Enough with the cabbage already

I spent this weekend at a photography meetup, held at a seaside community about three hours drive away from home.  Without internet or even cell coverage there really was nothing to do except take photographs, or sit around talking about taking photographs with other photographers while eating delicious food.  I took, of course, far too much gear, but ended up mainly making use of the infrared-modified camera, my old Sony A580 which has had the filter over the sensor replaced with clear glass for a ‘full spectrum’ conversion.

I’ve never been much of a landscape photographer, but it was an interesting exercise to take the time to really consider compositions, and see how they changed when photographing at the infrared end of things.  For example, some things in a scene that looked dark to my eyes were bright in the near-infrared, and vice versa.  Cabbage trees, which I have always loved for their resemblance to Dr Seuss’ Truffula, are particularly inclined to glow, especially in slanted early morning light.  Clouds also look quite different, with much drama hidden in hardly-there wisps.

IR images all look a dull flat red out of the camera with all other shades of colour overwhelmed.  Processing is definitely part of the image making process, even more so than in most photography. These were mostly taken using a 720nm filter on a 20mm lens, and processed in Photoshop (this article by Bob Vishneski was verry helpful indeed).

A new 590nm filter was waiting for me when I got home, that will allow more light at the visible end of the spectrum to show, more ‘actual’ colour along with the infrared, and a UV-pass filter is on order too.  More landscape experiments are likely soon; expect cabbage trees.

Pensive baboon, yawning sun bear

This week’s mild obsession continues; playing with the IR modified camera.   I know they’re more typically used for landscape-over-water shots, but there’s something intriguing me about the shifted colour, the slight wrongness to the light and dark on other sorts of images.   Something about the way that until you process the image in Photoshop it’s just a dull blah, which makes it more ‘mine’ that a standard camera capture?  The sensation that film-era photographers felt when they took negatives out of the developer perhaps.


IR Baboon

225mm, 1/2000 sec, f/5.6, iso 200


135mm, 1/2000 sec, f/5, iso 200


Lyall Bay beach, on a day with weather warnings of up 100km winds for Wellington – normally there’s a metre or so gap under the end of this little pier.  Sand rushed along the be beach in visually fascinating but incredibly scouring swirls, so you may be sure that I kept my back to the wind and took good care that my camera stayed inside my jacket.  Photo with the IR-modified camera, using a UV filter, so this is visible + IR light.


Lyall Bay sand

Sony A580 20mm f9 ISO 200 1/800 sec

Or, if you prefer, a prettier, closer view processed with a slightly different colour mix for a quite different effect.

Lyall Bay IR sand

Sand storm at the beach


A familar place made strange

I took the IR converted camera with me on an early morning walk, and this afternoon, with much help from the Internets, figured out how to process the RAW files to much better effect (the key trick is creating a camera profile using a separate Adobe product).  So, yay.

IR trees

Trees glowing whitely






Shags waking up

Shags waking up

IR with Cheetahs

Update some days later!

After an “ah hah” moment with photo processing for images from the IR camera today, I revisited my Cheetah.  Much better result.

Revised processing

Revised processing using a camera profile and colour channel mixing



Processed using my previous ‘play with the sliders in ARC’ method :

For my daily amble today I took my old Sony A580 to the zoo.   I had the filter which normally sits in front of the sensor removed a few months ago and replaced with a clear one, aka a full-spectrum conversion.  Sensor filters normally keep out most of the infra-red and UV light which is outside the human eyesight range, so that photographs look ‘right’ in terms of colour.  This camera doesn’t have that any more.  Focusing is a bit of a challenge (or at least it was with the Tamron 70-300mm lens I was using today), but the results can be interesting when not utterly rubbish.   These are the straight-out-of-camera colour, and lightly processed b&w versions.

IR cheetah

Crisper fur, but not looking at the camera

Cheetah IR

And, trying a macro lens back in m’garden.  This Sony 35mm lens seems much sharper than the Tamron one, and the colours are quite different.

IR monarch

I really need to remember to take this camera next time I go on a road trip – IR is absorbed quite differently to visible light by vegetation, and I’d love to try take some of those spooky landscape pictures which inspired me to get my retired camera converted in the first place.

Caterpillar piehole-equivalent

Today I experimented some more using off-camera flash.  My subject was a monarch caterpillar, and the photograph was taken on a Sony A7ii, using a Nikon 105mm macro lens on a bellows, with a Yongnuo trigger and one flash set to low power, about 20cm away.  The bellows let me focus very close indeed, while the flash meant I could use f/22.  I’ve definitely never got as close and sharp an image of this type of beastie’s mouth parts and ocelli before. But I have also rediscovered that a high f/stop makes every teeny bit of dust on the lens waaay more visible!

monarch caterpillar

Kingdom of the derp

Wandering round the local hillside zoo with a camera is pretty much the base of my fitness regime.  Regular rambling suggests that the earlier in the morning it is, the more alert yet relaxed most animals are.  It’s also a time when the tame creatures who aren’t behind bars or glass are interested back at you, before becoming jaded by the attentions of a thousand chubby toddlers.