Welcome To My Blog
I love the look of long-exposure photography. You can create a different look and feel to a scene. Long-exposure Infrared images are possible, with the right preparation and gear.
Let’s go through some simple steps to getting a great long-exposure Infrared image.
For reference, I utilized a Canon R5, converted to Full Spectrum. For anyone not familiar with Full Spectrum, the camera is altered, removing the IR blocking filter or hot mirror, and a clear piece of glass is inserted in its place. Once converted, you place a filter on the lens to select what type of photography you want to capture. In this instance, I used a Kase 720nm filter. You can accomplish the same effect with an unconverted camera by placing the Kase 720nm filter on your natural color camera.
#1. Get a good tripod.
Over the past few years, the quality of tripods has improved and the prices are reasonable. Carbon fiber tripods are usually best as they are very light and easy to carry.
#2 Get good quality, Infrared neutral density filters
If you’ve shot long exposure images before, you know that not all ND filters are the same. Many will add a color cast to the images that you then have to deal with in post-production. When it comes to Infrared photography, some ND filters have little to no effect or only offer half the number of stops they are marked for when used for natural color photography. I tested the Kase clip-in filters and I can tell you that they truly offer both 4-stop (ND16) and 10-stop (ND64) reduction for both Infrared and natural color images. That’s great because you only need to carry one set of ND filters for all your photography.
The Kase clip-in filters are very easy to use. You remove your lens and place the clip-in filter above your sensor. It literally clips in. Once in place, you put your lens back on and shoot like normal. The filter comes with a triangular piece that looks very similar to a guitar pick that works perfectly to remove the clip-in filters.
The question that often comes up is, “Do I need a 4-stop or 10-stop, or both?” I carry both as it allows me to adapt to every shooting scenario. Depending on shooting conditions and the amount of available light, On seriously sunny shoots, I will use a 4-stop ND filter and still be able to shoot hand-held to maximize my contrast in the images.
#3 Pick your scene to fit a long exposure.
The idea with long exposures is to capitalize on the effect of keeping your shutter open longer. There are things that will help make these images look better, and a few things to consider not doing as well. If you are shooting a scene with water, especially running water, a long exposure will blur the water.
This is a 30-second exposure with a 4-stop ND, at ISO 100, f22, shot right after sunset. I then increased the color saturation to give the image more of a reddish, sepia tone.
This is a 2-minute exposure with a 10-stop ND at ISO50, f22
Even a pond will take on a different look as the surface will get smooth and mirror-like.
Now, see what happened to the clouds in this image? Often times I will try long exposures on cloudy days as it adds a little to the images when the clouds show movement.
However, if it’s windy, that can blur your trees, which may or may not be the look you are going for. You will want to experiment with different conditions to see what type of Long exposure Infrared you like. Don’t be afraid to try everything; if the image doesn’t work out, just don’t share it.
#4 Set your camera properly
Make it easier on yourself by setting your camera right. Start with the lowest ISO setting you have available. Many new mirrorless cameras have a “Low” ISO setting which is the equivalent of ISO 50. By setting your ISO you now need more light. Next, take your f-stop to a higher number. The higher-numbered f-stop requires more light.
#5 Use a remote or delayed shutter
When you are capturing a long exposure, the last thing you want is anything that negatively affects the image. No matter how careful you are, pressing the shutter button can jar the camera slightly, affecting the image. Most cameras allow for some sort of remote shutter activation by a wireless remote or a cellphone app. If you don’t want to do this, instead consider setting your camera for a delay. Then when you press the shutter button you can move your hand away before the shutter actually opens.
#6 Budget more time for long exposures
One thing that always amuses me is how long it takes to capture such a small number of long exposures. I have had a one-hour shoot time generate only 6 or 7 images. Give yourself enough time to try different things and to shoot different exposure times. If possible, try a location at different times of the day for a different look.
#7 (Most Important) Enjoy the process!
I watch some people shoot and they get so serious I wonder if they are actually enjoying themselves? This is your art form, and for many, your hobby…. it should be fun. Enjoy the process! Try different things, different exposure times, camera heights, and camera angles. Don’t stress over the results, focus your energy on enjoying the image-capture experience. If the images don’t turn out the way you want, ……… don’t show them to anyone and go back and try again.
Below are a few more examples of Infrared long exposures.
I have a portfolio of IR long exposures you can see here.
When you look at Infrared photography, 720nm Infrared is a standard in the art form because it will work with both unconverted natural color cameras, as well as full-spectrum converted. When shooting 720nm IR with an unconverted, natural color camera you will need to shoot with a tripod, as longer exposures will be required. The length of exposure will depend on the camera you are using. An unconverted camera has an IR-blocking filter in it, and depending on how strong it is will affect the length of exposure needed. For this piece, I am reviewing the Kase magnetic filter. Full disclosure, Kase did approach me for this review and supplied the product. For this review, I used a full-spectrum Canon R5, with the Canon RF 16mm, Canon RF 100-500L, Canon EF 24-105L with EF-RF converter ring, and the Lensbaby Velvet 28.
They say in writing to never bury the lead so I will start by telling you the Kase Wolverine 720nm filter performed flawlessly. This filter is a magnetic filter utilizing a lens adaptor ring for the lens that allows you to simply touch the filter to the lens and then the filter is attached.
As someone who likes to utilize different lenses, I do hope Kase is going to sell the lens adaptor rings separately to make using their filter easier on multiple lenses. As I said, the filter worked great there were no issues with it or the magnetic connection. I tried to deliberately shake the filter loose and it didn’t come off once.
I did my testing with a full-spectrum converted camera. For those of you not familiar with a full spectrum conversion, the IR blocking filter, which is referred to as the IR cut filter is removed from the sensor and replaced by a clear piece of glass. My conversion was done by Life Pixel. Once converted, a full-spectrum camera is now able to capture the entire spectrum, including visible light, ultraviolet, and Infrared. To select what you want to capture, you just place a filter on the lens. By using the Kase 720nm filter I am then able to capture Infrared images. Now let's take a look at what you can make with a 720nm filter.
There is often a misconception about 720nm IR that it is Black and White; that is not true. Properly captured and white balanced, a 720nm IR image will have 4 color tones, Red, Yellow, Blue, and Cyan. The color tones will often be subdued or lower saturated, but they are there. These colors can be used to create some interesting false-color IR images. You can even pump up the color by following these steps.
Here's an example of a 720nm IR image.
This is a 720nm IR image, that was White Balanced using the RAW editor made for my camera, Digital Photo Professional.
You'll see the four colors I mentioned, are very subdued. What most digital artists like to do is a Red/Blue color channel swap. If you are not familiar with this technique I have a Youtube video you can watch to walk you thru it. You can watch it here.
Here it is with the channel swap.
Once channel swapped, you have red and yellow in the foliage, Blue and Cyan in the sky at very low saturation.
From here it is easy to make a dynamic B&W image like this.
If you'd like to learn an easy 3-step process for making B&W infrared images, you can read that here.
One of the things I like about 720nm IR is you can shoot it at any time of day. Yes, it's easier when you have bright light, but if you properly expose the image you shoot all day long. Depending on the time of day, you can get a slight glow on your foliage as I did with this image of lily pads in this fountain.
This was accomplished by slightly over-exposing the image.
Another nice part of being able to shoot all day is the ability to use shadows in your images.
When I shoot, I always shoot bracketed exposures to ensure I get the image I want, and in some cases, I will combine multiple exposures using layers and layer masks.
Shortly after receiving the Kase 720nm IR filter, I took a trip to Dauphin Island Alabama to scout out locations for a workshop I will be conducting in 2023. Dauphin Island offered quite a few great locations for Infrared.
If you are someone who likes to make long-exposure images, IR will work well for that too.
Whenever I shoot long-exposure IR I start with a clip-in neutral-density filter and then place the 720nm filter on my lens.
The rest is just like shooting any long-exposure image. This image was made at f11, ISO100. for 10 seconds. In post, I punched up the naturally occurring red tones and didn't feel the image needed to be channel swapped.
This next image was shot at f8, ISO50, for 10 seconds.
While walking through the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, I made this 720nm IR image and then finished it up with Glamour Glow in the NIK Collection.
In the evening, I made this image and converted it to B&W
This image of a squadron of Pelicans ended up making a nice B&W
And this may be my favorite image from the shoot, an interior room in Fort Gaines, a Civil War-era military fort, made first thing in the morning.
For this one, I made use of the yellow tones coming thru the window.
So, as I said at the beginning, the Kase 720nm IR filter performed flawlessly. The filter is well-made.
This is worth mentioning, during the day while I was shooting on the dock I accidentally drop the filter. It bounced on the deck and then fell into the ocean. I recovered it and it looked like nothing had happened to it. Not the way I intended to test the filter, but it did pass with flying colors.
So, if you are considering Infrared at 720nm, I think you'll like this filter.
I love dramatic-looking Infrared images, and I have found that quite often I can take an otherwise unimpressive image and make it pop by simply working with Selective Color and Hue/Saturation in Photoshop.
Here’s an example below
This is a Standard Infrared image at 720 nm. I shot this in St. Louis during my workshop last month.
The image is nice, but that’s the best I can say about it.
There wasn’t anything in the sky going on to help this image.
We can do more with this image with a little post-production.
Here’s what I ended up with after working with the image for just a few minutes.
So, would you like to know how I did it?
Rather than walk you thru the steps written out, I have a video that explains it better
So, how was that? Not too tough didn’t take too long and gave good results.
As an artist, what are you afraid of?
One thing I have learned over the years is that most artists are their own worst critics. Many times artists are slowed, or even stopped by their own insecurities. Often though, by moving from a place of comfort to the unknown they find they can do amazing things.
Craig Strong, the inventor, and genius behind the Lens baby lenses decided to explore this aspect of artistic life thru a new podcast series, called Moving Through Fear.
As Craig put it:
“The Moving Through Fear Podcast presented by Lensbaby is a space for photographers and creatives to come together to talk about their journey of stepping out of their comfort zone and into their extraordinary greatness. Hosted by Lensbaby Co-Founder Craig Strong, the Moving Through Fear Podcast is for those looking to be connected through the journey of struggle, success, and discovering self. “
If you’ve read much of our Blogs, you know I am a big fan of Lensbaby lenses. The Velvet series lenses will always have a spot in my camera bag. One of the best things about Lensbaby is their philosophy as a company as they not only want to make quality art lenses, but they also want to encourage and inspire people. Everything they do is about stepping out of the box and expressing your unique artistic views.
This podcast was a natural next step. Craig Strong got together with artists and said, “Hey, let’s talk” and these podcasts are that conversation. These podcasts are relaxed and have the feeling of two people chatting over coffee. I encourage you to give them a listen. I love the insight into how other artists see things. I was also thrilled to be a part of this podcast in episode 11. I felt very nervous at the start, but Craig is a great personality and puts you at ease.
If you like the series, be sure to leave a review on iTunes.
In the Caribbean Sea just south of Cuba is the island of Hispaniola. The island contains the nation of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. While I can’t suggest visiting Haiti, the Dominican Republic is a tropical paradise.
For a photographer, it’s a dream come true. For an infrared photographer even more so.
Super Color Infrared at 590nm, Canon R5, RF 16mm lens
I’ve made several trips to “The D.R.” and in case you’d like to consider a visit and photo shoot, I’d like to pass on a few suggestions.
The DR is larger than you probably think. At roughly 18,704 square miles, it’s the equivalent of the US states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. To drive around the island would take you about 35 hours, non-stop. Most tourists tend to go to Santo Domingo, or Punta Cana. These are both resort areas, which is great if you want breakfast buffets and unlimited drink options, but not so great if you want great shots of empty beaches. It is for that reason that I fly in, get a car and get far away from the resorts. In my case, I developed an affinity for Las Terrenas. Located 225 km from Santo Domingo, it is an easy drive to get there. Once there, you will find everything from small, out-of-way places to several large resort hotels.
There are a few obvious things; it’s a tropical climate, have plenty of bottled water, wear a good sunscreen.
When I did my first day-shoot in the DR I wore myself out because I had so much to carry. I had a large backpack full of lenses and a full-size tripod.
That was a mistake.
Since the majority of what you’ll be shooting is landscape-type images, I use an ultra-wide lens the most. In my case, as a Canon shooter, I went with a full-spectrum converted Canon R5 with the Canon RF 16mm f2.8 lens or the IRIX EF 15mm f 2.4 lens with the EF-RF converter ring. Both of these lenses work well for Infrared, posing no problems with hotspots. The IRIX lens is a personal favorite of mine, but the RF16mm is very small and easy to travel with. About 95% of what I shot was done with an ultra-wide lens, the rest was with a 24-105mm. Because I am shooting Infrared, I prefer the EF 24-105mm f4 L as it has no hotspots. The RF 24-105mm f4 L can be prone to hotspot issues. If you want to be certain you don’t miss any shot, consider a lightweight telephoto. In my case that was the Canon RF 100-400 f/5.6-8 is usm lens. This lens is very light, moderately priced, and has no hotspot issues.
Now I’ve gone from a big bulky backpack to the ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 15 backpack that is small and manageable and doesn’t look like a camera bag.
Because I trimmed down my gear to just what I really needed, I had space for other things like a poncho.
Which is a good idea. Like most tropical locales it’s not unusual for there to be s sudden, quick burst of rain.
I also brought extra batteries and memory cards. Nothing is worse than being in the perfect spot and then running out of battery or storage. This brings us to the next point.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying the best time to shoot a vertical shot is right after a horizontal one.
Do it. You won’t regret it. There is no such thing as overshooting with digital photography. End up with images you don’t need? There’s a delete key for that.
Here we have a Standard IR image at 720nm and a Hyper Color image at 470nm
Along the same line as the previous one, try the same scene in Color and Infrared. Or, if you have the capability, try different wavelengths of IR. You will see a difference in the images. If you have a full-spectrum camera you just change the filters on the lens. If you have a dedicated conversion you can go up the spectrum. For example, if you are shooting Super Color Infrared at 590nm you can add a 665nm, or 720nm filter to capture IR images.
Here is the same scene in Super Color IR at 590nm, and Hyper Color IR at 470nm
Super Color IR at 590nm, and Standard IR at 720nm
The same scene can have a different feel depending on the nanometer of Infrared you capture the image in.
I often hear photographers say they wish they’d more time at a location. Plan for that.
Don’t pull up to a spot and say, “I’ll only be a minute”.
You are either going to miss some great shooting opportunities or irritate the person you are traveling with. I have found that the location I can park is often far away from the best image locations. Wander a bit, it will pay off.
This next part goes with this idea
Ever drive along and think, “I wonder where that road goes?” Find out! Some of the best images I’ve made where taken in such locations. One of my favorite images from this year’s trip to DR is a spot I found by following a road until it ended and I was faced with this. Just a few horses among the palm trees.
Super Color Infrared at 590nm
I never would have found this if I didn’t get off the beaten path.
Don’t be afraid to experiment while you are shooting. I always carry a 5-stop ND filter whenever I go out to shoot. In bright conditions, it will often improve the contrast.
Since I had it, why not try some longer exposures?
So I did. And it worked out.
This is a Super Color IR image at 720nm, ISO 50, f11, 15 seconds
And without a tripod!
How? I used a fallen tree to balance the camera. The image was slightly unlevel, but that was easily corrected. I liked the blurred water and the movement of the palm fronds helped created the feeling of movement.
So, what do you think? If you are looking for a great place to shoot Infrared, consider the Dominican Republic.
If you’d like to see the entire series I made on the D.R. click here