The Magical Conservatory

Getting out to photograph nature in 2020 has been challenging. I’ve become better acquainted with the parks near my home than ever before, but last week was different. My husband and I drove to New York City for a family visit. Seeing the family after a long wait was terrific, but it was also fun to visit the New York Botanical Garden and within it, the tropical plants in the beautiful Enid Haupt Conservatory.

Walking through the Haupt Conservatory, we were surrounded by ferns, palm trees, an assortment of cacti and lots of unfamiliar and varied green plants. Since it wasn’t crowded at all, we could take our time, and I could take photos!

Sunshine streamed through the windows at high noon, so conditions were perfect for Infrared Photography — my new creative pursuit. With a Sony a6300 camera converted to see only Infrared light and part of the visible light spectrum, only above 590 nanometers, I captured a dozen or so images. It was fun to have a fresh subject to shoot, and some new infrared images to process.

Here is one of my Conservatory images of (visibly green) foliage looking quite different in infrared.

Banana trees in the New York Botanical Garden #NYBG, captured in Infrared and High Spectrum (greater than 590 nm) of visible light. Processed in Capture One, Photoshop and Color Efex Pro.

Learning New Methods

What did you learn today? Whether your field is medicine or teaching or child rearing, I’m sure you learn something new every day. Right now I’m using these few months close to home to learn lots about processing infrared photographs. I’m finding Infrared Photography an interesting creative outlet.

After having a Sony camera converted to capture only Infrared and “SuperColor” light (over 580 nanometers), I learned how to White Balance, Channel Swap, and adjust the hue, saturation and tonality of the color captured. That may be a lot of meaningless jargon to you, but the message is this: it is all quite technical and detailed, but the tools, once mastered, are fun to play with!

Today’s share is a photograph I shot outside the Conservatory of the New York Botanical Garden on October 3. I chose the sharpen the foreground plants while fogging and softening the background. I also chose to feature the golden color we love in the Fall against the deep blue sky. All of these choices are creative ones; I like that this image is uniquely mine.

Photography

Fern in Infrared Light

Walking the neighborhood on a perfect autumn afternoon, I spotted ferns leaning over an old split-rail fence. The fern was fresh, while the wood was rotting. How would this scene appear in an infrared image?

In this infrared image, green foliage appears white, and the rotting wood took on a blue hue. Do you like the contrasting textures and colors? We are looking at Nature through a new lens.

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.

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.