In Southwest Florida, the only kind of rain we get in March is not the wet kind that falls from clouds and waters the plants. No, this time of year it rains yellow blossoms in the breeze.
I associate the perennial blooming of this lovely tree with Spring Break, since we often visited Naples, Florida when my children were on Spring Break in late March. If you take a walk in Naples today, you will see countless numbers of Tabebuia trees in bloom, raining yellow flowers. Are they as numerous as alligators in the Everglades? Well, maybe not, but much prettier.
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.
This unusual cactus made me smile. With arms pointing horizontally north, south, east, west and a few other ways in between, I expected to see place names and distances written. ” It might say, “Miami – 103 miles,” or “Key West – 90 miles,” and “Cancun – 468 miles.”
I guess I’m more accustomed to cacti of other shapes like the saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert or the Cholla “Teddy Bear” Cactus of the high desert in Joshua Tree National Park. Perhaps you know the prickly pear cactus or the barrel cactus from your hikes in the Southwest United States. Say hello to the Florida Semaphore Cactus, or the Consolea Corallicola.
The delicate curve and pattern of this palm branch and its sharp shadow that echoes on the ground drew me over to photograph this patch of ground. I chose to isolate these elements to emphasize the shapes I noticed.
When it came time to process this infrared photograph, I slid the hue for the foliage over to a hot orange. The hot orange against the white shelly gravel spoke to me about the heat of the tropics. It was a hot afternoon in sunny southwest Florida, the perfect time of day for a high contrast infrared capture.
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.
My eyes were drawn to the stripes on these bamboo trunks. These tropical trees are so strong and sturdy, that they are used to make scaffolding in Hong Kong. I remember seeing them when I visited HK in 1998 — just a few years ago!
Every time I visit the Naples Botanical Garden, I notice something new. Do you have a favorite Botanical Garden nearby?
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.
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.
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?
What are your weekend plans? During COVID times, we need to choose an activity that is both safe and restorative. My husband and I are taking walks.
Depending on where you live and what climate you have, you might be walking in the snow, in the city, in the woods, the park or something else. What’s in your neighborhood? In Florida, we are often walking along the edge of a lake. In late afternoon, we find a walk in Nature to be restorative. Along the edge of the lake, we observe the colors and reflections of dusk.