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?
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:
You know the age-old question: what came first, the chicken or the egg? You can’t have one without the other, right? In the same vein, I ask you, “What is this photograph about, the swimmer or the water? Without the water, we wouldn’t have a swimmer, and yet the swimmer adds action and purpose to the image. I could argue that the water has the strongest visual interest. But the water without the swimmer might not be eye-catching or meaningful.
So do you think this image is more about the swimmer or the water?
I hope you are enjoying the rest of your summer.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.