A spring drive with my infrared camera.

The bright sunny spring day was perfect for infrared photography.

I hadn’t used my old camera that I had converted to infrared for quite a while. The last time it was used was by my friend Jo last February. The images Jo made in on that winter day were a fun change for her from the colourful photographs she was used to with her big 36mp Nikon.

Infrared is always a crowd pleaser and using an infrared camera is the best way to step away from what other photographers are doing.

After my failures at finding and photographing those tricky geese I figured it was time to get that IR camera out. I charged the batteries, set the white balance, made sure I had an empty memory card, mounted my ever-so-sharp Sigma 20-40mm lens on it, finished my cup of coffee and finally sat it on the seat beside me as I drove off to see what there was waiting for me to photograph in the next few hours.

I drove the rural roads around my home for a while, and then decided to check out the waterfall a bit down the highway.

There was lots of fast spring runoff water coming over the falls, but the little canyon was still in too much shade. To get dramatic infrared photographs of the falls I prefer a wide shot that includes vegetation. But on this day the shade made my unaltered infrared image mostly brown with only a few slashes of bright light drifting down to make some features blue. Without strong light the there won’t be bright white foliage and the final image wouldn’t be much different than a normal black and white picture. So I gave up and crossed through the small town of Chase to the lakeside.

The lakeside was in bright morning sun with blue sky and was perfect for infrared. There weren’t many people and the small grassy beach park was empty.

Infrared creates a completely different feeling. I have written before that using a modified camera is an exploration that moves a photographer far from the usual camera image and the final effect is quite unworldly. The bluer the sky, the greater the likelihood of that unworldly effect; and things that are white or have been turned white (like trees) can glow with an ethereal brightness.

My camera produces images that are limited it colour range. Unlike many modern infrared conversions that give many dramatic colours, the original pictures from my old 6mp camera are mostly shades of brown and blue. By altering the colour channels I can get a few different colours, but much of the time I prefer B&W.

At his writing I am thinking it might be time to see what Lifepixel.com has for sale with a newer, higher megapixel camera.

Black and white makes me think about the subject first and then the light, or how a subject looks in a particular light. Infrared, on the other hand, makes me think about the light first and then includes the subject. Of course the subject, and how it is composed and framed is important, but some things don’t look very different (depending on how the IR light is absorbed) than a colour image converted to black and white. With my old camera I must be thinking about the light first and then choose subjects that I think will look like they are photographed with infrared.

To me using an IR camera is always an exploration and certainly a discovery. And the best think about using infrared is how it allows me to create photographs “that are far from the usual.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like Photographing Buildings

Red wall & Stairway1 blue door1 parking1Northern Junk co.  Captain's ride  porch couch1Brick doorway 1 the yellow door1 Waiting

Strolling along sidewalks with my camera, in cities, large or small, is exhilarating. And whether the architecture is low and flat, or skyscraping, or old bricked, or shiny metal and glass, I always find something different to photograph.  Usually, I approach urban areas with a plan and I don’t just wander about hoping to find something interesting. That’s not my way.

Sometimes I am after the cityscape and watch for shadows, highlights and interesting sky. On other occasions, my plan might be to select a particular area and visually capture the story of how structures and features interact. I might be more interested in the colours, and spend my time using the colour evidence to make a story.

In October 2012, I wrote about images I made while walking along the waterfront in Victoria, and, in February 2013, I showed photographs and discussed the small South Thompson River town of Chase, in the BC interior.  In each instance I approached the municipalities with different photographic goals. Goals that were not so much defining visuals as they were photographic thoughts about the architecture in each place.

Some years ago I spend three days wandering the side streets of Anacortes, a town along the coast of Washington. Although I enjoyed both the downtown and harbor districts of the small American town, what struck me most were those places where people lived. The inhabitants appeared to go out of their way to differentiate each dwelling and my plan came about to document the entrances of the places where people lived.

In that instance and whenever I decide to work my way through, or around, some city I always take some predetermined course of action. I remember a late afternoon in Port Townsend, WA and on that trip I spent my time photographing the unique turn of the century buildings along the narrow, main street using an infrared modified camera. I wasn’t so much documenting the well-known seaport town, as was trying to create a distinct impression of the ornate Victorian architecture.

I once read a quote by an anonymous writer that said, “The difference between the recorder photographer… and the artist photographer… is that the artist will, by experience and learning… force the camera to paint the imagination…the emotion… the concept and the intent… rather than faithfully and truthfully reproduce an unattractive and unflattering record.”

I must admit that my intent isn’t usually to document the cities I visit, as much as it is to create a personal vision of the buildings I photograph. That vision, although uniquely mine, rarely strays much from reality other than when I use my infrared camera. I haven’t entered the artistic world of HDR (high dynamic range) image making yet. HDR is the process of merging multiple exposures into one image.  I expect that it is only laziness on my part, because I am intrigued by how well HDR post-processing with software like Photomatix, http://www.hdrsoft.com lends itself to the creative architectural work. I anticipate that I will tackle that process at some time in the future when I make plans to photograph my way along another city’s streets.

I will mention that I rarely use lenses that are wide enough to exaggerate the foreground or make those dramatic vistas. My camera isn’t a cropped sensor so an 18mm lens would be, effectively, only a 28mm. That allows me to include lots of visual details and limits the distortion between near and far objects.

Summertime is quickly approaching and with that my wife and I expect to do some driving around British Columbia and possibly stray into Washington State, and those trips will always include architectural photography opportunities in the towns and cities we pass through, or stop and visit.

As always, I appreciate your comments and please let me know you were here.

Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

A Good Day of Roadside Photography

River view copy   REd pier copy Horse running copy

I recently talked to a long time photographer that said the landscape photography in early advertisements by the American Automobile Association was what got him into photography. That organization was once the best place to get maps for road trips in North America. They sent their employees out, with cameras and mapping instruments, across the continent finding the best and most scenic routes. I remember seeing pictures of their big, four-door cargo vehicles with people poised on platforms on top of the vehicle with large tripod mounted 8×10 cameras on some obscure dirt road in the middle of North America. It all looked very exciting.

We both remembered pictures of Ansel Adams standing on a platform on top of a vehicle very much like those used by the American Automobile Association with his large camera making wonderful photographs that scenic photographers still admire.  I actually sold my jaunty, little, two-seater MG that was so easy to get around the streets of Los Angeles, and bought a bright yellow International Scout 4×4. Underpowered, poor turning capability, uncomfortable on long trips with back seats that were only accessed by climbing over a metal barrier behind the front seats, it was perfect in my young mind and meant that I, like Ansel Adams and the folks from the AAA, could gleefully travel the back roads in a cool looking vehicle with my camera capturing the natural world on film.

Years have passed, and technology has changed, and so have I.  There are still lots of back roads to explore and photograph, but the days of climbing on my car roof are long gone.  The American Automobile Association no longer explores the country, and today I check maps on line or my cell phone. I don’t need a large 8×10 view camera like Ansel Adams used with the accompanying long hours working in a chemical darkroom to make good enlargements, and certainly don’t want to drive around in that uncomfortable, gas guzzling International anymore.

I thought about that conversation and the many scenic photographs I have made while driving along the South Thompson River towards Kamloops, British Columbia as I pulled off the road to meet up with fellow photographer Peter Evans. Evans and I were hoping the sun on the gray, overcast day would poke through the clouds enough for us to make some worthwhile pictures. We had headed out on the snow-covered roads without a plan. Not the best way to success, but both of us just wanted to get out.  We drove along the highway photographing horses, snow covered trees, and Evans even jumped out trying for some photos of distant deer bounding through a meadow. There were lots of opportunities in spite of the flat light, but our main problem was getting my car far enough off the snow lined highway so as not to be clipped by large passing transport trucks.

We stopped and wandered along the Shuswap Lake in the small town of Chase , and photographed the pier, reflections in the water, and trees along the white icy shore.  When the sun finally peaked though and we dashed back to the car, our goal to catch the sun along the river near a bridge that crosses the Thompson River a few miles from where we were. Chasing the sun seems to be part of roadside photography sometimes.

By the time we reached the Pritchard river crossing the sun was creating diagonal shafts of light that slowly illuminated some features in the landscape, and then in minutes moved leaving them absent of light.

We parked and rushed on to the bridge, yelling at each other, “look, look, look”. Then in spite of cars crossing the narrow bridge, we stood by the railings and shot away. The river scene was exciting, and I constantly altered my meter trying to keep the exposure under the fast moving light. Then in about ten minutes the sun moved into the clouds and dropped behind distant hills and the sky, hills, and river were back to unexciting flat light. However, we were like two happy young kids as returned to the car talking about our luck with the light.

That’s what I call a good day of roadside photography. Pictures of running horses, reflections on the lake, cool shots of the Chase pier, all capped with luminous pictures of the river and I didn’t even need a platform mounted on a gas guzzling vehicle, a big heavy camera, or back roads.

I appreciate your comments. thanks

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Photographing a Waterfall

The week had been a busy one for me. Unfortunately none of what occupied me had anything to do with photography.  It is said that life gets in the way of having fun.  So when I finally was able to chisel out some time for myself this last weekend I decided to travel the short distance up the road from my home to a stream with waterfall.  The falls are just off the Trans Canada Highway as it winds past Chase, BC.

I brought along my tripod, selected my versatile 18-200mm lens, a polarizing filter, and a neutral density filter just in case there was lots of bright light, and headed out. When I arrived at the creek and walked along the well-worn path beside the rock-strewn creek up to the waterfall I found there was open shade everywhere. It was just before noon, and the sun’s direction against the large flat rocks that lined the narrow canyon was providing lots of soft, reflective light on the cliffs, the water, and the pile of logs that surrounded the falls left over from the flooding of waterways that occurred in British Columbia this spring. I don’t think I could have asked for better light. There was very little of the harsh sunlight I had anticipated so I didn’t have to use the neutral density filter, and because of all the soft reflected light I didn’t have deep shadows to contend with either.

I climbed down the large rocks to the stream just below the falls, set up my tripod and started shooting. I like the soft look of water that a long shutterspeed creates so I began by putting the polarizer on the lens, which reduced the light by about two stops. Then I set the ISO to 100 and stopped the lens down to F/11. That gave me a shutterspeed of three seconds.

Photographing water is fun. I enjoy waterfalls, but rushing streams or rivers, plant covered ponds, and mountain lakes are just as enticing. I think it’s how the water sculpts everything that surrounds it.

Waterfalls usually demand a wide-angle lens and a tripod. A wide angle allows photographers to capture the landscape that contains a waterfall and the tripod means there won’t be camera shake. The lens doesn’t need to have a wide aperture because in landscape photography, and that include a landscape with a water feature like a waterfall, one should be stopping the aperture down to create as much depth of field as possible. The important thing, if one wants that glowing, soft looking water is a slow shutterspeed.  And when the shutter is slowed the aperture must be closed, and with a smaller aperture comes more depth of field. I will also mention that a cable release is a good idea to reduce camera shake, but I seem to always forget mine, and so I use the camera’s self-timer instead.

For those who live in the British Columbia there is no shortage of waterfalls that are easy to photograph, and for many like me the waterfalls are only minutes away. Small falls like the one I go to certainly don’t match some of the spectacular waterfalls from around the world, but even tiny falls make good pictures if the photographer gets creative enough. I even have a picture hanging on a wall in my home that shows a waterfall of only four feet high. I put my camera on one of those little pocket tripods and got a very wet knee, shoulder, and hair taking that picture, and remember laughing at the contortions I was assuming to keep from getting too wet in that cold water. Now that would have been a good picture. But, as I wrote, water is fun to photograph and getting wet on occasion is worth the final picture I suppose. Someday I might get the chance to travel around British Columbia, or North America to photograph some of the magnificent waterfalls, but until then I’ll just make the ten-minute drive up the road.

And I always appreciate your comments.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com