Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Marco Crupi found his Singh-Ray Vari-ND was the secret to his successful west coast photo adventure

An artist and graphic designer by trade, self-taught nature photographer Marco Crupi's immediate short-term goal is to visit as many of the US National Parks as possible, capturing their beauty and transporting it to his viewers. "I find that each park features a fascinating and unique environment that's like no other. When I’m not traveling to remote parks, I tend to go out on local shoots in and around my home state of New Jersey.

"The anticipation was building in my mind this past spring as I prepared for a serious photo trip to the Sierras and the Southern California coastline. The creative ideas were storming around in my head. I wanted to achieve magical water effects like I had never done before, and since my travel plans included a visit to the beautiful Newport Coast, I knew I had to bring along my Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter. The results I obtained were nothing short of amazing! The images displayed here were captured along the Southern California coast using the Vari-ND on every shot.

"Whereas many photographers begin to compose their images when they arrive at an interesting and attractive scene, I tend to think ahead and consider what the type of compositions would attract and inspire my viewers.

"For this image above, I wanted to blur the water, but retain the stillness of the clouds. Because the sea was not very rough and the wind was calm, I was able to capture exactly what I wanted. The light and time of day were crucial for this image to come to life. The magic hour has earned its name for a reason! It happens shortly before, to just after sunset. Waiting for the perfect glow on the rocks and on the water surface plays a big role in the success of this frame. I set the exposure on my tripod-mounted camera to f/11, ISO 100 at 6 seconds. Most of my shots are motivated by some sort of perspective Leading lines are a very important factor in capturing viewersʼ interest.

"This second image was captured at Laguna Beach in Orange County, California. I used the Singh-Ray Vari-ND to blur the water movement.  My camera settings were f/22, ISO 100, with a 19 second exposure. Just a note: when shooting on sand, particularly close to or on the water, make sure you find a solid spot. Countless times Iʼve had to trash shots because the water will make the tripod sink ever so slightly making your long exposure shift and result in a blur. Try settling your tripod on rocks or any other hard surface to prevent such a shift.

"My next stop was in the Corona Beach area of Crystal Cove State Park. This was where I found the next two images -- which I call 'Zeus' and 'Dragon Mist' because of their interesting rock formations, each bathed in the softly overcast light of late afternoon. Both the Zeus and Dragon Mist rock formations were just to the right of the life guard stand about 80 feet down the beach. That's where I found a bunch of rocks and boulders spilling out to the open water. I gingerly made my way down the slippery rocks then set up my tripod and shot a series of long exposures using my Singh-Ray Vari-ND. The exposure time increased as the sun set and the light faded, but the variable density control provided by this filter allowed me to retain and enhance the details even in lower light. Basically, the rocks were the inspiration which then led me to build this incredible result. I shot this at 5:00 pm with an overcast sky and no sunlight at all. My settings for the shots were f/11, ISO 100, and a 10 second exposure on manual mode. I used a Singh-Ray Vari-ND at almost full density.

"For the Dragon Mist shot, I used the same settings, shifted my POV to the right of the rocks, got a sliver of sunlight long enough to give the rocks an orange glow. Because of the glow, I stacked the Vari-ND on top of a polarizer to allow the lower right corner to display the rocks without them being cancelled out by the glare. I also tightened (darkened) the shot just a bit because of the increased light. My settings here were f/16, ISO 100, and a 20 second exposure. I was very pleased with the results.

"My journey continued on US Highway 1 North through Big Sur and the Garrapata State Park in California, where I was able to capture the image below of the fast moving water with a mist-like effect. The filter works very well with natural light in different parts of the day -- no matter if morning, afternoon, or evening.

"To access this area, I had to descend all the way down to the water, not thinking of the hike back up. It was a tough one! I thought I would not be able to return to the car but luckily I thought to use my tripod as an acting “ice-hammer.” I struggled a bit, got scratched and bruised, but made it back up! Oh the things we photographers do to get a shot! I really wanted to capture that orange/red glow that forms just before a beach sunset on a clear day as low and close to the water as possible.

"Again, the leading lines here are a strong factor drawing the eye toward my focal point -- the setting sun. Waiting for the right moment of color and light intensity, at 7:47 pm, I used a Singh-Ray Vari-ND to assure I would achieve a misty effect on the water surface. This effect is almost always achieved by restricting the amount of light entering the lens and forcing the sensor to require more time to capture the image with a longer exposure. For instance; if your ideal reading is shooting a scene using f/16, ISO 200 and a 30 second exposure, by using a Singh-Ray Vari-ND, you are free to tweak these settings by restricting the light (simply by rotating the filter ring to a suitable density) and raising the shooting time to 1 minute or more. Of course, you can also up the f-stop to f/22 and lower the ISO to 100 (or 50 on some DSLRs) and elongate the exposure to 30 seconds. Basically the longer the sensor absorbs information without over exposing, the more blur effect you will achieve using a Singh-Ray Vari-ND. This will be true for any moving objects whether they are clouds, moving lights, stars, etc. Donʼt be afraid to experiment.

"Traveling further north on the California coast, right off US 1, I visited the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park where I was able to access a fairly easy to reach and popular overlook. The parking lot is off to your right. Make sure you pay the parking fee as rangers patrol the area often. Also use caution when crossing US 1. Youʼll have 2 path options. I chose the one to the right with this breathtaking view! It will take you no longer than 10 minutes round trip. As I stood there admiring this beauty, I could not stop thinking about how I could get down to that beach! Of course, all visitors are clearly informed that the beach is not open to the public -- no wonder it is in such pristine condition.

"For this image I positioned my tripod, set up my camera with the Singh-Ray Vari-ND, and gave the lens a slight darkening to achieve a subtle slowing and a hint of blur throughout the scene. I must thank mother nature and all of her beauty for the additional elements needed to complete this majestic view. My settings for this shot were: f/22, ISO 100, with a 10-second exposure. Considering there's full sunlight over head, 10 seconds is an eternity.

"All the images you see here have been shot on a Canon 5D MK III, with a 17-40mm L wide angle lens and a Singh-Ray thin 77mm Vari-ND. The thin-ring profile certainly reduces the risk of vignetting when using a very wide-angle lens. I prefer shooting in manual mode with a small lens opening to assure relatively high resolution."

Marco's passion for landscape photography has led to the appearance of his images in numerous publications, including NationalGeographic.com, Leisure Magazine, and Outdoor Photographer as well as award winning merits with Photographer's Forum and Nature's Best Photography.

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