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.”

 

 

Shooting Infrared on a Colourful October Day      

canyon

blue-falls

pool

stream-bed

driveby

chase-pier

fisheye

Fisheye is so much fun

 

 

 

Fall snuck up on me this year. I guess I wasn’t paying attention. Maybe that sharp and very quick transition from season to season will become the norm.

I had an appointment that meant a drive down and along the river valley to the village of Chase.  As I walked out the door not thinking about anything but the 20 minute drive that would probably turn into 30+ minutes if I got caught in the extensive road construction going on between my home in Pritchard and my appointment in Chase, Linda called “take your camera”.

Oh, right. Taking my camera is always a good idea.

As I drove along looking at the changing colours I thought about the constant submissions of fall pictures I have been seeing on the local photographer’s facebook group, however, I had decided I would have more fun being different and instead chose my infrared converted camera and added a 10.5mm fisheye lens I had just got into my shop.

I pulled onto the Trans Canada and turned into Chase 20 minutes later. The traffic was fast and I had driven through the construction without a stop. I made my appointment in plenty of time, but the receptionist informed me they had decided to close early and I would have to come back another time.

In frustration I walked back to my car, but fortunately I had my camera. So instead of returning home I decided to wander around Chase.

The fisheye was fun. I could take pictures of people on the sidewalk without pointing the camera at them. Admittedly the pictures were pretty weird with everything on the edges bending inward and I got bored with the town’s limitations. Fortunately Chase has a neat waterfall on one side and a big lake on the other. I left downtown and began with Chase Falls.

I photograph Chase Falls quite often, but this was the first time I was shooting in infrared and the first time I used a fisheye.   One can set up a tripod and capture the wonderful October colours that surround that inviting waterfall anytime, but capturing Chase Falls in infrared and with a fisheye is great fun, and a long ways off from what most photographers would every think of doing.

After an interesting time manipulating that environment I headed over to the lake for a complete change of scenery. Instead of large rocks, overhanging trees and falling water, there is a long pier jutting out into Shuswap Lake, large trees on the edges of a small park, and a wide sandy beach.

Infrared turned the trees to white, the sky a strange shade of blue and everything else a slight magenta. And what about the fisheye lens? Well, the fisheye lens just added to the already unreal quality of the image.

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.

A Good Day for Infrared Photography            

Pritchard Train crossing 1a

Reflection

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”.

Infrared, A Completely Different Feeling….

Pritchard Station

Riverside

Monty Creek church

Fence along a dirt road

Pritchard Bridge

Back Porch

Infrared, A Completely Different Feeling

In my last article I discussed how easy it is to make creative changes in one’s photography by using a camera converted to infrared. I wrote that photographers have the option to creatively challenge themselves by selecting different lenses, choosing to produce black and white images, electing to use highly manipulative post-production techniques, etc., or any combination just to mention a few. Then I added one more creative tool to the list that I use, a camera converted to only capture images of the world around me in infrared.

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. I like the sometimes-surprising tones that I can obtain when I convert the image to black and white. Like any form of photography, or art, it’s all a matter of taste.

Reflected IR light produces an array of surreal effects, vegetation sometimes appears white or near white. Black surfaces can appear gray or almost white depending on the angle of reflected light, and if the sky (my favourite part of the infrared image) is photographed from the right direction it becomes black. The bluer the sky, the greater the likelihood of an unworldly effect; and white surfaces can glow with an ethereal brightness.

The response I received from readers got me thinking about how much I like shooting infrared. That’s been a long relationship. My first forays with infrared during the 1970’s were began with infrared colour transparency film and then with infrared black and white film.

Now that I have set film aside I am more than content to use a converted digital camera. Besides it’s much easier with digital than the arduous process we had to contend with when we used film. Infrared film had to be loaded and unloaded in complete darkness, then processed in metal tanks that kept the film from getting fogged. We attached a deep red filter to the lens. The deeper the red the better the effect, and because of the dark red filter things become very hard to see. Oh, and the exposures were long if the sun wasn’t bright.

In spite of that infrared photography has had a strong following of creative photographers for as long as I have been involved in photography. And now with the light gathering ability of modern sensors I think that following is stronger than ever.

In an article I wrote about using infrared film titled “Photographing a Different Kind of Light” I said, “There are those who believe a fine art photograph must represent reality, but reality doesn’t necessarily take into account that there are differences between what one sees, what the photographer’s camera produces, and what the photographer was trying to capture.” I think a photograph is only a representation of a particular vision of reality.

Infrared allows us to photograph a world illuminated by infrared light, that part of the colour spectrum we can’t normally see, and produces intriguing, exquisite and sometimes unearthly photographs that can’t be captured in any other way.

Infrared is a good way for me to change the way I make photographs.

Cattleguard 1

Martin Mountain 1

Fence 1

One of the things I like about the exciting medium of photography is how easy it is to change the tools with which we use to create photographs.

I suppose painters can change their brush to a different size, or use a pallet knife to apply paint on their canvas. They can step away from a canvas surface altogether and apply paint to any number of other materials. I guess photographers aren’t alone in the ability to change tools in pursuit of making an interesting picture.

However, photographers have the option to creatively challenge themselves by selecting different lenses, choosing black and white images, electing to use highly manipulative post-production techniques, etc., or any combination just to mention a few.

For myself, I’ll add one more item to that list: using a camera converted to only capture images of the world around me in infrared.

I have mentioned before the old Nikon that I had converted to infrared many years ago. I enjoyed using that old 6 mega pixel camera, it served me well. I purchased it in 2001 and it was my first DSLR, however, when the time came to move to a camera with a newer and better sensor, instead of selling it off like I have with many cameras since, I opted to have it converted to a dedicated infrared camera.

Infrared cameras like blue cloudless sky, and I think many of my most successful images have been late in the afternoon on sunny days. Nevertheless, this week I decided to wander the roads near my rural home in hope of getting some dramatic skies on the heavily clouded afternoon.

My experience on cloudy days has been that one has to pick subjects carefully. There are some objects that, in spite of a sensor that only sees infrared, look pretty much the same as they would if photographed with a roll of black and white film. Instead of taking on a light coloured, or white glow, trees might go black and meadows look normal.

With that in mind, my goal, as I drove along the snowy dirt roads was to find a camera angle that would do the most for the vegetation and still give me lots of dramatic sky.

Life Pixel, http://www.lifepixel.com/ writes on their website, “Are you tired of shooting the same stuff everyone else is shooting? Then be different & shoot infrared instead!”
I don’t think I care whether I’m shooting the same subjects as photographers, but I sure do like to change how other photographers see the stuff I do shoot, and infrared works perfectly for that.

The infrared camera allows me to change my tools and way of visualizing and capturing the world around me. It makes me think about my photographs in a different and challenging way.

Viewing Scenic Photographs   

 

seagulls and boat 2

Falis Pond 2

Wolf ranch

I enjoy looking at photographs that seem to have been made with the goal of saying something about a moment in time or place. Sometimes I even get a sense of the struggle the photographer had while trying capture a particular mood and how hard it was to convey that mood to the viewer. I think creativity takes a lot of effort.

This week I thumbed through a hard cover book I have had for years by one of my favorite landscape photographers, Eliot Porter. The book, entitled Intimate Landscapes, is from an exhibition of fifty-five color photographs by Eliot Porter, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I enjoy how he eliminates those elements that add nothing to the composition and selects those that add meaning to his visual statement. He had an amazing awareness of how colors create mood. A review I read went on to say that his photographs, “reflect the standards of excellence that are Eliot Porter’s greatest contribution to the field of color photography. Upon seeing these photographs, the viewer is immediately struck by the artist’s distinctly individual and intimate interpretation of the natural world.” His photographs are different and specific, and have a personality that I think come from the experiences of the photographer.

When I finally put down the book I thought about how many of the scenic photographs that populate photography forums I currently read are mostly documentary type photographs, and I wonder if the photographers believe that any vista with lots of space and colour is worthy of photographing. They might be of the opinion that all it takes is a wide-angle lens to miraculously convey the feeling and emotional reaction they personally felt at that moment. Perhaps that is why the viewers’ responses they get are sometimes limited to, “nice sky and good composition”.

My long-time friend, Bob Clark, used to critically suggest that all one needs for people to like your landscape or scenic photo was to have a “National-Geographic-sky”, a magazine that was filled with pretty pictures of places from around the world with blue skies and billowy white clouds.

I prefer scenics that make an impression on me and convey a mood. I want to look at a photograph that allows me to find a story in it; or at least be able to search for one, and hope for a photograph that I can respond to on some level. A photograph should try to accomplish something, and should have a strong sense of self-expression. Photographers should look for something in the landscape that is unique, and that will set their photograph apart. As photographers we should try to express our personal viewpoints and hope to summon an emotional response from those who view our photographs.