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

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A Bright, High Energy Image

Black Sands Beach - Perspective 1
Black Sands Beach, Bonita Cove, Marin Headlands, Marin County, CA, FEB 2015 

Almost a year and half ago, my friend Richard Bieniek took a day trip to the Marin Headlands outside of San Francisco.  The Headlands are the area north and west of the Golden Gate Bridge that border on the ocean.  It was a beautiful day.  The sun was almost blindingly bright.   The waves were tall and strong.  As we walked down the steep that was path cut into the cliff side, you could hear the waves thunder before you could even see them.  When we reached the small, sandy beach in the cove, the unfolding scene was remarkable.  It was mid—afternoon.  The sun was so bright it caused strong silvery reflections on the water.  Those reflections contrasted with the deep shadows in the surrounding rock.   As the waves approached, they gave the impression of a wall of water coming right at you.  The scene was full of energy.  Though difficult, I knew I had to share the story of what I saw.

I hope this image gives you that picture because it was wonderful to behold.

How Did I Process This Image

Those of us who shoot with a DSLR will recognize the difficulty in capturing this image.  The dynamic range, the difference in exposure needed to display some detail in the shadows while not blowing away the highlights in this image is well outside the capabilities of most cameras.  The obvious answer is HDR.  However, that requires 3 identical images with exposures about 2 stops apart.  The problem is that the ocean won’t stand still and pose long enough to make that happen.  I might have chosen to blur the waves but that would have defeated one of my main objectives, to show the energy of the scene.

As you can see from the histogram in this this screenshot below, I exposed the image to minimize both the black and white clipping thus minimizing the loss of detail in both shadows and highlights.  However, the digital negative is very dark.  Despite many hours of trying, there was no way get a good image just manipulating the sliders and using other features of Lightroom.  I had to rely on HDR.  I made 3 virtual copies of the digital negative in Adobe Lightroom.  I opened the exposure of 1 copy about as far as I dare; about ¾ of a stop.  I made one of the others about 2 stops brighter and the other about 2 stops darker than the first.  I opened the 3 copies in Photomatrix to merge them into a single HDR image.  I chose the option that gave me the best, most realistic image I could find.  I made a few minor tweaks and created the final HDR image.  But even that created an image where the foam in the foreground churn was dark and dingy.  I couldn’t open the exposure, the highlights or the whites.  It would cause the ocean to blow out and lose the silvery reflection.  So, I finished the image using Lightroom’s paintbrush to open the exposure on just that section of the image.  I believe it worked.

Lightroom Screenshot 20160615




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Follow Where the Light Leads

As photographers, we are admonished to wait for the perfect light or, as a studio photographer, to set up the perfect light.  It’s good advice, but not always practical.  Sometimes you find yourself at a location you’d like to shoot and walk away disappointed because there are interesting subjects but bad lighting.  I have been working on turning that admonishment around and searching where the light leads me; finding subjects where the light presents them.  Those opportunities even avail themselves in very diffuse light.   We just have to open our mind to creativity when thinking about light.

Untitled, California State Rail Museum, Sacramento, CA, JAN 2016

Untitled, California State Rail Museum, Sacramento, CA, JAN 2016

Last weekend, I visited the California State Rail Museum.  If you are a railroad buff, there are a lot of great things to see.  While there, I set 2 objectives: learn to use my cell phone camera more effectively and to look for subjects made interesting by the museum lighting.  I did OK with the first objective but didn’t advance my skill as much as I’d have liked.  I did learn that I have a little control over depth of field though not a lot.  I did find interesting subjects to shoot.  The museum lighting was very good and the light painted details in interesting ways.  I’ve included a few examples for you to enjoy.

A Brass Valve
A Brass Valve, California State Rail Museum, Sacramento, CA, JAN 2016

A View of the Underbelly
A View of the Underbelly, California State Rail Museum, Sacramento, CA, JAN 2016

Shooting With My Phone

Rainbow Bridge, American River Parkway, Folsom, CA, JUN 2015 (Click to See Image Enlarged)

I regularly walk along various stretches of the American River Parkway trail system. It is a great place to get exercise and enjoy the beauty of an urban forest and riparian habitat. I rarely have my camera because, if I did, I’d never get exercise. But, I always have my phone.

On several of my blogs, I remind readers that it is the composition and lighting that make the image and not the camera. Especially with today’s smartphone cameras and their incredible software. But, I have a problem using my phone. I can’t hold it steady enough to lock in the composition and get the focus right. So, I invested in a walking stick/monopod/tripod by Manfroto and a bracket to hold my phone. Now, I can overcome my shakiness. I also carry a microfiber cloth to clean the lens – it can get grimy being carried around in purse, pocket or holster. Grimy lenses impact the clarity of the image.

I have the Samsung Galaxy S6 with its 16MP rear camera. It does a great job. You can use it as a point and shoot by using auto mode or you can put it in pro mode which allows you to manually control functions just like on a DSLR. I find manual selection of the focus point to be the most useful but wish it wasn’t tied to the auto exposure so I could control them separately.

The attached image was shot with my phone last week. I am very pleased with it. Enjoy and make the best of your photography.

Please share.



Using the Light You are Given

Figure 1: Image with Warm Saturated Colors
Figure 1: Image with Warm Saturated Colors

Landscape photographers are taught that you should always try to shoot during the golden hours; roughly the 3 hours after sunrise and the three hours before sunset.  Indeed, the warm saturated colors make very dramatic and beautiful vistas.  But does that mean you pack away your camera the rest of the day?  Not really.   You can get great shots any time of day if you work with the compositional elements and lighting you have to craft a great composition.  It is the composition that makes the image.

I took the image in Figure 2 on a clear day, at mid-day, when the sun was high.  The composition is decent and interesting.  You can see some texture in the canyon and the canyon itself leads your eye

Figure 2: Image Taken Under Uninteresting Light
Figure 2: Image Taken Under Uninteresting Light

through the image.  So, it is a good image to show friends that have never been to Yosemite, what they would see; a travel photograph.  But it’s not a great image.   Contrast that with the image in Figure 3, taken from a similar perspective but with strong, dramatic lighting.  The difference is obvious.  Besides making the picture pop with color, the light leads your eye through the image to interesting features.  It provides shadows that add texture.  It makes the image much more interesting.

Figure 3: Image With Strong , Dramatic Light
Figure 3: Image With Strong , Dramatic Light

So, its obvious:  If you have great light, you can make better image.  But, what if you can’t just run off and chase the light? You have to work with what you have when you are there.

Look again at figure 3 to see the enhancements the light is providing.  It provides  color, texture and controls the movement of the eye through the image.   When you have light that is diffuse, you need to find other compositional elements to compensate for the missing light.

Figure 4: Image Taken Under Diffuse Light
Figure 4: Image Taken Under Diffuse Light

Look at Figure 4.  It was taken under cloudy skies, in the evening.    It is, to me, a very interesting image.  I like the composition.  While the light is not available to provide the interest, look at how the grass and leaves provide texture that contrasts with the granite and the stream.    The colors in the leaves add color that subtly pops the image.   Even without strong light, there are shadows and highlights.  The stream and the line of rocks lead the eye.

Figure 5 is an image taken under foggy conditions that also diffuse the light.  In this case there is some subtle early morning rim light highlighting the edges.  The color and texture in the reeds and bushes provide texture to offset the fog shrouded background and the stream.

Figure 5: Image Taken Under Low, Diffuse Light
Figure 5: Image Taken Under Low, Diffuse Light

The key is to look around; to see what is happening; to see what you can use; then craft your image from what you have.



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