Lightning at the Grand Canyon

My first attempts to capture lightning in a photograph have met with success, thanks to some spectacular storms firing across the Canyon from my vantage point, and a sophisticated device that triggers my camera shutter in time to capture it.

It was after sunset last night, and the canyon below us was getting quite dark. Check out these lightning forks.

Lightning at the Grand Canyon, seen from Hopi Point after sunset.
Lightning pierces storm cloud at the Grand Canyon, west of Hopi Point after sunset.

Cape Cod Memories

Back in the good old days, we rented a cottage on Cape Cod near this salt marsh. In those days, we biked the trails and spent our days on the beach and some evenings at the drive-in movie theatre. Returning to this land of great memories last week, I focused on a new aspect of the area — the quiet salt marsh at sunset.

In this stage of my life, I have devoted my time to landscape photography, and I’ve become intrigued with the artistic possibilities of Infrared photography. I drove past this marsh earlier in the day, only to be drawn back for a second look before the sun set.

blackandwhite, landscape photography
Salt Marsh in Eastham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts at sunset, an Infrared Super Color photograph by Cathy Kelly. Prints available upon request.

Everglades in Infrared

Processing a digital infrared image requires experimentation. Once the image has been captured, it can be rendered in many different ways. I adjust the hue, saturation and lightness of each color one at a time and make several other technical changes — like channel swapping, levels and curve adjustments. Let’s just say that processing is a lot like cooking. The chef adjusts according to taste.

Everglades
A colorful and unrealistic infrared photograph from Shark Valley, Everglades National Park.
Everglades
Infrared photograph rendered in black and white, depicting wind in the Everglades.

Why Infrared Photography Works in Florida

Green foliage, blue skies and bright sunlight are daily staples in southwest Florida, and all three of these elements combine to make strong infrared photographs. While the look of the final image and final print will vary with your processing style, green foliage can read as white, blue skies will go dark, and bright sunlight produces high contrast. If you like black and white prints, these qualities of an infrared photo will deliver greater contrast and drama than traditional film or digital photography.

Here is a recent infrared photograph that I captured at the Naples Botanical Garden on a sunny afternoon and processed to black and white, achieving the contrast I strive for.

Sunlit palms at Naples Botanical Garden, an infrared photograph by Cathy Kelly. Prints available.

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.

Feels like Charleston

A second floor sleeping porch, the perfect place to catch a breeze on a hot, muggy night might remind you of houses in Charleston or Savannah or New Orleans. But this picturesque home is found in Sewickley, Pennsylvania where I live.

Painted white with black shutters and shrouded with green trees, it seemed like a good subject for infrared photography — a medium that shows green foliage as white.

Infared photography shows foliage as white and skies black.
Infared photography can be processed many ways, but one way shows green foliage as white and skies as dark or black on a sunny afternoon.

I have just started this week experimenting with Infared photography, having bought a Sony 6300 camera and having sent it to LifePixel to have it converted to “Super color” Infared. Stay tuned to this blog for more interesting results.

How to Improve Your Photography

Looking through my archives for color photographs that would make a satisfying black and white image made me realize that “seeing in black and white” will make me a better photographer. Any consistently successful photographer will pre-visualize the image before image capture. For starters, one evaluates dynamic range, depth of field, light quality, composition, timing of the action and whether the subject is meaningful.

To choose a good subject for black and white photography there are more factors to evaluate: tonal range and contrast, simplicity, shape, texture, interest. I like my black and white images to be strong. The image has to be eye catching and hold the viewer’s interest without the help of color. I admit, I’m a photographer who loves color, so this challenge is fun for me!

This photograph of a mother Bison and her calf grazing on top of the hillside made the cut for a color to black and white candidate. In my judgement, it has simplicity, large repeating shapes, texture in the fur, wide tonal range and plenty of interest — from the unusual wildlife sighting to the eye contact and tongue in mid-air.

#bison, #motherandcalf, #buffalo, #gtnp, #grandteton, #wyoming, #jacksonhole, #givethemdistance, #safedistance, #wildlifephotography, #wildlife, #photography, #nature, #blackandwhite, #sonyalpha, #nik, #silverefexpro
Mother and calf bison grazing in Grand Teton National Park (shot from a safe distance inside a car with a 600mm lens).

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.

Back to School at Hogwarts

It’s early September, and school starts a new academic year. Does your school look like Hogwarts? This sunlit cloister of Durham Cathedral in England looks a lot like Hogwarts, Harry Potter’s school, because parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed here.

#durham, #durhamcathedral, #cloister, #harrypotter, #movie, #harrypottermovie, #school, #september, #sepia, #blackandwhite, #bw, #shadows, #architecture
Durham Cathedral’s Cloister was the perfect setting for Harry Potter’s school Hogwarts in the movies.

Rendered here in a sepia-toned, black and white photograph, we can appreciate the sunlight and shadows of the Norman architecture. I recall similar architecture at the University of Sydney in Australia.

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge

Next week, I’ll be back in the Big Apple, and I’m looking forward to seeing New York’s iconic sights again. Looking back at the images I have made in past years, I came across this 2013 black and white photograph that celebrates the geometry of the Brooklyn Bridge.

#brooklynbridge, #newyorkcity, #thingstodo, #visitNYC, #newyork, #flag, #bridge, #NYC, #nikon, #blackandwhite, #bw
While walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, I looked up and noticed the patterns made by the cables.

This style is a departure from the vibrant sunsets and colorful birds I have been shooting in Florida, but this subject begs for black-and-white interpretation with its emphasis on pattern.

Next week, I’ll wander no farther than Central Park with my young grandchildren, newborn and not yet 2. But Central Park in the Spring is something special. Stay tuned!