infrared

Another Example of False Infrared Colour

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GX1 Infrared image converted with a red blue channel swap to create a false colour
GX1 Infrared image converted with a red blue channel swap to create a false colour

In my last post I shared an example of the false infrared colour technique and explained how it was achieved. I also confessed that in general I don’t like the effect, although in some cases it does work well. I thought it would be good to share another example that I think works reasonably well (although not as well as the previous post)  although I will admit that I still prefer the traditional black and white conversion.

This example is a little more stylised than the previous image and was created by first converting the image to colour before applying a Fuji Provia Slide Film simulation in Exposure 6. This was then further edited with a boost to the Vibrancy slider and a negative Clarity to give the soft effect. My reasoning for these adjustments was to prepare the image for conversion to black and white but I found I quite liked the colour image.

When converting the images with the Channel Mixer it can seem a bit hit and miss. It appears to help if you have both sky and foliage in the image. With a Red/Blue channel swap such as shown here the sky will turn blue and the foliage will go red. Most other areas (in landscapes) tend not to be affected.

You can improve the results by picking a white balance point during RAW conversion which causes the foliage to take on a blue tint. Typically this will leave the sky with some red tint and when the channel swap is made with the channel mixer the red tint in the sky turns blue and the blue tint of the foliage turns red.

Also try to avoid images which have been shot in the shade (such as tree lined country lanes) as you won’t get such a good effect. You really need direct and strong sun to make this work well.

Hope this helps anyone who is also struggling with Infrared false colour.

Infrared conversion from my GX1 Infrared camera
Infrared conversion from my GX1 Infrared camera

False Colour Conversion in Infrared Photography

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False colour infrared using Infrared converted Panasonic GX1
False colour infrared using Infrared converted Panasonic GX1

Before I get into the details of this post I need to point out that I’m not a fan of the false colour effect in infrared. That said I do quite like the look of the image above. I realise this is a personal choice and you may or may not like the effect. Despite not liking this effect (other than the odd image) I continue to use the technique as I find it often helps in the conversions to black and white. The increased colour seems to make it easier to separate objects in black and white .

The starting point for the conversion is an infrared image that has been correctly white balanced. You can see the starting point below.

Correct white balance
Correct white balance

As I have mentioned previously in this blog, getting the white balance correct in Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW can be problematic. Here is an example of the image as seen in Lightroom despite using the correct custom white balance.

How Lightroom sees the custom white balance
How Lightroom sees the custom white balance

I have now found out how to correct this and will post something separately on the subject.

Once you have your image white balanced, take it into Photoshop. Here we will do something called a channel swap between the red and blue channels using the Channel Mixer. You can see a screenshot of the channel mixer below.

Channel Mixer in Photoshop
Channel Mixer in Photoshop

In case you are wondering there isn’t a cannel mixer in Lightroom or Elements.

First select the Red channel in the channel mixer. You will notice the red slider is at 100% and the other two sliders are at 0%. Change these sliders so that the blue channel is at 100% and the others are at 0%.

Now repeat this process selecting the blue channel. This time set the blue slider to 0% and the red slider to 100%. The channel swap is now complete and you will see an effect similar to that above.

You can also swap any two channels and are not restricted to the red and blue. The red and blue channels tend to produce the best results though.

Now as I mentioned at the start of this post, I use this technique to support conversion to black and white. With that in mind, here is the final image back and white image. Let me know which image you prefer.

Final infrared conversion
Final infrared conversion

Walking through History

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The dam at Ladybower. Captured on a Panasonic GX1 converted to shoot infrared then processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro and Nik Analog Efex.
The dam at Ladybower. Captured on a Panasonic GX1 converted to shoot infrared then processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro and Nik Analog Efex.

With it being a Bank Holiday in the UK today and for once the weather not being terrible, I went for a walk. I like quite near to the Peak District National Park but for some reason I seldom visit. Today I decided I wanted a good walk in the hills so drove over to Ladybower reservoir which is about 50 minutes from my house.

When I first became interested in photography I remember seeing some old images of the dam at Ladybower and I thought these images were wonderful. The Victorians certainly knew how to engineer wonderful structures but the age of the images also made these more appealing.

I recall visiting the area about 10 years ago in the hope of being able to recreate these wonderful images but it wasn’t to be. Today I was able to create something that I quite liked using my Infrared camera. But it wasn’t until I took the image into Nik Analog Efex and applied a little emotion that the image came to life. Trying to create an image such as the one above was almost impossible for me 10 years ago but today it took minutes.

I wonder what photography will be like in another 10 years.

Infrared on the Brigg

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Filey Brigg in Infrared following convesion in Nik Silver Efex Pro
Filey Brigg in Infrared following convesion in Nik Silver Efex Pro

First off, sorry there was no Friday image this week. With everything else I had on, I just couldn’t fit it in. One of the things I was doing was visiting Filey on the East Coast of England with a friend. We didn’t have great weather but we did manage to capture some interesting shots.

One of the things I was trying out was some Infrared photography but not with my converted camera (although I did use that later). Instead I was experimenting with a 720nm Infrared filter on my Olympus EM5. This was to collect new material for a presentation and forthcoming book about Infrared photography.

Whilst some people will tell you that you can’t shoot infrared with a filter on a modern camera, it’s not true, it’s just that the exposures are quite long. The example you see above was a 36 second exposure at f/7.1 and ISO200. This may seem very long, but look at the positives. If you are wanting to do ultra long exposure black and white photography, a £10 Infrared filter from eBay is much cheaper than a 10 stop ND filter. The IR filter will also give you a much longer exposure in the middle of the day.

For those of you wondering what it looked like prior to conversion in Silver Efex Pro, here it is again. I will also point out that I have set a white balance in the RAW conversion as the image is blood read otherwise.

Image prior to conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro
Image prior to conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro

 

Having posted this yesterday I just checked on Amazon to see how much a recognised brand IR filter was and it was £26 for a 52mm Hoya. Here is the link for any one who is interested http://amzn.to/1eBy6Fg

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.

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.010

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Captured on a GX1 Infrared converted camera.
Captured on a GX1 Infrared converted camera.

As some of you may already have gathered, I love Infrared Photography. It’s much more frustrating than traditional photography to create good images but the challenge makes it more rewarding. It also opens up a new world of seeing as scenes can take on a completely different appearance. Also, when the time of day or weather isn’t great for traditional photography you may find that it is great for Infrared.

Here’s one of my Infrared images that I wanted to share. Captured last March on a trip to San Francisco (wow is it really almost a year ago). The scene is very ordinary and the light was a bit too harsh to create a good image. Looks much better in Infrared.

Have a great weekend.

The Friday Image 005

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GX1 Infrared image
GX1 Infrared image

I missed sharing my Friday Image over the Christmas and New Year break so here is the first one of the New Year.

I shot this image back in March last year on a trip to San Francisco. I don’t know the name of this building and the only location details I have are that I was in the Financial district (I think) when I shot it. The capture was made using a Panasonic GX1 that had been converted to shoot Infrared.  I know most infrared images tend to involve trees, plants and water but it’s easy to forget you can get some great results in the city.

I also plan to produce one of my fact sheets for this image, describing how it was processed because it makes quite an interesting study (well I think so at least). Because the image was shot on a digital infrared converted camera there really isn’t as much information in the colour channels as you might expect from a standard colour shot. My plan is to produce an enlargement for printing at A2 so it will take some careful processing to achieve this given the nature of the image file. I will put a note on the blog once the fact sheet is available.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Changing My Mind Again

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GX1 infrared converted camera with 14-45mm lens. Conversion to Monochrome in Silver Efex Pro with RAW conversion in PhotoNinja.
GX1 infrared converted camera with 14-45mm lens. Conversion to Monochrome in Silver Efex Pro with RAW conversion in PhotoNinja.

I have written in the past about two things that I would like to give an update on. The first is the software I use to perform Infrared RAW file conversion. The other is my impressions of Photo Ninja. As you will see in a moment the two are now linked.

When I first ha my Panasonic GX1 camera converted to shoot Infrared I had thought that I would be able to shoot images in RAW format and process them in Lightroom or Photoshop. I had read that there was a problem in doing this with Canon and Nikon RAW files as Adobe software rendered the image as shades of red with no other colour present. This prevents you from converting the image using “false colour” (do a search on Google for colour Infrared to see some examples). It also seemed to limit the quality of the image conversions as most of the image data was coming from just the red channel.

I wasn’t however worried by this problem as no one was reporting an issue with Panasonic conversions from Infrared RAW files. Unfortunately I can confirm it is a problem and also conclude that there can’t be many people using infrared converted Panasonic M43 cameras. If you want to know what I am talking about, here is an example of the above image in Lightroom 4.

GX1 Infrared RAW file in Lightroom 4
GX1 Infrared RAW file in Lightroom 4

My initial solution to this issue was to use the SilkyPix software that ships with Panasonic cameras that shoot RAW. This gave good results in managing image colour and allowed me to set a true white point so that images didn’t appear red. Once I had upgraded this (I took advantage of a very cheap special offer) the image quality was OK if not a little too smooth for my liking.

More recently I had some very promising infrared images but felt that none of my RAW converters were doing justice to the levels of detail present. I decided to try out the PhotoNinja software again and the results have convinced me to purchase the full version of the software. Yes it’s expensive but the results are visibly better. This is not just with Infrared images but colour also. Take a look at the comparisons below.

Lightroom conversion at 100% with plenty of sharpening adjustment
Lightroom conversion at 100% with plenty of sharpening adjustment
SilkyPix conversion with some sharpening
Silky Pix conversion with some sharpening
PhotoNinja conversion at 100% with some sharpening
PhotoNinja conversion at 100% with some sharpening

These are conversions from Lightroom, Silky Pix and PhotoNinja, all taken from the same RAW file. I should caveat this a little in that I know exactly what I am doing with Lightroom but am pretty much a novice in using SilkyPix and PhotoNinja. It’s therefore likely that better results can be achieved with both of these. It’s the same story in colour also with the PhotoNinja conversions producing more detail, especially if you sharpen them further post conversion.

Lightroom conversion at 100% with sharpening
Lightroom conversion at 100% with sharpening
PhotoNinja conversion at 100% with some sharpening.
PhotoNinja conversion at 100% with some sharpening.

Wondering why there is no SilkyPix comparison? Well it kept crashing when trying to open the files. I suspect there is a compatibility problem with Windows 8 but I need to do a little more digging. You might also notice the much better colour rendering from the PhotoNinja software which is far closer to the scene as this image was shot about 20 minutes before sunset in direct light.

So, if you are looking for a RAW converter to give the highest level of quality (and don’t mind the price) I would certainly take a look at PhotoNinja.

Seeing in the Shadows

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GX1 Infrared image using 14-45mm lens and converted with PhotoNinja and Silver Efex Pro.
GX1 Infrared image using 14-45mm lens and converted with PhotoNinja and Silver Efex Pro.

My infrared converted GX1 continues to draw me in and has become somewhat addictive. I often see comments from people saying getting an old camera converted is making good use of it. If you have an old camera and are considering getting it converted I would however suggest thinking twice. Not because it’s addictive and will move you away from standard photography, but because I don’t think old cameras are really that usable when converted. I have three reasons for this:

  1. Shooting infrared becomes much easier when you are able to see the IR results in live view, something that a lot of older cameras don’t have. Trying to compose an image through a viewfinder often leaves too much to luck as you attempt to maximize the IR effect. Live view is a real bonus in this respect and I would consider it almost essential for IR work.
  2. The sensor quality of the older cameras is not really great for IR. Most of the data in an IR image is captured in the red channel with the other channels being interpolated from this by the camera and RAW converter. This means your image quality can be much lower than expected so using an old low resolution sensor can lead to disappointing results.
  3. Simply using an old camera can be frustrating. It’s quite amazing how much the technology has moved on in the past 5 years and how much you will miss some of the features you now consider standard.

The purpose of this post however is to share the image above of Whitby Abby and mention a strange effect I have noticed. When shooting Infrared I find I can often use the camera handheld when a traditional camera would struggle with low light levels as was the case with the image above. The other thing I have noticed is that there is less contrast in shadows and this allows the Infrared camera to reveal more detail. Certainly in the image above a standard GX1 would have shown dark shadows and bright highlights. With the image above I actually needed to boost the contrast as the shadows were too light.

I don’t know if this information will be useful to anyone but I thought it worthwhile sharing in case.