Infrared Photography and Time of Day

I went to a local park after work this last week to try some infrared photos later in the day.  One of the differences between infrared and visible light is that infrared looks great at midday when the sun is high in the sky.  Visible light is harsh and flat during this time.

Here is a photo I took almost a year ago with my unconverted Canon 6D.

Olympia Brewery - IR, unconverted with 870nm filter, midday

Olympia Brewery – IR, unconverted with 870nm filter, midday

And here’s the one I took the other night with my dedicated infrared Canon 10D.

Olympia Brewery - IR, converted camera 720nm, 6:30pm

Olympia Brewery – IR, converted camera 720nm, 6:30pm

Let me lay out the differences between the shooting and processing of these two photos.

Filter: 1st photo – 50mm lens with B+W 870nm, screw-on filter.  2nd photo -17mm lens (27mm on the APS-C sized sensor Canon 10D) with internal 720nm filter (hot mirror removed).

Time of Day:  1st photo – Foliage blazes white in noon sun.  2nd photo – More directional, evening light at 6:30pm.  You still get white leaves and grass if the sun isn’t too low, and it makes the picture look more 3-dimensional.

Shutter speed: 1st photo – Shutter speeds on the unconverted 6D are very slow at 8 seconds, even with ISO set to 400.  There is also some strange ghosting around the tree tops, clouds, and building roof.  2nd photo – With the converted camera, I didn’t need a tripod at 1/60 of a second, and the photo looks sharper with more detail. Hard to tell if it’s a result of the hot mirror and the filter not fighting each other (as in the first photo) or just a quicker shutter speed.

Processing: 1st photo – An 870nm filter blocks all visible light and is not suitable for color infrared, so this photo was converted the black and white, and tones adjusted in Lightroom.  2nd photo – I only dropped the white balance slider to “cool” as far as it would go.  Then I reduced the saturation a little so the photo wasn’t too orange.

Here’s another pair from the same two shoots:

Tumwater Historical Park - Uncoverted 6D & B+W 093 filter

Tumwater Historical Park – Uncoverted 6D & B+W 093 filter

Tumwater Historical Park - converted Canon 10D, 6:40pm

Tumwater Historical Park – converted Canon 10D, 6:40pm

To make a fair comparison I should have used the same lens, but the 10D is an APS-C, crop-sensor body, and the 6D is full frame, so the same lens has different perspectives on each body anyway.

But what I really want to contrast is the differences time of day make in these photos. Personally, I like both effects, but evening light seems more pleasing to me, even with infrared.  The angle of the light makes a huge difference in the appearance of a scene!

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Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach - 17mm, 1/30 @ f/13

Ruby Beach – 17mm, 1/30 @ f/13

I had the chance to visit Ruby Beach on the Washington State coast this last week.  As you can see from the photos, it was very cloudy.  The cloudy skies are why this area, near Forks, WA of the Twilight series, is a favorite habitat for vampires with sparkly skin.

The clouds helped even out the early afternoon sun, and with the light less harsh, more pleasing exposures were possible.  But the light at mid day is never as flattering or beautiful as evening light, and I’d like to come back here later in the day.  Only problem is, this place is nearly three hours from where I live, so I’d be getting back home after midnight.

Ruby Beach Rocks - 17mm, 1/60 @ f/9.5

Ruby Beach Rocks – 17mm, 1/60 @ f/9.5

Since getting the Canon EOS 6D about a year ago, I’ve been able to include more foreground in photos with the EF 17-40mm f/4L lens.  With the EOS 7D, it was like a 27mm lens, and mounting this lens on a full-frame body is like getting a whole new lens!

“Foreground interest” is an important concept in landscape photography.  In order for the foreground and the far distant background to both be in focus, we need to use a smaller aperture opening.  If I had been using a tripod, instead of hand holding this shot, f/16 would have been more appropriate.

Abbey Island - 29mm, 1/90 @ f/9.5

Abbey Island – 29mm, 1/90 @ f/9.5

With both a cloudy sky and the sun high overhead, these photos had very little color.  In this photo, I used a Bi-Color Filter in NIK Color Efex Pro 4 to introduce color back into the sand and sky.

While the logical technician in me is checking shutter speeds and aperture settings, the artist in me is looking for a way to combine elements in the scene before me in a pleasing composition.  The rock, column, and island form a sort of triangle to balance out the image.

Ruby Beach Rocks - 17mm, 1/60 @ f/9.5

Ruby Beach Rocks – 17mm, 1/60 @ f/9.5

While the horizon curves very little, such a wide angle causes the lines in the sand (made by water running back into the ocean) to run toward the center of the photo.  It has more rocks – more going on in the photo – and I’d say it’s not quite as strong as the other photos above.  This is a good illustration that sometimes simplifying your composition can make it stronger.

Ruby Beach Driftwood - 17mm, 1/45 @ f/13

Ruby Beach Driftwood – 17mm, 1/45 @ f/13

Here’s another vertical shot at 17mm which has both a sharp foreground and a distant horizon.  It was processed in Lightroom and NIK Silver Efex Pro 2.  This is another approach for photos with very little natural color:  Instead of trying to increase the saturation or introduce artificial color, do a black and white and focus on texture rather than colors.  The sand, pebbles, and driftwood all have different textures, and Silver Efex’ “structure” sliders help bring this out.

Portraits of Predators

When I was a pre-teen, my favorite animals were the wolverines and the cougars.  I am still awed by these amazing predators. Why?  Read on…

Wolverine - 70mm, 1/90 @ f/4.5

Wolverine – 70mm, 1/90 @ f/4.5

As a typical boy, I thought incredible strength and fearless attitude in a small package was impressive. This 35 pound animal will sometimes intimidate cougars and bears away from their kills. They’ve attacked animals as large as caribou and moose if the snow is deep enough or if the animal is sick. That seems pretty brave, but if you look closely at the bottom of the photo above, you can see massive paws armed with large, sharp claws.  I read once that they can quickly bite through a two-inch rope with their teeth.  So it has the weapons to back up it’s aggressive attitude.

Wolverines patrol territories which can be over 300 square miles.  I had an area that big to patrol, even with a dirt bike, it would feel hopelessly huge!  This little guy has short legs and no wheels, but it’s just normal for him.

Wolverine - 200mm, 1/180 @ f/4.0

Wolverine – 200mm, 1/180 @ f/4.0

Wildlife photography is not my specialty, and my longest lens is 200mm.  But thanks to Northwest Trek, where I took these photos, I can get some great photos of these predators in a natural environment.  I loved reading about these animals as a pre-teen and early-teen, and now I can take photos of the real critters as an adult.

Cougar - 200mm, 1/60 @ f/4.0

Cougar – 200mm, 1/60 @ f/4.0

I was lucky to get a sharp shot here.  1/60th of a second is way too slow for 200mm, but pressing my camera against the side of a post helped stabilize it.  I think tracking a moving animal with a long lens on a tripod would be very tricky and require some practice.

This was a dim, drizzly day, and the cougar was moving around more, instead of hiding out of sight as usual.  Cloudy skies also helped avoid harsh shadows.  Turns out I got better pictures on a rainy day.

Cougar - 200mm, 1/80 @ f/4.0

Cougar – 200mm, 1/80 @ f/4.0

Cougars are cool because, while they slouch around like a lazy house cat most of the time, they can jump 18 feet up from flat ground, and they can cover 40 feet in a horizontal leap.  They can be very stealthy and see very well in the dark.  So if you’re a deer, good luck getting away from a hungry cougar!  I just think they are beautiful animals.

Last month I was walking along a local nature trail with my Dad, and we heard a growling, snarling, barking commotion in the woods across the narrow bay.  I took it for a bunch of dogs fighting at first, and there were obviously dogs involved.  But I kept hearing this mid-range snarling that was pretty loud for a dog that far away.  I said to my dad, “Do you think that could be a cougar?”  Just a few seconds later we hard a half-snarl, half-scream that left no doubt.  That cougar was getting fed up with the dogs!  We got back to our car and drove away, so I have no idea how that showdown ended.  My dad didn’t want to walk over into those woods to find out.  Can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t want to get close to an angry cougar. He he!