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.”

 

 

Pritchard Rodeo 2017    

A whole year has past and once again I joined my friends and neighbours for a dusty, fun-filled Sunday at the Pritchard Rodeo.

Now that the rodeo has come and gone and I am sitting at my computer looking through the many pictures I took, it is easy to see that I had a great time. Actually I am pretty sure everyone that attended, participants, organizers, spectators and photographers, had a great time.

This year’s event was a little sparse. Not when it came to all the spectators, the stands were full. But the numbers of cowboys and cowgirls participating was way down because of the wildfires across the province. I expect many were either evacuated and were struggling to safeguard their homes and livestock or they couldn’t get to the rodeo with all the road closures.

The days leading up to this weekend have been smoke filled and the sky has been grey. But by 10AM on Sunday blue sky with a few clouds. My friend Dave Monsees stopped by my house and ten minutes later we were ringside with our cameras, Dave with his 100-400mm and me with my 70-200mm.

At 1PM the Rodeo Chairman, Pritchard Rodeo stood center ring and waved his hat, the announcer called out the first event, a bronc rider burst into the arena, and all the photographers along the rails started shooting.

I’ve written before how suitable the Pritchard Rodeo grounds are for photographers. There’s a strong metal arena railing that makes it safe to stand close to the action without restricting the view. And every year I look forward to standing there along side all the other photographers that, like me, enjoy capturing the fast moving test of wills between animals and riders. I think that photographing any action event is fun and there’s always action at a rodeo.

This year I met two well-known British Columbia rodeo photographers, Elaine Taschuk from Vancouver and Tony Roberts from Kelowna. They talked about other rodeos in BC and their favourite lenses for capturing the action, and naturally the Canon vs. Nikon quips were flying.

Pritchard is the only rodeo I attend. Its close by, easy to get to, and easy to photograph. All one has to do is pay attention to where the participants are coming from and take up a position that allows everything to move towards the camera. Then I select shutter priority, choose a fast shutterspeed and start shooting. I prefer to use Shutter priority (“TV” on Canon and “S’ on Nikon) so I can select the shutter’s speed and let the camera choose the aperture. Yep, it’s darned easy.

This year’s rodeo (or any rodeo for that matter) was a great way to spend the day. When I got home I downloaded my images and quickly edited out those that didn’t look good, then cropped and balanced the exposure on those I chose to keep.

There will be lots of rodeos over the summer and into the fall that are well worth any photographer’s time. My advice is to grab that camera and mount any zoom lens that, at least, goes to 200mm. Then enjoy a day that will fill your computer with some great action photographs.

The Portrait   

The conversation – a Portrait.

For most photographers a portrait is an artistic representation of an individual or individuals, with the goal of capturing some likeness as to who they are.

Famous American photographer, Richard Avedon carried this further when he said, “A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth. ”

Popular American painter Jamie Wyeth wrote, “Everything I paint is a portrait, whatever the subject.”

For years most of the photography I did was portraiture, whether wedding pictures for a family, or private sessions. My opinion is that portraits are pretty narcissistic and because of that, can be much harder to do properly than many other photographic pastimes.

Make a bad landscape and no one will really care, capture a bird flying poorly and it’s no big deal; however if you give someone an unflattering photograph of themself and you have might make an enemy for life.

A portrait can be a representation of anything and doesn’t necessarily need to only be of people. Years ago my wife and I had show dogs and would regularly attend and participate in events in hopes of having the judges select our dog as best from some group; and when we did win, we would walk our dogs to a photography booth set up by a skilled dog portraitist to have a portraits taken that day when they looked so good and performed so well.

As I watched a TV show earlier this week I noticed framed pictures of the owner’s cat hanging on the wall, and I have seen all types of pet portraits in friends’ homes. I suppose a picture of a favourite or special car, motorcycle, boat or even treasured holiday snapshot, might be called a portrait.

I wonder if many photographers might agree with the painter Wyeth’s contention that, “Everything I paint (or photograph) is a portrait, whatever the subject.”

Some time ago I went for a slow drive along the winding roads high above my place in Pritchard hoping to find some cows, horses, or deer to photograph. I wanted head and shoulder compositions (or portraits), not animals in the landscape.

I leisurely drove around, passing lots of roadside deer; cows quietly chewing the cud, and finally stopped near two horses standing very close to a fence. My choice was to compose of portrait of them instead of just a pleasing documentary of two horses in a field. So I mounted a 24-85mm lens on my camera, walked through the wet grass to the fence to take their picture, and worked angle after angle for a portrait.

I suppose the words “artistic representation” and “goal of capturing some likeness” are appropriate when a photographer captures human-like qualities in animal portraits. I wanted a picture that included me, or at least inferred some conversation between the horses about me. My image is, as Avedon said, “….an opinion”.

Photographing the Holiday Train   

Here come the train

Train 2

Holiday Train 3

Passing Train

 

Last week I wrote about how I enjoy everything about the Christmas holidays; the bright colours, the gaudy decorations, the sentimental music, the silly TV programs, and especially the festive city lights.

To that fun list I must add the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train. Each December, for the past 17 years, the CP Holiday train has travelled east to west across Canada. And fortunately for my wife, Linda, and I the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train rolls along the railroad tracks that follow the wide South Thompson River a short distance from our home in Pritchard, British Columbia.

As with last year, the train passes by just as the light begins fading around 4PM. The timing could not be better. There is still some illumination in the sky, but not enough to ruin the bright coloured Christmas lights on the train’s engine and cars.

Last year we positioned ourselves across the river for a wide panorama of the train. However, this year because of the construction and repositioning of the highway, we were able to choose a location very near the tracks that gave us plenty of time to prepare when the train first came into view and an interesting three-quarter perspective as it rushed towards us.

When we were across the river last year the long focal length lenses worked best, but this because we were so close this year we chose wide-angle lenses. Linda had her 24mm and I used my 24-70mm. Both were perfect.

We arrived about ten minutes early, made some test shots to check the fading late afternoon light, then waited with our hot chocolate to keep warm.

With the train’s movement I knew we would need fast shutterspeeds. I selected ISO 3200, which let us both use 1/350th of a second.

Linda said, “There it is!” When the train roared into sight, we jumped out of the car into the cold wind that was coming at us off the river and took pictures as it passed. The engineer tooted the horn at us but we didn’t have time to wave back and take pictures too. The whole event was over in about 40 seconds. Ha, what a rush! Then we got back in the car and ten minutes later we were sitting in our warm home finishing up our hot chocolate.

Well, one more holiday photographic occasion is over, but I know there will be more opportunities between now and January 1st. This is such a grand time of the year.

 

 

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.

Photographing Eagles along the Highway       

Eagle of all atitudes

Young eagles

Young eagle

Waiting eagle

In the warm sun

Watching young ones

Fly, there's a photographer

Fly away

 

Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes.” I don’t think British economist, E. F. Schumacher was really discussing the kind of eagles my wife and I saw perched in trees along the river, but his quote perfectly describes a picture Linda took of three eagles

Winter is on its way and eagles have been moving west along the South Thompson River towards the warmer feeding grounds on the pacific coast.

My commute to Kamloops from my home in Pritchard is on the Trans Canada highway that runs parallel with that wide river and this year it has been fun to see how many eagles we can count before reaching Kamloops.

After counting 35 eagles on our way to town the previous week Linda mentioned that she’d like to try taking some pictures. So after waiting until the sun was high to the south last Wednesday we made the drive to see what we could find.

The traffic on the Trans Canada is constant and fast moving with lots of big, transport trucks. But with some preparation it isn’t that big of a deal to quickly pull a safe distance off the road to photograph eagles in the tall, dead trees along the river in which the eagles like to perch to watch for fish. In one tree alone we counted fourteen eagles, some mature but mostly adolescent.

My job is to drive and my wife’s is to photograph eagles. I pull over, stop and turn off the car to reduce vibration caused by the engine, and Linda rolls the window down, plops a beanbag on the frame and positions her heavy 150-500mm Sigma lens out the window and starts shooting.

It would have been nicer if we had a way to get closer. However, even if one got out of the car, struggled through a deep ditch, crossed the railroad tracks and climbed over farmers’ wire fences, I am sure the skittish eagles would just fly off anyway.

Linda had a pretty easy time of photographing those eagles from the car anyway. She had selected Shutter Priority on her camera with a shutter speed of 1/650th of a second and 650 ISO. Yes, there were some shots that didn’t turn out, the car would shake when big trucks passed by and every so often clouds would block the sun. But she got some great keepers.

As exciting as it is for those of us here in the BC Interior to see 40 or 50 eagles in the trees along the river, in a few days lots of those big birds will be making their way down the river to join many, many more eagles congregating on the Harrison River to feast on spawning salmon.

The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival began 20 years ago and this year it will begin on November 28th at Harrison, British Columbia. This is an annual event with the migration of thousands of Bald Eagles returning to the Harrison Mills area to take advantage of the spawning salmon.

For photographers the place to be is where the Harrison River widens with shallow gravel bars for the returning salmon to spawn. Organizers say it is possible to see up to 10,000 Bald Eagles feasting on salmon.