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Let’s go through some simple steps to getting a great long exposure Infrared image.
#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. I use a tripod made by Sirui, The Traveler, and it weighs under 2 pounds.
#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. Prior to their release, I tested the Life Pixel IR ND filters and I can tell you that they truly offer both 5-stop and 10-stop 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 question that often comes up is, “Do I need a 5-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, I’ve even had circumstances where I’ve stacked a 5-stop on a 10-stop because I needed it. On seriously sunny shoots, I will use a 5-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 a long exposure 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 Super Color 9-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.
This is a Super Color 4-minute exposure with a 5-stop ND at ISO 50, f22
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.
#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.
Here’s a little trick; in a pinch when I didn’t have an ND filter I have dropped my ISO to 50, upped my f-stop to f22, and have been able to lengthen my shutter speed sufficiently to capture a long exposure.
#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.
Like most photographers, I love black-and-white infrared images. There is a purity and intensity to a well-crafted monochrome image, and there are many software options out there to help convert an image to black-and-white. In my experience, the best way to convert an infrared image to monochrome is a method that gives me the most control over how each color is translated. Filters that automate the conversion process often don’t allow for fine control, or end up creating images that are noisy, grainy, or just look too “cookie cutter.” I don’t want someone to see my monochrome infrared images and respond, “Oh, you used that ‘insert name’ filter.”
I prefer to convert each image manually, taking into consideration the unique characteristics of the image.
I’ve developed an easy, three-step process that works well with infrared images.
Let’s start with this image.
This is a Super Color image at 590nm.
We want to start with an infrared image that’s been corrected for exposure and color, so begin by making these basic adjustments. If you are not proficient with levels and curves, consider using Photoshop’s auto-corrections under the Image menu: Auto Tone, Auto Contrast, and Auto Color
Then complete a red/blue channel swap. If you aren’t comfortable doing that, watch this YouTube video of mine.
Now you have an image that looks like this.
This completes step one.
Once you have an infrared image that looks natural and properly exposed, select Image / Adjustments / Black & White.
This opens the Black and White dialogue with six color channel sliders: Reds, Yellows, Greens, Cyans, Blues, and Magentas
These sliders control how each color will be rendered in your black-and-white conversion. By moving a slider to the left, you darken that color, and by moving the slider to the right, you lighten that color. Here you’ll begin to create a unique interpretation of your image based on your personal artistic preferences. Take your time with this step and remember that each color will become a different shade or tone.
As is the case with Super Color Infrared, we have four color tones, Red, Yellow, Blue & Cyan. I chose to darken the Blue and Cyan tones to add intensity to the sky. I then proceeded to lighten the Red and Yellow tones in the foliage to make it pop out against the darker sky. There’s no right or wrong amount of adjustment here—you’re simply experimenting to find the look that you want. When you’re done, click “OK”. Now the image looks like this.
Now for the last step.
The last step is to fine-tune your monochrome Infrared image for even more control over the tonality.
For this, we’ll use Selective Color: Image / Adjustments / Selective Color
This step really makes a big difference in the final look of your image.
In the Selective Color dialogue, you’ll see four sliders: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. We’re going to use the Black slider exclusively.
You’ll also see a Colors drop-down menu. This menu allows you to select the colors and tonal ranges in your image and adjust them individually (Figure 8). Since we’re adjusting a monochrome image, we’ll only be working with Whites, Neutrals, and Blacks.
Select these from the drop-down one at a time and then move the Black slider to make your adjustments. Moving the slider to the right adds more black and moving it to the left reduces the amount of black.
When adjusting your Whites, reducing black will make the whites pop, but you lose detail. If you add black, you’ll see more detail in the highlights. Adjusting your Neutrals will have more of a global effect, lightening or darkening the image overall. Finally, increasing the Black in your Black channel will produce intense, deep shadows which is what creates the drama in a black-and-white image that most people look for, especially with infrared images.
In my example image, I chose to increase the Black in the White channel to bring more detail into the palm fronds. Next, I increased the Black in the Neutral channel to slightly darken the image overall. Then, I increased the Black in the Black channel just a bit to add a touch more contrast.
Here’s the finished image.
And here is a side-by-side comparison, before and after.
Now, wasn’t this easy?
Creating dramatic black-and-white images doesn’t require a difficult process. Examine the colors and tones present in your original image, decide on what elements you want to emphasize, and then use these quick steps to create images with visual impact.
Recently while online I came across a device that really caught my eye. It is an adapter ring allowing an old Canon FD film lens to be connected to a Canon RF mount. For some people that may seem strange, but I immediately knew I had to have it, and the best part is the cost is very low, less than $20 on Amazon.
So, I ordered the adapter and then had to wait the whole two days to get it.
While I was waiting, I went to the curio cabinet I have my “old” cameras in and got out my last film camera, my Canon AE-1.
Still mounted on it was my favorite lens, the Sigma 28-85mm 3.5- 4.5 This was when Sigma still made great lenses. I can still remember the thrill when I purchased this lens is in the summer of 1979. It was my favorite lens until I switched to digital.
Since I hadn’t really touched it for almost two decades, I thought it a good idea to clean it.
That was a good idea. Just a “bit” of dust. Everything on the lens seemed to be in working order, but would it work with the adapter? A 40+-year-old lens on a state of art digital camera?
I would know soon enough.
Once the adapter arrived, I immediately strapped it on my Full Spectrum Canon R5 and stepped outside to see if it worked.
And it did!
Now, you have to manually set the f-stop and manually focus the lens, but it did work.
So, how about Infrared?
My R5 is full-spectrum, the Sigma lens is 67mm, my filters are 77mm, …… and I don’t have a step-down ring.
I really don’t want to wait another 2 days to test this.
This is when luck kicked in.
The lens has been sitting for all this time with a Cokin “P” series filter holder on it and, amazingly enough, it holds (with a bit of work) a 77mm filter.
So, I can now shoot Infrared with my new/old lens.
20th century, meet the 21st.
So now I have a full spectrum Canon R5 with a 40-year-old film lens attached.
I’m ready to go out and shoot.
And then it rains for the next 3 days.
Finally, a nice sunny day to test out my old/new combination.
I picked a sunflower field. Sunflowers always look good in infrared and are fun to shoot.
I am used to manually focusing a lens since I am a brand ambassador for Lensbaby and love their lenses, so I felt fairly certain I could use this old lens.
The first thing I learned was that the infinity setting on the lens wasn’t quite accurate. When attempting to focus at infinity it felt a bit soft. I tried a few landscape images and the image above was the best of the lot. Not bad, but also not great.
So next I tried the sunflowers for some close-up shots.
This is where the lens really seemed to perform the best.
because of the difficulty of fitting the IR filter on the lens, I stuck to shooting Super Color at 590nm.
The more I worked with the lens, the better my results, but it was a little tedious.
My final decision was mixed.
Yes, it works and it was fun to use a very old lens on a new camera, . . .
If I wanted to go out again I would just grab one of my Lensbaby lenses and use it because the focus is sharper and the lens, in general, is easier to use.
So, if you want to try something like an art lens for a very little bit of money, consider ordering this convertor.
By the way, I found this on Amazon here .
Super color Infrared is by far our most popular Infrared conversion because it offers such a wide range of options in post-production. When properly white balanced, you have 4 color tones, Red and Yellow in the sky and Blue and Cyan in the foliage. When channel swapped, it has a great faux color look.
The problem though is this isn’t the way a Super Color often looks. Here’s an example
Here’s our properly White Balanced Super Color image.
Now let’s channel swap it.
Not exactly the same as the others.
The image above has all four color tones, these below do not, they are mostly Blue and Yellow.
To get this look is very simple.
In Photoshop, open Image, Adjustments, Hue/Saturation
In Hue/Saturation change the color from Master to Cyans.
Move the Hue slider on the Cyans to the right, into the blue, effectively changing the Cyan to Blue.
Next, change the color to Red.
Move the Hue Slider on the Reds to the right, effectively changing the Reds to Yellow.
See how your new image looks now.
Now depending on each image, you may need to adjust the sliders differently to get the desired results.
But that’s all there is to it.
Now it’s your turn, give it a try.
If you are someone who likes the status quo, never wants to take a chance, and hates a challenge, this next part and this next lens are not for you.
However, if you like new things, want something interesting and exciting, or have ever been interested in pinhole photography and you are going to love the Lensbaby Obscura.
Pinhole photography or the Obscura camera effect has been around forever. There is information about the camera obscura effect dating back to 300 to 600 BCE.
As a child, I played with the effect by taking a cardboard box poking a pinhole in it, and then observing the inverted image on the opposite side of the box.
The new Lensbaby Obscura is the furthest thing from that cardboard box. Lensbaby has taken a type of photography that’s always been crude at best and refined it. Their finished product is a very impressive high tech-looking device. It is the most innovative design for a pinhole lens ever.
Just for clarification, all the testing I did with the obscurest 16 was on a full spectrum converted Canon EOS-R and a natural Color, unconverted Canon EOS-R. The lens has an RF mount.
Here take a look.
The lens is so small that you will never have trouble finding space for it in your bag. On your camera, it almost looks like you forgot to put a lens on.
So, how does it work?
You simply mount the lens on your camera and any adjustments that you want to make you do so on the front of the lens. There are three settings on the Obscura 16 f/90, f/45, and f/22.
You change the f-stop by rotating the ring inside the front of the lens. It’s very easy to do and only takes a second.
Now the first thing that everyone always asked me about a lens for infrared is “does it have a hot spot?”
The short answer is, no it has no hotspots. If you think about it though it really shouldn’t. Hot spots are caused by the coating on the inside barrel of a lens reflecting infrared light into the center of the sensor. This lens doesn’t have a barrel and is so close to your sensor I don’t see how it could possibly have the ability to create a hotspot.
So that’s good news for us infrared photographers
Now let’s discuss the most important thing about using the Lensbaby Obscura 16.
Your sensor needs to be completely clean.
I cannot stress this enough.
This is embarrassing, but I’m going to show you how my first outing with the Obscura 16 went.
I took a series of shots and then sat down and reviewed them.
I stopped counting at about 15 spots. This is NOT the fault of the lens, but completely my fault.
Luckily I had equipment with me to clean the sensor in my car and was able to correct the situation.
Anything on your sensor will be seen.
Once you realize that you will have no issues.
The process of image capture was exciting to me. The best way I can explain it is shooting with the Obscura 16 is more of an analog experience than digital. I love digital photography and hope I never shoot film again. Sticking a card in my camera and having thousands of frames to use still thrills me.
With that said, there are many aspects of film photography that I did enjoy. Shooting with the Obscura 16 is similar to that. Some aspects of digital photography have become so technical that sometimes I think the artistic aspects of image capture can be lost or diluted. This lens was very different from everything else that I’ve shot with, and I was definitely out of my comfort zone which was great! I didn’t feel at all proficient with this lens when I started shooting with it and even after shooting with it for a while now I still realize I have more to learn. So, if you’re someone who’s getting a little bored with your photography I would recommend this lens. It’s probably the artsiest lens out there right now.
So, what did I make with it?
Glad you ask.
With regards to post-production, I was once again a bit out of my comfort zone a bit, but I enjoyed where the images took me.
Became this, by using NIK Analog Efex and adding a sepia tone to it.
I also found myself drawn to monochrome a lot.
But, color Infrared also works.
So, what do you think?
Want to know about this lens? Click Here