Dodging Light

· Reading Time: 20 minutes

Monday, April 19, 2021

I struggled with what to name this one.  I thought about “Why Not?”, “Might as Well Try it”, “Doing it the Same but Different”, and my personal favorite “What the Hell, Let’s do it!”  It all came down to this was not a day that I had really planned on going out for anything until pretty late in evening on Sunday.  I had been watching some Youtube videos on photography which is pretty normal for me in the evenings.  I wasn’t watching anything particularly different, and nothing that I was watching really got me in the mood to think about going out and doing any photography.  However, I was in a learning mood and one thing that I had been waiting on for my next learning process was for the trees and grass to green up.  No, this is not a matter of learning how to capture pictures in the warmer months, I’m pretty good at that already.  What I have been wanting to learn more about is Infrared Photography which I started dabbling in a while back.  For this type of photography, it is the greens of the trees and grass that really make the difference to the pictures.  A few months ago, I added a filter to my kit that furthered my abilities beyond just the monochrome IR captures and introduced a filter for color IR Photography with the Singh-Ray I-Ray 690 filter.  Of course, I just tossed it in my bag  until things started to get green.  I more or less forgot about it because IR photography isn’t one of my normal styles of photography.  But with the greens coming back into season I have started to think about doing some more IR photography.  Since that first time, I had been out and improved slightly on the technique with the I-Ray 830 filter when I went up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and shot the twin trees in Infrared.  That was the last time I even attempted IR photography because it was not really working all that well with my current kit.

When given the chance to purchase the color filter from Singh-Ray I decided to take the leap and give it a try since I had upgraded my camera body replacing my 5D Mk3 with a slightly newer 5DS R.  My hopes were that the new camera wouldn’t have the hot spot issue that the old one had.  The more I read up on things, the more I started to suspect it was the lenses which were causing the problems.  This was not encouraging and it made me not want to even try the new filter out in a way.  I remember the heartache that I had with the old camera the first time I tried it out and I just didn’t want to go through that again.  It was that need to know that prompted me to start considering going out for a bit with the camera during the day.  I had remembered seeing that the week was going to be generally sunny which was not my favorite condition for photography.  However, Infrared photography works really well in harsh lighting.  A quick check of the weather showed that there were some early clouds expected and they were going to give way to mostly sunny skies after about 10am.  It was going to be a good day to go out and try the new filter and to check to see if the camera made any difference to the older filter.

I was up early enough because Toni was starting school in preparation for getting a nursing degree.  She was going to be there for most of the day which left me with time on my hands to work through some of these tests with the photography.  When she woke me up I did my morning routines and went down to the office for a bit.  It was very cloudy and I wasn’t feeling like going out for any pictures.  I decided to do some research while I was getting motivated and I started to look up different things on IR photography.  The more I read, the less I wanted to go out to give it a try.  Everything that I was reading told me how bad my lenses were for IR use.  They are top quality lenses for the visible spectrum, but it seems that the lower end lenses work better for this type of capture.  It was seeming that this was going to be a lost cause unless I went out and got some dedicated lenses for this type of photography.  I decided to let my testing go and just pull the filters out of the bag.

When I got done downstairs, I started back up the stairs and looked out the window.  It was still very cloudy even though we were getting close to that time when the clouds were going to break up.  I looked outside from some different windows and the clouds actually looked really good.  I wasn’t interested in going out for testing of the new equipment anymore, but since I was free for the day and there were good clouds, I figured I would go out and see what I could find locally to shoot.  I grabbed my keys and went back down again to get my gear in the truck.  I considered pulling the filters out of the bag once again, but decided that my time would be better spent finding a location to shoot.  I had no idea where I was going to want to end up, but I needed to get out there and get started chasing the clouds if I was going to get anything at all photographed.

Seasons Turn“, Canon 5DS R, 16-35mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, 3 image HDR series

I headed down Boone Trail which was one of the first roads that I explored when we moved here last year.  I’ve been up and down the road many times and I know there are lots of great little scenes in the Purlear area.  As I was driving I was just not all that motivated to shoot anything.  The light was good with the clouds softening the whole landscape and that kept my interest going.  Before I knew it, I was making a left turn down a road that I had found a great little barn on back in the early Winter after the trees had shed their leaves.  I’m not sure why I was drawn to this barn once again, but there was something pulling me that way and I didn’t have the strength to fight it.  In a minute or so I was driving past the barn.  It looked good in the light and the trees had started to get their leaves back for a bit of color above the horizon.  I pulled over and parked on the shoulder without giving the activity any thought.  Well, I was here, might as well pull the camera out and give it a try.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to achieve from this activity because I already had an image from here that I liked quite a bit but there I was fitting my 16-35mm lens onto the camera along with a polarizer.

I found the spot that I wanted and had just enough elevation to give the flipped over trough a bit of separation from the fence which was the part that I hadn’t been able to do last time because it was a bit closer to that top railing.  I dialed in the exposure and saw that the barn was going pretty dark in the shadows while I was exposing for the sky.  That wasn’t going to work at all.  I considered using a Grad Filter, but with my main subject being above the horizon I was going to have to pull it out of the shadows regardless and that wasn’t what I was really wanting to do.  My other option was to shoot an HDR series and blend them in Lightroom which is what I opted to do.  I did a three shot series as well as a four shot series with a few attempts at a balanced exposure in between just in case the trees were moving too much to align the images correctly.  I also shot a couple of other compositions, but I knew from experience that this was my strongest composition and it was the one that I went with.

As it turned out, my first set of three images was the one that I chose to keep.  It had the best overall quality for composition and exposure.  The edit didn’t take long at all and I was rather pleased with the outcome.  It was the second time that I had shot this barn, and there wasn’t a lot of of difference between the two with the exception of the dormant grass and bare trees in the first version.  With Spring fever hitting, I’m finding myself liking the deeper greens of the newer image and the sky is a bit more dramatic with this second visit.

My first shot was in the bag and I was feeling better about being out with the camera.  I noticed that the sky was finally starting to clear off which was no longer what I was wanting.  I was just getting into the groove of shooting under perfectly cloudy skies.  I decided that I was going to have time for one or two other locations before it was time to call it a day and head back home.  Hey, this way I could meet Toni at home for her lunch break from class and see how that went.  I hunted for that next scene and finally decided to give a scene that I kept passing a chance.  This was at the top of the road that I had turned off of and I have passed it and contemplated capturing an image here probably a dozen or more times.  There was a great Ford truck sitting beside of a house which was obviously vacant.  My original plans had always been to capture the truck isolated without much of the surroundings to clutter the scene.  This time, I had an idea to include the house.  There was more evidence that it was no longer lived in than I had seen previously so it helped to tell the story a bit better.

Come Out in the Wash“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I grabbed my 24-70mm lens and a polarizer before going to the shoulder of the road.  I started to frame up a shot that included a small tree as a foreground element.  I liked the concept, but the execution wasn’t working at all since the tree blocked a good portion of the house.  I moved in closer and got just a portion of the tree.  That was even worse.  I was going to have to get in closer than the tree in order to avoid that element.  I didn’t like going in this close to the house this far into the property.  I checked and there were no signs or other indicators that I wasn’t allowed to be there.  I made it quick and got into position while keeping my activities very visible.  I managed to find the right composition which allowed me to include the truck and the house without any of the extra bits around it.  The clouds were breaking up, but they were still looking good above the house.

I shot just a few frames with slightly different compositions before turning back to go to the truck.  I was satisfied with the capture that I had made here and it was the right time to shoot the picture.  I had no problems with all of the other times that I had passed it by because it was the fresh Spring Color that made this image work as well as it did.  That lush green helped to bring the attention to the warmer tones of rust on the appliances in the carport as well as the rusted bed on the truck.

As I looked up at the sky, the clouds were clearing off quickly and the sun was coming out strong to the West.  To the East, however, I still had some clouds and some time to work.  I started to make my way into North Wilkesboro in search of something that I could use for when the sun broke free from the clouds.  I was after some high contrast shadows and hard edges of buildings.  It was just a loose concept, but I was trying to find something that would work.  While I was driving through downtown I talked with Toni and found out how her first day went and double checked that she would be OK with me not stopping for lunch with her.  She was good with that and I was back at hunting for my next scene to photograph.

Dodging A Dream“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray I-Ray 690

I was about to give up and head home as the sun was getting very bright.  I wasn’t finding anything that suited my ideas for a photo and I was getting tired of driving around aimlessly.  I was in a section of town that I had not been in before as I was chasing churches.  They usually have some really interesting architecture and I was hoping to get lucky.  I wasn’t….  Everything that I was seeing was rather simple and bland.  As I was coming down one of the back roads I could see on the other side of a shelter what looked to be ’50’s model car sitting off near the woodline.  I slowed down and looked.  I saw no signs saying that I couldn’t be there, but I was going to have to very deep into the property to get a shot of this car.  I was not really feeling it all that much anyway because there was very little rust on it by the looks of things and it was a shade of green that was very close to the trees around it.  Even though I thought that it wasn’t going to work, I made the left at the intersection and thought that I might be able to get to it better from that roadway.

Wouldn’t you know it, there was a parking lot off of that road that ran right up to the car.  I hadn’t seen the gravel parking lot because of the elevation of the shelter I had been looking through.  This was much too easy and I felt bad for passing up this kind of opportunity.  I looked around to make sure that there were no indicators that I wasn’t supposed to be there and once I cleared that up I stopped close to the car and got out.  The light was bright on the car, but it seemed to fit the scene well enough.  I grabbed my camera with the 24-70mm lens and started to find a composition.  There was a trailer to the right of the car that I wanted to avoid and there was some general clutter to the left so I was having to be very picky about how I composed this image.  I did finally come upon a composition that I liked and I got the exposure dialed in.  The light was harsh, but it was even across the scene so the exposure was really rather simple.

As I was tripping the shutter I was watching some small clouds moving into the scene and it got me thinking about IR photography once again.  I had about a half dozen images of the car and I was satisfied with them so why not give the new filter a try.  I was here, the camera was set up, the lighting was right, and I had plenty of vegetation in the frame which worked well for IR images.  I pulled off the polarizer and went back to the truck to slide in the I-Ray 690 filter.  I took it back to the camera and popped it on figuring that I would have to guess at the exposure like I did with the I-Ray 830 before.  Surprisingly, that was not necessary at all.  I could actually see the image in the live view through the filter.  I guess that it was allowing just enough of the visible light in so that I could see the composition and even focus on the car.  This might be easier than I thought.

I started out with a 30 second exposure to see how things were looking.  I was pleasantly surprised with how things turned out on the image review.  My biggest concern was that the hot spot would be back in the middle of the image.  I wasn’t seeing anything of the sort and that made me very happy.  Now I started to look at the image and saw that there was just too much motion in the vegetation for my liking.  I was going to need to get a quicker shutter speed.  That began the experimenting process.  What I ended up with that worked very well was ISO 200, f/10, for 8 seconds which gave me the exposure that I was after.

When I got this image home, I had to go into the Adobe DNG Profile Editor which I had downloaded after my first attempt last year.  This is the key to IR photography as I learned.  I had to go in and create a custom color profile for the files made with this camera and filter combination.  Basically, I just moved the temperature slider all the way to the left and did nothing else.  From this, I was able to go back into Lightroom and apply that color profile for a starting image.  I then moved the temperature and tint until I had a relatively neutral color where the green had been.  This gave me a really odd looking file and I had to take that into Photoshop to switch the red and blue channels in the color mixer.

Well, that didn’t work at all and gave me really odd colors.  I went back into Lightroom and worked with the color calibration there to get the image to look more like what Photoshop was wanting it to look like for the channel swap.  Once I had that done, I brought it back into Photoshop and did the channel mixer again.  Now I was seeing an image that I was liking.  I brought it back into Lightroom for some more color tweaks and the local adjustments that needed to be done.  It was a long process, but the edit was actually pretty easy on this image.  It was a really good experience getting this one edited as my first attempt at color IR photography….ever!

Sedan Fantasy“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray I-Ray 830

While I was still in the field and had the camera set up.  I was already pretty sure that the hot spot wasn’t going to be an issue with this combination of equipment so I started wondering if that 830 filter would perform the same as it had before.  I was still set up and it was just a filter change to get things underway for that test so I figured why not give it a try.  I pulled the filter holder off and went back to the truck and grabbed the older filter to slide it in.  I put it back on the camera and found that there was no way I was going to see anything at all through that filter.  This was not a surprise as I had run into the same issue the other times I had shot this filter.

I wasn’t worried because I had the focus locked on the lens and the camera hadn’t changed positions.  I just had the change in filters to deal with.  I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to get away with 30 seconds worth of exposure with this filter so I switched over to Bulb mode and left the ISO at 200.  My first exposure was at f/11 and was about three and a half minutes long.  When it finished and popped up on the review screen I could see the hot spot in the middle of the frame once again.  It was not as bad as I had remembered, but it was there.  I did remember reading that with the 24-70mm lens the hot spot got worse at f/16 so I figured that the wider the lens, the better it was able to blend the hot spot. I opened up the lens to f/8 and started to hunt exposures.  I finally landed on a 150 second exposure at f/8, still at ISO 200 which worked very well.  The hot spot was only visible in the small image and when I zoomed in, I could no longer make it out.  I figured that I would be able to deal with this in post as I had done previously.

Speaking of post processing, I had to do the same thing with the DNG Profile Editor as I did before.  This was a bit more involved for a black and white capture as I had to change up the saturation levels across all three channels, and add contrast to the image.  This gave me the starting point for the B&W IR image in Lightroom.  With that new profile saved, I started to work on the edit.  I’ll say that this one was so much easier to edit than the color one, and I’m happy to say that the image quality is much better with this one than the ones I’ve shot in the past.  I don’t know if it is the camera or the fact that I have learned to shoot a lower ISO and just take the longer exposure.  Whatever it is, this is sharper than what I had captured before and a much cleaner image as well.  If this had been my first experience with color IR photography, I would have done more with it last year.  The fact of the matter was I was not happy with the quality of images that I was creating.  I just didn’t know how to fix the issues.  I think it all came down to that ISO which apparently is a big deal with IR images.

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

I had now shot three types of images from the same position with the camera.  All I had to do was switch the filters around.  With the clouds coming back in and the light softening up a little bit, I saw the opportunity to go back to my first plan for this car and ditch the IR filters and put the polarizer back on.  I put the camera back in manual mode and went back to my base ISO before starting the next series of images on this old Dodge.  I had to laugh at myself for spending this much time on a car that really didn’t stick out all that much from the surrounding greenery.  It was not a scene that I would routinely have captured, but here I was really enjoying myself with this car.  I just waited for the clouds to move around overhead and eventually realized that I needed to open up the composition a bit in order to capture the darker cloud right at the top of the frame which made for a great visual block to keep the eyes in the frame.

I didn’t have to take many exposures here as the light was pretty consistent and the clouds were quickly taking over the sky.  I wanted to keep some blue in the sky to help bring another hue into the scene since it was all very green to start with.  When I got done with the images, I packed it all up and headed straight for the house.  I was interested to see how the filters had worked and needed to see it on a full screen to fully understand how they looked.

I’ve gone through the editing process on the IR images, but the difficulties in editing didn’t stop there with this car.  I had a time in post with this straight color image because the car was so close to the color of the trees and grass that it didn’t really stand out enough for me.  I had to play with the colors quite a bit in order to get the car to have a different shade than the surroundings.  I kept the colors the same, just changed the hues slightly to give a little more contrast.  Fortunately, there was a bit of blue in the green paint of the car that I was able to pull out.  It wouldn’t pass for a commercial shoot where color accuracy would be supremely important, but for my purposes this worked very well to make the car pop.

It was a fun day in the field and a learning experience once I got home in front of the computer.  Considering that I had decided that I wasn’t going to try the IR filters at all, and had initially decided that I was just going to stay in for the day, I had a very successful day.  This is getting to be the case more and more which is a good thing.  On those days that I am just not motivated to shoot, I am actually coming back with some very good images and this helps to get me motivated for the next time as well.  I’m glad I as able to work on the old Dodge because I am gearing up for my Spring Decay Workshop this weekend which will cover many different ways to capture old vehicles found just like this one.  There is still room, so sign up today if you haven’t already.  It will be a great day in East Bend full of rust and decay.

I also realized yesterday that my Spring Landscape Workshop is right around the corner less than a month away.  I haven’t been doing much promoting of that one, but I do have participants signed up for it and it is a go.  There are still plenty of spaces left and I encourage you to join if landscapes are your thing.  It will be a full day from sunrise to sunset and we will cover a good deal of the Parkway between Doughton Park and Blowing Rock.  Be sure and sign up soon to ensure that you have a spot reserved.

I do appreciate you joining me on this trek and I hope that you have enjoyed the photography.  Remember that if there are ever any photos that speak to you, I do offer prints of my images at reasonable prices.  I’ve just recently done away with shipping charges so the process is a bit simpler than it once was.  There is just no better way to enjoy photography than to hold a print in your hand that represents the intended look of the picture by the photographer.

Until next time…

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