Color Infrared Simulation

I love NIK Color Efex Pro 4!  There are so many things you can do with it, it’s easy to use, and the effects are very high quality.

A lot of the presets are very usable, but in the case of the “Infrared Film” filter, the presets were too extreme for most my photos and the look I wanted to see, so I breezed over this feature. Then I finally tried it with a photo and after tweaking the adjustment sliders quite a bit, I found a look that I really liked. It didn’t even look like infrared, but the effect was nice on that particular photo.

Here is an example of a color infrared film simulation on a photo I took last summer.


This is much lower contrast and brightness than the preset. I wanted to retain more detail – rock textures and leaf shapes. It certainly isn’t like the real scene, but somehow it looks more eye catching than the original in a row of photos from this shoot.

Here’s another example:



These photos were taken at Porter Falls in the Capital Forest near Olympia, Washington. For comparison, here’s a more natural version.



Single-exposure HDR

Back in 2004, almost exactly ten years ago, I purchased my first digital SLR camera. Because I already had some Canon EF mount lenses, I chose an EOS 10D. I was upgrading from an EOS Elan II 35mm film SLR which I purchased in 1995. This is one of the first photos I took with the 10D and my $80 50mm f/1.8 lens (I think they go for over $100 now). This was taken in Ecola State Park on the Oregon coast.

Ecola SP - 50mm, 1/60s, f/11

Ecola SP – 50mm, 1/60s, f/11

I like this photo, but the extreme tonal contrast in the scene means I lost a lot of detail in the shadows.  The exposure latitude of a digital sensor is limited and no camera can see the range of tones, from dark to light, that our eyes can. Add to that, I shot the image in JPEG format. I hadn’t learned the value of shooting in RAW format yet. But I’ve learned a lot in ten years, especially about image enhancement and editing, also known as post processing.  Post processing software has come a long way in ten years too.

So what could I do with a ten-year-old JPEG file to enhance it? None of my normal techniques were getting the result I wanted to see. What I was really after was enhanced color and more shadow detail in those black rocks. But in a JPEG image, could there still be any there?  Then I got an idea, which eventually got me to this:

Ecola SP - HDR

Ecola SP – HDR

What I did was make two extra “versions” of the photo in Apple Aperture. Then I simply moved the “exposure” slider to -2.0 on one and +2.0 on the other. Next, I imported the three versions (-2, 0, +2) into NIK HDR Efex Pro 2. I used the “Crisp” HDR method. I could have pushed more detail out of the shadows, but I know from experience that when you push an image too far in post, it starts to look unnatural, and image quality starts to go downhill.  Actually, I’ve pushed things quite a bit already, as you can see! But I can also say that this is more like what my eyes saw, standing on that seaside cliff.

Here’s another shot I took a few minutes later, using my shiny new EF 17-40mm f/4L.

Ecola SP 17mm - 1/60s, f/9.5

Ecola SP 17mm – 1/60s, f/9.5

Once again, nice photo, but severely lacking in shadow detail and it looks a little flat. I used the same technique described above and got this. What a difference it makes!

Ecola SP 17mm - HDR edit

Ecola SP 17mm – HDR edit

Of course, this is an attempt to “fix” or enhance an old photo I took before I understood much about what’s possible with digital photography. If I were to shoot a scene like this now, I’d use two techniques:

First, I would bracket my shots in the camera, shooting RAW, of course. Then I would combine them in an HDR software, just like I did after pushing my single exposure here to under- and over-expose it. This approach would produce noticeably higher image quality than my “fake” HDR above.

Second, this kind of scene is a good candidate for a graduated neutral density filter, which would darken the sky and bring its brightness closer to that of the beach. If you look at the first, non-HDRd version, you’ll see what I mean.

I am just amazed how much more this simple technique brought out of the same image!

Twin Barns Edits

Just to illustrate how you can take the same photo different directions…

Nisqually NSR Barns - Black & White

Nisqually NWR Barns – Black & White

This photo was taken with an EOS 7D and an EF 17-40mm f/4L.  Between Olympia and Tacoma, Washington is the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, where these barns are located. This first shot was edited in NIK Silver Efex Pro 2.  The contrast is not extreme but I tried to bring out as much detail as I could. The sky was over-exposed and showed very little detail in the unedited image, but I managed to pull out some of the cloud detail. An advantage of shooting RAW format. The other challenge was winter overcast weather which made for a very gray image with little color.

Nisqually NWR Barns - Blue Painting

Nisqually NWR Barns – Blue Painting

This version of the same original image was edited in NIK Color Efex Pro 4.  It is a softer and more dreamy look. I could have done just about anything with it, but I thought this look was good. Notice that the sides of the barn are darker, while the roof is lighter, the opposite from the first black and white edit.

Nisqually NWR Barns - Art Effect

Nisqually NWR Barns – Art Effect

This version was done in Topaz Labs Adjust 4. I made it partial color and punched up the details.  No it doesn’t look realistic, but it’s art right?

I shot this last weekend and thought I’d see if I could do some versions that were different from each other.