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.