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.

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/