I’m taking the liberty of calling this photo “My Eastern Bluebird,” because I was just complaining to a friend that I have never taken a satisfactory photo of an Eastern Bluebird. I just love the coloring of this elusive bird, which always seems a step ahead of me. In the past, by the time I focus the lens, he is gone.
I knew that I had captured a photo of an Eastern Bluebird, but the small bird was so far away from me, that I wasn’t sure how successful the photo would be. In fact, the background of the sky was just a bright, amorphous glare. Yuk.
As I processed the photo and liked the focus and coloring of the bird, with thanks to my Sony 200-600mm lens, fully extended at 600mm and mounted on a tripod, I went in search of a better sky to create a more harmonious image, and voila…
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 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.
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!)
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.
When I observe birds flying and swimming in formation, I often think of synchronized dancers performing on stage or marching bands, but then I realize that humans are the ones imitating nature. We wear uniforms or dance costumes, so we will look as similar as two birds of the same species, right?
When photographing wildlife, you can’t plan this. You just have to be patient enough to sit and wait, following your subject and continually adjusting your focus. Note: something really cool usually happens after you pack up your tripod and start walking back to the car!
When I set out to shoot Infrared Photography with a modified camera, I usually employ a wide angle lens and look for sunny skies and green foliage that create a strong composition. The direct sun and the strong composition are key.
When I set out to shoot wildlife, I use a regular camera (not modified for infrared light) and a close up lens, so I can capture true color and detail and avoid approaching and disturbing the wildlife. My strategy and my equipment are completely different.
So, today when I was roaming the golf course along the lake with my Infrared camera and wide angle lens, I was surprised to see an Anhinga (large bird) that just happened to contribute interest to my composition. “Hello, and hold that pose!”
I nudged myself to get out in the backyard and experiment with some flower photography today. Summer 2020 should be the summer of experimentation, right? I played with long exposures and spinning the camera while pressing the shutter. My favorite image was this one of my hydrangea plant that preserved the outlines of the leaves.
If you want to try this method, you need to set the camera to manual and dial in a long exposure like a third of a second. To achieve a correct exposure, you will need to stop down the lens (to perhaps f/11 or f/16), and set a low ISO (such as 100). The settings will vary for you based on the available light. Focusing is still important. Once you have achieved a good exposure with shutter speed, aperture and ISO, it’s time to play.
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.
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.
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.
The rising of the Pink Supermoon last week was an ideal occasion to test the sharpness of my new Sony a2rIV camera and the 200-600 mm Sony lens. The reach and exceptional clarity of this high tech team made me a believer!
The most effective way to photograph the night sky is with a DSLR camera in manual mode, mounted on a tripod and exposed for the moon. The purpose of using a 600 mm lens (as opposed to a 200 mm or a 50 mm lens) is that the far distant object, in this case the moon, will appear far larger in your frame. The purpose of expensive, high quality glass (lens) is clarity of its focus. In addition to choosing the appropriate camera and lens, you will also benefit from the know-how to shoot in RAW mode and process in Photoshop, Lightroom and Luminar. I share with you the results of bringing all these methods to bear on our opportunity.
Watching and waiting for this Great White Egret to take off, I was rewarded by this sighting of outstretched white wings. With my Nikon camera shutter set at 1/1000 second, I was prepared to capture this image to share with you.
Since I also set my Nikon D800 on “continuous-high,” I have two more great frames to share. You can help me decide which one is best. I will submit one or two of these photos to the Royal Poinciana Members’ Photography Contest. The submitted photos have to be shot on the property.