Capture Complete Images with Singh Ray Filters

Below is a blog post that will go up on the Singh Ray Filters Blog shortly. Might as well give a sneak preview here.

As photographers, we are always looking for that image that will make people do a double take. Spectacular color, irresistible light and engaging compositions are useful components in capturing that “perfect” image. Unless, however, we are able to combine several or all of these components together, our images will still be left lacking that special spark.

Perhaps more than any other tool, Singh Ray filters have been instrumental in helping me to capture complete images. Yes, they are instrumental in extracting that extra dose of color and registering skies that will make jaws drop. They are also instrumental in simply achieving balance in an image. Sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t help us as much as she should, and we have to help ourselves.

This image of Delicate Arch is no revolution to photography. It’s been shot to death, and then some. That’s ok though, as I’d like to think that no one has captured it as I have. We all know that’s probably untrue, but it’s the mentality one must take when shooting an icon. By the time I set up this shot, the throngs of bustling photographers and tourists had all but gone home. The sun had set, after all—and what was there left to shoot with no light? In a word? Plenty.

Delicate Arch at Dusk, Arches National Park, UT

Delicate Arch at Dusk, Arches National Park, UT

Our camera sensor picks up light the human eye cannot, and with longer exposures at dusk, colors saturate and some things come to life that are otherwise dead when the sun is up. I shot other frames with electric light on Delicate Arch, but what completes this image for me is the stark contrast between the white snow of the La Sal Mountains in the background set against a royal sky and warm redrock. This scene was not present when the light appeared best to most of the other photographers. The sky was washed out, thus sapping the mountain peaks of the contrast achieved in this image.

I used a Singh Ray 2-stop soft step Grad ND to deepen the sky, and pull out every last bit of detail from the mountain peaks. The soft transition renders the filter line virtually unnoticeable except to the most trained eyes!

This next image was captured at Dead Horse Point State Park. Again, an oft-shot location with little lacking in the way of breathtaking beauty. Skies were uninteresting and clear on this particular morning, which forced me to search for compositions that would isolate the fiery glow on the buttes below.

Dead Horse Point State Park in early light.

Dead Horse Point State Park in early light.

The light hitting the butte in the upper third of this image was so intense in relation to the rest of the scene that it required a 4-stop soft step ND grad to balance the exposure. I held the filter at an angle as to not overly darken the mid-ground in this image. I am a stickler about hiding filter lines! Do your very best to make it appear as natural as possible.

What completes this image for me has partly to with the beautiful light and winding river with reflection. Mostly, however, it has to do with the balance created between the lit butte in the lower left hand corner and the (almost) overpowering butte in the upper third. This goes to show that even when shooting a long lens landscape, we can search for separating elements that contribute to the overall balance of an image.

A storm front moves in at sunset in Canyonlands National Park, UT

A storm front moves in at sunset in Canyonlands National Park, UT

This last image was captured at Canyonlands National Park. I was pleased to finally have dramatic skies to work with after a literal multi-day cloud draught. As this storm front raced into action, the sun descended at an equally rapid pace, lighting up the horizon with an intense glow. This combination of light on the horizon and dark clouds above created the perfect storm for my 3-stop Reverse ND Grad. Had I used a normal grad ND filter on this scene, the already dark clouds would have been rendered unnaturally dark. With the densest part of the Reverse ND Grad filter placed just over the horizon, I was able to maintain a dramatic, yet believable feel to this image.

Perhaps one of the more “complete” images I’ve captured this year, I was drawn to the contrast between the bright, wind-bent grass tufts and the ominous dark clouds overhead. There is a relationship here manifest in the subtle motion displayed in the tips of the grass—obviously affected by the approaching storm. Special care was taken to ensure the horizon line was not placed in the middle of the frame—an important aspect to remember when gunning for that complete image.

Look for that complete image each time you venture out—be sure to have your Singh Ray Filters on hand, as a sure knowledge of how to use them best will give you an upper hand on coming home with a (complete) keeper.

Moab the Mecca

Moab. A mecca for so much. World class mountain biking. National and state parks as beautiful as any around. And even…skiing. Yessir–skiing in Moab. The La Sal mountains are no bump on a log. Topping out at 12,000 ft, the La Sals command at least a good long glance from most anyone who visits Moab. I recently returned from a trip down south on assignment for Skiing magazine shooting a skiing/biking story for a small feature being published this fall.

A lone skier searching for turns near Moab, UT

A lone skier searching for turns near Moab, UT

We were expecting classic corn skiing above distant red rock desert. Instead, we found survival skiing on breakable crust that threatened to break your knee caps and laugh at you for even considering gliding downhill on what more resembled a moonscape than a skiable slope. Regardless, much fun was had, and eventually, the snow did soften. Our goal was to ski the La Sals and bike all the way to Moab itself from the bottom of our ski descent. Unfortunately, it had snowed a good amount several days earlier and the trails up high were still snow covered.

Forrest Coots stands under the iconic Delicate Arch with the La Sal mountains in the background. Moab, UT

Forrest Coots stands under the iconic Delicate Arch with the La Sal mountains in the background. Moab, UT

We decided to drive down to LPS and ride the Porcupine Rim trail all the way to town. For those that have ridden that trail, you’ll likely nod your heads in agreement when I say it is one of the best in the world, hands down. Super scenic, fast and plenty of technical spots to keep you on your toes. Doing it with 20 lbs of camera gear on the back was harrowing at times, to say the least. Let’s just say it felt good to have my gear insured.

Mountain bikers on the Porcupine Rim trail in late light. Moab, UT

Mountain bikers on the Porcupine Rim trail in late light. Moab, UT

Kirstin Peterson pedals the Porcupine Rim trail. Moab, UT

Kirstin Peterson pedals the Porcupine Rim trail. Moab, UT

Despite being completely hammered from an epic day, I woke up the next morning to shoot sunrise at Dead Horse Point State Park. Wow that place is beautiful. So much to see. The afternoon was spent hiking some short trails in Arches National park, and then it was off to Canyonlands National Park for a sunset shoot. I was hoping for dramatic skies, as crystal clear was becoming much too common with my scenic shooting of late. Mother Nature did not disappoint as an approaching storm provided ample drama to work with.

First light at Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab, UT

First light at Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab, UT

Moab is a fantastic place for recreation, relaxation and photography. Get down there solo, or with the fam–you certainly won’t regret it. Stay tuned for some exciting workshop news with the Sorrel River Ranch down there. We are currently in the process of establishing two scenic photography workshops for this fall. Should be epic!

Approaching storm front at Canyonlands National Park, UT

Approaching storm front at Canyonlands National Park, UT