In my last blog I wrote about ‘hitting the wall’ in photographic terms on my last walkabout in London. I came to the conclusion it was probably down to the fact of walking the same streets many times and also as pointed out by Valerie Jardin that I’m starting to get very critical of my own work. (Apparently as you improve your photography this is what will happen). Well shortly after the blog was published I received many comments of support and suggestions of what to do and in the main not to worry too much! But one of the suggestions was to get out of your mode? This got me thinking… Initially, I thought this was a suggestion of changing from Aperture priority to Shutter or even move to Manual settings… No, what he meant was change the ‘genre’ from my usual photography. In other words switch from street to landscape for instance.
So I did…
For those that read my blogs regularly will know, a couple of years ago I had my Fuji X-E1 converted to Infrared with a 720Nm filter and it was this camera that I turned to, to break this ‘block’. Not that it takes a better image (far from it, the X-E1 and X-Pro1 in terms of image quality are on a par), but what it gave me was the opportunity to look at potential images in a different way. So much so that I have continued to use it now for the past few weeks. The first opportunity came when I decided to take a country walk with my wife Jane around Lullingstone Park, Kent. The walk took us along a river/stream footpath. Using the X-E1, I chose to shoot in Raw and Fine mode (with the .jpg file set to Mono Red) with the excellent Fujinon Xf18-55mm f2.8-4 lens. (Nb. the 35mm or 16mm f1.4’s are better suited lenses).
This set up covers all potential needs for me. Looking to create images that emphasise the lightness of the green foliage and the dark tree trunks and branches. The day was a little overcast so there wasn’t really the chance to get the light streaming through the canopy of leafage. One thing you will find when converting a camera to IR is the annoying purple ‘blob’ that appears with some lenses – especially zooms – in the middle of the screen. This is caused by light reflection in the lens and can only be negated by some very careful editing in Lightroom or keeping to the wide end of your aperture. ie f2.8 to 4. As my xf18-55mm has a variable aperture of this range I can just about get a way with it. But if it does occur, with a little experience you can remove this ‘blob’ in Lightroom quite easily. (Example of the purple spot, shown below)
Switching to the B+W in the development mode of Lightroom allows you to play with the Red and Orange sliders to emphasise that IR look. One final trick is that a ‘film’ IR photo would lack focus and sharpness… The way to replicate that is to reduce the clarity (sometimes to 80%) if you are looking for that effect and also add some heavy grain. One photographer of note that specialised in ‘film’ IR photography was Sir Simon Marsden you will see from his fascinating work how his ‘film’ images – not digital – would be heavy in grain, lacking in focus and sharpness, but due to his photography skill, just amazing composition, bringing a real atmosphere to all of the images. He himself was keenly interested in ghosts and the belief of a second world living in parallel to us. Thus his work concentrated on haunted houses, castles, graveyards and old relics. Just beautiful work.
This is something that I’m looking to develop. There seems to be a trend at this time to use the colours of the infrared scale to produce fine-art work. So, we are seeing blue buildings, red or orange skies and strange coloured foliage and seas. Each to there own but in my opinion Infrared photography is shown best in Mono, with light/white foliage and black and fluffy white clouded skies, with at times a lack of sharpness and focus!
So, this has been my way out of the block! Turning away from my passion of ‘street’ to Infrared photography using my Fuji X-E1. I think it is important to note that every photographer will go through this stage, when they are lost for what to take and that their innovativeness and observations escape them. It maybe a case that he/she is more critical of their own work, when once that photo taken would have been considered good enough to post to social media or print. We all move on with experience and knowledge of photography. We know what we like to see and view and at the same time we have a good idea of what will be appreciated by the ‘millions’ (haha I/we wish!) that view our work.
Until next time.