Infrared photography is always a fun change.      

 

The wind came and the choking smoke from the fires in British Columbia and Washington State has disappeared. Gosh, it seems strange to see the hills across the valley again. I opened all the windows and doors to let the breeze reduce the smell of smoke in my home.

Well there it was waiting, a sunny day with only a few clouds in the otherwise clear blue sky, for any photographer with the time and energy to walk out for a few pictures of the golden fields and green forests that weren’t being burned by the wildfires.

I grabbed my camera, hopped in the car, and drove up the dirt road across the river from my home. I wanted a wide shot with lots of sky, but as I walked along the dusty road to make the photograph I began thinking how easy and boring my photo was. So with that thought in mind I got back in my car, drove home, dropped off that camera, and got our my infrared camera to start over again.

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 any different with a camera converted to infrared than a colour image converted to black and white. Those of us using infrared always must be thinking about the light first and then choose subjects that we think will look like they are photographed with infrared.

I stopped to photograph a landscape around a neighbour’s barn, and then hiked up the road a ways for a shot of an old car that has been rusting on a hill for a lot longer than I have lived in British Columbia. Then drove down to the river. The far bank was lined with campers and boats for the annual Salmon run and Pritchard is a favourite fishing location.

I drove across the bridge, got out and walked along the beach then back over the bridge. I won’t begin to count the number of times in the last 40 years that I have stood on that bridge and pointed my camera at the scenery along the Thompson River. I always find something worth photographing.

Using infrared gives me images that are a fun change from sharp colourful pictures I get with my DSLR. The glowing white foliage and black sky create an otherworldly mood.

I’ll finish this with what I wrote about infrared last May. “Shooting infrared is always an exploration, a discovery and moves a photographer far from the usual.”

 

 

Infrared Photography On A Cold Winter Day   

blue-horizon

frozen-pond

winter-grass

tracks-and-cliffs

orange-sky

Gosh, this cold weather is uncomfortable! Mostly I have been huddling inside except to feed my chickens, and dig through the latest snowfall so I can get my car out of the driveway. However, the morning’s sky was so clear and blue that, in spite of the negative -19C, I just had to bundle up against the cold and head outside with my infrared camera.

The contrast of clear blue against the fresh white snow would make for a colourful scene, but there is something about infrared that has always intrigued me.

Maybe it’s the black sky against the brighter foreground. There is a word I remember my art instructors would sometimes use in their discussions and it is, “juxtaposition”, or elements in an image placed together with a contrasting effect.

In the summer infrared turns the trees to white, the sky a strange shade of magenta, and everything else a slight blue. But in the winter one can create an image with magenta tinted snow and clouds, with a blue cast to the sky by adjusting the colour channels in Photoshop, or convert to a striking black and white image. B&W is always my favourite. I guess that it is from the many years of exposing rolls of Kodak infrared film. And as I said, I like the black skies.

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 setting with the effect being surreal and unworldly. The bluer the sky, the greater the likelihood of that unworldly effect; and white surfaces can glow with an ethereal brightness.

I haven’t used my IR camera since last October when I decided to try out a fisheye lens.

Since then I acquired an 18-35mm, so I took that and my favourite, a 24-85mm lens out to see what I could get. I prefer a plan as opposed to just driving around, but this time I wouldn’t venture very far from my warm car. Besides the cold I was too lazy to get my shoeshoes and the snow was too deep to go off the plowed road.

I am not a prolific shooter. I guess that’s an oddity in this day of shotgun style photography when it’s not unusual for photographers to return with a hundred or so images from only a few hours of shooting. I spent a lot of time just standing and looking, and as was the case this time, freezing my fingers.

The low-angled light from the afternoon created lots of deep shadows on the drifts of snow and from fence posts, train tracks, and stark, leafless trees. All are excellent subjects for infrared.

If there was a goal for this outing it was to get a picture for next month’s calendar. My wife Linda and I alternate monthly as to who’s picture is displayed for each month’s calendar, and one of my infrared captures should work perfectly for February.

A Rainy Day in Hope, BC – Photographing with Infrared

Wecome to Hope 1

bear crossing 1

Town clock 1

Animal totem 1

Driving thru Hope 1

After leaving the Vancouver Camera Show and Swap Meet last Sunday I decided that rather than make the long drive all the way back to Kamloops and then Pritchard, I would make a stop for the night in Hope along the way.

Hope, British Columbia, is usually just a location to make a quick pull off at a fast food restaurant, or coffee shop. as I drive between Vancouver and Kamloops.

I have always liked the appearance of the picturesque little town just off the highway along the Fraser River. That was first settled when explorer, Simon Fraser, arrived there in 1808. The Hudson’s Bay Company started a trading post in 1848.

In more recent history Hope received acclaim when it was the location for the Sylvester Stallone Rambo movie, “First Blood”, and then, “Shoot to Kill”, staring Sidney Poitier and Kirstie Alley. The area’s mountains also stood in for the Himalayas in the movie “K2″.

However, in spite of all that the main reason for my stop was I knew I’d be tired after my long day at the swap meet, and, in addition, I thought it would be fun to wander around town with my camera the next morning. I chose to bring the camera I had converted to infrared. I thought shooting infrared would bring a fresh and very different visual interpretation to the heavily forested setting.

There is a poem by Robert Burns wherein he writes, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. I thought of his prophetic words as I checked out of my motel room the next morning under a pouring rain. Disgusted with my crappy luck I stopped for a coffee and doughnut before leaving town. I was resigned to just head home. But as I sat in my car sipping on my coffee texting my wife that I was heading out, the rain lightened up and I decided that in spite of the cloudy overcast I would try my infrared camera anyway. I thought, what the heck, any photography is fun and the worst that can happen is I’ll have wet hair for the trip back.

I meandered down to the riverfront and zigzagged back through town. I discovered that at some point town residents began erecting large chain saw carvings everywhere. So I took pictures of them along with those of the city streets until the rain picked up again and my glasses got too wet to see.

The best time to shoot infrared is on sunny days, so the rainy, heavily overcast environment wasn’t all that exciting. But I was intent on the pictures by this time.

I must say that I wasn’t really successful, but there were a few images, that with some postproduction help worked out reasonably well.

The rain won this time, but I think I might go back to that scenic little town nestled in the Fraser Canyon. It’s not that far from my home and a nice easy drive, and I’ll take Linda with me. However, we’ll wait for a sunny, dry day and I definitely will try infrared again.

Infrared is such a fun change from normal digital shooting. And similar to purchasing another lens, the cost of having an old camera converted is well worth it.

The In Camera or Post-Processing debate

I wonder at going to far, but with low, flat, grey lifeless light anything helps.

I wonder at going to far, but with low, flat, grey lifeless light anything helps.

Infrared camera with edited contrast.

Infrared camera with edited contrast.

I removed the dim, flat, busy background.

I removed the dim, flat, busy background.

The discussion about manipulating an image, or altering it, from the original capture has been going on ever since I began working as a photographer for the Los Angeles Office of Education in the 1970s.  Nowadays its called “post-processing”, and in the past we just called it “working in the dark room” when the majority of photographers were handing their undeveloped film over to a film lab and hoped the results would be worth keeping.

At that time, and as exists now, there were those who that claimed straight from the camera was the only true photography. I recall being accused of being unfair at a local exhibition around 30 years ago, because I used exotic photographic papers, hand retouched my prints, and mixed my own chemicals.

As I said, the discussion on right out of the camera vs. alteration of the original is still going strong, however, the beauty of this exciting medium is that there is no one-way to capture an image.

Photojournalists and street photographers like Margaret Bourke-White, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and Dorothea Lange documented events and life as it was at a particular time. As photojournalists and street photographers still are. And as to that type of photography, I absolutely agree, any type of alteration is sacrilege. But I need to introduce those righteous photographers that decry alteration of the negative, print, or digital file, to icons of photography like Andy Warhol, Jerry Uelsmann, and Duane Michals, to name only a few that pioneered different techniques in this ever-changing medium of photography.

Documentary, representational, or candid photography is used to chronicle significant and historical events attempting to capture reality.  Fine art photography is the vision of the photographer or artist. And restrictions as to how the image is finally produced do not, and should not, apply.

Modern technology allows much easier creativity for those who wish to use it. That might be nothing more that purchasing the camera with the best sensor, and mounting the sharpest lens on it, and with patience and practice learning to make exposures that are as close as possible to reality. Or it might be using that same camera is nothing more than the first stage of many in an extended and manipulative process.

As to the debate, should image-editing software be used to alter the image, or should the image be left as an unaltered record of the scene?  I think that depends on the goals of each photographer.

As always, I really appreciate any comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Infrared Photography on a winter day

old truck in infrared Infrared roadside Farm in Infrared

Photographers always tell me that they are participating on some kind of photo challenge or another: a photograph-a-day for a year, or once-a-month for some specific time, or some have even decided to follow a particular subject through each season. I like the idea, however, I expect dedicating time to making a photograph every day (unless one works in a busy studio and is doing it as part of the work day) could become quite a chore.

Personally, I have tried projects that require that kind of stick-to-it dedication, but I get side tracked easily and rarely complete what I started. Last February I thought I might photograph a bridge a month. I live near a big river so how hard could that be? I did get a few and then I just forgot.

When it comes to my personal photography fun stuff just happens. For example, it was one of those days when I was too lazy to do the stuff around the house that I should have been doing.  I was reading some and just thinking about photography in general. OK, for me thinking about photography isn’t that unusual, it is actually what I prefer to do.

I was lazy, reading and thinking about how I should have a photo project. OK, the project: drive up the road a couple miles and photograph neighbour’s places poking out of the snow and do it with my infrared camera which is fun.  Criteria: Hope for some sun.

I have an older digital SLR camera (Nikon D100) that has been modified to only see infrared light. Infrared (IR) light is light that has longer wavelengths on the red edge of the spectrum and is invisible to human eyes.

The sensors for digital cameras are sensitive to more than just the visible light spectrum. This causes problems with colour balance, so camera manufacturers place a filter in front of the sensor that blocks the infrared part of the spectrum that only allows visible light, and not infrared, to pass through. The modification for my D100 was accomplished by removing that filter, and installing one instead that blocks visible light, allowing mostly infrared light to reach the camera’s sensor.

The camera still functions normally with full autofocus and autoexposure, except that it’s now able to record the infrared wavelengths that are just beyond what the human eye is capable of seeing.  When infrared photographs are produced as black and white the photographs show trees with glowing white leaves and black skies opening up new visual opportunities for photographing the world around us.

Many think of infrared photography as the stuff of military night reconnaissance, or, as frequently portrayed in movies, as aerial thermal imaging that finds the bad guys. With thermal imaging one sees the heat the subject is producing, however, infrared as photographers use it, with our modified cameras, is about capturing the light or radiation that is reflected off a subject and doesn’t involve thermal imaging at all.

In 1800 Sir Frederick William Hershel described the relationship between heat and light and let the world know about the existence of infrared light in the electromagnetic spectrum.

I don’t know how conversions are accomplished with modern sensors. With my old D100 I need to preset the white balance and be aware of a meter that is easily tricked with the white snow. I must check my camera histogram after every release of the shutter and usually make two or three exposures just in case. However, everything appears normal through the camera’s viewfinder.  Also, because so much light reaches the sensor one can use high shutter speeds and so it is easy to hand hold while exposing a photograph.

I would have liked a clear sky with more sun to increase the infrared effect, but the high clouds let in just enough light to make things interesting and challenging. Some subjects don’t work very well with infrared, so I just experiment, take lots of pictures and hope for the best. I knew on that not-so-bright-day my images would take some work with PhotoShop and NIK’s SilverEfex.

Infrared photography is fun. I was only out wandering my neighborhood for a little over an hour before I hurried home to work on what I got. Everything changes when one is working with infrared, forcing even the least creative among us to think creatively. I can leave my images with blue trees the LCD displays or move the white balance off the preset to cloudy and get red and black pictures instead. Opening an image file in PhotoShop is always a bit of a surprise and from there on its all experimenting and personal vision. Yes, infrared is fun.

As always, I appreciate your comments.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com