Capturing this dreamy image of Allegheny State Park at first light with the Vari-N-Duo

In Equipment & Technique, Landscapes, ND Filters, Polarizing Filters, Scenes & Scenarios by Michael Bielat

I proposed to my wife there and we have been taking our children there every chance we get. Because I am very busy with my photo business, Allegheny Park is our place to wind down and enjoy life. Do I still bring my camera along? Absolutely!

I make sure to pack light. My travel kit includes a Nikon D700 full-frame D-SLR, 24-70mm f/2.8 and my 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, tripod and my Singh-Ray filters. I use a couple of Graduated Neutral Density filters along with the Vari-N-Duo which incorporates a neutral density filter and LB Warming Polarizer all-in-one filter. For my needs, the Vari-N-Duo is a very magical combination. With these filters, I can finally get images of the caliber they should be. I’m not kidding when I say that I wish I could go back and re-live my first 10 years as a photographer with these filters.

Last autumn, my family and I were camping at Allegheny Park. I had this nagging feeling that there was an awesome picture over the Red House Lake. I couldn’t sleep, so I was up and ready to go as soon as I saw some light peering in through the cabin window. I drove a mile or so to the lake and sure enough, my gut feeling was right. There was a low hanging fog sweeping across the lake and intertwined thorough the trees. The colors of the sky were very pastel and the clouds complemented the fog. I didn’t have much time since the sun was starting to pop out behind those trees, so I threw my camera on my tripod along with the 70-200mm zoomed all the way in. Then I reached for my Singh-Ray filters. For this image, I used the 3-Stop Galen Rowell Graduated ND filter with a soft-step graduation. I shot one frame, looked at the image, and was blown away. I took a couple more safety shots and off I went. There was no way that I could top this shot so my job was done.

I am a firm believer in getting the shot right in-camera. I don’t want to be bogged down behind a computer editing every single image for hours on end. My Singh-Ray filters help me achieve things that I cannot do in Photoshop. The Vari-N-Duo is my go-to filter when photographing water and waterfalls. A Graduated Neutral Density filter is an absolute necessity in my book. Having one filter like the versatile Vari-N-Duo is just worth it’s weight in gold. There’s no way I will ever be able to stitch a couple of photos together that can capture the sky and foreground as well as if I use my filters to do it right in-camera. There is just no uniqueness to it. A timeless photo will always be a timeless photo no matter what trends come and go.