Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Kevin McNeal views his ColorCombo as an essential element in achieving really sharp wildflower images

Nature photographer Kevin McNeal's landscape images are always going to be impressive examples of what most of us call sharpness. In these four images, Kevin discusses and illustrates how he achieves such sharp images of the constantly moving wildflowers in his landscapes.

"I recently got another chance to visit Glacier National Park in wildflower season. If you’ve not been there yet, I will tell you this park is full of opportunities to shoot all kinds of dramatic nature photos, including landscapes and wildlife. During the month of August, nature adds to the landscape scenery in the mountain meadows a prolific mix of wildflowers that glorify Glacier's majestic peaks, and make the park one of the most popular destinations for serious nature photographers.

"The challenge in terms of photographing wildflowers is capturing the bright color of the wildflowers without losing too much detail and without showing much movement from the wind. The Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo -- which combines an LB Warming Polarizer with the LB Color Intensifier in one filter -- really comes in handy when I need to control the many reflections of light and get the most color saturation. This versatile double-filter provides the full measure of filtration I need yet requires less than two f-stops of additional shutter speed. In most situations I am able increase my ISO setting enough to avoid the risk of wind movement blurring the flowers.

"I need to have the wildflowers tack sharp, especially if they are prominent in the foreground and I'm striving for an immediate impact on my viewer. The opposite approach is to go creative and choose a long exposure that will allow the blurring movement of the blossoms to blend softly into the overall image, -- but that's a topic for a different article.

"So if a fast shutter speed is essential to capuring the wildflower blossoms in clear, sharp detail, why do I use a filter that requires two additional f-stops of exposure? Why use the LB ColorCombo at all when shooting wildflowers? The answer is the improved results I achieve in terms of color saturation in the overall image. I really like having the Color Intensifier that Singh-Ray builds into the Combo to automatically optimize the natural colors in the image. The built-in polarizer is able to greatly reduce glare and control the “hot spots” caused by reflective sunlight. Shooting wildflowers with a good amount of light is important, so I use a polarizer to minimize the reflective hot spots that can occur off the foliage. With other polarizers I've had trouble achieving accurate color balance in the images and I have thus had to do a lot more post processing. With the Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo, I don’t have to worry about the original image looking much different than the original. Besides, the whole point of having the ColorCombo is do reduce the post processing time and get a correct image in the camera.

"There's another benefit of the LB ColorCombo I really appreciate. The filter doesn’t affect the camera's autofocus or auto metering accuracy. I really rely on the camera’s auto metering and auto focus to do the job. In the past, I've found this to be an issue with other brands of polarizers. With Singh-Ray’s polarizer, there's nothing to worry about. I get accurate color rendition and stunning color saturation. The Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo enables me to get the best results I can from every image."

As busy as Kevin is as a photographer, author, and teacher, he still finds time to frequently update his website, portfolios, and social media with new images and valuable information. Be sure to bookmark the links below, and just try to keep up with Kevin! | Blog | Facebook | Google+ | Flickr | 500px