A Failed Experiment

· Reading Time: 21 minutes

Thursday, April 23, 2021

Welcome back!  By the title you are probably already guessing that this entry will be a little bit different than my normal blogs.  In a way you would be correct.  I set out on a mission to get more experience with my new Singh-Ray I-Ray 690 Infrared filter and learned a lot about that filter and the processing.  The problem is, I found out that it doesn’t work quite the way I had hoped that it would.  After my last trek where I pulled it out and gave it a try at the end of the day, I was rather excited about the possibilities of this filter and I was ready to really put it through its paces.  I figured that with my upcoming Spring Decay Workshop coming up this weekend I would probably benefit from going out there and seeing what the property looked like after more than a year of being away from it.  Of course the weather was calling for bright sunshine through the second half of the week right up until Saturday when there was 100% chance of rain predicted.  Doesn’t that just figure?!?!  After several weeks of dry days we are in for a day of rain when I will have folks coming in from out of state to photograph these great rusty cars and trucks.  I digress, because for the time being the weather was nice…almost too nice.

Typically, I prefer a nice and cloudy day for my decay photography, but since I was needing to get by Outlawed Restorations anyway, I was wanting to try a few images while I was there.  The sun would normally scare me away, but with this new IR filter in my kit, I was looking forward to seeing what I could do with it there.  I went ahead and arranged the visit with Dean and I was on my way on Thursday morning.  The sky was pretty much empty with the exception of some high clouds which really didn’t affect the sun all that much.  It was strange going out on a trek wearing sunglasses.  This is usually a good indicator that the light will be too harsh.  That was what I was wanting for the IR photography, so it didn’t bother me.

I arrived at the shop a little after 9am and realized that Dean wasn’t there just yet.  I went ahead and scoped the property out to see what had been moved and to where.  My initial thoughts were that things had gotten much more crowded than they had been in the past.  That took the wind out of my sails at first, but the more I looked, the more I saw learning opportunities for the participants when it came to creative compositions that masked elements that you didn’t want to include.  I was starting to feel better and I was ready to start using that IR filter.  The problem was, the sun wasn’t quite strong enough just yet and the lighting was still too soft for that style of photography.  While I was waiting on Dean to get back I started to pull my camera out and get ready to shoot the emblem on the front of his tractor which was in the shed out back.

Mark of a Worker“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Converted to B&W in Lightroom

As I was getting my gear put together which included my 24-70mm lens along with a polarizer, I could hear the rumble of Dean’s truck pulling in.  I just put everything back in the bag and went out to greet him.  We chatted for a while and caught up since it had been a while since we had seen each other.  we talked about the workshop and he offered to move anything that needed to be moved to accommodate me.  This is why I love conducting this workshop at this location.  He has always been so willing to help me out with pretty much whatever I needed.  I assured him that I was really liking the fact that there were obstacles to work around as it made for a better teaching scenario for this type of photography.  Part of what you run into in these situations is discarded vehicles piled in with other things that you have to take into consideration with your compositions.  No sense in making it easy on anyone right?

After he share a bit of his new project with me, I was back outside in the chilly air working the front emblem on the Massey Ferguson tractor.  It was a simple emblem, but one that made a statement.  I loved the tractor at the top with the initials below.  I thought that it made for a very classy composition and there was a humorous element here with the initials that I knew would make Toni smile.  It did.  My original thought here was to do it as a color image as there was a bit of blue reflected on the top of the emblem while the bit of warmth from the age of the metal came through on the bottom half.  In the end, I thought that it didn’t need the colors and I just went with a basic black and white presentation for it.

Trees and Ladders“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Galen Rowell 2-stop soft ND Grad

When I got done here I saw that the sun was getting harsh enough for the IR photography, so I pulled off the filter and replaced it with the I-Ray 690 filter.  I bumped up my ISO to give me a manageable shutter speed and I was off and running.  Everything seemed to be going great.  The images were looking like I expected them to in the camera and the exposures were coming out great.  I saw no hot spots which was still a concern of mine.  I went through about four different compositions to get started with.  By the time I was done with the one corner of the property, I moved over to the big White firetruck that I have always been attracted to, both as a subject and as an exercise in exposures on bright days.  I wasn’t sure how the image was going to look in IR with the main subject being white, and at this point the clouds were coming in a little bit.  I decided to get a couple of shots of the truck in regular color since it might be the last time I will have the opportunity.  The filter switch went easily and I was back in line for shooting visible light once again.

The composition was easy enough to come up with using the large tree to the left as a frame for the image and capturing just enough of the sky above the barn to balance the colors within the image.  I had to slide in a 2-stop grad filter to keep the exposure under control, but that was the hardest part of this composition.  When I was happy with how that had worked out, I decided to take that same composition and try the IR thing with it.  The transition was quick as I was getting used to the flow of making the camera ready for IR photography.

You have no doubt noticed that there aren’t any Infrared images here in the blog yet.  I’ll explain later on what happened with that.  For now, I was just moving around and getting compositions that I liked and doing some as IR and some with the visible light.  I was putting much more effort into the IR photography because I just knew that those were going to turn out great and be something different from a place that I have photographed so many times over the years.  It was the other images that I was doing more or less to try out different compositions in preparation for the workshop.

Scarf and a Bowtie“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

One of those stations that I decided to forego any IR photography and just shoot visible light was the oldest of the Chevy pickups on the property.  I believe that this was a late ’30’s model if memory serves from Dean talking about it last year.  I had yet to photograph it, but with the yellow tarp draped across it, I just couldn’t resist getting a few shots of it.  The composition was difficult here because there was a railing behind the truck next to the barn and there were two vehicles at the wood line to the rear of the scene.  One of those vehicles was a van which really didn’t fit in the composition and the other was a much later model Chevy truck.  The latter made sense in the story for me as the two subjects were related by bloodlines.  I made the choice to block the van with the main subject and use the Chevy in the background as a complimenting element to the scene.  In the end, this turned out to be one of my favorite images from the day and it was just a compositional experiment more than anything.

I’m Stumped“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

While I was back in this area of the property, I went over to visit my favorite tree stump which was attached to the back of this old Chevy truck.  I’ve shot this truck on a number of occasions showing off the stump and also at night for a bit of light painting.  What drew me in this time was the Spring colors in the background and how they worked with the natural patina of the truck.  I moved my rig over there and found the shot that I wanted.  The trick here was that just on the other side of the truck was another three trucks tucked into the woods and a red Pontiac Firebird (late 80’s model) to the passenger side.  This subject is all about creative compositions when it comes to avoiding the surrounding distractions.  Fortunately, a couple of years ago, this truck had been moved back ever so slightly which made working around the Firebird much easier to do.  By getting in close and low, I was able to use the bed to block the other trucks in the background.

The Borrowed Tree“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Galen Rowell 2-stop soft edge ND Grad

I was having so much fun with this truck that I started to consider doing an IR shot of it.  I opened up the lens to get a bit of the sky in the upper left corner witch I actually liked as a composition so I added a grad filter to pull the sky down a little bit and shot this in visible light.  I then pulled off the filters and added the 690 filter.  Remembering the exposure differences I slid in the same 2-stop grad and looked at the histogram.  I couldn’t tell a difference as I was sliding it in either visibly or with the histogram.  My conclusion was that there was a difference in the visible light luminosity and the IR light so I just pulled that filter off to leave the IR filter alone.  I shot a few images here just in case I ran into exposure difficulties.

Always the Volunteer“, Canon 5DS R, 16-35mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

When I was finished with the stumped truck, I moved on to the three vehicles that were sitting just beyond it which I had masked with the bed of the truck.  The brightest one in the middle was a new truck which had been added to the mix not too long ago.  It is actually an interesting vehicle in a way.  The front end of the truck had been swapped out with the project fire truck that Dean is doing for the town of Clemmons.  The metal that was on this old parts truck was in better shape than the fire truck, so he swapped the panels between them and now the Clemmons truck’s original panels are here on this Chevy while the restored fire truck has much straighter panels and is looking brand new.

It was the red of the panels that captured my attention here and I liked the way it was flanked by two muted trucks on either side.  I didn’t like the S-10 hood, but since I like to shoot a scene like I find it, this was how I wanted to capture it.  I minimize the vehicles on the sides I went with a wide angle lens and got in very close.  I elevated the camera so that I had a good bit of protrusion into the frame with that center truck that showed off the spring packs where the bumper used to be.  It was an interesting composition as I just included portions of the trucks on either side as a framework.  This ended up turning into one of my favorite images from the day as well.

Spring Patina“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

As I started to move away from that location, I saw another view of the stump truck that really worked for me.  The delicate little yellow flowers growing all around the truck added a certain beauty to the well worn patina of the cab.  It was that juxtaposition that I wanted to capture so I got my camera in place and decided that I needed to swap the lens back to the my 24-70mm for this shot.  It was relatively simple to frame up and since I knew exactly what I wanted in the frame I went with a vertical composition because it eliminated the elements that I didn’t want to include.  It was all about the cab and the yellow dots of Spring.

In Need of Shelter“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

Just beyond this truck was another group of trucks that I had photographed many times before.  The sun was diffused here because of the barn they were parked behind so there was no need for the IR filter to come out.  In fact, I was doubting that there was anything here that I could shoot different from what I had in the past.  As I was walking around the trucks to see the different angles, I found a nice composition between two trucks.  I pulled my camera into the small area between them and started to frame up the shot.  The idea was to get just enough of the truck to show the parts that I loved about it and have the barn door as the background giving some textures and repeating patters for the eyes to fall on.  It was a simple composition and one that I only had to tweak a little bit between three frames to get the image that I wanted.

I was going to work some other views here, but the lighting wasn’t all that inspiring for any of the other trucks.  Things will change in the rain I think as the patina will get super saturated among the vehicles.  I’m hoping that if it does rain on Saturday that we will still be able to work in it to get the images that I know this place is capable of providing.  For now, this corner wasn’t offering me anything different from what I had shot in the past.  I picked up my gear and decided to go back to the corner of the property that I had started working on and see if I could make use of the clouds in the sky to get some visible light images from that area since I had stayed with my IR photography the first time I was there.

Broken Lines“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

One of the first subjects that I wanted to capture was the Olds Delta 88 that I have shot more times that I can count.  This car just has the best patina to it and has the most wicked snarl in the hood from where a tree had fallen across the front of it years ago.  I wasn’t after an overall image because I had several of those and there really was only one composition to be had here.  Instead I went for the isolation shots and the first one that I wanted to try was a side view of the broken windows.  I had done this view years ago and really loved it.  I wanted to frame it a bit different and really capture the details of the breaks which was going to be easy to do with the high resolution of the 5DS R.

I found my position and got the composition that I wanted which included three windows with just a bit of visual tension as the side windows were cropped off by the composition.  I kept the posts off center and used the lines of the car to establish the visual drama through the the image.  It was a really basic composition, but one that I really liked.  I changed that up and moved the composition over to the left and concentrated on a more simple view of the two main windows, but that seemed to be a let down in the overall impact of the photograph.

Rocket View“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Converted to B&W in Lightroom

My next isolation was of the driver’s side headlight which I had never captured in its own composition before.  I loved the decoration with the chrome rocket sitting atop the fender and the headlight made for a great visual anchor for the image.  The trick here was to avoid the hood that was heavily damaged here and creating some distracting lines for the composition.  By carefully placing the camera at an angle, I was able to keep the edge of the frame right where the hood line was and to keep a nice curve to the side of the image.  It was shot with color in mind, but when I pulled this into Lightroom, I didn’t like the distractions that the colors gave it.  I wanted this to be about the shapes and textures more than anything so I did it as a high contrast black and white presentation.

Outlaw Fire“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Galen Rowell, 2-stop soft ND Grad

With the sun coming out once again, I saw the opportunity for some more IR photographs, so I went over to one of the first rat rods that Dean built.  I have always loved this truck and have photographed it many times in all sorts of conditions.  This time I was going to get it outside of the visible light which I thought would be very cool.  This was one of the harder subjects to compose because there was an old house behind it which had to be fit into the composition and there was a VW Rabbit between the two elements.  This would obviously not quite fit the scene, so I had to work around it.  The easiest thing to do was get down low and use the truck to mask the VW.  I would have loved to use my 16-35mm lens here to really change the perspective, but I knew that I would have problems with that lens shooting IR.  Since my goal was IR photography, I left the more IR friendly standard lens attached.

I got the image framed the way that I wanted it and shot a few images in the visible spectrum before switching over to the IR filter and getting a few more while the sun was shining even brighter.  I was actually very excited about how these images were going to turn out and figured that I was going to be ditching most of the visible spectrum images in favor of the IR photos of the day.  I was really pumped to get these home and get them into the computer to see how they looked.

So why haven’t we seen any of the IR photos?  Well, what had happened was….

The failure part of this trek

When I first used the IR 690 filter I realized that things weren’t quite as easy in the conversion process in post processing that I had hoped for.  I was going through all of the steps that I was supposed to from creating the color profile to swapping the red and blue channels in Photoshop.  The image that I had shot of the old Dodge wasn’t quite what I was expecting but I was able to make it work and I came up with an image that I actually liked quite a bit.  I was thinking that I might do another profile for these images since there were more colors represented than what I had seen before.  If I was lucky the profile that I had would work here though and simplify things.

I found out early on that the color profile was not correct for getting the images that I was wanting.  The colors were off, and I couldn’t get the greens to register as white as I was hoping for.  I tried several different color profiles and nothing worked out.  I played with the hue, saturation, and even color calibration between Lightroom and Photoshop and still couldn’t get the look that I was after.  I started to do research on the filter and the processing and found out something very important that I wished I had known before. This filter is not designed to do the color IR photography that I was hoping to get into.  It is more designed to allow for a faster shutter speed (which it does) for creating IR photography.  It allows in a greater deal of visible light than a true IR filter which makes the processing different from what had been reading about.  Add to that, apparently Canon cameras don’t perform well with this filter.  When doing IR black and white images, the pictures just look like normal black and white captures.  The foliage is not white, and it is just a gray scale image.  This is something that I can confirm as in my disgust over what I had been so excited about I tried to make black and white images out of the IR captures but they didn’t look at all like IR images in that presentation.  It was looking like the first image that I shot was a fluke and I was really wishing that I had spent more time using my I-Ray 830 filter for some black and white images which would have looked really good.  Fortunately, the trees were still greening up and I was going to have plenty of opportunities to go back there and try the other filter later on.

As it turned out, about a third of the images that I captured for this trek were with the wrong filter.  I spent hours trying to get the colors to come out right, but they just didn’t pan out at all.  There were about eight compositions that I had shot with this filter that I had been interested in processing, but only two of those were ones that I could get to represent anything close to what I had envisioned.  This is one of those times when I have to admit that my main reason for going on this trek was a complete failure.  However, this is also a great learning experience for me as I have found out more about this filter and I know what I can and can’t do with it.  I’m going to keep on trying to figure out how I can use it, or if I just need to ditch it.  This is all valuable information and I have a new respect for the 830 filter that I didn’t have before.

The failure wasn’t a complete loss either.  Like I said, there are two images that are passible and I will include them here for you to make your determinations on.  I go back and forth as to whether or not they are good images which probably means that they aren’t.  Toni came down and looked at them and wasn’t all that impressed but thought that they had some cool qualities to them.  In other words we both agree on them.  They aren’t great, they are different, and that makes them unique and interesting.  That might just be a way of polishing a turd so to speak, but I wanted to share these two that I did manage to get to completion.

Rat Rod Dreams“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray I-Ray 690

This was one of the first images that I shot of the da and includes a lot of the things that I love about this property.  I had pictured a bright blue sky with pink foliage with some darker color on the cars and buildings.  Obviously, that didn’t work out at all.  I do like the composition and will be back to shoot this one again at some point as possibly a IR B&W presentation.  I do wish that I had taken the time to swap filters out here and get a visible light shot.  The light was harsh, but it was even which was good.  So, what’s the verdict on this one?  Let me know.

Altered Reality“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray I-Ray 690

This one was along the same lines as the previous one.  I had some grand plans for this with a very deep sky and almost white foliage.  The different color tones were going to be vibrant through the shadows.  That obviously didn’t work here either.  Is it a success?  Is it a failure?  I know that I am glad that I got the visible light image of this composition though as it turned out quite nice.  In fact, I am so very glad that I wasn’t lazy and did the filter swapping through the day.  Had I gone with my original idea of shooting all of the compositions as color IR, I would have wasted the time with the camera and come home with nothing but disappointment.  My gut was telling me that the light was too harsh for good pictures but looking back over eleven of these images I think that it is safe to say that the light was pretty good and I was able to get some very vibrant colors through the different images.

I do hope that you enjoyed the day and learned a little about how I can fail just like anyone else with a camera.  It is always a great day when I am at Outlawed Restorations and I am looking forward to returning there on Saturday for what I hope is a reasonably dry day of shooting with some other photographers.  I know that this has historically been one of my most successful workshops and is also probably one of the more unique ones offered out there for the subject matter and the instruction that goes along with it.  I know that those who have attended in the past have really enjoyed themselves and I hope that will continue.

With that said, it is time to get ready for the workshop as I’ll be heading that way in the morning.


Until next time….

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