Black & White In Color?

•July 18, 2016 • 2 Comments

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Lately we’ve been in a very nice rain/sunshine cycle.

It’s been sunny in the morning and with all the moisture that is on the ground it is soon heated and converted into clouds which pour rain in the evening and then clear up over night.

And so it was this morning. A little fog around the city judging from the highway webcams quickly burned away revealing clear blue skies. By noon I could see clouds forming on the horizon and grabbed my gear.

The plan was to be out for only a short time, an hour at the most and head home in time to pick my kids up from work. Ahh, the life of a retired dad. LOL It seems that my time is not all my own.

So off I went driving northward. I had a few ideas in mind to check out. Old metal granaries, stands of trees by the side of the road and some hilly crop land.  As I drove and stopped for the occasional photo with my camera modified to shoot infrared the clouds continued to form. Darned I thought, if only I had ALL afternoon to be out here but that was not to be.

I had just about gone as far as I wanted to in order to get back home in a timely fashion when I came across a brilliantly coloured field of yellow. Canola crops in central Alberta are in full bloom. The patchwork of yellow is incredible if you get to see the prairies from a high point.

Anyway, as I turned eastward to make my loop back home a canola field with tracks in it caught my eye. The clouds behind it were distant and forming. Not as pronounced as I would have wanted but what the heck I thought and then had a second thought. The last time I tried to shoot a canola field in infrared the blossoms ended up being a bright white with almost no tonality.

I knew that if I took the photo in color I could better get the look that I wanted so I walked back to the Rav, grabbed the “normal” camera which was already on its tripod and took a few color photos.

Ten minutes later I was home.

I immediately culled out the pictures that had flaws in camera and transferred the rest to the iMac. Using my RAW converter I opened up one of the color canola photos and processed it normally. The result was a bright yellow canola field with a few clouds behind it. To use the color one for me would have meant returning either in the early morning or late evening when the sun was low and colors better.

I knew that when shooting black and white if you used a red filter when shooting landscapes, blue skies go dark. So using a Photoshop plugin called Silver Efex I could simulate a red filter and voila. Black skies. That simple.

A little tweaking and cropping and this is the result.

Happy shooting,

Dan

The House In The Woods

•July 17, 2016 • 5 Comments

The House In The Woods

I realized something this morning as I sat down to write this blog.

What is it that keeps me shooting landscapes? I stopped doing it for the money ages ago. I could NOT care less about being popular or famous on the internet and have my cadre of followers itching to fork out thousands of dollars to join me on trips across the countryside.

I do it because although the act of being creative is a large part an equal part is the joy of discovery. It is with an almost childlike delight that I enjoy traipsing up and down dusty gravel roads and with my imagination find magical places.

These “magical” places are hidden from us. They tease and beckon you to find them. They are only real in my mind. It’s like being able to see into another dimension. It’s there but it isn’t.

The House In The Woods sits beside a major highway right outside of where I live. Thousands upon thousands of vehicles drive by it daily unaware of its existence.

I took photos here a few days earlier but the sky wasn’t right and I wanted to revisit it when conditions were better.

It was a hot summer afternoon. After lunch I believe, certainly not the magic hour that I am used to when shooting colour but perfect for infrared.

With the sun shining brightly under infrared foliage jumps to life. It positively glows warmth and light.

I was walking through almost chest deep grass. In the tall grass there were flattened spots where white tailed deer bed down to rest and stay hidden. You could walk within meters of them and unless they jumped up and scooted away you would never know that they were there. It was a special place but I was constantly reminded of where I was by the sound of diesel trucks roaring down the highway just over the hill.

I proceeded down the gully, looking and shooting. When I stopped at the bottom and looked back from where I had come I saw the abandoned farm house framed by a heavy, sloping branch from what I think was an ash tree.

Quickly, almost reflexively I raised the camera, pointed, fired off a few frames and moved on.

That’s the thing about when I shoot infrared, I seldom if ever look to see what I have captured. The LCD display on the camera back is so purple and dark it’s difficult to make out what I have. Unlike the long exposures that I do which are very deliberate and planned (they can last up to eight minutes) shooting infrared is a very fast and spontaneous thing.

Thinking that I had something on the memory card I moved on and shot a few more things that caught my attention and then it was home twenty minutes later while editing in camera that I thought, well, maybe there is something here.

I wonder if the deer are back at their sleeping spot right now?

Happy shooting,

Dan

Barbed Wire Beautiful

•July 15, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Barbed Wire Beautiful

I was chatting with my online friend Deborah who hails from Austin, Texas. She had remarked on how similar Alberta and Texas were in that they both shared barbed wire fences. In Alberta we have thousands upon thousands of wire fence. It has been around for as long as I remember. In central and southern Alberta where there is more grain farming and less cattle they have no need for fences. You can drive seemingly forever and have open, unobstructed views on both sides of the road.

A little farther north where I am farmers often alternate growing crops for a few years in a field and then letting it go to pasture which means having cattle eat and fertilize it if you get my drift.

So what is a photographer to do with these fence? Not surprisingly they have been a central feature of many of my photographs over the years. I can remember many times madly driving around a fog covered landscape and watching the sun burn through the fog with the only foreground subject around being the classic three strand barbed wire fence. You work with what is presented to you. I heard a few years ago a fighter talking about how when he fought he was like water. He took the shape of whatever was presented. Photography is kind of like that for me. I never try to force a subject instead prefer working with what is at hand.

The shot at the top of this post is actually a twin to the previous blog post, Mr. Birch. If while taking the previous photo I were to turn around this is what I would see. Hey, there’s that three strand fence again!

Deborah had also mentioned in chat about the infrared photos that I have been taking lately. One of the things that I really try for when shooting infrared landscapes is to have a mix of clouds and blue sky. Those blue skies under infrared go a beautifully deep black and contrast nicely with the white clouds.

We’ve been having a nice mix of sun, clouds and rain for the past few days. I am still waiting for the huge shelf clouds that sometimes pass through here in July. So far they’ve mostly been a couple of hundred kilometers south or east of where I am and truthfully I’m getting kind of lazy chasing them. Ahh, the life of a daytime photographer. LOL

Where ever you are taking photos stop and take a second look at the things in the landscape that you try to ignore or crop out of your photos. You might be pleasantly surprised if you include them once in a while.

Barbed wire can be beautiful.

Happy shooting,

Dan

Old Friends By The Road

•July 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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I was out again late this morning with hopes that the sky would cooperate with me. Alas that was not to be but it wasn’t all that bad as it turned out.

I had been watching the skies and the forecast all morning. During my regular one hour plus walk with the dog I kept glancing upwards and looking for what I call “popcorn” clouds. That is when cumulus clouds start popping all over the sky. At first there are a few popcorns above and within a couple of hours there is little blue to be seen there are so many clouds.

It wasn’t looking good the further I got out of town. To the west was a solid bank of clouds coming my way. To the east it was fairly clear with a few faint clouds.

I decided that it was not to be my day and after a few minutes on the highway decided to turn back and call it quits. There are other things for me to do around the house and yard and what the heck, it was still nice out.

Rather than return on the highway I was close to a road that I have photographed many times over the years. One side of the road is lined sparsely with a lot of poplar trees and the occasional birch. Behind the fence that runs with the trees is pasture land. Today the field was empty. There were now cows and calves to be seen.

I drove for a while homeward along the road all the while looking at some of the trees that I had photographed before and then I came upon my old friend Mr. Birch. This tree has looked lovely at -30 Celsius partly hidden by fog and covered in thick hoar frost. Today it was warm and sunny.

Pulling over I grabbed my infrared camera and quickly grabbed a few frames. Ten minutes later I was home and the sky got darker.

You can always count on old friends to be there when you need them.

Happy shooting,

Dan

Stormy Days, Sunny Days

•July 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Sunny days, stormy days.

June and July here in central Alberta are historically our wettest months.

After fears of a drought, again, the rain came and it came with a vengeance. The past few weeks have blessed us with plenty of rain and also lots of sunshine.

The weather often settles into what is a nice routine for us. When the sun comes up, it is clear and shining brightly. Throughout the day heating of the ground and the moisture in it results in clouds building early in the afternoon and by evening or nightime the deluge begins. Rain pours and pours and pours. Thunder booms and lightning illuminates the dark of the night.

By morning the storms have moved on or dissipated and the cycle starts over again. This has been happening for as long as I can remember and likely long before I was born.

By early August the cycle is broken. The days are dryer and crops in the area which grew to bursting with the rain and sun now ripen off before harvest.

It’s a great time for photos.

We had a few days where we didn’t get the sun like we usually did. It was cloudy in the morning with storm clouds hanging around from the night before. The wind started moving the clouds out showing some blue sky but of course a warming sun brought on the convection and storm clouds started building up.

On a whim I left home for an abandoned farm house about twenty minutes away. There is a large industrial area there where houses and barns have been torn down and left ready for future development.

I am always looking for interesting places to photograph and these abandoned yards are among my favorite. I can freely walk around without trespassing and the mature trees make for great backgrounds.

By the time I had arrived the sun was more behind the clouds than not. When shooting infrared landscapes I have found that having the sun shine directly on my subject is preferable to overcast days so I grabbed what I could and drove home.

This is the result. Great skies. Old clouds and new clouds and of course the sun shining on the old poplar tree helps brighten up the scene.

Stormy days, sunny days. My favorite kind of days.

Happy shooting,

Dan

Dreams and Dreaming

•July 10, 2016 • 4 Comments
Dreams and Dreaming
Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake? – Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci had a point.
Sometimes the harder we try to be creative the less creative we are.
My experience with infrared landscapes has been that a fair amount of blue sky is needed in order for the photograph to be pleasing to the eye.
Not enough blue sky or completely overcast and it is time to go home. However this time for some reason I kept shooting and when I got home at first blush there wasn’t much to work with.
Over a couple of days I kept returning to the RAW and unprocessed images. There was something there but I couldn’t see it. Some of the photographs just “felt” right but when I converted them to black and white they lost whatever “it” was.
I persisted, went to Youtube and started playing a jazz mix by someone that I recently stumbled upon. Music you see, often takes me away from where I am. It frees the mind from the body. It puts me on autopilot. It is doing without thinking.
Consciously or unconsciously I played with one of the images that I liked. I tried a dozen different treatments getting closer but not getting there.
Back to the beginning I would go and try again all the while entranced by the music in an almost dreamlike state until finally this clicked for me.
All those years that I spent in school daydreaming were not in vain I guess because with practice you do get better at what you do.
Dreams and dreaming.
Happy shooting,
Dan

Going by at 100 kmh you miss alot of stuff

•July 9, 2016 • 4 Comments

By The Side Of The Road

For the past few weeks I have driven by a really interesting tree by the side of hte road. It always made me do a double take. It has a unique shape quite unlike what I am used to seeing in this part of the world.

Driving along at 100 kmh or 60 mph for those of you not metricized the roundish shape always caught my eye. Little did I know or suspect that it was the back side of the tree that would be the side that I would present.

The sky wasn’t great. There was too much cloud in it I thought for infrared photography. When the sky is completely overcast, infrared photos have a foggy look to them. The contrast is reduced and the pictures just don’t have it.

So I took a chance.

After all, what was there to lose? Ten minutes at the most?

I pulled off the four lane paved highway and onto the gravel road that ran along side the fence that you see. As dozens of vehicles sped by in both directions I got out of the Rav camera in hand and proceeded to shoot.

Usually with the IR camera I leave the tripod behind and today was no different. The preview on the back of the camera is difficult to judge so I only go by “feel” that is, what looks right in through the viewfinder.

And I bracket infrared. Just as I used to do with HDR photos I set the camera to bracket five exposures. A couple over exposed, a couple under and the “correct” exposure because exposures in infrared are not consistent from day to day depending upon brightness, etc.

I shot wide, I shot tight.When I got close to the tree I was immediately drawn into the shapes of the trees trunk. I loved the curves and proceeded to blast away. Blast is the right term because it happens quickly without any thought really.

I hopped the fence and photographed the abandoned farm buildings just out of this pic and then I was gone.

Once home it was the “edit in camera” thing to cull out the overly light or dark photos. A second culling a few minutes later to remove the weaker compositions and still the tree trunk shots drew me in.

I selected the one with the best exposure, a little dark in the shadows but the highlights weren’t blown away.

RAW infrared

I processed a RAW image exactly as it comes out of the camera for you to see.

Part of the fun is in the shooting and a big part of the fun is in the processing. There was a lot of burning and dodging that went into this pic until I finally got it the way that I saw it in camera.

Some days it’s worth stopping, taking a few minutes to explore and find a new hidden treasure. This is a place that I will certainly return to when the sky looks better.

Happy shooting,

Dan

 

 
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