Polarizing Filter

©Ben Neumann 2011

Polarizing filter for the landscape photographer is a must have. A polarizing filter serves a couple purposes but the main reasons I use one in most of my landscape photographs are:

1) It removes reflections from surfaces that reflect light such as water or metal. When you are photographing lakes or streams you will often run into lots of light reflections coming off the surface of the water. More often than not this is an undesirable effect.

2) It adds saturation to the colors in the photograph. I used a polarizing filter for this weeks post picture. By cutting down atmosphere reflections it adds pop and contrast to the blue sky which in turn provides more definition to the clouds. Its also a great tool for fall photographs. If you want your fall colors to be rich with orange, yellow, and red, try putting a polarizer on your lens.

3) Polarizing filters also reduce the amount of light entering the camera. This could be bad or good depending on your situation, but 95% of the time I'm shooting from a tripod so this doesn't bother me, it actually allows me to obtain a longer shutter speed. Great for waterfalls, rivers, and streams.

I encourage you to buy a good polarizing filter. Buying a lens for 2 grand just to put a $20 filter on it doesn't make sens to me.  Check out B+W for top of the line filters, or if you are on a budget tiffen makes some reasonable filters as well. B+W 77mm Kaeseman Circular Polarizing Multi-Resistant Coating (MRC) (Slim) Filter. Make sure you find the correct filter size for the lens you are using. Also if you are shooting with a wide angle lens you will want the "slim" filter. The link above is for a 77mm which is pretty popular size.

This weeks post picture was taken about 1 hour before sunset using a polarizing filter, shot at 16mm f16 ISO 100.



Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah near the city of Tropic. Bryce Canyon is relatively small compared to most of the other national parks I have visited but don't let it's size turn you off, Bryce Canyon National Park  is a great place to visit and explore.

Its main attraction is the amphitheater. The amphitheater is formed by the ice of the winter and the thaw of the spring, this process is what gives Bryce Canyon it's unique formations. Bryce Canyon National Park is technically not a canyon  at all because it's not formed by a river. According to the NPS website:

"The primary weathering force at Bryce Canyon is frost wedging. Here we experience over 200 freeze/thaw cycles each year. In the winter, melting snow, in the form of water, seeps into the cracks and freezes at night. When water freezes it expands by almost 10%, bit by bit prying open cracks, making them ever wider in the same way a pothole forms in a paved road."

Basically Bryce Canyon National Park is a giant pot hole! The parks rim sits at a surprisingly high elevation, right around 8000 feet, making it a bit challenging to hike around some of the Bryce Canyon trails. I stayed at Bryce Canyon Inn, in Tropic Utah. It was a cute little place and you have your own little cabin. They also served a small breakfast of cereals, yogurts, and fruit. It's about 10 or so minutes from the park entrance and a nice place to stay. Click here for more information.

My photography gear was basically set to using a wide angle lens but do bring a telephoto lens with you as well because Bryce Canyon National Park is home to several animals including Antelope. I got several good photographs of baby antelope running about. Check them out on my facebook page. The post picture was shot during sunrise at 16mm f16 @ 1/2 second. I also used a 2 stop ND grad filter to help balance the brightness of the sky.

All in all Bryce Canyon was a cool place. If you visit in the summer be prepared because it can get hot and in the winter they do get snow. It was 102 degrees a couple times while I was there but I still enjoyed it and recommend visiting if you can.


Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is located on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Park contains views of Mauna Loa the largest volcano on our planet. According to the USGS "Mauna Loa rises gradually to more than 4 km above sea level. Its long submarine flanks descend to the sea floor an additional 5 km, and the sea floor in turn is depressed by Mauna Loa's great mass another 8 km. This makes the volcano's summit about 17 km (56,000 ft) above its base! The enormous volcano covers half of the Island of Hawaii and by itself amounts to about 85 percent of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined."

This post picture is that of Mauna Kea which is a smaller volcano, yet it's 35 meters higher than Mauna Loa. During the winter months snow will fall on Mauna Kea. Yes it snows in Hawaii! Volcanoes National Park itself is a little more than 2 hours from Waikoloa Village. Waikoloa village is the home of several resorts and a great place to stay when visiting the big island. Volcanoes National Park reminded me a bit of The Grand Canyon. It's easily accessible and it has vast views of craters and lava fields. Crater Rim Drive, much like the rim drive at Grand Canyon, will take you to several different views of the volcanic destruction. At the time I went there was no "flowing" lava but the Kilauea Volcano is active. Kilauea spews steam, sulfur oxide and other volcanic gases. There are signs warning that the gases are harmful so do take caution.

Bring your wide angle lens for the vast landscape, volcanoes, and the craters. During a clear night you should see the glow from Kilauea. A tripod is a good idea being that you will often be shooting at f16 to get everything in focus. A telephoto is good to isolate some of the fine details of the park and the unique pattern of the lava rock.

First off I will say I enjoyed Volcanoes National Park. I would of loved it more if there was flowing lava but In terms of my favorite National Parks this would be towards the bottom of my list. Yosemite, Death Valley, Grand Canyon are all more enjoyable in my opinion. If you are in Hawaii do check out the park, it's worth the price of admission.

Carrizo Plain National Monument

Carrizo Plain National Monument is located 100 miles north of L.A. and just west of Bakersfield CA. Click here to view a map and get driving directions. The goal for this trip was to capture some of the spring California wildflowers. When looking up places to visit I found Carrizo Plain National Monument. The wildflower season this year is off to a slow start. We have had a bunch of rain but also cooler weather. The sun came out and warmed up for a few days so I thought maybe the flowers would start to blossom. Well yes and no. Carrizo Plain National Monument and the outlying foothills where covered with Yellow Coreopsis but the golden poppies have yet to bloom. According to Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve website it doesn't look to be a good poppy year. In any event my goal for the day was to go find some flowers and find flowers I did. While traveling on HWY 166 east, I found the outlying foothills were covered with yellow flowers. It's a sight to see! Upon arrival at Carrizo National Monument you can tell the flowers had yet to fully bloom. Half way through the monument there was a turnout with a field of the Yellow Coreopsis in full bloom and that's this weeks post picture. It was a little windy, but it was also sunny enough to allow for a fast shutter speed to help freeze the action of the blowing flowers.

Carrizo Plain National Monument is a good place to camp, hike, and enjoy the wildflowers. I recommend a wide angle lens for the vast landscape but also bring a telephoto for the different species of birds and animals. Although I didn't see any Prong Horn Antelope I did see several antelope crossing signs so I assume there must be antelope running about. I didn't use my tripod on this trip but I would bring it if you are staying for sunset. Also check out Soada Lake. It's full of water but from what I am told, during the summer months it's similar to Badwater of Death Valley.

Take a look at Carrizo Plain National Monument for a good view of the California wildflowers and California wildlife. The drive to the monument is beautiful as well so be prepared to slam on the brakes, pull over and snap a few shots.

Carrizo National Monument spring flower bloom. This photo was taken early April.


San Francisco

San Francisco is an urban landscape that every photographer must see. My recent post Get the Shot features the bay bridge from the Embarcadaro in San Francisco. When I first visited San Fran, it was officially my first date with my now fiance. We visited Fishermans Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Union Square and several other places. Those that know me, know I am not a big city guy but San Francisco is my favorite big city in the world just ahead of Rome.

I am normally a tree, mountains and water guy but the landscape that San Francisco has to offer is amazing. Things like the historic Golden Gate bridge, the Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco to Oakland, Alcatraz, China Town and much more. I have visited San Francisco on many occasions with always something to photograph. The first stop that I recommend is the Marin Headlands. This will give you several different vantage points for panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Bring a wide angle lens to capture the entire bridge and a telephoto to focus on the parts of the bridge. A tripod is also a good idea for foggy days and night shots.  This is also a great spot to watch the fire works on 4th of July but get there early because a couple thousand people also think its a good spot. For directions to the headlands click here.

When I visit I have always stayed at the Marines Memorial Club. This is one of the best Hotels I have stayed at. They have comfortable cozy rooms and the location is great. The daily breakfast is first class and different everyday. They also provide big discounts for active duty military and veterans. Parking is done in a parking garage less then a half a block away, the charge is $25 per day, so take that in account when staying there. Just outside the hotel is a small Italian restaurant called Cesario's. We go there every time we visit San Francisco, and I highly recommend the Pesto linguini. Being downtown is great and is in easy walking distance to china town and union square.

All in all it's a great city with many photographic opportunities and with countless photographic subjects. Like I say to people that come visit us in California there are two things that are a must see. Yosemite and San Francisco.

Highly Recommended!