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.