Finding out that Iceland is a great place to apply the versatility of the Vari-N-Trio and ColorCombo

In Equipment & Technique, Landscapes, ND Filters, Scenes & Scenarios by Tony Sweet

Now, thanks to our new series of workshops, organized in cooperation with the folks at Focus-on-Nature in Iceland, I have been able to realize that dream. We began our series there last summer and have the next workshop set for July 10-16, 2011. Since there are also a number of other workshops held there throughout the year, I thought it might be helpful to pass along a few general observations and suggestions for those planning to photograph in Iceland.

During our workshop there last July, I had to pack lighter than usual to comply with international flying regulations. I got a lighter backpack and brought along fewer lenses, but I made sure I had my Singh-Ray filters with me. As digital technology gets better, I keep hearing of the approaching demise of optical filters. That may happen someday, I don’t know; but I do know that for now my Singh-Ray filters are indispensable, particularly the LB ColorCombo and Singh-Ray’s variable density filters. From the wonderfully photogenic city of Rekyjavik to the incredibly varied coastlines and landscapes, and even to the mind blowing glaciers; I found so many great opportunities in Iceland to put my filters to good use. Here are three examples of the improved imaging I was able to achieve with my filters. And it was all done in the camera.

The small house in the scene above is indicative of the gigantic scale of Iceland’s landscapes. I was able to enhance the blue in the sky, remove the glare from the grasses, and increase the color saturation of the red, green, and blue palette — all as a result of using my Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo filter, with its built-in polarizing and color enhancement capability.

This large, angular rock is an icon on the Iceland coast. Normally, I will try to avoid shooting in bright sunlight. However, I find that all bright sunny days are not created equal. Bright sunny days on the east coast of the U.S. can be hazy, humid, and offer a poor quality of light. However, bright sunny days in Halifax, or in Iceland have a better, more workable quality of light. The Vari-N-Trio was the clear choice for this image. Its variable density feature allowed me to dial in a full 10-second exposure in the very bright sunlight; and its built-in polarizing capability reduced the glare reflecting off the foreground rocks and intensified the various shades of blue and the green moss on the rocks.

The bright greens on this volcanic island are amazing. Although this scene appears to be an aerial view, it was actually shot fairly low to the ground. This is a very colorful scene and the sun is at the correct angle to use the ColorCombo to full advantage. The sky was a bit flat and the polarization brought out the subtle blues to help create more tonal contrast in the sky. The mountain peaks were also polarized nicely, bringing out and enhancing even more colors. What’s more, the glare in the greens and in the small stream was removed. Over all, the ColorCombo was responsible for adding all of the punch in this image.

I would also say to anyone preparing to photograph in Iceland that having several Singh-Ray Graduated ND filters with you is also important. The 3-stop Reverse ND Grad is especially helpful when shooting the bright sun close to the horizon. Iceland’s days are quite long during the summer months, which creates the possibility of shooting both sunrise and sunset images on a single outing! Even in this age of digital everything, it’s still about having the right tool for the right job. As you’ll discover for yourself, Iceland loves Singh-Ray filters — just as I do.