Enjoying the use of the Vari-N-Trio for shallow-focus imaging in bright daylight

In Equipment & Technique, Landscapes, Scenes & Scenarios by Ryan Marko

Photography allows me to get out of the office and into the fresh air. I enjoy photography as a way to capture outdoor images that are simple, yet rich with natural beauty and color.

I recently purchased a used Canon 5D along with the 24-70mm f/2.8 Canon zoom lens. I have found that taking good pictures at mid-day when the sun is out in full force is very difficult, especially when I want to use a very shallow depth of field to blur a background. I began researching filters and chose the Singh-Ray Vari-N-Trio to solve the problem.

This image of a tulip was taken at the 2011 Ottawa Tulip Festival in early May. With some 100,000 tulips on display, the festival is a photographer’s dream. I’ve seen hundreds of photographs of tulips and, after a while, they all start to look much the same. I wanted to accentuate this particular tulip from all the others by opening my lens to its largest setting of f/2.8 to achieve a very shallow depth of field. This is where my new Var-N-Trio comes in. The bright sun lit the tulip beautifully, but there was just too much light to allow an exposure at f/2.8. Although the Var-N-Trio is mainly used for very long exposures that blur moving subjects, I regularly use the filter to reduce the amount of light passing through my lens whenever there is too much light to use my lens at its largest aperture. When making this shot, I used the Vari-N-Trio to reduce the light by 4 stops which did exactly what I wanted it to do. The filter’s built-in warming polarizer helped reduce the glare from the sun, and the color intensifier really helped reproduce the bright vivid colors I was seeing with my own eyes. I like the way this image holds my attention by portraying the individual beauty of just this one tulip out of the thousands at the festival.

With the Vari-N-Trio, I am also able to make very-long-exposure pictures, such as this graphic image of the flowing stream of water in small area of rapids. For this image, I increased the neutral density setting of the Vari-N-Trio to the maximum setting, which allowed me to slow the exposure time to 5 seconds in bright daylight. In other situations, I set the Trio to its minimum density and use it as if it were the Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo.