Smoke over the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Smoke Over Sierra Nevada Mountains from Big Pine, CA
Death Valley-Big Pine Rd, Big Pine, CA

We made a trip to the Eastern California. We had planned the trip about 2 months earlier; before the wildfires. As we waited for the trip, we saw it threatened by the smoky conditions. We even pushed it back a week. As we traveled on Sunday, OCT 11 and even as we visited the Alabama Hills Monday morning, we enjoyed great skies and clear air. But, as we were leaving the Alabama Hills, we could see the smoke beginning to drift over the mountains. By Monday evening smoke from the Creek Fire had filled the mountains and the valleys. Returning to Mammoth Lakes on Monday, we often could not see the Inyo Mountains on our right; they rise tall and steeply just a few miles from the highway. Approaching Mammoth Lakes that evening, the surrounding forests were covered in a thick bank of smoke that looked like a blanket of fog in the late evening light. Tuesday morning the crescent moon and Venus were visible, but both were colored orange. Venus looked like a bright Mars.

We had planned several separate photo shoots, much of which we had to abandon. We salvaged Monday afternoon and Tuesday by travelling south into Death Valley. We left Wednesday cutting a day from our trip.

Please click on caption to see images at higher resolution.

Smoke Over the Sierra Nevada from Bishop, CA
Route 168, Bishop, CA; OCT 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Giant Sequoia

A Path Through the Really Big Trees
Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Arnold, CA; OCT 2020

This past week we visited Calaveras Big Trees State Park. It is one of several groves of the Giant Sequoia trees in California. It is a wonderful place to saunter through a forest which includes about 20 of these precious giants as well as large pines and cedars.

Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.

Shepard of the Really Big Trees
Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Arnold, CA; OCT 2020
A Path Through the Really Big Trees – P3
Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Arnold, CA; OCT 2020
A Path Through the Really Big Trees – P2
Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Arnold, CA; OCT 2020
Morning in the Forest of Giants
Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Arnold, CA; OCT 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Some Recent Bird Sightings

Turkey Vulture, American Crow
Sailor Bar, American River Parkway, Fair Oaks, CA; SEP 2020

These are images I captured of the past several weeks.

Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.

Western Tanager; Nimbus Fish Hatchery
American River Parkway, Rancho Cordova, CA; SEP 2020
White-crowned Sparrow; Nimbus Fish Hatchery, American River Parkway, Rancho Cordova, CA; SEP 2020
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Arnold, CA; OCT 2020 #Photography
Female Belted Kingfisher
Willow Creek State Recreation Area, Folsom, CA; SEP 2020
Acorn Woodpecker
Willow Creek State Recreation Area, Folsom, CA; SEP 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Photographing a Burn Scar

A Mountain Woodland
Rt 89 above Topaz, CA; SEP 2020

On our day trip to the mountains, we decided to visit and photograph a burn scar; a section of burned forest from a fire a few years ago. The burned trees were intriguing with their swirls of white wood and black charred wood. The grasses had repopulated the area and the Rabbit Brush was blooming. It was a fun time.

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Scene from an Old Burn Scar
Rt 89 above Topaz, CA; SEP 2020
Scene from an Old Burn Scar
Rt 89 above Topaz, CA; SEP 2020
Scene from an Old Burn Scar
Rt 89 above Topaz, CA; SEP 2020
Scene from an Old Burn Scar
Rt 89 above Topaz, CA; SEP 2020
Scene from an Old Burn Scar
Rt 89 above Topaz, CA; SEP 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

A Day Trip to the Mountains

Sunrise Tinted by Wildfire Smoke
Peddler Hill Scenic Overlook, Pioneer, CA; SEP 2020

Last week we took a day trip into the mountains. We travelled along RT 88 from Jackson, CA to Rt 89 and followed it over Monitor Pass and down to Topaz then returned. It is a beautiful trip through the Sierra Nevada. While we enjoyed clear skies, at places we could see smoke hanging over distant mountain valleys.

Please click on caption to see images at higher resolution.

A Sunrise in the Sierra
Carson Spur Vista Point, Rt 88, Pioneer, CA; SEP 2020
A Sunrise in the Sierra – P2
Carson Spur Vista Point, Rt 88, Pioneer, CA; SEP 2020
Looking Out at a Smoke Filled Valley
Rt 89 above Topaz, CA; SEP 2020
Looking Out at a Smoke Filled Valley – Infrared Edition
Rt 89 above Topaz, CA; SEP 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Birds and a Palm in Infrared

Female House Finch and Female Lesser Goldfinch in False Color Infrared
Orangevale, CA; SEP 2020

I’ve produced my first set of images in false color infrared. Most infrared pictures I see are in black and white. But my camera can also capture some visible light; not all, just some. So, I can get some interesting effects. I still haven’t fully grasped what it means to shoot heat as well as light. A goldfinch facing the sun will give me some yellow in its breast but facing away from the sun, I lose the yellow.  A red car became bright orange. A blue car became darker. So, still much to learn.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Female House Finch in False Color Infrared
Orangevale, CA; SEP 2020
Female House Finch in False Color Infrared
Orangevale, CA; SEP 2020
Palm in False Color Infrared
Orangevale, CA; SEP 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Not Just A Duck

Four images of various specise of ducks.
Female Mallard Duck
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento, CA; SEP 2019

In a blog I follow and enjoy, Peace of Life Today, the author shared the post “Just A Duck” which contained some beautiful photos of a female Mallard. Until a few years ago, that is what they were to me. I could identify a white domestic duck and a male Mallard. I have heard people talk about a variety of ducks, but they were just some abstract concept. Then I met some new friends who were wildlife photographers. They taught me that we live in the Pacific Flyway, a migration route and wintering ground for many species of waterfowl. They, along with other birding friends, taught me about Mergansers, Golden Eye’s, Teals, and many more. The diversity and beauty of these creatures is astounding. For me, there is no such thing as just a duck anymore and I am better for it.

Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.

Wood Duck Inspecting Possible Nest
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento, CA; MAR 2019
Common Merganser
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento, CA; JUL 2020 #Photography
Female and 2 Male Barrows Goldeneyes
Lake Natomas, American River Parkway, Gold River, CA; NOV 2019

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Errata: In my original post, I misidentified the Goldeneyes. They are Barrows Goldeneyes, not Common Goldeneyes.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron
Willow Creek State Recreation Area, American River Parkway, Folsom, CA; AUG 2020

I am sharing some images of Great Blue Herons (Ardea Herodias) that I’ve taken over this summer.

The heron in a tree looks out of place. I normally see them foraging along the water’s edge. But they are comfortable in trees. In fact, they nest high up in trees.

Great Blue Heron and Canada Geese
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento, CA; JUN 2020
Great Blue Heron with Prey
Mississippi Bar, American River Parkway, Orangevale, CA; JUL 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Infrared Camera Conversion, My Journey – Part 2

I was able to resolve the issue preventing me from creating Raw files. The Fuji XT series has the menu option “Image Quality” and that is where you tell the camera to produce Raw files. I’ve been shooting with Fuji since 2014 and am well aware of that required step. I checked that menu item 3 times over a period of several days and the menu item wasn’t there. The 4th time I checked it, the option was there. I assume it was the pesky squirrels that raid our bird food.

Selecting the proper white balance can impact the output of post processing significantly. My experience with my Fuji XT-3 follows. The first thing I noticed was that, in my camera, the Temperature and Tint settings on the Raw file were shifted far to the left; so far, in fact, that I had little room to adjust. The JPEG file had those settings pegged at zero. I have seen suggestions to set-up a specific color profile in the camera. In my experiments with a custom white balance color profile, the setting modifies JPEG files properly. However, it does not modify the Raw files even though it appears to when you look at the pictures in playback mode. That seemed a bit strange to me because I sometimes choose the daylight or cloudy day preset when I shoot in the visible light range. Oddly enough, when I chose the Kelvin, “K”, preset and adjusted the temperature manually, the change was reflected in the Raw file. After experimenting with different setting, I decided that I would just keep the white balance on auto.

I also discovered that the best white balance setting is obtained, in Lightroom and Photoshop, by using the Eyedropper Tool and selecting a spot on the image that I know is white. If I don’t have a white spot to select, I choose something close and adjust by dead reckoning.

When using color infrared, there is a step that needs to be added in post processing to get those beautiful false color infrared images. The step is called color swapping. It is important to do the white balance adjustment before you color swap. I did the color swap in Adobe Photoshop. After opening in photoshop, you choose Layer>Adjustment>Color Mixer which opens a box that lets you change the amount of red, green and blue in each of the red, green and blue color channels.

The simplest is a red/blue swap. In the Red Channel, set red to 0 and blue to 100 while in the blue channel, set red to 100 and blue to 0. There are other tutorials that suggest other formulas for color swapping. I have done some experimenting but have found the simple swap to work well. Once you’ve swapped colors, you can make other adjustments to tweak the image to your own liking.

Thanks for sharing my journey, to this point. If you are considering an infrared conversion, I hope you can learn from my early mistakes as I attempted to climb the learning curve. Now, it’s time for me to start getting some interesting images and honing my skill.

Raw Image, Camera White Balance Set to Auto
Raw Image with White Balance Adjustment from Crape Myrtle Flowers
Image After Simple Red and Blue Color Swap
Image After Color Swap that included Swapping Green Channel

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Infrared Camera Photography, My Journey

I recently started my journey into Infrared Photography. Most of my fellow photographers will know what that means. But, for my friends and followers that do not, here is a simple explanation. The sensor in the camera, the one that contains the collection of megapixels upon which the image is recorded, is covered by a filter that allows it to only record light in the frequency range we can see. Infrared cameras can record a broader range of frequencies by including heat radiation. Think of the wildlife documentaries that get those cool night shots of exotic animals. The broader range of frequencies creates some very interesting pictures. So, I am excited to begin this journey.

From this point forward, the discussion is more geared to photographers and includes some technical discussion which I will try to simplify.

My goal was to get some interesting landscapes but also to see if I could get better low light images of birds. I chose to convert my Fuji XT-3 mirrorless camera. I chose LifePixel Infrared to do the conversion. I chose the XT-3 because it has faster focusing speed than the XT-2 I had also considered.

I spent a fair amount of time determining which infrared filter to choose. Our eyes and our digital camera sensors can see frequencies between 380nm and 750nm. Below 380nm, you get ultraviolet while above 750nm you get into infrared. I did not want to get a filter that restricted me to black & white. I do not do much black & white and I can always do a black & white conversion in post processing. Looking at the choices and having no prior experience, I discussed my objectives with the support group at LifePixel and settled on their Super Color filter, a 590nm filter. That allows me to get infrared plus some visible light. By the way, you can buy an infrared filter to mount on a standard lens but, to block visible light, they are very, very dark; might be good for an eclipse.

I failed to research some other pre-conversion considerations, one of which caught me by surprise.

The biggest surprise was lens considerations. I shot my first images with XF18-55MM lens and got a hot spot in the center of the lens. I found that I also got hot spots with my XF80MM and XF100-400MM. My XF55-200MM lens works well. The hot spot on the XF100MM-400MM lens and 1.4X Teleconverter is faint and disappears in foliage, so I might be able to make it work. It also appears to get fainter at F11 and F16 so that will be subject to test. Despite not researching that, I can still do landscapes and probably do birds in the forest canopy. There are places, like LifePixel’s website that lists lenses, by manufacturer, that produce hot spots.

Infrared Photo with Hotspot; Fuji XT-3, XF18-55MM Lens.

I dodged the bullet on focus considerations because I have a mirrorless camera. Infrared light has longer wavelengths, e.g. it includes wave lengths above 750nm. DSLR’s autofocus ability is limited to the visible spectrum, so you need to manually focus. Mirrorless cameras rely on the sensor itself for focusing as well as the rest of the capture process. So, it adapts to the infrared frequency.

The final surprise was not explained anywhere that I saw. After the conversion, I was locked out of the ability to create camera raw files. I don’t know if this is exclusive to Fuji proprietary raw files or is true across the board. It produces only JPEG. I set my camera to produce the largest JPEG it will produce.

In my next installment, I will discuss what I am learning about post-processing. Spoiler alert: white balance is critical. Infrared light is very warm.

Information Sources

  1. Digital Camera World, Article by Phil Hall, March 17,2020: https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/buying-guides/best-infrared-filter
  2. LifePixel Infrared Website, Getting Started Section: https://www.lifepixel.com/introduction
  3. Robert Riser, The Infrared Photography Tutorial: A Guideline for Your Ideal IR Solution: https://robertreiser.photography/infrared-photography-tutorial/