Making something out of nothing – that’s sometimes our task as landscape photographers. We often wake up at 2 am to drive to a location 3-4 hours away on assignment or for personal work only to find a sky with no texture or a river without color. The subject we traveled to shoot is just as glorious as we envisioned and we got the composition lined up, but the light just isn’t hitting like we hoped. One thing we do know is that we have to come home with something. For those who are not landscape photographers, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: this scenario happens about 80% of the time. It’s in these times that it’s nice to have a friend such as the Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue filter in your toolbox.
The Gold-N-Blue is technically a polarizing filter. A standard circular polarizing (CPL) filter is one of the most essential items in a landscape photographer‘s bag. One of its key functions, in addition to darkening skies, is to cut the reflections in a scene. Imagine shooting a waterfall with highlights from the sun hitting the water. Without using a CPL to reduce the glare, the detail in those bright spots will not be captured and are unrecoverable in post-processing (most issues can be recovered to some extent, this can not). The Gold-N-Blue works differently. Instead of reducing the highlights it fills them up with vivid color, either gold or blue as you probably guessed. The Gold-N-Blue is not as essential as a CPL, but it will give you a lot of creative options when out in the field, especially on one of those dull, dreary days.
When using a CPL you can adjust the strength of it by spinning it around once it’s attached to the front of your lens. The stronger it is, the darker (bluer) it will make the sky or the brighter the highlights it will be able to reduce. You can see the effect it will have through the viewfinder of the camera. Same with the Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue. When you screw it on the lens you can spin it around until you get the desired color, gold or blue, then the desired strength of that color. You will see something like this:
Or, hopefully something a little more like this:
Notice these compositions are exactly the same and the images were taken just seconds apart after a quick rotation of the filter. Also notice it not only changes the color of the water in the foreground but also what’s going on up in the sky. That is what we call “Good, clean fun” in the industry.
Alright, enough technical nerd talk, we’ll get back to that in a bit. Let’s take a look now at some of my favorite images that I’ve made over the last 2 years of having this filter in my kit.
As you can see there are a variety of situations that the Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue filter can be used to infuse some warmth or coolness into otherwise lifeless landscapes. Next, I’d like to touch on a couple of points to consider if you are interested in this filter.
- Sizes – the filter comes in 2 sizes: standard and thin. I went with the standard for a few reasons. First, it’s about $50 cheaper. Second, I have owned many thin screw-on filters and I hate taking them on or off when hurriedly working in the field. Finally, and most importantly for me, the thin version doesn’t have threads on the outside, making stacking a strong ND filter impossible. I love using this filter in combination with my Lee Big Stopper.
The downside of the standard sized option is vignetting at wide angles. If you like shooting at 24mm or longer (on full frame) you should be more than fine. But when I use it on my 20mm it vignettes quite a bit, which is something to consider (but not really).
- White Balance – you need to take your camera out of Auto White Balance when using this filter either by setting it to Cloudy or Daylight. If you leave it in Auto it will confuse the camera resulting in inconsistent color balances.
Well folks, that’s about all I have to say about this little secret weapon of a filter. Again, I would suggest getting a standard CPL first, then later on when you are ready to take your creativity to the next level picking up one of these guys. It’s been a pleasure using it over the last couple of years and it has resulted in some of my favorite images on days where that would have been highly unlikely. Thank you for reading, and happy shooting!
The author of this post is not sponsored by Singh-Ray Filters or affiliated in any way, but would very much like to be. Mr. Singh-Ray, if you are reading this, first of all ‘How are you doing?’ Second, I’d love to work together with you!