Great Pose for a Heron

This Great Blue Heron stretched its sinuous neck to look around from its perch high in the mangrove, giving us a great view of its ventral feathers. The heron’s body formed a pleasing serpentine curve. Lucky for me, the sun was behind me and perfect on the heron and the sky.

Looking up at a Great Blue Heron at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge in the Everglades, Florida, March 2021.

The Early Bird

What they say is true. The early bird gets the best light. (Maybe the worm too.). Patches of golden light filtered through the trees and lit this Great Blue Heron standing erect in the marsh. An hour later this soft, golden light was just a memory, or in this case, a photograph.

Admire the delicacy of this Great Blue Heron’s feathers as it stands tall and elegant in this serene setting at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Preserve at sunrise.

Lasting signs of Irma

Hurricane Irma lashed Naples Florida in early September 2017, stripping and uprooting trees, knocking out power and damaging homes. Three and a half years later, the year-round tropical growing season has filled in the gaps and erased most signs of Irma’s destruction. The landscape looks lush and green again.

This mangrove preserve in Pelican Bay still tells the story of Irma, when she stripped the trees bare of leaves close to the Gulf coast. This infrared photograph shows some of those bare tree trunks along the boardwalk that leads to the beach.

Like bony fingers, the bare mangrove tree trunks tell the story of Hurricane Irma’s forceful winds in September 2017. Infrared photograph in Pelican Bay, Florida in February 2021.

Gator on the Move

I made a sunrise trip to Ten Thousand Islands near the Florida Everglades hoping to see roseate spoonbills, but instead got a good look at a very large alligator. He was old, long and big bellied, yet still looking for his next meal. As he swam parallel to the shore, I followed him down the trail for about 15 minutes, getting a good look at him at each clearing. He was looking at me, while I was looking at him (her). Do you see the sunrise reflecting in his eye?

With my Sony 200-600 mm lens, I could stay at a safe distance, but get a close look at this gator’s face. Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Southwest Florida, February 2021.

To give you an idea of the length of this alligator, here is a second photo showing its length. As he cruised the marsh, pelicans, cormorants, anhinga, and a variety of herons flew off to safety.

Some shoreline grasses blocked my view of this 10-foot alligator, but I didn’t want to approach this dangerous creature, as they can move very fast when they attack. Here, he seemed to be crawling on a sandbar.

Driftwood in Infrared

This driftwood stump caught my eye while I was walking the beach, as I noticed grasses growing out of the center. The scene spoke to me of both the passage of time and the regeneration of life, naturally occurring. Looking it over, I saw a simple composition that would be interesting to photograph with my Infrared camera.

Grasses growing out of an old tree stump on the beach in Naples, Florida. Infrared Photograph processed to grayscale and ochre with high contrast in the sky, creative choices of the artist.

Do you find this image both peaceful and intriguing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Cactus or Street Sign?

This unusual cactus made me smile. With arms pointing horizontally north, south, east, west and a few other ways in between, I expected to see place names and distances written. ” It might say, “Miami – 103 miles,” or “Key West – 90 miles,” and “Cancun – 468 miles.”

Cactus at Naples Botanical Garden that resembles a multidirectional street sign. In fact, it is a rare Florida Semaphore cactus, because it resembles the semaphore signals of a railroad crossing.

I guess I’m more accustomed to cacti of other shapes like the saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert or the Cholla “Teddy Bear” Cactus of the high desert in Joshua Tree National Park. Perhaps you know the prickly pear cactus or the barrel cactus from your hikes in the Southwest United States. Say hello to the Florida Semaphore Cactus, or the Consolea Corallicola.

Color Me Orange

The delicate curve and pattern of this palm branch and its sharp shadow that echoes on the ground drew me over to photograph this patch of ground. I chose to isolate these elements to emphasize the shapes I noticed.

Infrared photograph of a palmetto branch and its shadow at Naples Botanical Garden in southwest Florida. Infrared enables the use of high contrast and a single hue that stands out against black and white for an artistic interpretation of the scene.

When it came time to process this infrared photograph, I slid the hue for the foliage over to a hot orange. The hot orange against the white shelly gravel spoke to me about the heat of the tropics. It was a hot afternoon in sunny southwest Florida, the perfect time of day for a high contrast infrared capture.

Blue Sky, White Jungle

Does a blue sky automatically lift your spirits? Do you feel more energetic and happy on sunny days? I do!

One of the cool features of “Super Color” Infrared Photography is the way you can combine a bright blue sky with a black and white image. The black/white portion of your image can emphasize texture and shape and feel a bit timeless, while a blue sky paints in the happiness.

As you step into this Tropical Jungle, you wade through long, thick grasses, but your sights are lifted to the palm tree silhouette in the distance. Naples Botanical Garden in Infrared Photography by Cathy Kelly, February 2021.

As you look at this photograph more closely, you will notice that the black/white jungle isn’t like a typical black and white photo. The foliage is white! This Sony camera captures infrared light, and one way to process the image is to convert the foliage to white. The result is kind of surreal, but I like it!

For best results, take your infrared photographs on a bright sunny day and make sure your subject is in the sun, not the shade.

An Infrared Book Idea

Infrared photography can really open your eyes and unleash your inner artist. There are so many ways to process an image that captures visible and invisible light above 590 nanometers, that the creative possibilities for rendering a simple scene can be inspiring. Let me explain.

When I go out to shoot Infrared photos, I look for simple compositions (less is more) with interesting shapes, strong contrast and often, a sky. For example, a an image that includes sunlit foliage against the sky will be high contrast. Walking around your familiar environment, you can find these elements. (A perfect COVID-safe activity!)

Sunlit palm tree against a clear sky at the Naples Botanical Garden, February 2021. My high-contrast black-and-white Infrared photographs are the most popular images, since black-and -white photography is fully accepted and widely appreciated. This image makes a dramatic large print.

When you begin to process at the computer, the fun begins. Using some special techniques, you can render the image in black and white, or blue and white, or blue and yellow, or blue and pink, for example. The possibilities are not exactly endless, as they are derived from manipulation of the red and cyan color channels, but there is lots of space for experimentation and expression of personal taste.

The body of work I have created with Infrared photography and creative processing at the Naples Botanical Garden gave me the idea of putting together a book that includes a variety of processing applications. When I share a single print, I get mixed reactions from people who don’t know what to make of this imaging style. I find myself explaining that black and white photography is “not reality,” but it is revered, and has been a part of our art culture for a hundred years. And consider this: fine art painters take liberties with colors, making choices express feelings and moods, rather than literal “photographic” reproduction. In contemporary art, painters have been freed from even a literal rendering of form when they paint in the abstract, right?

I find that most people don’t understand Infrared Photography, as it is uncommon. I am proud to be an Infrared pioneer, and I hope you will join me and enjoy it.

Bamboo Grove

My eyes were drawn to the stripes on these bamboo trunks. These tropical trees are so strong and sturdy, that they are used to make scaffolding in Hong Kong. I remember seeing them when I visited HK in 1998 — just a few years ago!

This photograph shows the striped trunks of bamboo at the Naples Botanical Garden, February 2021. Shot with Sony a7rIV, processed in Photoshop and Luminar 4.

Every time I visit the Naples Botanical Garden, I notice something new. Do you have a favorite Botanical Garden nearby?