Thursday, July 24, 2008

Infrared Hiatus--Last Shots

These were taken at the marina on the bay in downtown Corpus Christi Texas.

It was the last time I shot IR, and because my F717 is disfunctional they will be the last IR photos from me for a long time.
Repairs will have to wait until I pay-off a new camera, and IR isn't important enough to me to do things the other way around.

See you later...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mission Espada

Three views of the little church at Mission Espada:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mission San Juan

Three views from the grounds of Mission San Juan.
The sky was different in every direction, so to make the most of the stormy side and get a cohesive look to all photos I chose infrared.

IR filter plus two ND4s was the recipe for exposures at 1/40-1/60, and my monopod of course.

We only had half an hour to circle the area so we could also hit Mission Espada before it closed.

As always, what takes the most time for me is not "seeing" the shots I want and setting-up; it's waiting for the other visitors to take their photos and get out of my frame.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Walker Ranch Park

I'm trying to shoot new IRs whenever possible, and finally got some that I like well enough to post.

Walker Ranch Park is one of my favorites--the footbridge zigs and then zags across Salado Creek. For as many as twenty thousand years before the Walker clan settled here Native Americans made this area their home.
(I know one of the Walkers--they're doing okay in these modern times).

This one is my favorite but the rest of the world prefers #2, which is a little too my usual style. I guess the way I naturally shoot is more popular than my attempts to break away.

I have been looking at other people's IR work lately trying to find a way to convince myself that I like false-color.
Still no luck--I just don't enjoy most of it even with compelling subjects that are well-shot.
The colors just seem so random to me.
This isn't meant to slam those who enjoy it. We all are free to shoot what we want, how we want.
I'm just saying that I enjoy black and white, and by shooting mine in infrared I have finally found a way to make digital black and white work for me.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

IR Sales

As previously mentioned, during my first gallery show last September I sold a print of Mission San Jose. I also gave one to a friend of mine for his birthday, and they are both displayed proudly in their new homes.

Last Friday at my third gallery show I sold both the abandoned power plant shown above and the wild cloud behind Incarnate Word seen below.
IR is therefore accounting for 30 percent of my print sales, so I really should spend more time working at it.

Monday, April 7, 2008

January Went Rather Well

It was a crisp and cool winter day in San Antonio.
Light breezes and sunshine, low humidity and temps in the mid-50s.
Pretty typical for January around here, including the crazy clouds.
I had noticed them while still downtown, and driving north on Broadway I was scanning the catalog of past locations in my mind trying to come up with the right subject to put in front of them.
But nothing was coming to me--I needed tall and majestic and inspiring and couldn't recall anything in the area. My fear was that the upper-level winds that created the cloud shapes would also dissipate them before I got my act together.
I had a few minutes at best.

Driving through the Hildebrand intersection I suddenly saw the scene I wanted, and knew it would be perfect.
I was passing the University Of The Incarnate Word and the tallest building had exactly the look I saw in my mind's eye, in exactly the right position relative to the clouds and sun. It didn't come up in my mental search because I have never shot anything here before.
A quick, safe and legal U-Turn later and I was in a parking lot screwing IR and ND filters onto my Sony F717's lens.
Test exposures told me how much light filtration would be needed so I was quickly in a good place exposure-wise. Even with all of my filters the bright sun on a dry day was almost too much.
Now to find the right composition. Starting close to the building, my first shots were imposing and a little scary. I moved the car to another parking lot so I could get something with a more friendly spirit.

Being further away allowed me to set my zoom lens in the middle of it's range for minimal distortion and maximum detail of both the tower and the cloud.
I was at either 1/50 or 1/60 shutter and shot handheld.
Didn't have my monopod with me, but as it turned out almost every exposure was sharp enough.

Extracting a 'best' result from the original image file in this case took at least four attempts, and even with all that work there is still a small blown-out area in the clouds on the print.
At my art gallery show in March many people were stopped in their tracks by it, and it ranks as my #1 favorite infrared photo.

It's hard to top a success like this, and once the prevailing IR-friendly weather changed and other photographic interests took priority, I stopped trying.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Monolithic Building

Taken on the same day as the previous two photos and from nearly the same spot as the trees/river shot.
One of the abandoned buildings on the contaminated Big Tex Grain Co. site that will be turned into condos once the EPA gets done whining and fining about asbestos contamination.

The clouds that day worked really well for me in IR again.
Because of the way I shot this it fooled many people into thinking the building was orders of magnitude larger--in reality it's a corrugated sheet metal barn-like structure that's maybe 12-15 feet tall.

But that corrugation was a nightmare to deal with when re-sizing in PhotoShop.
Diagonal lines present special problems when dealing with the blocks/pixels of digital images.
In this case there was no way to re-size the photo for the web without creating moire patterns--the dark circular banding you can see on the thumbnail above that disappears when you click on it to bring up the fullsize image.
Every trick I know to get rid of it failed in PS7, so I went to my often-successful last resort: IrfanView.
This handy and free editing program has a Lanczos filter for re-sizing that handles moire-prone images very well.

From an artistic standpoint I like this photo very much although it generated less interest than I expected when posted online in a few places.
It's dark and foreboding and even a bit scary, which was my intent at the time.
Kind of a Pink Floyd/Kubrick/1984 vibe.

It was a perfect subject and background for infrared.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Worth The Effort

More from Dec. 29th of 2007

I'm going to quote the text from my original main blog entry for this photo:

Yesterday I finally got this particular View of Texas out of my head and into my camera.
I've long been an advocate of planning and doing research to get better photographs.
When combined with luck and skill, impulsiveness and attention to detail, you can truly combine the best of both worlds--right and left brain.
Yin and Yang?

For example, this old and abandoned electrical power station sits in an area I frequently visit (or at least check periodically) whenever I'm shooting downtown.
There's a lot to like about it--crusty and tall and industrial, with many different textures.
But until yesterday it has never been photographed by me, not even once as a test.
The reason for that is simple: I knew it would take some real work to get it right, and I wasn't fully prepared before now.

The side that's visible from the local streets are in complete shadow unless it's morning, and I don't exist in the morning.
The western side which gets afternoon and evening light is closely bordered by the San Antonio River, and beyond that is fencing around the old Lone Star Beer brewery with even less public access.
So there was no easy way to get a well-lit shot casually, but a few weeks ago while hunting for a specific nearby mural I spotted an access route to this angle--but I also saw that I would be close, meaning a vertical shot with no zoom and lots of sky and lens distortion.

For two weeks I kept all this on the 'to do' list in my head. (Other photos of mine have had to wait for years).
Then on Christmas Day I stepped outside and looked at the beautifully stretched and wispy high cirrus clouds we were blessed with, and made a few test shots in infrared.
The results after processing were amazing, and I was tempted to post them here had it not been for a decided lack of a subject in front of those great clouds--so a purely technical exercise entered the equation at just the right time.

On Saturday when I woke up the Xmas Clouds were my desktop wallpaper (a timely reminder) and when I looked outside they were back!
And I had the afternoon to kill on my own, with our good car.
Checking the radar and visible light satellite imaging on the internet confirmed that the conditions would hold for a few hours, so no need to hurry and screw myself out of the lower-angle sunlight which always looks better.

I packed up my gear and cruised downtown, and was quickly denied hitting the train tracks first by the traffic mess of the AlamoBowl®, and went after Plan B: the abandoned CPS power plant next to Roosevelt Park.
Parked in the nearest lot, took my monopod as a visible warning against the undesireables who were around (they don't know exactly what it is, but can sense that it can't be good) and hiked out to shoot.

Attached the needed IR filters, checked exposure, removed an ND4, checked again.
Sat my ass on the dead grass and shot a few dozen, adjusting exposure and CP filter orientation a little but mainly just enjoying the experience.
At this point I know it's going to turn out nicely, I'm just living in-the-moment and letting the clouds move across behind the scene since you never know when they might improve or detract by minor differences in placement.

It got almost Zen-like.

Then I shot some color photos just in case...
They stink compared to the infrared/black and white versions.

I spent another hour or so in various places before going home, and got some more nice views, but the whole time the power plant experience was Tingling in my head.
It's easy to recognize this feeling now because every other time I bagged a possible portfolio-worthy shot the same thing happened.
A feeling that I can't wait to see them onscreen but have to force myself to forget about it and make the best use of my time on-location in good conditions.

I sincerely hope we all Tingle a few times in 2008.

This is a different Photoshop edit from the one originally posted at Views Of Texas because I wanted this photo in my larger vertical frame for the gallery show at Blue Star earlier this month.
Besides the 5:4 crop ratio for an 8x10" print, I had also learned a few refinements to getting tones and zones the way I want them in PS7.0 between then and now, and the print came out nearly perfect.

My black and white prints using IR source material now have just as much impact as the color night photos and flash-macros I'm already known for.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Now We're Getting Somewhere

December 29, 2007--A very good day for me and IR.

This was shot across the San Antonio River just south of downtown, with tall buildings hidden by trees.
I would have liked to back up and get more reflection on the water but my back was to a fence already, around a site contaminated with asbestos.
Pointing the camera down some more wasn't an option compositionally.
Nobody has ever mentioned noticing the egret on top of the tree.

I like this one a lot, and so do other people. The rest of the day's shooting was even more successful.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Christmas Clouds

Despite the whirlwind of activity on Christmas Day I managed to set aside a few quiet moments for myself, to enjoy God's Love and His gift of a beautiful world for us to live upon.

I was drawn instantly to the clouds that day, and it's interesting to note that I didn't shoot anything of them in color--IR was the first and only method I considered.

These semi-abstract photos weren't subject-driven enough for me to consider posting them anywhere--they were more of a personal thing.
Good practice for sure, and yet with minimal time spent in Photoshop they never fail to please my eyes and give me a few moments of pleasure whenever I look at them.

Such a positive personal reaction must mean something.
Either my opinion that they weren't worthy of wider exposure was wrong, or there's an important lesson contained within.

I went with the second option and tried to learn something from them.
There's something about those clouds...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

December = Success?

Now that I have the filters under control and a monopod for convenient stability, I began shooting IR much more often.
This was important since it takes quantity to find quality sometimes, and I wanted to be willing and able to do infrared at a moment's notice whenever inspiration hits me.
This is Mission Concepcion.
I still need to hit it at night, but was glad to get a decent B&W from IR here.
It was fun and easy using the monopod compared to a tripod, and I got plenty of stability that fit the situation.

Another shot on the grounds of Concepcion, backlit sky meant more difficult post-processing in zones.
Not too happy with this one, but before the monopod and filter-stack case I wouldn't have even bothered making this exposure.

This is proof that my new system is working.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Suddenly It's November 2007...

...and I haven't shot anything in IR for months.
But that's about to change.

As I have already discussed in previous posts, making IR easier to shoot on-location is equally as important to me as finding appropriate subjects and refining my post-processing to a style that interests me.

For a while now I've been carrying my IR-related filters already stacked in a single pouch, ready to unzip and screw onto my F717's lens threads as a unit.
This has made shooting much easier by far compared to leaving them in the individual cases and having to assemble/disassemble 3 or four filters every time an IR-worthy subject is found.
(For the record, to get the available light to fall nicely within my F717's 'NightShot' range I use a 760nm ebay IR filter sent to me by Bruce Burton plus two ND4 and one CP filter, leaving one of the ND4s on the front end of the stack so I can remove it quickly when the light is below "Full-Texas-Sun").

My only other equipment-related problem is stability.
Anyone who uses an un-modified Sony F717 for IR in 'NightShot' mode knows that the shutter speed range is limited to 1/8 on the long end and 1/60 at the fastest, and since you're locked into Auto or Program mode there's not really any getting around this.
That locked-wide-open aperture is the culprit and it's not adjustable when shooting IR, so adding and subtracting filters is the only way to keep the shutter in a range you can use without hitting either end of the scale and over/under-exposing by accident.
Sadly there are no on-screen flashing icons to warn you when over/under-exposure is happening in NightShot. Sony didn't foresee anyone trying to make art with their night-vision gimmick.

Once my filter situation was figured out, I had to address the shutter speeds because they often reside in the 'too long for handheld' region. Sure, 1/60 down to 1/30 can be done if you aren't using much zoom, but everything longer than that is blurry trouble waiting to happen.
I have a lot of experience in this shutter speed range shooting rock bands in poorly-lit nightclubs so various tips and tricks like using convenient solid objects to brace my camera against are second nature, but nothing replaces a tripod in low light situations.

I also shoot long exposures at night with a nice tripod.
This is the understatement of the year. Night photography is my passion, my art, my main focus.
But this is also a huge logistical problem for me in regards to IR: I'm always dragging a tripod around at night so I really don't want to have to use one during the daytime, too!
Can't I "travel light" during part of my life???

This orthodontist's office building was already a great night subject a few years ago, so after buying a monopod I returned for a quick IR shot to see if the new addition to the team would help me.
It did.
I'm sure I used more filters than necessary on this very overcast day, yet with the resulting longer shutter speed I still got a sharper image than I could have achieved hand-held by far.

I wasn't thrilled with the bland sky and flatly-lit foreground.
No drama or contrast at all, even after the extensive post-processing work.
But the sharpness was acceptable in this worse-case scenario, so progress was being made and that's all that matters.

Carrying a monopod around during the day is a joy compared to a tripod, and the deterrent factor in this big and dangerous city has already proven itself.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

September Was Fun

The Mission San Jose photo from my previous post was a last-minute choice for inclusion in my first public show at the Blue Star Art Galleries. In fact, half of my prints on the wall were new images captured during August 2007 when I was really getting my act together.
The week-long exhibition went rather well and in addition to selling more prints than I had hoped there were many lessons learned.

Here's the same print proudly displayed in someone else's home--another new experience for me.
I found that I really like seeing people enjoy my work first-hand versus online comments. It's very satisfying to overhear honest compliments secretly, or be given hard-earned cash for your hard-earned images. I was glad that I went to the trouble and expense of finding the very best local print quality from an unlikely source.

But despite these encouraging signs IR gets neglected again for a few more months.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Mission

At the end of August we went to visit Mission San Jose--our favorite out of the five old Spanish Missions in San Antonio. (Yes, we like it better than The Alamo--it's not in the middle of downtown and crawling with tourists.)

My "Mission" that day was to shoot in every technical style I use except for at night since the National Park Service locks the gates at 5pm.
So I came away with color photos, macro, daytime long exposures, stereo/3Ds, an off-camera flash portrait and this IR.

This photo made it into my gallery show in September and I sold a print of it, so apparently I'm getting the hang of this IR business.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

August Brings An Important Change

What happened was that I got my filter situation under control.
Taking 3 or four filters out of their individual cases, screwing them together and then onto the lens, and having to reverse the process for every IR photo-op was just more hassle than I was willing to deal with.
It was far too easy to fumble things and possibly drop a filter, or (Heaven forbid!) my camera. Took so much time and effort I just about hated shooting IR.

Then a simple idea finally popped-up in my head: Leave them screwed together, and find a case that will hold the stack!
So that's what I did, and the difference was astounding.

I started to shoot a few IRs almost everywhere I went, so long as I had space for the filters in my tiny camera backpack--sometimes other gear would take precedence.
This view across the San Antonio River has never been seen before now.
In processing this photo over and over I realized that having a nearly black sky was important to me--makes the clouds 'pop' better, and is a classic IR effect that's well worth exploiting.

Another SA River shot from late in August, also debuting here. I didn't plan to post this so the editing is very sloppy, but it shows the direction I'm going with my IR work.
Water, clouds, dark sky, structures, contrast, black & white.

IR is now easier for me in the field and I no longer hate the way my processing looks.
Still, there's room for improvement before I'll be happy.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Fast Forward

It's now July, and I haven't bothered with IR in months.

On a long elevated walkway over a nature preserve on South Padre Island, I finally decided to stack my filters and give it another try, with my camera steadied on the guardrail:
Lack of a foreground subject doomed this to the "interesting but not great" file.

Later that month I came across IR shooter Joseph Levy while visiting IR Buzz Blog. In particular, the step-by-step tour of his IR-to-Color Photoshop workflow piqued my interest, so I applied it to all of my previous IR photos.
This was the only one which worked.
Everything else remained solidly black and white for reasons unknown.
I tried everything I could think of, but never got another IR to turn into color.
It must be that my IR filter doesn't leave enough visible light to work with, or else I suddenly lost my skills at following directions.
Either way, my pursuit of colorized IR ended almost before it began.

But this only bothered me for a short time...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Drifting Along...

At this point it's April 2007 and I'm only trying an IR or two on rare occasions.
Getting out all of my filters from their individual containers, screwing them together and onto the lens, carrying my tripod during the day or having to find a decent place to rest the camera or brace my hands--all of these things conspire to make IR more trouble than it's worth.
Especially when weighed against my results.

This wasn't any better in color.
It's like I'm not even trying.

This one didn't turn out too bad--I even kind of liked it.
I wondered at the time exactly why it 'worked' when so many had failed.

Still, compared to my color photography IR just isn't in the same league.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snail's Pace

My other photographic interests kept me from pursuing IR on a regular basis.
I'm a dedicated night shooter, but also spend a lot of time on macros, studio/product, stereo 3D images, flash macros and portraits. I'm in the music business and shoot all of the bands I work with for their websites and promotional prints, too.
IR, being only my latest discipline, definitely took a backseat for much of 2007.

I did find that for me at least, churches made attractive IR/B&W subjects. This is St. John's in Boerne.
I think I went the HDR route for both of these, for better or worse.

This photo of Our Lady Of Grace in LaCoste should have put me off of ever trying to shoot IR on overcast days--a lesson I forgot until recently.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Trying Different Things

After a few landscapes shot during December '06 and January '07 that I wasn't happy with, I turned my infrared eye indoors.
This shot of my guitar surprised me.

I was surprised because it normally looks like this. Infrared looked right through the stain, or else is catching something in the polyurethane finish.

My first try at toning an IR photo--I think I used 'Variations' in PS7.

Still not doing anything with IR that excites me much.

Friday, January 11, 2008


I'm sure anyone intereted in IR photography knows about the Sony CyberShot cameras with the NightShot™ feature, but I'll recap a little here.
Switching to NightShot swings the IR-blocking filter away from in front of the CCD imaging sensor and also turns on infrared emitters, enabling the camera to see in the dark much like military night-vision scopes.
The emitters are weak so it's not very useful unless the subject is close, and the resulting image contains shades of green instead of a more useful greyscale so it's obvious Sony didn't add any appropriate in-camera processing.

Furthermore, the exposure system is neutered.
Early Sony cams with NightShot could see through clothes using certain exposure settings and this caused a huge ruckus in the media, so Sony acted fast and a little rashly in my opinion. NightShot was made to work in Auto and Program modes exclusively, and the only exposure settings available are wide-open aperture and (on my F717 at least) shutter speeds between 1/60 and 1/8.
Too long for effective handheld work, and that's the least of the problems.
All other settings are also inneffective such as exposure lock, white balance, spot or center-weighted metering--even flash.
(By the way, the other Sonys with NightShot are V1, V3, F707, F828, and the semi-new H9, plus videocams).

All this adds up to the reason I never really messed with NightShot very much.

At some later point I read online that the answer was to add neutral density filters and tape over the IR emitters to prevent horrible reflections on the filters from the F717's end-of-lens emitters.
I tried this and it worked, but my photos were very fuzzy--almost as if the focus could not resolve on anything correctly, so I shelved IR again.

A few months later I finally stumbled on the reason--IR wavelengths and visible light wavelengths don't focus on the same plane at the same time.
In fact, red and blue are far enough apart on the scale to have a small amount of focus conflict.
It was explained that visible light needs to be eliminated for sharp IR photos to happen, and all you need is a screw-on filter.

I lamented online somewhere or other that I needed an IR filter but couldn't possibly afford one for a long time, and my plea was heard.
That wonderful gentleman up Fort Worth Way, Mr. Bruce Burton, played Santa Claus last December and sent me an early Christmas present--a 760nm filter he got from an ebay shop.
Apparently he preferred one with a different cut-off frequency so the one he sent me wasn't being used.
To give you an idea of how kind Bruce is, he also offered to let me borrow his F707 while my F717 was in Laredo getting it's failed CCD sensor replaced.
My hero!

Testing Time!

Our Texas Mountain Laurel was an early test subject.

Some wet leaves in the yard became the first IR photo I was proud of after years of messing around and not having any success.

Problem was, most IR photos from other photographers that I was seeing at the time were landscapes, and I was never much interested in landscapes. The search for appropriate subject matter begins.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Welcome To Infrared Views Of Texas

Yesterday I returned to the bridge where I spent an afternoon thinking and shooting back in early 2005, making the decision to start my first photoblog.
That's when and where Views Of Texas was born, and it's fitting that it's also where Infrared Views Of Texas got it's start.
Coincidentally, I shot another self-portrait there yesterday using my new Strobist-style flash gear, converted to B&W in keeping with my IR methods.
It was also the first time I ever went on a photo-trip using a bicycle, tripod strapped to the frame.
So many firsts and coincidences mustn't be ignored.

This blog will chronicle my journey into infrared photography, starting in December 2006 and only coming of age in the last month.
Initially we'll be looking back at the steps it took to get where I am in infrared photography right now, but before too long we'll catch up to the present and I'll be posting new photos.