Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Got Snow? If not: Create your own with Infra-Red Photography ...

We were dusted with a flurry of  snow here, yesterday ... But nothing stuck on the ground : (  Still there is something truly magical about those BIG white fluffy flakes dancing down from the sky.  Makes you feel like a kid all over again! 

Even though our snow didn't stick on the ground this time:  I do just happen to  have some IR photos that I took and they look like snow.  IR stands for "infra-red" photography.  I have been experimenting with IR photography off and on over the course of the past several months.  All of my photos, and most digital photos, are taken in the near IR ... that is they capture light from an external source reflected off of an object.  Whereas far IR captures energy (heat) radiated directly from a source (e.g., heat retained from absorption of the sun's energy during daylight hours ... many stone and concrete surfaces retain well and hence photograph well in far IR). 

Far IR photography captures are most often taken with special IR film, because the digital counterpart technology is so very, very $$costly$$.  I do have a nice film camera (an old old Cannon 35mm)  that I plan to have serviced (repaired) so that I can use it to take some IR film images.  Far IR film images are best taken at night for obvious reasons.   In order to do IR photography with a digital camera you need to have a camera with a sensor that is sensitive to IR.  Most digital cameras have IR sensitivity disabled.  I just happend to have one of the few cameras that is sensitive to IR ... I have a Pentax K-100D (DSLR).  If your camera is not sensitive to IR, you can pick up a used one that is or you can pay to have your existing camera modified.  The latter can be costly, and I would recommend having a reputable lisenced dealer or manufacturer perform the modification or you could wind up without a working camera all together.  There is a simple test that you can do to determine if your camera is sensitive to IR.  I'll post some links here shortly for reference.

My dream is to do a nighttime cemetery shoot in far IR, but I have a lot to learn about shooting in digital and near IR first.  Shooting in near IR digital is challenging!!  Not only do you have to have a good external light source (e.g., sun), but you have no digital preview to work with to see how your shot looks and if you have successfully captured your intended image.  That's because you can't look through the lens and IR filter without potentially damaging your eyes and the image that saves on the camera is pre-dominantly RED, RED, RED ... with very few distinguishing detalis readily apparent.  So basically, in order take a near IR digital shot you have to:   

1) find your shot and compose it (using a tripod) without the IR filter attached to the lens; 2) then tape off your viewfinder (to avoid errant visible light from reaching the camera sensor and interferring with your image ... noise); 3) carefully attach the IR filter of your choosing (there are many types of different filters that produce different effects, but they basically filter out visible light to varying extents) for your specific camera ... all the while being careful not to bump your camera/tripod composed for the shot; 4) and finally take the shot (or shots if  you are varing the EV compensation values). 

Here is an image as it looks straight off the camera. The image following is what you get after some minimal post processing.

"The Enchanted Fairy Wood"

Photos by Me ... Feel free to reuse this image.

Note: Feel free to use this image, but please link back here to my blog and give me credit as the photographer. Thank you!

And you don't really know what you've captured for an image until you get back home and do some post processing ... specifically, stripping out all of the RED ... to see what you've managed to capture.  In the above shot the highlights are overexposed, so I probably had the EV set high (e.g., +2.0) on this shot for experimentation and learning purposes. 

In Infra-red photography a lot of knowing "what to shoot" and "how to shoot" it will come from experience ... of which I don't yet have a lot to draw upon.  I know that foilage is highly reflective and that with a good light source foilage produces really cool images.  Water almost always photographs dark grey or black ... unless you have the sun reflecting intensely off of it, then you get silvery-white patches where the light is most intense.  I have managed to capture some interesting reflections in water with IR.  Most man-made surfaces do not produce interesting IR images, but they are neat to have in the shot for contrast to the objects that do photograph well in IR.  Some stones (e.g., concrete mixes) photograph with an aura about them which is tres cool.   People photograph silvery and surreal in IR, but I haven't taken many people shots.  The real key to unlocking IR images ... near IR images anyway ... is in the software post processing ... layers, masks and the like ... adding back in selective color in a natural looking way, while leaving the glowing white portions of the images untocuhed ... resulting in ethereal and dreamy images.  I still have A LOT to learn in the software image processing department, but I am having FUN on this IR adventure thus far.

So here are a few of my IR photography images ...

(image temporarily removed for editing)

"The Silver Pond"
 @Copyrighted Image 2010. Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com.
All Rights Reserved.

Believe it or not, the above shot was taken this summer at my parents' ranch, in central Texas, in 100+ degree weather!!  Snow would have been awfully nice to have while I was out baking in the heat trying to capture these images.

Same shot with a bit more color?

(image temporarily removed for editing)

"The Silver Pond II" ... This photo is dedicated to my friend over the pond, in England.  He is the one  that encouraged me to give Infra-red Photography a try.  Thank you, Steve.

@Copyrighted Image 2010. Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com.
All Rights Reserved.

This shot really looks like snow ...

"Summer Snow"
@Copyrighted Image 2010. Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com.
All Rights Reserved.

Here is a shot of the "barnyard" near my Mom and Dad's house ...

"Barnyard IR"
@Copyrighted Image 2010.  Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com.
All Rights Reserved.

Here's an IR barn shot where I intentionally left some of the red in the image ... I have not tried to do an IR paint on this image yet.  Will have to try that next and see what I get.

"Old Red Barn"
@Copyrighted Image 2010. Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com.
All Rights Reserved.

Same shot with increased saturation ...

(image temporarily removed for editing)

"Red Barn on Fire"
@Copyrighted Image 2010. Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com.
All Rights Reserved.

I took some IR shots of the San Antonio missions while I was in Texas, but I haven't done much of anything with them yet as I don't have the software image processing skills to do them justice yet ... and I really what them to WOW, if you know what I mean.

Here is a favorite photo of mine from another photographer.  It is taken in near IR and the photographer/artist has gone in and added back color to the brick home (Monticello ... I believe) in the image:  IR photograph of Monticello.  Hopefully, I'll be good enough with the software to do this sort of image enhancement myself soon.

The nice thing about far IR shots is they require little post processing. So that is a big plus in my humble opinion. That being said, the IR film can be costly and hard to find. Still the images that can be captured with a standard camera and IR film are some my absolute favorties. Here are a few far IR shots sent to me from a friend of mine. He lives in England and they have some of the most wonderful cemeteries over there. I may have to make a trip back to England just to shoot some of their magnificent cemeteries.

Far IR film capture of a cemetery.

Lister park, Bradford, UK. 
@Copyrighted Image.  All Rights Reserved.

(I know that I have a close-up of the statue on this one, where the statue is glowing ...  almost
looks alive, but I can't seem to locate this image right now.  I will keep looking for it though.

1/17/11 My friend saw this post and pointed me to the photo I needed.  Thank you Steve :  )
... By the way, Steve is the one who encouraged me to pursue my interest in IR photography.
I wouldn't have any of my own photos to share if it had not been for his sending me informative links,
sharing photos and encouraging me.  God Bless  you, Steve. )

"Goddess, Diana ... of the Hunt."  Lister park, Bradford, UK.
@Copyrighted Image. All Rights Reserved.

Castle Ruins, Far IR image.

Statue, Far IR image.

Ruins near the sea, Far IR image.

This is a link to my favorite far IR photo of all time: "The Sleeping Angel.

You'll be happy to know that snow is again in our forecast for tonight and tomorrow.  Well, it makes me happy anyway.  Love playing in the snow!!  I called my parents, in Texas, last night, to see how they were doing, and it turns out that they had gotten snow yesterday too.  Nearly 3 full hours of snowfall.  They said that they had put on a roaring wood fire, made some popcorn, worked on a puzzle and just watched the beautiful snow falling ... layering everything in a pristine winter white.  Let it snow ... Let it snow ... Let it SNOW!!!!

Hope you're getting some winter white in your part of the country!  Enjoy : )

P.S.  Yup!! We got SNOW...  and then some!!  I know, because I just drove to the grocery store and back  in it.  There must be between 1 and 3 inches on the ground, and it's still coming down.  Sadly, the temps are supposed to warm back up overnight and mornings rains will probably wash this fabulous white fluff all away again.  Guess, I'll have to put the groceries away and head out and play tonight ... helps not ever having to sleep .. Just wanted to let you know that I will post some useful IR photography links here shortly.  Throwing a BIG snowball your way!!  ... Did I hit ya? ; ) ... Later ....

Okay here are some of the most useful internet IR-photography links that I have found thus far (one's that get you up and running quickly):

1) If you are wondering: Can my camera be used for IR?  This link is for you.  See the section titled "Honey, Where's the Remote?" for how to do the TV remote IR test with your own camera.

This page also gives the most comprehensive IR overview I have yet found.


2) Once you've got your camera and you are ready to shoot then you may wonder:  What am I  looking for and what do I do with the images once I've successfully captured them?  This site provides a pretty simple overview on image capturing and post processing basics.


If I recall, or come across any other useful links ... I'll be sure to add them here.  But I've sorted through tons of sites on-line and these two are the best I've found thus far.  So maybe I've saved you some time by not having to do the same?  By the way, I have yet to find a really useful IR film (far Infra-red) on-line site.

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Thanks for taking a moment to share your thoughts. I'll read them and post them soon! God Bless! M