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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Black and White photographs feel timeless, don’t they? Looking at a black and white image of a scene from the olden days seems right to me. When we visited Pioneertown near Joshua Tree National Park, I found some old style buildings like this Feed Store. As I stood on the dirt road, I admired the low evening sun shining from the right on this big Joshua Tree and the wood barn.
As I processed this image, I emulated the look of an infared light photograph by darkening the sky. The foliage was naturally bright from the sunlight. A really good black and white image includes a simple and balanced composition, bold shapes and interesting textures. This image checked all the boxes for me.
If you arrive in Pioneertown in the late afternoon as we did, you can enjoy dinner and the unique ambiance of the iconic restaurant Pappy and Harriet’s, but you will need a reservation.
I’m challenging myself with learning a new discipline in photography. The first step is having a digital mirrorless camera converted to capture infared light, and I’m learning about the techniques for capturing and processing these new types of images. But the camera won’t be back in my hands for a few weeks.
In the meantime, I was daydreaming about the places I would love to photograph with the infared camera — like the Florida Everglades and Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. With the limitations on travel during the pandemic, those excursions will come to pass down the road.
The scenery of Joshua Tree is fresh in my mind, since I visited the park in 2018. I decided to process one of my color photographs in black and white, as a first step in my journey to see in black and white. What do you think?