Turn A Blind Eye
Summer and Fall are gone… Winter has arrived with its lifeless trees and high contrast scenery. But do not despair! With Infrared, all things are possible! You will be surprised at the plethora of great subject matter out and about. You do not need bright green leaves to generate world class Infrared images! You do NOT need bright sunny days to take advantage of good Infrared photography! Read on, and I will share with you some secrets to great Infrared photography in the off season and bad weather!
What you need to do, or rather see is your subject matter in terms of contrast or color, yes color! Start thinking with Faux Color post processing in mind. Take the image to the left of a groin sea wall on Pawleys Island, SC. It was a dark over cast day, The ocean was full of action and dull green/brown. The sky was basically full over cast with a few holes. Knowing that Infrared would bring out the details in the sky that the human eye could NOT see, I knew that it would be spectacular! The ocean itself was very rough but the spray from the waves in conjunction with the brown groin rocks would produce impressive blues and reds if processed in Faux! I set up with a FAST shutter speed for this image. I did not want a smooth silky ocean surface but rather the spray and wave action was desired. I planed before I even got the camera out to take the image with Faux Color post processing.
On the contrast side of the artistic equation, think in terms of Monochrome processing rather than Faux Color. Look for both HIGH contrast and LOW contrast scenes! Both work very well. In fact, If you can find an image that has both high and low contrast components all the better! Snow, trees, buildings and rocks can be put together to generate ultra high contrast images. If the weather or lighting conditions are really bad, look to inside images like the caboose image to the right! For this image, the sun was just too strong and shadows to intense for a good image of the caboose from the outside. So I got a chair and stood up to shoot through a window of the interior! I used an external flash unit to even the lighting of the image so that I wouldn’t see a bright light line and dark walls (yes, normal flash units emit Infrared!). I do not use flashes often with Infrared, but once in a while…..
Ok, back to contrasts. How about a subject that has both high and low contrast components? The intentional use of scenes with both high and low contrast areas can create a very ethereal composition. Take the image to the left of the old rusted car. The car itself would have looked good in Faux Color but I was looking for a composition that drew the viewer in to an endless scene. So I used the snow covered grasslands (Painted Desert) and the snowy mist in the air to draw your eyes off into infinity but the car to keep you rooted in the foreground! This is NOT what you would call a normal Infrared subject, but it works very well!
Ultra low contrast images (fog and snow) can also work very well in an artistic sense. What they tend to do is portray an image that goes on forever! I actually have more fun with low contrast image than the others! Here (right) is an example of one such scene. Again, in the Painted Desert but this time the misty snow is the subject. The old telephone poles are just a supporting component that draw your eyes deeper into the image! The key to these types of images are to look for formless compositions. On foggy or snowy mornings grab your camera and head out! If you are lucky enough to have these conditions in the middle of they day then look for compositions where there is a brighter spot from the sun shining through!
Rain can also be used to your advantage with these types of Infrared images as well. In fact, even (especially) in the summer, rain can generate some very good images that offer the added benefit of puddles for reflections! You can also look for compositions only within the reflections of the puddles. This works very well on the beach also during low tides when there are tidal pools left on the beach.
While we are discussing rain, I do not want you to forget the storm itself. Since Infrared brings out details in the sky and clouds that you are unable to see yourself, you need to consider the storm clouds as a worthy subject! If I lived in the plains of our country I would spend most of my times chasing storm clouds with my Infrared system! Plus both Black & White as well as Faux Color images of storms look great! Below you will see two versions of the same image taken with a 720nm Olympus E-P1 camera system and the Olympus M/Z 9-18mm lens. The storm was rare for us here on the coast in that it had tremendous form and spin. It actually formed 4 water spouts (lower right).
I think that I like the Faux image the best for this, but it is really a hard choice! The subject really is the storm, but the church in the foreground adds scale which helps the image. The point here is to not lock yourself into images with just green leaves, moody skies and water (Infrared Triad). Winter is just as good for Infrared photography as is Summer. CARRY your Infrared system with you as you progress through your day because you NEVER know what will pop up!
If there was EVER a reason for a new camera, Infrared is it! DSLR Infrared conversions are great, but due to the size of the camera and lens you are not likely to have it with you all of the time. Hence, I strongly advise the purchase of an Olympus E-P1, L1 or 2 PEN camera to have converted to full time Infrared. It is small and light. You will not mind having it in your car or pocket! It takes INCREDIBLE images and you can carry it everywhere! If you have it converted to Full Spectrum it can and will also shoot normal color on top of Infrared!
I always say, “If I cannot get you to spend your money on me, then I am almost as happy helping you spend it on you!”