Month: March 2014

Infrared Filters

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Canal near to my house. Shot on an IR converted GX1 but with an IR850nm filter on the lens. Halation effect added in Photoshop.
Canal near to my house. Shot on an IR converted GX1 but with an IR850nm filter on the lens. Halation effect added in Photoshop.

Over the weekend I published my spring newsletter. Those of you who subscribe and who have had an opportunity to read the latest issue will know that the main article explores the options for infrared photography (including some that cost very little). As I was writing this it got me thinking that I wanted to shoot some Infrared film using my Hasselblad XPan which I haven’t used for about a year.

Choices for film are very limited these days so it was either Ilford SFX (which isn’t really a true infrared film) or Rollei IR400. I purchased a few rolls but realised I didn’t have a 49mm Infrared filter for the XPan lens, so needed to turn to eBay. I also realised I had sold my light meter thinking (incorrectly) that I wouldn’t need it again, so ended up needing to buy another.

Anyway, whilst searching for a 49mm Infrared filter (720nm strength) I also had a quick look for an 850nm Infrared filter and found quite a few. For anyone who is unfamiliar with these filters they will block out light with a wavelength shorter than the filter strength. For example a 720nm filter blocks light with a shorter wavelength, effectively blocking visible light but allowing infrared wavelengths through.

The reason for wanting a 52mm 850nm IR filter (which incidentally only cost £10 including postage) was so I could use it with my Infrared camera. When I had the camera converted to infrared I had a choice of having it fitted with either 720nm filter or an 850nm filter. The 850nm filter gives a more dramatic effect and can only be used to produce black and white images. I opted for the 720nm filter as this allows you to create some false colour effects. By using a screw in 850nm filter on the lens it’s like having my camera converted with the stronger filter.

When the new filters arrived I checked them. The 720nm filter made no difference to the IR camera but blocked the visible light from a standard (unconverted camera) so I knew it was a good filter. The 850nm filter when attached to a lens on my infrared camera caused a loss of about 2 stops of light making it very usable for handheld shooting. It also caused a colour shift to blue in the image but this is probably because I didn’t bother setting a custom white balance. The blue tint was easily corrected during the RAW conversion.

Now here’s the interesting thing, when I used the 850nm filter on the infrared camera, although the shutter speed was slower by 2 stops, the image quality was better. I didn’t take sufficient images to check this out properly but across about 10 scenes, the 850nm images appeared to have sharper and finer detail in all cases. I can’t explain why as in fact I had expected the opposite to happen. I’m going to keep a close eye on this as the light starts to get stronger and better for shooting infrared.

Friday image No.014

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Hail storm in North Wales
Hail storm in North Wales

This week’s Friday Image is taken from last weekend’s trip to Wales. It’s such a shame the weather didn’t come up to expectations but then again there were periods of dramatic light and weather. Here you can see a hail storm crossing the valley.

Have a great weekend.

Busy without focus

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Tryfan, Snowdonia, North Wales. Olympus EM5
Tryfan, Snowdonia, North Wales. Olympus EM5

This past few weeks has been a little odd in terms of my photography. I seem to have built up lots of unfinished activities which I am struggling to complete. I have my quarterly newsletter (in which I like to include a decent article), a shoot in Wales last weekend, a book on Nik Color Efex that is much longer than expected, a book on photographic vision that I am drafting, working with Olympus and ePHOTOzine on new projects, developing a new presentation for some Camera Clubs that have booked me and writing this blog to name but a few. On top of this I need to take some photographs.

What seems to be happening is that I start lots of interesting and valuable work, but it’s hard to bring things to a close. I end up flitting between different activities so that it feels that I am busy without a focus and nothing actually gets finished.

Now here is the interesting point, I have started doing the same in my photography. I came back from the weekend shoot in Wales thinking I had a great time and some great shots in the bag. Reviewing my Lightroom catalogue I found the images didn’t really live up to the expectation of the day. This is quite normal but the difference this time is that I realised I didn’t slow down and consider my inspiration from each scene and didn’t spend time working to develop my vision for the images. The result is a lot of images each showing different variations but none standing out as being great.

I think I need to slow down and find my focus again.

Friday image No.013

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The BT Tower at sunset. Captured on a Sony RX10.
The BT Tower at sunset. Captured on a Sony RX10.

This weeks Friday image isn’t anything spectacular. I captured this on my trip to London last week and for those of you who are not familiar with the UK, this is the BT Tower, which was formally known as the Post Office Tower. At least it was when I was young when this was an iconic building. I think for me it was iconic because I watched this show (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitten_Kong) – boy we have come a long way since the 70’s.

Compositionally you can’t really do much with this building. But look closely at the right hand side of the tower that’s facing into the setting sun and you notice some lovely warm light.

Have a great weekend.

Printing Revelation

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Infrared image captured with an infrared converted Panasonic GX1
Infrared image captured with an infrared converted Panasonic GX1

It’s funny how we become locked into a way of thinking and acting as the result of conditions that no longer apply. Unless we are prepared to constantly experiment and challenge ourselves we don’t even recognise this is happening. Here’s one example from my very recent past.

After I blogged the Friday Image last week I decided to print the staircase that I featured. Initially I printed this using Hahnemuehle Bright White Photo Rag 310 paper which is my matte paper of choice. The image looked good but for some reason I wondered what it might look like on other matte papers. Whilst I didn’t have any test packs around I did have an old pack of Epson Archival Matte photo paper so decided to give it a try.

This is a much thinner/lighter paper than I am used to but it’s still quite stiff. I did use this paper for a short time about 8 years ago but stopped because I couldn’t find any profiles for my printer. Without profiles the images were coming out with strange colour casts that was very unattractive so I just stopped using it. Now that I am printing with an Epson 3880 printer I have no problems obtaining a printer profile or even generating my own using my Color Munki.

When I produced the print on the Epson paper it took me completely by surprise. The appearance was excellent and it had a great depth. It took a few test prints to perfect the black and white images but I cracked it in the end by printing using ABW, selecting the “Dark” option and increased my contrast by +20 in Lightroom. If you don’t use Epson ABW and print from Lightroom this probably won’t mean much to you so just take it that I made the printer darker and added a little contrast.

Overall I am quite impressed, so much so that I have order another batch of this paper in A4 and A3 sizes from Amazon (link on amazon.co.uk and amazon.com) as it’s very well priced. I intend to now use this as my matte proofing paper as it’s a much cheaper option and very good value.

The image above is an old one I have posted before because I don’t want to post the Friday image again so soon. I therefore repreocessed this image and printed to check the output. It’s also quite impressive on the Epson paper.

Friday image No.012

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Hotel stairs. Sony RX10. Converted to B&W in Nik Silver Efex Pro.
Hotel stairs. Sony RX10. Converted to B&W in Nik Silver Efex Pro.

I spent this week away on a well earned break in London, celebrating my 25th Wedding Anniversary. Wow, how time flies. As you can see from the image above I managed to take some photographs of London – but not what you might expect. This one was the staircase in the hotel we were staying at. It just caught my eye.

Have a great weekend.

Friday image No.011

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Reflections on my walk - Sony RX10
Reflections on my walk – Sony RX10

I love reflections., I find them fascinating and beautiful whether created on manmade surfaces or in nature. I suppose the ones we find in nature are the ones that really enthral me and I can’t help reaching for my camera.

Here is one from my walk last weekend in Jumbles Country park near to Bolton. I just printed this and my immediate thought was that it has a lovely soft quality to it. It was shot on an RX10 which is an easy take anywhere camera. Such a shame it’s so expensive and twice the size of the Olympus EM5.

Have a great weekend.

Free Your Mind

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Captured with a Sony RX10 and processed with Perfect Effects
Captured with a Sony RX10 and processed with Perfect Effects

I went for a walk at the weekend to a place called Jumbles Country Park which is near to Bolton. It’s not very far from where I live, about 40 minutes in the car. It’s even nearer to where I used to live before I met my wife. The strange thing is, I have never been there and nor did I realise it even existed.

I decided before setting off that my equipment for the day would be the Sony RX10 and a single 0.6 ND Graduated filter. This after all was going to be a walk and not a photography outing. Whilst I really like the Sony, I felt strangely exposed without having my Olympus EM5 to fall back on but decided as this was a walk I would just take a few snaps. What this also meant was that my mind was free from expectations of taking great images. This left me able to wander and identify scenes that I might otherwise miss.

In the end I didn’t capture anything that was earth shattering however I did really enjoy myself. I spotted a number of good scenes that were typical spring scenes in the landscape for the North West of England. This particular scene was one that really caught my attention. I had seen the viaduct as we had been walking but it was completely in shadow. As I stopped to try a shot the clouds opened and bathed it in a wonderful light. I managed a few shots before it was back in shadow.

The image you see here has been manipulated and has a dreamy feel to it but this is exactly what was running through my mind at the time I took the shot. A straight representation of such a landscape just isn’t going to cut it. I hope this doesn’t offend anyone as I am primarily an artist, I just happen to use Photography as my medium.