8 lens. The humidity on the foliage of this giant posed a problem. I reached for my LB ColorCombo, the warming polarizer cut down the reflecting light of the wet foliage and the color intensifier added a welcomed increase in saturation -- my LB ColorCombo performed flawlessly.

"On my most recent trip to Charleston, it was during the Christmas break. I wanted the chance to go back to Folly Beach to shoot the fishing pier. On my first visit there, the weather wasn’t at all cooperative. As I headed back to Folly Beach this time, I had the feeling that it was going to be a relatively boring sunrise. I could see there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, however as I crossed over a creek and saw a low lying fog, I was wondering what lay ahead another few minutes down the road.

"As I pulled up to a municipal parking area, I could start to see that the moisture-soaked sky was lighting up. As I hustled down to the beach and set up my D700 and 24-70, I already had an idea of how I wanted to compose the image. My lens already had my LB Warming Polarizer on it, which rarely comes off my lens. However, I could now see there was a slight reflection in the wet sand, and wanted to incorporate that into this image. I dialed back the polarizer just a bit to let the reflection through. As the sun began to approach the horizon, I again reached for my 3-stop Reverse ND Filter. This completed the image, the sky began to explode with vivid color! The use of these two filters saved me time at the computer later on in post-processing. While with different effects in today's processing software, I still want to know that I got what I came for before I leave. Who wouldn’t want more time shooting, spending time with their family, or doing another activity? Singh-Ray filters make this possible for me, I’ve incorporated about eighty percent of their filters into my filter kit, with a few more additions coming this year."

Emmett will soon finish his new website. He is also making initial plans for more exciting trips this year, including an early-spring skiing/photo trip to Big Sky, Montana that includes a visit down into West Yellowstone. You can also follow his ventures on Facebook and Twitter and check his "366" project on his blog. | blog | Facebook | Twitter