A Good Day for Infrared Photography            

Pritchard Train crossing 1a


Log jams 1b

Salmon 2b

Bridge crossing 1a


The past few weeks have been apparent with flat and overcast skies. That’s certainly not inviting for anyone chomping at the bit to get out with a camera around Kamloops, British Columbia.

Only a short month ago the landscape was covered with glistening white snow that even on overcast days created some interest. However, that snow has melted this month leaving colourless meadows and a washed-out-looking, green forest of trees. In my opinion, the best word to describe the landscape, even with today’s sparkling sun, is grey.

I suppose many landscape photographers get creative and spend some time behind a computer manipulating that grey landscape. There are a myriad of programs designed to manipulate image files allowing black and white conversion or gritty oversaturation. But those conversions, although creative, in my opinion, don’t really give much life to the landscape.

However, for me it’s simple. I just grabbed my infrared camera and drove down to the large Thompson River that cuts through the valley on its way to Kamloops and then to the Canadian west coast.

For years I have enjoyed capturing landscapes (and cityscapes) using first, infrared film, and then for the past ten years, a camera converted to only “see” infrared light.

Infrared light is invisible to the human eye. To capture it with a modern DSLR, the camera is converted by blocking all but the infrared light from hitting the sensor.

I enjoy how infrared photography gives me a scene illuminated by that part of the colour spectrum we can’t see, with delightful images that couldn’t be captured in any other way.

Dark skies and glowing white trees are some of my favourite infrared effects. It is those fresh and exciting photographs (done with very little computer work) that separated my photography from both the monotone conversions, and the oversaturated scenic, that had been viewed on posts by other local photographers.

I like to wander along the winter beach not far from my rural home. Normally the turn-off and sparsely tree-lined beach is well used by locals with motorbikes and bicycles, walking their dogs, or launching their fishing boats. However, the winter beach on the river is empty, especially on cold days, and it’s those days that I enjoy the most. I can stroll along the narrow walkway that goes over the bridge while taking pictures of the river valley. And although there is a sign that tells walkers not to loiter or fish from the bridge, in all the years that I have been making pictures from it, no one has ever bothered me. Most of the time people smile and wave from their vehicles as the pass me.

I roam under the bridge and search the sandy riverside photographing interesting features and trash left over from winters’ storms, and, in spite of everything being shades of grey, infrared changes everything, and I have the choice in post-production to choose surreal coloured, or unique black and white images.

I’ll repeat what I wrote when discussing infrared in my article last November, “Infrared allows a photographer, and gives the viewer, a completely different feeling of a subject. Making an image with a modified camera is an exploration and a discovery that moves a photographer far from the usual”.

Printing Your Own Digital Photographs    

Printing Photos

I had a good time this past week talking with a couple of long time photographers about printing photographs. It was a walk down memory lane as we talked about using film, and how we would spend hours in darkened rooms printing black and white photographs, and about the exciting, and enjoyable, shift to digital images and modern printmaking.

Just like those days when commercial photo labs struggled to match what, with a little practice, a photographer could produce in his or her basement darkroom, I have no doubt that today’s affordable high tech home printers allow us to produce fine art prints that can surpass what most big box commercial labs will give us.

In my opinion it comes down to a battle between visions: The Lab’s or ours. For example, imagine packing your camera equipment off to some isolated location, waiting for hours for the light to reach a colour and effect that matched the artistic vision you desire. Then setting your cameras’ controls with all the experience and skill that you have, and finally releasing the shutter.

Until recently when photographers shot in colour they had to rely on the skill of lab technicians who would hopefully process the images the way they wanted.

Lab technicians, even though well skilled, could only guess at what the conditions were like when the photographer released the shutter, and I suspect much of the time found it rather difficult to recreate and could only guess at the shooting conditions.

Sometimes a slight change in exposure or shift in color will make our photograph stand out, and only we can determine that. For example, those photographers that have bracketed the exposure values of an image know what I am referring to when they are frustrated because they got back several differently exposed prints all printed exactly the same from the lab. The vision in that case becomes the Lab’s; not theirs.

Yes, if we are unsatisfied we would return the film and prints to the lab for a redo. However, more often that not, we just give up and accept the best the lab can do, or try other labs till we get close to what we remembered trying to capture on our film.

I am not going to get into a discussion of printers and papers right now – I’ll save that for another time. I want to go back to where I talked about what happens after we have captured that image we took at that isolated location.

We look on our digital camera’s LCD screen, and check the Histogram to make sure we have captures from which we can work. Now, instead of leaving our vision to the choices of an unknown technician and waiting for the photographs, we download our memory card into our computer, enjoy immediate visual feedback on our photographs, and by using whatever post production software we have we can follow our vision with precision to the final outcome: a photograph that shows exactly what we want it to show; our personal vision. How exciting is that?

With today’s digital technology we can follow our photographic vision from start to finish, from idea to finished print in a way that is far better that ever before possible. And, by using quality photographic printer equipment, photographers can make spectacular enlargements that will give their photography another dimension of control and creativity.







Digital isn’t Real Photography!   

What about Film

The medium of photography has become very accessible for everyone. There was a time when photographers had to be an engineer, a chemist, and to be successful, serious practitioners needed to spend time educating themselves. Photographers actually had to understand the combinations of shutter and aperture for a properly exposed image, and worried about camera shake and, of course, film choice.

With modern technology, today’s supercharged cameras with their machine-gun-like shutters, and seemingly speed of light focusing, and amazing low light capability, many photographers are able to make great photos without any knowledge whatsoever of photography.

This week I talked to a woman that pulled her 1980’s film camera out of a well-worn canvas bag saying, “Digital isn’t real photography!” (I remember writing about another person upset with digital almost exactly a year ago.)

I let her rant for a while about how inferior digital is, and how one can’t get a good picture unless they used film. However, because I wasn’t in a mood to get into an argument I knew wouldn’t win, I just nodded and said that I do like the tactile quality one can get with a properly printed picture. And to smooth things out I mentioned that I have several enlargements hanging on the wall in my shop that I took with film years ago.

That conversation is becoming rather infrequent these days, but it still is kind of humorous when someone wants to complain about modern photographers and the high tech equipment available. Unfortunately, the argument is one-sided and not really worth getting into because any opinion but theirs is going to be ignored.

There are still a few people intent on complaining that with the end of film comes the end of photography. That’s just silly. Personally, I don’t think film is going away any time soon. Film is just one of many ways to make a photograph.

The big box outlets here in Canada may not carry it much longer, but there are lots of specialty items artists use that are only available in specialty stores, and I think there are still plenty of camera shops that handle film. And going to a store that specializes in photography makes the chances of getting the correct advice from the person behind the counter more likely.

It seems like everyone is taking pictures nowadays. (Another thing that lady complained about) But I think that’s a good thing and not something to complain about.

There are lots of excellent photographs being taken. People just want visual memories and the multitude of cameras that are available these days are perfect for that. Who cares what kind of camera or how the image is captured.

I think I might stop by and talk to that woman again. She has a small store down the street from mine. My conversation won’t really be to talk her out of film and into digital, She hasn’t used her camera in a while and I’d like her to start taking pictures again instead of complaining about young people with their digital cameras.

I hope she will start having fun with that old 35mm film camera. It doesn’t matter what camera she uses, film or digital, as long as she is happy with the photographs she makes. I’ll be sure to help her out, and with a bit of subversive work, I might get her using a digital camera after all.

Your comments? Thanks, John