Archive for the ‘color’ Tag

Friday Foto Talk – Using a Circular Polarizer, Part III   11 comments

Lizard tracks from the previous night in Death Valley, California.

This is the final of three parts on the circular polarizer.  In Part II we looked at how you can use the filter in order to maximize its benefits while handling most of its drawbacks.  There is more of that kind of advice in this post, along with some practical tips that apply to any screw-on filter.

EFFECTS OF A CPL & HOW TO HANDLE THEM

  • A circular polarizer appears to change the colors in some images.  Mostly it’s the blues you’ll notice, but it can also saturate and brighten the warm tones.  A good CPL will not cause much of a color shift per se.  It’s more of an apparent effect and doesn’t happen in all images.  But in any case if you’re shooting RAW it’s easy to warm (or cool) things a bit using the white balance sliders in your editing program.  You can also get a polarizer with built-in warming.
Dramatic skies plus a polarizer make for a nice chance to shoot from a low point of view in the Nevada desert.

Dramatic skies plus a polarizer make for a nice chance to shoot from a low point of view in the Nevada desert.

  • You may end up with uneven-looking blues in the sky when using a polarizer.  It’s one of the main problems I run into when shooting landscapes with this filter.  Patches of darker and paler blues, while they do occur naturally in parts of the sky, can be exaggerated with a CPL, making things look unnatural.  If you’re using a wide-angle lens this effect is pretty obvious and hard to avoid.  All you can do is rotate the CPL less and/or change composition.  Try pointing the lens at a different angle to the sun and include less sky overall.  If you’re using a lens with a longer focal length, pointing at right angles to the sun should give you an even effect no matter how much you rotate the CPL.
In this shot at Great Sand Dunes, Colorado, you can see the obvious effect in the sky from using a CPL.

In this shot at Great Sand Dunes, Colorado, you can see the obvious effect in the sky from using a CPL with a wide-angle lens (18 mm.).  It’s a hard thing to correct on the computer.

  • Although a CPL often amps up your colors just the right amount, it can also hinder natural color saturation in some instances.  For example, I’ve found in frontlight (sun is behind you shining on the subject), and with fall colors, using a polarizer will often take away a little vibrance.  If it’s cloudy and the leaves are wet it may do the opposite, blocking reflections and allowing colors to come through as described in Part II.  But be careful about using the CPL when shooting colorful subjects, especially in frontlight.
The Colorado Rockies.

The Colorado Rockies.

AVOIDING MARRIAGE BETWEEN LENS & FILTER

  • Last but not least, let’s not forget about your threads.  No, I’m not talking about clothes!  It’s quite easy to tighten the filter too much on your lens.  Then you can’t get it back off!  A CPL is worse than other filters because you’re always rotating the filter element to adjust it, maybe tightening it even more.

 

  • Prevention is the key.  Getting a good filter with brass instead of aluminum threads will help.  And of course, try not to tighten it too much.  When you rotate the outer ring to adjust filter strength, occasionally go the opposite way (left).  Just don’t do this much or you may rotate the filter right off your lens and drop it.  Mostly rotate the same way you screw the filter on, to the right.
I avoided using a CPL here because it wouldn't do much except increase the possibility of flaring.

I avoided using a CPL on this blooming desert gold in Death Valley because it wouldn’t do much except increase the possibility of flaring.

  •  More prevention:  Keep your filter clean and lubricate.   Use a hand-blower to get rid of little pieces of grit that try to get in between the rings.  Also, occasionally lube the filter threads with silicone spray.  Go outside away from your gear and spray the silicone into a small cup or bottle cap.  Then use a Q-tip to carefully apply the lube to the threads and along the seam where the CPL rotates, avoiding the glass.  Don’t use too much!  Then screw the filter on and off your lens, rotating it back and forth a few times to spread the silicone evenly.

 

  • If you get a filter stuck you can try a couple things.  One or two fat rubber bands, like the kind on broccoli at the grocery, allow you to better grip the filter and perhaps the lens.  Try not to pinch.  Spread your fingers and use even pressure all around the filter.  If a filter is really stuck, try this:  Get some of that tacky rubber material made for lining drawers & shelves.  Cut a couple flat squares and on a table lay your filter flat on one of the squares.  Spread the other square flat and tightly onto the filter’s outer ring.  Using your palm or fingers evenly spaced around the rim, gently and evenly press down while twisting to the left.

Thanks for reading.  Enjoy your weekend!

No polarizer required for this image of the desert mountains near Beatty, Nevada.

No polarizer was necessary for this image of desert mountains near Beatty, Nevada.

Friday Foto Talk: Myths of Photography – The Tyranny of Light   24 comments

Beautiful light floods the Columbia River in Oregon at sunrise, and Beacon Rock (my subject) is almost lost as a result.

Beautiful light floods the Columbia River in Oregon at sunrise, and Beacon Rock (my subject) is almost lost as a result.

You hear all the time about the importance of light in photography.  And most often light is combined with rich color as being one and the same thing.  I believe there is a myth now being perpetuated among landscape photographers in particular.  It’s that light and natural color saturation are to be sought out and “obtained” in your photos, almost to the exclusion of all else.

I’ve said quite a number of times in this blog that light is important.  And it is!  Quality of light, specifically how rich and soft it is, is certainly worth seeking out, for any subject or type of photography.  But I think many of us have gone too far.

By the way, most of the photos in this post I’ve never posted (even on Facebook) and they don’t appear on my website.  Enjoy!

A tree with light on the Oklahoma prairies. Because it's in silhouette, the light & color behind it can be almost as fine as it wants to be.

A tree with light on the Oklahoma prairies. Because it’s in silhouette, the light & color behind it can be almost as fine as it wants to be.

Here are a few things about light that I think you should give some thought to:

  • Light will come.  This is the best thing about light on planet Earth.  It is so varied, so wonderful in its ability to reinvent itself every single day, that if you’re patient, the light you wish for will come.  It’s not just that, if you’re patient and persistent, you don’t need to settle for “sub-par” light.  The truth is that you can shoot that “knock your socks off” light one night, and then the next night get nice, subtle light that’s more appropriate for your subject.
  • Have you digested that last point?  Light, though very important, should in most cases not trump subject.  You can even add composition as being more important than light.  Composition and subject are so tightly tied together that it’s near impossible to think of them as being separate.  If you let it, light can be the subject.  Then you’ve succeeded in making a photo that, while it will invariably get plenty of wows and love on the internet, is just another photo (among millions) that is about light.
Light that was just too good. I decreased saturation for this sunset along the Cimarron River in western Oklahoma, but it's still a photo that is 'about the light'.

Light that was just too good. I decreased saturation for this sunset along the Cimarron River in western Oklahoma, but it’s still a photo that is ‘about the light’.

  • Do not shoot the light.  Now I’ll admit when I see great light I go like a madman looking for something to shoot.  It is part of what being a photographer is all about.  Don’t fight that, it’s fun!  All I’m saying is that if you regard your photography as an art form, your process should be much more about subject and composition first, then light.  If you put light first you’re setting yourself up for getting away from using photography as a way to express yourself, which is the point as far as I’m concerned.
The subject in this image from Snow Canyon, Utah is lichen. The light is good but I don't think it overwhelms the subject.

The subject in this image from Snow Canyon, Utah is lichen. The light is good but I don’t think it overwhelms the subject.  This is an exception, as it appears on my website because I liche it!

  • Think of light as just one more element in your photograph.  You have two choices with natural light.  Either make the best of what you’ve got in front of you or come back tomorrow, or the next day, or next week.  If you have a favorite spot near home that you return to time and time again, and then go on a trip where you have but one chance at a given location, you know what a tyrannical master light can be.  But think of it like a model who doesn’t show up one day.  Give her another chance and she’ll probably show the next day.
The sunstar (most call it a sunburst) is probably too prominent, but at least the subtle light/color doesn't take away from these ferric concretions eroding out of sandstone near Page, Arizona.

The sunstar (aka sunburst) is probably too prominent, but at least the subtle light & color doesn’t take away from these ferric concretions eroding out of sandstone near Page, Arizona.  I promise I didn’t place them, I don’t do that!

  • There is such a thing as light that is too good.  There is no photographer I know who will agree with that statement when I say it like that.  But now, after some years of chasing light, I know it to be true.  Everything depends on your subject and composition.  But sometimes, the light just seems to be so good that it swamps your subject.  Or, to put it another way, that stupendous light tends to overwhelm the intention of your photograph, whether you realize it at the time or not.  If you’re a typical photographer who’s in love with great light, I’m guessing you’re not aware of it when it happens.
Harsh and disagreeable light was what I had here at East Zion, but a cute bighorn lamb negotiating the terrain is the story.

Harsh and disagreeable light was what I had here at East Zion, but a cute bighorn lamb negotiating the terrain is the story.

  • As you mature as a photographer, you’ll come to desire different light for different subjects and compositions.  There is no such thing as light that is perfect for everything.  It all depends on what you want to do with that light.  Of course it doesn’t hurt to experiment, to try unconventional light for your subject.  But if you can figure that out you’re pretty far along in knowing both photography and your own style.

I do believe I’ve said all there is to say about this subject.  In fact I’ve never heard anyone in photography talk about this, and I think it may be the most important of my photo-related posts.  But if you know of some book or blog that talks about light this way, please enlighten me!  Hope your holiday preparations are coming along nicely.  Happy shooting, and use that light judiciously!

I'll end with a shot from a sunset that I've never posted anything from, in Montana's Flathead Valley. I couldn't do anything with this light because it suffused and overwhelmed the available subjects: subtle old cabins and grasslands in maybe my favorite valley draining the west side of the Rockies.

I’ll end with a shot from a sunset that I’ve never posted anything from, in Montana’s Flathead Valley. I couldn’t do anything with this light because it suffused and overwhelmed the available subjects, subtle old cabins and grasslands in probably my favorite valley in the northern Rockies.

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