Rain, finally

Crazy weather around the start of summer this year. Named tropical storms in an early Atlantic hurricane season, three weeks of dry weather in the upper Midwest, the usual drought out west and temperatures in the 60’s around Wisconsin. Makes you wonder what the season of sun and shade will be like as we all start stretching our lives toward the nostalgia of summer.

Fortunately for us we’re seeing water from the sky, and more than just a drizzle. Looking forward to seeing some of that brown change to green in the next few days.

Scenes around town

Now everything I look at lately has been in B&W or infrared. There are always nice scenes where the color matters to the image and I do manage to capture them. Some have stories and some are just “what I see” images. Here are a few from the past couple of weeks.

Who needs new gear?

The weather continues to cooperate with IR photography. By which I mean blazing sunshine, only a few clouds and low humidity. I’ve tested all my digital lenses and now I’m evaluating older OM Olympus lenses. I do this because these lenses have an offset on the range scale telling you where to place the focus for infrared. Here’s an example from the LifePixel website:

Infrared focus marks on a lens

To use the red marks as infrared focal points you first focus through the viewfinder. Then whatever the focal distance (the distance across from the white line) you get simply turn the focusing ring until that distance is opposite the red mark. In the image above the lens is at 135mm, focusing at infinity. To focus for infrared, I would turn the focus ring until the infinity mark is opposite the red 135. My OM lenses have this type marking so it’s easy to know when I’m in focus for infrared.

The wavelength of infrared light is longer than visible light so I don’t expect the fine details in an image to be as sharp but I’m finding the OM lenses seem to do a better job on sharpness than the digital lenses. Having said that, though, all the lenses are sharper at f/8 or f/11 – just have to shoot at a slower shutter speed to get the proper exposure.

Here are images from an OM zoom, all at f/11, processed through Lightroom and NIK filters.

The main issue I’m finding with the OM lenses is at smaller apertures and longer shutter speeds the center of the image is significantly brighter than the edges – easily a stop or more brighter. Fortunately this appears to be correctable in post-processing. I could put a center neutral density filter on the lens (darker in the middle, clear on the edges) but I can’t find one the diameter of my favorite OM lens and besides, they are very expensive. Guess there’s not much market for them now that large format cameras are rarely used.

The exposures are still surprising me so I know there’s much to learn about what amount of infrared is reflected by what type surfaces, and how the camera is “reading” that to determine an exposure. I’m hoping that knowledge comes with experience in this different way of viewing the world.

More infrared

Continue to work with my IR converted camera to learn the quirks of this type photography. They appear to fall into two camps: camera quirks and post-processing quirks.

I’m learning the exposure seems to be non-linear as I change the Exposure Value. I generally shoot on Aperture priority to control depth of field, letting the camera figure out the shutter speed (I use a constant ISO). To gain more exposure at any given setting (that is, move the histogram to the right) I increase the Exposure Value (EV). For visible light photography the histogram moves to the right on a pretty consistent basis for every increase in EV. On IR, though, I’ve noticed the histogram will remain almost unchanged as I increase the EV and then suddenly jump significantly to the right. I’ve tested this by focusing on the same spot while changing EV and it behaves non-linearly. Something to get used to, I guess.

It’ll help as I learn what reflects IR and what doesn’t. Since the sensor sees the world differently than me now that exposure is going to be based on difference in light value it detects, not what I think it should see. Some really bright objects don’t appear to reflect much IR at all and some dull, dark objects turn out brilliantly white in the image. Learning to estimate the exposure (or compensation amount) is going to require that I change my perspective!

The post-processing quirks I’m still not sure about. I load all my images into Lightroom, converting them to .DNG format. The images on the back of my camera are .JPEG’s begin created by the camera chip – they appear as B&W as I expect they would. When loaded into Lightroom, however, they appear with a blue cast. Even if I load the .ORF (Olympus’ RAW format) into Lightroom with no conversion they still show up with the blue cast. If I load them into the Olympus software they show up as B&W. When I save those as .TIFF’s and load them into Lightroom they remain B&W. Somewhat disconcerting. I’ve compared the images from different ways of getting them into Lightroom and the quality doesn’t appear to be affected by the blue cast, which I can wipe out pretty easily. Since I process almost all my images in Photoshop and NIK filters I can get the look I want as long as I have a good “negative” with no blown highlights or blocked shadows.

Here are some examples of today’s testing. I want to get more of the typical glow from the foliage and darker skies but these look pretty good to me.

A new view

I’ve been experimenting with infrared for a few years, using a lens filter and long exposures to generate the “look” of infrared. Getting to the next level meant converting a camera for just infrared, which I just had done. The filter replacement I used blocks incoming light below 830 nanometers, essentially all the visible light and some of the near infrared. I chose this filter to get the greatest infrared “look” to my images.

One benefit of a conversion is I can hand-hold infrared shots now instead of the long exposure times I had to use previously. With this I can photograph moving objects because the exposure is more like visible light photography.

There’s still some practice needed to understand the exposure because not everything we see reflects infrared light. Even some objects that are really bright in visible light end up very dark in infrared images. As usual, there’s a dynamic range limitation to respect to keep the detail in highlights and shadows. And then the post-processing has a few tricks in order to deliver the result I want.

Here’s the first of what I’m sure will be many attempts to see the world in a new way.

Spring postscript

Not much longer now until the official start of summer. Even though mid-June is just weeks away with the expectation of green on green throughout the area the cooler weather lately has given some plants time to stretch out their annual beginnings. The colors and shapes are unique to spring so it’s good to have them around for just a little longer.

More Lake Michigan scenes

Stavkirke, Washington Island, Door County, WI, modeled after the Borgund Stavkirke constructed in 1150 near Laerdal. A stavkirke is a stav church built with vertical masts as the fundamental structure to reflect the Viking heritage.
Washington Island is an extension of the Door County peninsula, all of which is part of the Niagara Escarpment, and arch of limestone stretching from SE Wisconsin up through Lake Michigan and over to the area between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, where Niagara Falls tumbles over the edge of the Escarpment. Many of the “beaches” are simply shelves of limestone.
The shelves stretch out into the lake and may connect islands with shallow areas that boats have to be careful around.
Not that all the beaches are flat and uninviting. There are also sandy ones resulting from the water constantly pounding on the limestone.
You have you choice of beaches on Washington Island. This is Schoolhouse Beach, composed entirely of water-rounded rocks. Sort of a transition between the flat limestone shelves and the white sand.
The water here is as clear as any Caribbean cove. Difficult to have a game of beach volleyball, though.

Another spring

Simply driving north a bit and getting closer to Lake Michigan means getting to see new blooms again as the temperatures are cooler later in the year. Door County is a peninsula so it gets the benefit of cooler water on both sides, delaying the onset of spring by a couple of weeks compared to the southern and inland parts of Wisconsin. Hitting the season just right was great as it brought opportunities to make images of different flowering plants. Nice to have a longer season of color!

These lady slippers were few and far between, and according to the natives it was the perfect time to be there to catch them blooming.
Door county is famous for its orchards and almost all the trees were blooming so it looks like there will be a bountiful harvest.
The forget-me-nots were throughout the peninsula but particularly abundant in the state park.
This was the biggest patch of forget-me-nots found. Just a sea of blue through the woods.
Lots more trillum than we see further south. Interesting the distribution, though, as one small area would be loaded with them and 100 feet down the road there were none. Didn’t see any commonalities to the areas where they were blooming but it seems they spread to a point and stop.