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.”

 

 

A Convocation of eagles                                                

 

 

I have always liked eagles.

I grew up in Salt Lake City Utah where the state bird was the California gull. There were seagulls everywhere and one couldn’t go anywhere without lots of them overhead. We affectionately called them “Mormon Bombers”. But eagles weren’t all that common and there were only I few times that I can remember ever seeing an eagle near the city, and on those rare occasions they were high and off in the distance. At that time one had to be somewhere high in the mountains that circle Salt Lake City, and even then, spotting one wasn’t that common.

I lived in many places, but until moving to British Columbia my eagle sightings were a rarity. Imagine my excitement I when found that no matter where one lives in the province I came to call home there seemed to always be eagles. Gosh, go to any fishing town and the skies and wharfs will be crowded with eagles.

Where I live, spring, summer or fall, and even sometimes in the frozen winter, while on my 45-minute drive to Kamloops along the Thompson River there are eagles watching from the trees.

This spring the water has been unusually high in the small streams and lakes in the countryside around Kamloops, and now that the rains have ceased and the drying summer heat is here, the once flooded farmlands, lakes, and meandering streams have trapped fish.

All one has to do is drive up into the farmlands out of town, pull the car over, wait a bit and there will be eagles. Until I stopped I hadn’t noticed how many were sitting on fence posts and in the trees along the road taking turns eating hapless fish caught in shallow creeks along the road.

They were spooky, eagles usually are. I pulled over and waited as other people excitedly stood by their cars pointing, talking loudly, and holding their cellphones at arms length to snap pictures of the many eagles flapping low to the ground and eating.

I positioned my car so I could open the door with my beanbag lens rest on the window ledge. I knelt comfortably, put my 150-600 on the bag and drank my coffee as I waited for the big birds to calm down and return after all the cellphone photographers left.

And return they did. I have seen larger convocations of eagles (yes. That’s the right word, “convocation”) when I visited towns on the coast, but that many eagles sitting, eating and flying around a few feet off the ground so darn close to a busy road was a bit unusual.

I haven’t had my big zoom lens very long, so this was my first experience using it to photograph flying birds. It took me a few shots to get comfortable with all the movement. There was a lot of commotion around one big trout, with several adults and youngsters demanding their turn. Nevertheless, the eagles were easy to photograph, their movements are slow and predictable. That excited gathering ignored my big lens poking over the car door, and they only flew off when another car stopped and people got out. When that happened I just relaxed, had another drink of coffee, and waited till I could start taking pictures again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shooting infrared on a quiet spring evening.     

This week had one of those nice quiet evenings that are all so common here in British Columbia. By 7:30PM the sun was starting to go down giving the landscape dramatic shadows and a day’s end glowing light.

I’ll admit I was feeling pretty lazy after tearing the tile out of our shower wall so I could fix the tub taps, but there wasn’t anything interesting on the TV so I decided a short drive around my wooded neighbourhood might clear the tile dust out of my eyes and hair.

Over the many years I have been shooting with first, infrared film, and then for the past 10 plus years, a digital camera converted to only capture infrared, I have found that late afternoons give me the most impressive effects.

So, I grabbed my old IR modified Nikon D100, mounted a 24-70mm lens on it and set off along the winding roads that make up the wooded and hilly location I live in.

That old 6MP camera has served me well, I purchased it new when digital cameras were finally making images with enough quality to compete with film. I photographed weddings, scenics and everything else that I once shot with film. Then when Nikon began offering better sensors with more megapixels I sat it aside. For a while I called it my “car-trunk” camera because I just left it in the car all the time.

Then I read about infrared conversions. I had always shot black and white infrared film, but it was such a hassle. Loading and unloading the camera in the dark and even waiting till late in the evening to process it in metal tanks because I worried there might be some stray light creeping into my home photo lab. I sent that camera away and a few hundred bucks, and about a month later I had an infrared camera.

The images I get are a fun change from the colourful pictures or the sharp black and whites I am used to. Infrared is always a crowd pleaser.

I have a book by William Reedy titled, “Impact–Photography for Advertising”. It begins with the words, “To stop the eye… To set the mood… To start the sale…”

Those are great words for any photographer hoping to create visual impact with his or her photography. I think there is no doubt about it that those words ring true when one looks at the surreal effect of an infrared photograph. So I set off on that quite evening with my camera waiting on the empty seat beside me and made stop after stop to create infrared photographs of the rural neighbourhood that I know so well.

I have written about infrared photography before, so I’ll just end this by repeating myself, “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 process of observation.       

Salmon Arm

Street rest art

Town sculpture

Shuswap Lake

Pier view

Dragon boat

Lakeside residents

Smugglers love

My wife, Linda, has been wanting to really put her new 135mm lens to the test.   Even though the 135mm focal length is normally used for portraitures, she wanted to give it a roadside work out and suggested we take a short drive. We decided a morning drive along the meandering South Thompson River ending in Salmon Arm, just short of an hour away, for coffee and some photographs.

The British Columbia city of Salmon Arm with it’s unique, picturesque downtown and what residents claim to be the longest, curved wooden wharf in North America is located on the Shuswap Lake, midway between Calgary and Vancouver on the Trans-Canada Highway. The lakeside city also became infamous in August of 1982 when then Canadian Premier Pierre Trudeau raised his middle finger at protesters from his seat inside a private rail car.

When I’m not making portraits I prefer zoom lenses. Using a multi-focal length lens when photographing buildings and other features that one finds along a busy city street makes photography easy to do because it’s simple to crop out people, cars and other unwanted elements. Nevertheless, Linda wanted to use her 135mm and I decided to follow suit and brought my 105mm.

We wandered the downtown photographing anything that caught our attention. It was Sunday and most shops were closed and the streets, other than a couple of people walking to the grocery store or, like us, driving to Tim Horton’s for coffee, were almost empty.

It was a perfect day to walk around, and there was plenty of room to step backwards on to the street or move around in front of shops with our prime lenses. We spent a leisurely hour or so just taking pictures in town before driving to the lakeside park to sit in the shade, take in the view, and talk about our pictures.

My preference would have been to use my 24-86mm and although Linda really liked the 135mm, she wished I had brought along her 70-300mm. However, we both thought using the long prime lenses was a good exercise. Placing a subject and composing the final image took longer than just zooming the lens length forwards or back. Our fixed focal length lenses required that we had to physically move about to get the image we desired. There was also a change in perspective because of the mid-range of our lenses.

I have been trying to think of some words that would sum up our experience. Maybe American documentary photographer and author, Elliott Erwitt, got the closest to what I was experiencing when he wrote, “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” Perhaps our exercise wasn’t so much, “an art of observation” as it was an “act of observation”.

Photographing Graffiti in The Tunnel   

Lighting the tunnel

Creek Tunnel

Kast

AWs

Creek tunnel North

There is a little creek that flows into Kamloops, British Columbia via a small waterfall. Petersen Creek is diverted underground for it’s journey through the city until it circulates out and spills into the South Thompson River.

There are several places along its cement banked route where Petersen Creek’s shallow flow is visible to passers-by, but it quickly runs out of sight again when it reaches a city street and is diverted underground.

One would think there isn’t much interest to anyone other than the City Works employees who make sure it isn’t plugged up when there is a larger than normal volume of water coming down from the canyon. However, at the final concrete watercourse everything changes to several block-long tunnels that are 10-12 feet high and just as wide that have gained attention from very creative graffiti artists and, of course, locals that enjoy capturing that creativity with their cameras.

It was there that I climbed down into after parking my car on the street beside the drainage tunnel entrance. I had met a resident photo enthusiast named Shannon who has been smitten with all the graffiti she was seeing on backstreet walls and boxcars that had wandered into the tunnel and she realized that street artists were painting on the walls.

I joined Shannon, and her partner Max, a few weeks ago in the dim tunnels. They and most locals were relying on their camera’s ISO ability, but after ten or fifteen feet the light was gone.

I hadn’t been in those tunnels since I first came to Kamloops back in 1974. At that time I tried going in a bit, but the water was much higher then and other than a few crude messages spray painted at the opening there wasn’t really a reason to slosh into the dark tunnel. However, this time I decided it would be fun to light up more than just one or two paintings.

I returned with four stands with a flash on each and positioned them to cross light the tunnel. Then it was easy to begin by metering the light coming in from the road and balancing the light from each flash to match that.

When I got home it was simple to clone out each flash and use Photoshop’s burn and dodge tool to smooth out the areas where the flash had outlined its light on the floor or where ever there was a different brightness.

I chose to illuminate the street artist’s work as a whole instead of just documenting one section at a time. I know when we see what someone has left on a wall or on a train’s boxcar as it passes by, that we tend to isolate one piece of graffiti art, but as I stepped into the dark winding drainage tunnel I felt more than just a cold breeze and saw more than one bright statement. To me everything – the dark winding tunnel, and the graffiti – was all part of the whole, or one ongoing work of art. And I wanted to photograph that combination of a cold, colourful, wet, chaotic, winding tunnel displaying the work of many artists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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”.