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.

Edelweiss then, orchids today

Christopher Plummer, the iconic actor who played Captain von Trapp in “The Sound of Music,” celebrated the simple goodness of an Alpine flower in his touching song, “Edelweiss.” (Sadly, CP died this week at age 91, but he left us gifts that will live on for generations.) In ” The Sound of Music,” the purity of a loving marriage, a close family, a father singing to his children and a tiny wildflower stand in contrast to the rigid, militaristic, powerful, cruel, violent and murderous culture of Nazi Germany.

Direct sunlight on this outdoor orchid at Naples Botanical Garden threw the background in shadow for a dramatic photograph, staged by Nature.

Sometimes I wonder if we have learned from history, or if we are doomed to repeat it. Take a moment to look at these sunlit orchids, and to think about what is good.

Finding Roots in England

Looking back at travel photos from past trips, I ask myself why a certain image resonates for me. I’m drawn to this midsummer scene in bucolic England, in a photograph taken on July 4, 2018. First, compositional elements are pleasing: the bright reflection on the Wear River brings the eye directly to the rowing crew in their boat, and the bridge in the background gives the boat implied direction through the image. Second, the greenery and still water on an ideal summer’s day, lends feelings of tranquility, perhaps even memories of a simpler time and an escape from society’s turmoil. Third, happy memories of an overseas trip seem even sweeter during this time when travel is forbidden.

#crew, #england, #wear, #riverwear, #wearriver, #durham, #durhamuniversity, #crew team, #rowing, #bucolic, #durham, #UK, #travelphotography, #why, #roots, #georgetownuniversity, #family, #memories, #pride
Rowers on the River Wear in Durham England, July 4, 2018. This scene inspires reflections on the long tradition of crew teams, in USA and England.

But, I realize there is more meaning behind my positive feelings for this image. Sixteen years ago my daughter rowed crew for Georgetown University. I watched her crew team on the Potomac River in Washington DC, and I’m proud of her many achievements. While I saw a flashback of my daughter in this scene, I also saw her place in a long history of rowing that goes back many years and across the ocean to the U.K. In this moment, I had crossed the ocean to a foreign country, but I felt like I had stumbled upon my family roots.

I believe it is true that as a photographer I will capture an image that instantaneously appeals to me, but further reflection reveals more meaning. I’m sure you can think of images that resonate for you.

Creative Processing

When travel restrictions keep a photographer at home for months at a stretch, it’s a perfect time to exercise one’s creativity with new ways to process images in the archives. On this sunny day in June, I pulled up one of my favorite images of 2020: my daughter and son-in-law on a dog sled in Wyoming with a stunning background.

I was so happy that my dogsled, traveling just behind Courtney’s sled stopped in an opportune spot for me to frame her sled before tall pines, snow-capped mountains and a happy sky, blue with puffy clouds. And for just one second, Courtney and her husband Scott looked up at me and smiled. The triangular composition gives the scene balance and also offsets the white dogs.

#jackson, #jacksonhole, #thingstodo, #winter, #winterfun, #dogsled, #topaz, #adobe, #sonyalpha, #stayathome, #processing, #photography, #family, #creativity
Processed in Photoshop and Topaz Simplify, this photograph gained a painterly effect. I believe that the viewer can more easily place themselves in the scene when the faces are modified. I hope you agree that this image is more than just a family photo now.

Our winter adventures in Jackson Hole will give us some interesting options for holiday cards this year, and maybe a 2021 calendar. I’m sure your photographs from your family trips bring you joy at this time.

Finding Reflections in Sedona

If you can find a reflection of your main subject in a landscape photograph, you will create a unique image that will hold the viewer’s attention even longer. Sometimes, you need to be a bit creative to find those reflections as big lakes don’t appear on command. When I noticed a few puddles in the red rock flats of Red Rock Crossing, I lined myself up to see if I could see a reflection. What I found was quite an interesting foreground.

While this puddle only captured a portion of Cathedral Rock, I liked the pattern formed by the red rocks in the foreground as well as the leading line (left to center) that links the red rock plateau with the trees.

A good foreground and middle ground leading to the focal point of the image leads the eye through the image and allows the whole image to work together for a pleasing visual experience. The soft side lighting of sunset also enhances the tranquility of the image.

I hope this scene inspires you to visit Sedona and explore the many trails and viewpoints. Sedona is just 90 minutes’ drive north of the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. Keep an eye on this online gallery for more of my unique Sedona landscapes. Prints of many different sizes can be ordered online.

California Vineyard

On a summer trip to San Diego, I made a day trip to the Callaway Vineyard in Temecula, California. This view of the undulating hills and the distant mountains caught my eye, and I made this photograph.

I was attracted to the simple shapes in this composition, and the way the brown/green diagonal dividing line broke up the horizontal bands. Temecula, California.

I brought home a delicious sparkling rose wine with strong hints of peach and a Cabernet Sauvignon. I was impressed by several wines I tasted. I hope you enjoy the view in the photo until you can get there yourself.

Ballet in the Desert

Whenever the shapes of Nature remind me of ballet, I have to stop and take a picture. This Joshua Tree seems to be arcing a curved arm overhead in a graceful reach to frame the desert.

A single leaning Joshua Tree frames the desert scene on a sunny day in May, 2019.

When you are visiting from the East Coast, you don’t normally think of rattlesnakes and jumping cacti (the cholla or teddy bear cactus), but I was watching my step too.

The Ghost Tulip

“Ghost Tulip” is my own affectionate name for this unique tulip that reminds me of the Ghost Orchid, the elusive tropical orchid that blooms in Florida in mid-summer. Seasonal Florida residents can’t catch a glimpse of the ghost orchid, since they have months ago fled to northern climes.

The Ghost Tulip stands out brilliantly from its green leaves and earthy roots. Find it at the Spring Flower Show, Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh.

My good friend Sharon was patient with me as I composed, focused and captured 64 photographs at the Phipps Conservatory Spring Flower Show. I shared with her my thoughts on photographing flowers.

“I’m mainly concerned with finding good compositions here. The background must be simple yet show some depth. If I choose a single flower to dominate the composition, it’s helpful to have a second flower play best supporting actor, to echo the main actor, but play a secondary role, as in this composition,” I added.

Later, “I mentioned that a star pattern is always a good thing, as is an S curve or a diagonal.”

“Why?” she asked. “Ha, ha, good question,” was my reply.

Secret of the Aspens

The shimmering golden aspens of the Rocky Mountains are known for their white trunks and brilliant fall color, but did you know their biological secret? Clumps of aspen trees are actually clones of each other. Yes! They share the same DNA.

The National Forest Foundation explains it this way:

One aspen tree is actually only a small part of a larger organism. A stand or group of aspen trees is considered a singular organism with the main life force underground in the extensive root system.”

#aspens, #aspen, #trees, #vertical, #trunks, #whitetrunks, #forest, #clone, #yellow, #fallcolor, #pattern
Stands of golden aspen trees flourish in Grand Teton National Park. September, 2018.

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Morning Moon in Jackson Hole

I can hear these words echo in my mind, “The Moon carries tremendous visual weight.” My photography mentors remind me to consider this when I compose a frame with the moon. I am listening. The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the moon. To create balance in the composition, the other side of the frame needs some “weight.” ┬áThat’s where the Grand Teton comes in, the high peak on the right.

#moon, #grandtetons, #grandtetonnationalpark, #schwabacherlanding, #fallcolor, #fall, #landscape, #landscapephotography, #jacksonhole, #wyoming, #mountains, #snakeriver, #trees, #yellowandblue
While the lodgepole pine directs they eye to the full moon, the Grand Teton range cuts a jagged line in the morning sky.

This image also features a contrast of cool and warm tones. The blue and grey in the sky and mountaintops contrast the warmly lit fall color in the trees and grasses in the valley. Good morning, Jackson Hole! I’m enjoying a deep breath of your fresh air and cool Fall temperatures. It’s time for a warm cup of coffee.