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.

Gratitude in the Garden

Sitting on the ground beside the garden wall, I noticed some purple plants reaching upwards and the pink ones reaching out. In the gap, I noticed the short garden wall. What I had was a squirrel’s eye view.

Taking a moment to look at the garden from a squirrel’s height, I found an intimate spot and a moment for reflection.

While admiring the  flowers’ vibrant colors, I thought about gratitude.

Gratitude for this quiet, peaceful moment,

For my eyesight and my health

For my camera and my photography practice

For nature’s freshness and vitality

For summer.

The Delicate Cleome

This white Cleome stands out so beautifully in Erika’s garden. I love the delicacy of this flower and also how tall, complex and balanced it looks. If someone described me this way, I would be happy.

cleome, flower, summer, white, garden
I love the delicate petals of this white cleome, growing in Sewickley, Pennsylvania.

When I was making this photograph, I looked for a simple background, so the Cleome would take center stage. I think the yellow coneflowers, shown out of focus in the background do a nice job as “best supporting actors.”

Spinning Flowers

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.

#hydrangea, #experiment, #creative,  #july #flowers, #flowerphotography, #nature, #outdoorphotography, #abstract, #spin
Hydrangea blossoms in pink and blue appear slightly abstract in this spinning image, nicely framed by a wreath of vibrant leaves. © Catherine Kelly

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.

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).

Leaf Art in the Tropics

It’s rare for a plant’s leaves to compete with the flowers for eye-catching beauty, but this tropical bromeliad features some very cool leaves. They look like someone hand-painted them.

#bromeliad, #sonyalpha, #luminar, #phipps, #phippsconservatory, #pittsburgh, #leaves, #art, #color, #design #flower, #nature, #photography, #skylum
This Bromeliad bloom is eye-catching with its bright colored pointed petals, but these leaves are unique. Find this tropical beauty at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh PA. © Catherine Kelly

Stripes and Polka Dots

Would you pair a striped blouse with polka dot pants? It’s not really my style. Can you think of a plant or animal that pairs stripes and polka dots together? That’s right: mix a zebra with a leopard!

This orchid has a unique fashion sense, and she reminds me of a spider. What do you think of her bold design?

#orchid, #stripes, #striped, #bold, #diversity, #phipps, #phippsconservatory, #pittsburgh, #thingstodo, #flower, #nature, #photography, #sonyalpha
This unique orchid can be found at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh PA. ©Catherine Kelly

Picking Up the Camera Again

Staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic knocked me off my constructive and creative track with wildlife and nature photography. I found myself absorbed with cooking, cleaning, gardening and pondering the uncertainties of when restrictions will be lifted. Seriously, how long can this go on? All of us have had the rhythms of our daily lives disrupted, yes?

I knew that if I could get myself to pick up a camera and begin exploring nature in my own backyard, so to speak, that I would begin to feel like myself again. I ventured out to the newly reopened Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh (masked and careful), and indeed the magic reappeared. My vision and my technical skills are intact! Here is the first image I captured.

#vine, #nature, #meaning, #contrast, #why, #pink, #pinkandgreen, #phipps, #depthoffield, #focus, #photography, #sony, #sonyalpha
Can you feel the tug of Nature’s work in sharp focus, standing out before Man’s work, the Conservatory building? Yet, I believe the two elements harmonize. I see the vine as fresh, delicate, independent and strong. I made a deliberate effort to show only the vine in focus by using a wide open aperture with a short depth of field.

Dawn’s Early Light

While we are staying “safer at home,” I’m looking through the images I captured in February and uncovering a few hidden gems. I have found new examples of why it really pays off to wake up in the dark and get on location as the sun rises. The reflections on the lake makes this egret look regal.

#greategret, #reflection, #lake, #light, #morninglight, #earlybird, #fishing, #color, #dawn, #florida, #naplesflorida
Great White Egret catches a tiny fish while dawn’s early lights paints the lake with color.

This image is similar to one I blogged about in February, but it’s different with the fish in the egret’s bill. Here is another frame from moments later.

#greategret, #ripples, #lake, #water, #fishing, #reflection, #color, #dawn, #morninglight, #florida, #birds, #egret, #wildlife
Walking about in the shallows and dunking its head, this Great Egret makes circular ripples in the lake.