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Shooting close to home (infrared)

September 8th, 2014

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Working on my iPhone book project, booking seminar dates, endless minutia, left me with a case of cabin fever.

I had to send my XPro back to Lifepixel to fix an issue. As usual, the service was great and I get my XPro back within the week. So, noticing that there were some incredible clouds happening, I took off with only my Fuji infrared system (XPro and lenses) and made some pictures, all within 5-10 minutes from our house. As this area gets more and more built up, these open areas may begin to fade away, unfortunately.

Slacks road is a pretty cool valley area right off of rte32. Hopefully, the ground may not perc test or may be a bit too hilly on which to build.

Springfield Hospital, now called Springfield Hospital Center, is a mental health facility. Newer buildings have been added to the Hospital Center, but the old original structures are still there. There is no interior photography.

Following are a few images from about an hour of driving around within a few minutes of our house.

Many digital infrared photographers are aware of the notorious “hot spot” in the middle of the frame created when using some lenses. If you are getting the hot spot, you’ll need to try different lenses. On the Fuji system, the Fuji lenses that do not create the hot spot are the 14mm, 23mm, 35mm. On my Nikon system (converted D300), the 16-35 and 28-300 work well, not producing the hot spot.

ISSUE: I purchased the Metabones adapter in order to use Nikon lenses on the Fuji X system cameras. The adapter works like a charm on the non IR converted cameras (XT1 and XE2), but does not work on the infrared converted XPro 1.
I can’t imagine that the sensor is the issue, but it may be. I’d appreciate any feedback on this issue?

UPDATE: In the shooting menu > red label #3 > Shoot without lens must be turned ON. Before sending the camera back for repair, this was set to ON, but was reset to OFF during the repair. A subsequent conversation with good friend, John Barclay, directed me to that setting which, after turning back ON, allowed for using the Metabones.

REMINDER: After getting a repaired camera back from the company, almost all of the settings are reset for some reason. DO NOT use the camera before checking and resetting your settings.

I’ll be doing a Topaz webinar on Tuesday.

We leave next Monday for our Badlands workshop, beginning our very busy last quarter of the year.

That’s about it for now.

Thanks for taking time and we’ll see ya online.

Tony

Process – Texturized color infrared

August 19th, 2014


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I’ve had some interest in this particular process. So, here’s the big picture view of the process. But, ultimately, you’ll need to jump in the pool and splash around to see what works for you.

Recently, I’ve been playing around with two of my favorite effects, color infrared and texturing, then blending the two.

The above image is the final output, but here’s the original raw file:

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The red tint is the color RGB file, which can be quickly gotten rid of if processing a traditional black and white infrared. Just take the image into any B&W conversion software to create traditional IR. However, the super color conversion from LifePixel enables one to add some color back in to the infrared image, for example, adding a blue sky to a traditional infrared image.

But, taking this image through the Kromagery photoshop action (free), begins the process of creating a faux color IR.

NOTE: This is NOT channel swapping, which is something else altogether. More on that later.

After adjusting the cyan hue to blue and adjusting the red, yellow, and magenta saturations to taste, here’s that output:

lone tree

Now, some people stop here. I do too, on occasion. You can see numerous examples online, however, this is a bit harsh for me, especially the stark, cool colors.  To me, this is still pretty much raw material.

Using Dr. Brown’s paper texture panel and importing my Flypaper August Painterly texture set, I analyzed the image in terms of image color and texture color, and looked for the right blend of textures to soften and modify the color palette. First, I used Nik’s Viveza to selectively color the grassy area to a soft pale green by playing with the green adjustment, then with the hue slider. I masked out a couple of the textures (I used 3) to a moderate opacity to bring out the green a bit more. I left everything else alone.

imagePanel

So, with infinite adjustments available to us, how do I know when an image is finished? 

Ans: It feels right.

Special shout out to Mark Hilliard for his help and influence. Check him out on his infrared FB page.

That’s about it from Wall, SD. Back on the road tomorrow.

Thanks for taking the time and we’ll see ya online!

Tony

 

The Last Picture Show

August 17th, 2014

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I’m not getting any younger, but god knows I’m trying. One of the only benefits of moving through life is that one accumulates more and more material upon which to draw.

I was walking around this old, abandoned farm, in the middle of nowhere in eastern WA. First, I was aware of the stillness and profound quiet as I got out of the car and got my camera together. As I began to walk around, I became keenly aware of every sound: hearing the heels of my cowboy boots (no joke) crackle as I strolled along the gravel road,  the intermittent soft breeze, a single dragon fly, the sound of old sheet metal as it gently flapped in the wind, then when I stopped and the breeze stopped, utter silence and heat. I was reminded of all of the old dust bowl movies I’ve ever seen, then Peter Bogdanovich came to mind. Ring a bell? The old abandoned structures, the heat, the hollow emptiness reminded me of his 1971 movie, “The Last Picture Show.”

So, I photographed with the feel of that movie in mind.

I felt like I was photographing like a location scout taking stills for the movie.

I had no intent of converting to B&W, but after trying one B&W conversion in MacPhun’s Tonality Pro just to check it out, I processed every image in Tonality Pro and a little photoshop work. It’s really great and is becoming one of my prime B&W conversion options. Check it out HERE! Just click on the logo and there’s a discount attached. Highly recommended!

Anyway…if you’re so inclined, here’s a couple of YouTube videos from our time before, during, and after our Palouse Workshop/Tour. The music is by Aaron Copeland so you may want to crank the volume back a notch.

Palouse #1

Palouse Panoramics

We’re back on the road today. We should make Billings by sundown.

See ya online,

Tony

P.S. We have a few last minute openings in our Fall Color Riot New Hampshire workshop

P.P.S. Registrations are open for our Aug 16-20, 2015  Palouse Harvest/Rural American Landscapes workshop

P.P.P.S. For both of the aforementioned workshops, please contact Susan for more info.

Final thoughts from the Palouse

August 16th, 2014

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First off, this place is great. Unlimited photo ops with endless backroads of constant visual surprises. We cannot wait to come back next August 16-20, 2015 for our Palouse Harvest/ Classic American Landscape workshop/tour. We went through a tank of gas a DAY while scouting for our group. Even though we have been here 3 times previously, it’s been 4 years since we were last here, and with the landscape constantly changing and an occasional barn falling, one constantly needs to ride around to see what’s up. With gentle winding gravel and dirt roads, blue skies with white puffy clouds and a breeze just a bit cooler than body temperature, it’s the most enjoyable scouting that we do.

The workshop went well. The weather cooperated and everyone had ample photo ops, creating some great work.

We have a few more locations to check out tomorrow in preparation for our 2015 workshop/tour, then we head back home on Sunday.

Here’s the first of several YouTube videos, accompanied by a classic American composer, Aaron Copeland’s, Hoe Down from the Ballet, Rodeo, a personal favorite. Of course, you can turn the music down or off if not your “cup of tea.”

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The year is starting to gather momentum and our fall workshop in NH will be here before we know it. We had to cancel our fall workshop in Acadia for 2015, which worked out ok, as we need that time frame to produce an instructional video.

However, we have only a few openings left in our Fall Color in New Hampshire workshop. If interested in photographing in one of the best fall venues in the country, please contact Susan.

We already have registrations coming in for our 2015 Palouse Harvest/ Classic American Landscape workshop/tour. For more information please contact Susan.

That’s about it for now. One more day of play, then back to the “salt mines.”

We’ll see ya online!

Tony

 

 

 

 

 

Road ramblings

August 4th, 2014

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Ok, my mind is wandering at 0450 in Bozeman, MT on the way to Colfax, WA for our workshop. So, where else to put random thoughts than on my blog.

Buzz words today like creativity, vision, personal style, fine art etc., can generate a great deal of money in education, book sales, webinars, online courses, etal. But, how easily attainable are these things. One is lead to believe that anyone can be an artist by virtue of external stimulation. But, doesn’t creativity, vision, and style come from within? For example, style evolves through a lifetime. Granted that these traits can be brought to the fore through education and exposure to great teachers and a creative, encouraging environment, but these are processes that may or may not ever come to fruition. Or, may come to fruition in varying degrees. If everyone could become Picasso, wouldn’t he become meaningless. What separates people of that ilk from the rest of the world are intangibles, unquantifiable qualities, qualities that cannot even be listed much less taught.

As an educator for 40 years, I have found that students can be broken down to a triage system: students who will be fine with minimal intervention (those with intrinsic talent and personal drive); students who greatly benefit from full engagement with the instructor (those whose talent has to be drawn out. These are the vast majority of students/clients); and students who are in the wrong class (those who will not greatly improve despite the teacher’s best efforts). However, one cannot discount persistence and desire in overcoming obstacles for those who may be told that they are “in the wrong class.” 

It is a duty of an instructor to encourage talent and, on the other hand, to help the less gifted to understand that they may want to move on to another endeavor. Basically, to care enough to inform them that they are wasting their time. For example, after my time in the military (Vietnam era) I used my GI Bill to attend business school for accounting. I made it through and got the degree, but that’s it. My cost acct teacher made me aware that I may be in the wrong place. I had and currently have no idea how to keep a set of books. Then, I picked up a design job at a small firm in Cincinnati. It was a job of precise measurements and precise placement of elements on the page. Again, after not being able to think that way, was reluctantly let go. I went to school to become a computer programmer many years ago. It was an absolute struggle for me and I never wrote a successful program.  It didn’t matter what courses I took, who my instructor was, how positive and encouraging the work environment was, and how much I tried. I just wasn’t wired that way.

Creativity is non linear. For example, the easiest thing I’ve ever done was being a professional jazz musician. After all of the hard work of mastering an instrument (drums), I was performing improvised music for audiences of all sizes, on recordings, and teaching in a jazz education program (at the University of Cincinnati). Learning, and as much as possible, mastering an instrument so that it is second nature, enabled me to react appropriately and creatively in live, constantly changing, performing situations. It was the most natural, easiest thing I’ve ever done. It was truly being in the moment and when all the parts were moving seamlessly, was like flying. After over 20 years, the music business has changed, and I have stopped playing professionally, but still do play with friends between photo trips. And still find great joy in the process.

Concepts are transferable and I have tried to adapt that creative mindset from jazz improvisation to my photography and, as much as possible, to my students and clients.

Photography is not what it used to be. I have over 250,000 slides in filing cabinets of pretty straight photography: well exposed, beautiful landscapes and flower images from numerous locations. I began as a nature photographer, after being totally inspired by my mentor and my first and only camera club, where everyone in the club was great to me. And, as in my musician days, was naturally moving away from traditional photography towards a more intimate, non-traditional style, exemplified in my first book, “Fine Art Nature Photography”  published by Stackpole. 

In the digital age, we can do whatever we can imagine, depending on our software facility and whatever inherent creativity we have. However, having great tools, taking the right classes, and knowing the right people does not necessarily transfer to creating deeply personal work or result in a recognizable style. One can take classes on developing a personal style. How do you teach style? If anything, style is an evolution, an involuntary evolution of accumulated life experiences, and is constantly deepening as we go through life. 

How does one teach creativity? Well, ok, we can certainly help people break through restrictive thought processes, which limit and constrict “out of the box” thinking. This can certainly lead to a more creative approach. However, one must keep immersed in a creative environment so as not to fall back to previous thought processes. Reading about creativity and talking about it is fine, but it’s the constant and repetitive process of doing, which will ultimately re-wire your brain to naturally think creatively.

Vision is another buzz word. We can certainly talk about it. We can define it. There are books on it. But, how does one know when or even if we achieve our own personal vision. Again, I believe it is a function of time and constantly doing what you love. It is a process that evolves. It certainly is not formulaic or appears overnight.

So, what are my points, here?

Creativity can be taught to a point. It can be taught to the point of one being able to create consistently well composed, compelling images, which is where most of us are. However, we all know people who exude spontaneity and crazy creativity in every fiber of their being. These people are unique and what they do and how they think (or don’t think) cannot be taught. It can only be marveled at.

Vision is a big time buzz word. That’s all you hear is vision this and vision that. To me, vision is indefinable, although one can find “text book” definitions. It is the culmination of the process of doing something a lot for a long period of time, ultimately resulting in the unique way that one sees the world, or one’s personal vision. The most well worn quote on vision is by Jonathan Swift, “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” Ok, that sounds fine, but what does it mean? Have you ever been on a photography trip with someone and, both shooting in the same place, upon seeing his/her work, you said, “That’s great. I didn’t see that.” That’s certainly one definition.

Personal style is purely a function of doing the same thing for many years. Personal style is how others define you, not how you define yourself. I mean, if I say that this is my style, but it’s not recognized by anyone as being my style, then guess what? It doesn’t matter what I say. Personal style is recognized by others and will be attributed to you, if you have developed and communicated in your work over a period of time.

Fine Art? Ya got me. It’s a great marketing term and I use it rarely in regard to compelling work that is out of the mainstream, but I can’t define it.

Final thoughts: Western civilization is interesting. We all want it now. We want to have a vision now. We want to be a creative powerhouse now. We want to have a personal style right now.

In 1968 (circa), the Maharishi Yogi brought transcendental meditation to the United States. Realizing the immediacy of the west, used as his tag line: “A jet plane to cosmic consciousness.” Now, even a young dilettante like myself realized that there was no jet plane to cosmic consciousness. It was a process in which one engaged for a lifetime, but the Maharishi made a fortune in about 10 minutes. Whomever his marketing person was, I hope he got a bonus.

Ultimately, creativity, style, vision are processes that constantly feed off of each other, in which one has to actively engage on an ongoing basis with no expectations. They are not goals that can be finalized by reading a book, taking a class, or attending a lecture. However, creativity, style, and vision can be nurtured by constantly engaging in photography while reading books and articles, taking classes (online and location workshops), and attending lectures, seminars, and presentations, and visiting museums.

It’s the constant immersion in every aspect of photography and keeping a wide open mind that will get you to where you want to be in how ever long it takes to get there.

As in life, it’s about the journey. The destination will take care of itself.

Today’s destination is Colfax for our Palouse workshop. Looking forward to getting out there late this afternoon!

Thanks for taking the time and we’ll see ya online!

Tony

P.S. We have a few last minute openings in our Fall workshops in New Hampshire and in Acadia. Please email Susan for more info and/ or to register!

P.P.S Image info: Edisto Beach, SC; Fuji XE2 and 18-55mm lens; 4 minute exposure using the Singh Ray 10 stop MorSlo filter; Athentech’s Perfectly Clear and JixiPix Aquarella plugins and a low opacity layer of AlienSkin’s Snap Art.