Long Lens Morning: Cascade Peak & Middle Provo River

Winter image of Cascade Peak and Middle Provo River by AdamBarkerPhotography

Banger morning. Middle Provo River. Cascade Peak.

The quick and dirty:
Perfect comp for a long lens shot with engaging elements from front to back of the frame. Think of your photographic frame in three-dimensional terms as a loaf of bread. Long lenses squish that loaf of bread, putting the back slice right up against the front slice. Additionally, this was shot at exactly 90 degrees to the sun, allowing me to utilize the Singh-Ray Filters LB warming polarizing filter to the fullest, deepening the sky, and giving the snowy peaks extra pop.

Flyfishing Imagery: Best of 2010

Just wrapped up a quick slideshow sharing some of my favorite fly fishing images from 2010. Hope you enjoy!

Set a New Standard with Singh Ray Filters

My photographic career is still in its relative infancy, yet I’ve already been fortunate to shoot a wide range of imagery for an even more expansive array of industries. Whether I’m out on a scenic landscape shoot for my own collection, or racing first light for the next commercial client, I always, always have my Singh Ray filters with me.Through my experience, I’ve found that regardless of the type of imagery you’re shooting, the challenges remain largely the same. Something in your frame is often times too bright or too dark leaving the image incomplete without some aid in helping the camera’s sensor to see what your eye is seeing.

Architectural image by AdamBarkerPhotography. Shot at Deer Valley Resort with a Singh Ray 2-stop Hard Step Grad ND Filter

Architectural image by AdamBarkerPhotography. Shot at Deer Valley Resort with a Singh Ray 2-stop Hard Step Grad ND Filter

To use an overly used term, we, as photographers are taught to “think outside the box”. We are taught to find something different to separate ourselves from those less qualified. I have found that by employing my Singh Ray filters in less conventional situations, I am able to deliver a superior image. Sure, you could use artificial lighting in many of these situations, but filters are far less cumbersome. This post is littered with examples of both the more and less conventional uses of Singh Ray filters. Hopefully, you come away inspired to use your filters in ways you never previously imagined.

This first image (top of the post) was made at Deer Valley Resort, UT. When shooting images for a client, it’s important to understand what message they are trying to send through their imagery. I enjoy shooting architectural work, particularly architectural work in the mountain lifestyle genre. I connect well with this type of imagery because I love and live the mountain lifestyle. I understand what it is people hope for when visiting a world class resort. They hope for cold outside and warm inside. They hope for a larger than life winter wonderland. They hope for cozy, comfortable and TBD (to be discovered).

I am able to convey this feeling by enhancing the warm appearance of the lodge on a cold winter’s eve. A 2-stop hard step Grad ND was used to balance and even slightly darken the sky, giving a natural vignette that draws the eye directly to the lodge. Dusk is a fantastic time to use Grad ND filters, as the rich blue sky is deeply saturated and void of harsh contrast.

Sunrise skiing image of Todd Ligare at Alta Ski Area by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured with a Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

Sunrise skiing image of Todd Ligare at Alta Ski Area by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured with a Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

This second image embodies two of my life’s greatest pleasures: skiing pow, and the warm, soft glow of first light. Images like this require foresight, preparation and a desire to capture something not many others can. I am a big believer in capturing nothing less than a complete image. There are countless photographers out there who could shoot a similar image, but the sky would simply be void of detail, tone and color.

With my background in scenic photography, I’m always particular about making sure the sky is given its just attention, regardless of whether it is a secondary part of the image or not. I hand held a 3-stop reverse ND Grad on this image to ensure no detail was lost. The result is a pleasing, complete image, with pink light so sweet you could drink it up, and a sky with detail to boot.

There are two key things to remember when shooting an image like this (with a hand held filter): 1) make sure to communicate with your skier as to exactly where you’d like the turn/action to take place. 2) Find the proper position for your filter, and don’t move with the skier—keep your camera steady and resist the urge to pan with the skier. This will ensure your initial filter placement doesn’t get skewed and lend an unnatural look to parts of the image.

Sunset image of Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon TDI at Saguara National Park by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 4-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

Sunset image of Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon TDI at Saguara National Park by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 4-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

This next image shows a classic commercial scenic image. It’s not too far off from what many of us do when heading out for a standard scenic sunset shoot: find an engaging composition, hope for great sunset light and shoot away.

This image was made during an editorial shoot for Volkswagen’s Das Auto magazine in Saguaro National Park. The art director for the shoot stood there mesmerized as he watched the 4-stop Reverse ND Grad work its magic, effectively bringing the image to life on the liveview display. One thing worth mentioning is the incredible ease that liveview shooting offers us. If your camera has liveview, make a habit of using it! It’s so much easier to pinpoint filter lines, and to see in real time how the filter is balancing out your exposure/histogram.

Architectural image shot at Deer Valley Resort by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 2-stop soft step Grad ND Filter.

Architectural image shot at Deer Valley Resort by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 2-stop soft step Grad ND Filter.

This winter I have been shooting a great deal of architectural imagery. I am a student of existing light (read: I’m terrible with flash photography). Interior lighting can certainly pose some unique challenges when shooting architectural imagery. My preferred time to shoot is at dusk or dawn, when the ambient light balances with the interior light, and you get that soft purple glow in the windows. (Please note that there are countless other ways to shoot architectural imagery, this is simply my preferred method and style).

Even if the exterior/interior light are balanced, however, there still may be hot spots in your image. On a whim, I began using my soft step Grad ND filters to balance out these lighting obstacles. The results were more than pleasing, and before long, I found myself shooting with Grad ND filters inside as much as I do outside. Soft step grads are the perfect filter for this type of imagery as there is little in the way of a defined filter line. Experiment with grad ND filters the next time you shoot interior architectural imagery—it’s much less expensive than an extensive lighting setup, and there’s no setup at all!

Fly fishing image of Andrew Swindle on the Middle Provo River, UT by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

Fly fishing image of Andrew Swindle on the Middle Provo River, UT by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

These last two images demonstrate classic uses of a Reverse ND Grad filter. I am a sunstar fanatic, and have found that with the combination of my 3-stop reverse ND grad and my Canon 16-35mm MkII  (and a bit of help from Mother Nature), I’m able to create dynamic images rich in color and detail, with the added bonus of a sharp, succinct sunstar. The ideal time to capture images like this is right as the sun is either cresting above or dipping below the horizon line.

Scenic image of barrel cactus and sunset at Tucson Mountain Park near Saguaro National Park by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 4-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

Scenic image of barrel cactus and sunset at Tucson Mountain Park near Saguaro National Park by AdamBarkerPhotography. Captured using a Singh Ray 4-stop Reverse ND Grad Filter.

The fly fishing image on the Middle Provo River, UT was shot at sunrise. The cactus image, shot in the Tucson Mountain Park was created at sunset. The “perfect opportunity” will last literally just seconds for this type of image, so take special care to find your composition and adjust your camera settings early, allowing yourself to take advantage of the short period of time in which the sun is just hitting that horizon line.  Take special care to stop your lens down to (at least) f16 or so to ensure a tight, defined sunstar.

Regardless of the imagery or circumstance, don’t leave your Singh Ray filters home. As was mentioned earlier in this post, the images may change, but the challenges remain the same. Take your scenic expertise to other genres of imagery and you will find yourself capable of creating magic wherever the camera takes you.

Be Diverse. Be Exceptional.

It seems these days that there way too many photographers trying to be everything to everyone. Landscape? You got it. Portraiture? No problem. Architecture? Psshh. Easy. Action? Clockwork. Photojournalism? I think I studied that in college. I think. Weddings? Yeah man. I KNOW this camera has a “wedding” setting…

The truth is, these photographers have the right idea, it’s just that (IMO) the execution is poor. There is a fine line between being diverse enough to cover a significant gamut of photography, and spreading yourself too thin and trying to be the veritable “Leatherman” of photographers. However, unless you’re Vincent LaForet, Tom Mangelsen, David Muench, Scott Markewitz or some other iconic and established photog in their own respective genre, you must be able to shoot numerous types of imagery, and shoot them well.

To a certain extent, this goes against much of what I’ve learned and lived by to this point in photography. Previously, I was of the mind that you should find a niche and devote yourself to mastering every aspect of that niche. Whether that be landscape, wedding, commercial or whatever–I still believe it is very important to find which type of imagery really makes your heart sing, and for which you have a great talent and skill. It’s important, however, to be able to step outside that comfort zone, and apply what you know to different types of imagery. Perhaps it’s to earn more money. Perhaps it’s to expand your creative horizons. Perhaps it’s to learn a new technical skill. Whatever the reason, commit yourself to branching out a bit and trying something new. Below are a couple of thoughts that may help you in crossing this new bridge.

1. Don’t forget the basics. While some techniques may be different with different types of imagery, the fundamentals are still the same.

A summer rainbow shines brightly over a grouping of veterans' graves at the Salt Lake City Cemetary.

A summer rainbow shines brightly over a grouping of veterans' graves at the Salt Lake City Cemetary.

2. Take what you have learned (or are particularly skilled at), and add it to what you hope to achieve. Whether you’re a master of composition, lighting, posing, filters, alternative angles or whatever–take that with you and apply it to this new area of photography. Just this morning, while shooting architectural work for a commercial client, I turned to many of my trusted landscape filters to control challenging exposures.

Fountain and Salt Lake City Temple at dusk.

Fountain and Salt Lake City Temple at dusk.

3. Don’t be afraid to fail. Because you will, and that’s all there is to it. Simply stated, it’s never fun to fall short of excellence, especially when you know you have what it takes in other areas of photography. But we all know you can’t win the game if you don’t play.

Rainbow trout in Brodin Ghost Net.

Rainbow trout in Brodin Ghost Net.

4. Be a sponge. Soak it alllllll up! Scour the internet. Ask questions to accomplished photogs. Read books. Shoot, shoot, shoot. There are so many resources at our fingertips these days–there really is no excuse not to be able to excel at something if you put your heart and mind to it.

Sunset over the Middle Provo River, UT

Sunset over the Middle Provo River, UT

5. Resist the urge to blame shortcomings on equipment. Strive to beat the odds regardless. Yes–there is always some piece of equipment we lust after. Sometimes, it’s a necessity. Most of the time, it’s a luxury. Most action photogs will tell you it’s necessary to have a camera that shoots 8 fps or more to capture action well. While I agree that it certainly helps to have a faster camera (as I found out this year), it’s entirely possible to nail the shot with less. I was fortunate to have several ski images published this past winter–all shot with a slower camera.

Lamson Litespeed Fly Fishing Reel

Lamson Litespeed Fly Fishing Reel

6. Be willing to take advice and apply it. ‘Nuff said.

Now go push your envelope. You will accomplish greatness in new and exciting ways. It just might give you that extra spark you’ve been needing…

Passion: What separates the meaningful from the mundane

“You’re not hiring me for my shutter finger–everyone can push a button. You’re hiring me for my creative vision and my ability to convey a particular message about the (blank) experience through unforgettable imagery.”

This is an excerpt from a recent email to a potential client of mine. And really, although the word “passion” isn’t even mentioned, I think it sums up nicely what separates an exceptional photographer from many of the good photographers out there. Regardless of your technical prowess, your lens collection or your abundant knowledge of a certain location or activity–without passion for the medium of photography and the action of capturing timeless moments forever, you will fail at connecting with people as they view your work. It’s as simple as that.

Matt Warner revels in a fisherman's paradise on the Middle Provo River, UT

Matt Warner revels in a fisherman's paradise on the Middle Provo River, UT

Sure you could probably shoot skiing if you don’t ski, but would you really capture the subtle nuance of an epic powder turn? Or would you simply be documenting it…

Brant Moles. Happy. Alta, UT

Brant Moles. Happy. Alta, UT

Sure you could probably shoot fly fishing if you don’t fish, but would you really capture the connection between man and water? Or would you simply be going through the motions…

Bryan Gregson casts in early morning light on Currant Creek, UT

Bryan Gregson casts in early morning light on Currant Creek, UT

Sure you could probably shoot scenic imagery without a personal connection to the landscape, but would you really personify Mother Nature in your imagery? Or would you simply be tracing an emotionless empty stencil onto a digital sensor…

Evening skies light up over Utah's Middle Provo River

Evening skies light up over Utah's Middle Provo River

We are not just photographers. We are interpreters.