Can You See in the Dark?

As an artist, I’m inspired to experiment. And so on a sunny afternoon in South Florida, I captured this infrared photograph in a pine forest.

This Infrared photograph, made on a sunny afternoon, simulates a nighttime walk in the woods. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, east of Naples Florida, 2021. (Copyright Cathy Kelly.)

Infrared photography is a ripe medium for experimentation, as I find so many choices are available in processing. Shall I go black/white, blue/white, cyan/orange? To fully embrace infrared photography, which only captures invisible light above the red spectrum, you need to let go of reality as your eye defines it. Then, you are free to see the world in a brand new way.

To see more infrared photography and order a print, please visit my website at www.cathykellyphotography.com.

Beauty in the Swamp

On first impression, the swamp is chaotic. With its high canopy, most of the scene is dark with shadow. The day’s bright sunlight barely filtering through. Large tree trunks, felled by past storms lie at random angles and decay. Walking the boardwalk, I look down into the murky water for alligators, frogs and snakes. I hear a variety of bird calls, but looking around and above me, I cannot spot the birds.

I walk and observe my surroundings for more than an hour. My vision is drawn to the ferns, which spring from the decaying tree trunks and at times fill in a section of the swamp. I see the color, the pattern and the contrast of a narrow trunk, speckled with lichen. I have found a composition. As I work with the image later, I developed a painting. What do you think?

My photograph of the bed of ferns in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary became a painted image, using Topaz Simplify software. Available as a print by request.

For more information on a print, contact cathykellyphotography@gmail.com. Your feedback is always welcome, too.

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.

The Path Across the Pond

As a photographer, I’m always attracted to a scene that shows a path, because my mind questions, “Where will this path lead?” In this infrared photograph, the scene looks quite mysterious. A line of stepping stones provide a solitary path across a dark pond to a tiny Asian temple.

I feel a celebration of sunshine in the golden foliage and deep blue sky. The deliberate path to the little shrine is an invitation to personal meditation. How does this image speak to you?

Infrared photography shows stepping stones to a tiny temple in the Asian garden of the Naples Botanical Garden, February 2021.

Creative Possibilities

Having converted a Sony mirrorless camera (a6300) to “Infared and SuperColor,” I’m now learning how to process these odd images. When you capture an image with infared light and visible light only 590 nanometers and up, you get some unique color effects, so you need to adjust white balance, swap blue and red, set white and black points, adjust the tonality of each color and adjust hue and saturation. While that sounds like a ridiculous amount of work, the process becomes interesting because you learn about what each individual color (red, green and blue) is doing and how each individual color looks as it interacts with the others.

While you may or may not find that color study interesting, you will probably like the creative possibilities in the different results one can achieve. Here are some examples:

greyscale infared photograph
This image is essentially black and white with a blue filter applied. Processed in Lightroom, Photoshop and Nik’s Silver Efex Pro. Infared is known for giving you the raw material for a high contrast greyscale image.
Infared photograph
I like the effect of showing the foliage as white while rendering the sky in a deep blue hue. I find it ethereal.
Infared photograph
Since I like images that are somewhat realistic, and I love Fall color, I also like to render the foliage as yellow or golden, while maintaining the sky an attractive shade of blue. I could render the foliage as light pink or magenta, but that’s not my style.

The Swimmer or the Water?

You know the age-old question: what came first, the chicken or the egg? You can’t have one without the other, right? In the same vein, I ask you, “What is this photograph about, the swimmer or the water? Without the water, we wouldn’t have a swimmer, and yet the swimmer adds action and purpose to the image. I could argue that the water has the strongest visual interest. But the water without the swimmer might not be eye-catching or meaningful.

This infrared photograph processed as a cyanotype stops action of a girl swimming in a pool. The monochrome nature of this infrared photograph allows us to really focus on the water’s texture.

So do you think this image is more about the swimmer or the water?

I hope you are enjoying the rest of your summer.

Thinking in Black and White

I’m challenging myself with learning a new discipline in photography. The first step is having a digital mirrorless camera converted to capture infared light, and I’m learning about the techniques for capturing and processing these new types of images. But the camera won’t be back in my hands for a few weeks.

In the meantime, I was daydreaming about the places I would love to photograph with the infared camera — like the Florida Everglades and Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. With the limitations on travel during the pandemic, those excursions will come to pass down the road.

The scenery of Joshua Tree is fresh in my mind, since I visited the park in 2018. I decided to process one of my color photographs in black and white, as a first step in my journey to see in black and white. What do you think?

#joshuatree, #jtnp, #joshuatreenationalpark, #blackandwhite, #silverefexpro, #nik, #nikon, #shapes, #texture, #contrast, #california, #landscape, #photography, #nature, #desert, #adobe
I love the bold silhouettes as well as the textures in the Joshua Trees found in the high desert of California. A monochrome image makes the image more about shapes, textures and contrast, as it subtracts color. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw and Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.

Leaf Art in the Tropics

It’s rare for a plant’s leaves to compete with the flowers for eye-catching beauty, but this tropical bromeliad features some very cool leaves. They look like someone hand-painted them.

#bromeliad, #sonyalpha, #luminar, #phipps, #phippsconservatory, #pittsburgh, #leaves, #art, #color, #design #flower, #nature, #photography, #skylum
This Bromeliad bloom is eye-catching with its bright colored pointed petals, but these leaves are unique. Find this tropical beauty at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh PA. © Catherine Kelly

Creativity in Isolation

Are you finding ways to exercise your creativity during Isolation? I hope I can inspire you to play a little. Of course, first things come first: we pray, we clean, we prepare meals, we help our neighbors, we work remotely, we stay in touch over the Internet, we catch up on our sleep, we read, we exercise and then we do it all over again.

But for the first time in a long time, the rat race has paused. You can actually be patient when driving a car. You can smile and say hello to strangers you pass outside. You can reflect about life and how to live a better life when normalcy returns. And you now have time to be creative. It’s okay to amuse yourself — draw, write, cook — whatever pursuit suits you.

I have been experimenting with my Lensball, which I ordered in December, but have been too busy doing everything else until now. It is a carefully manufactured and polished spherical prism. When you take a photo of it, the image you see is reflected on the back and then the front of the sphere and it appears upside down. Don’t let this stop you. You can always invert the image in photo editing software if you need to. There are endless creative possibilities. (You just have to be very careful to keep the lens ball out of strong direct sunlight, as it heats up in about 2 seconds and can burn your fingers!) You can guess how I discovered this outdoors in southwest Florida.

#lensball, #beach, #sunset, #upsidedown, #prism, #sphere, #sand, #experiment, #play, #isolation, #creativit, #creative, #skylum, #luminar
I took my Lensball to the beach just before sunset to experiment with some images. I use my iPhone 11 Pro Max, because it is complicated enough to position the lens ball and get down on my knees in the sand, and then get up and wipe the sand off myself and the Lensball!
#Lensball, #palms, #experiment, #shoptwithiphone, #nature, #isolation, #howto, #creative, #creativity, #blueandgreen, #bluesky
While supporting the Lensball with a glass vase, I shot this photo with my iPhone 11 pro max out my bedroom window. You can see the lines of the screen as well as the palm tree and lawn and lake. I think it’s cool that the background is larger and out of focus.

Sedona: Cathedral Rock

A good photograph of Cathedral Rock reflected in Oak Creek was the “money shot” for me during a recent visit to Sedona. I had to select a day with good weather, find the location, get there close to sunset, carry the tripod and convince my husband this was a good idea. I’m not sure which part was the hardest, but I got several different shots, which I am pleased to share with you.

#cathedralrock, #redrock, #sedona, #reflection, #redrockcrossing, #oakcreek
I found this location to view Cathedral Rock at Red Rock Crossing just before it closed at 5pm.