Genoa at dusk

Genoa harbour

We are enjoying a ridiculous one month whirlwind tour of Italy, savoring the mid-winter no-tourist vibe.  Weather-wise it mostly like pleasant spring weather at home.   Genoa was a one-day stop on the way to Nice, but turned out to be packed with surprises, and it’s been marked as “next time and stay longer” on the imaginary travel planner.

After a busy day wandering through the quite fab aquarium and history of the sea museum my husband, ex-navy and with a marine biology degree was in high degrees of happy place (and okay, I was pretty happy too).  On the way back to our accommodation we happened to pass a former palace now a museum (as you do in Italy),  an hour or so before closing.  The art was excellent, the galleries pleasingly empty, but just as we were about to head down stairs a guard suggested there was just time to take the lift to the roof.   So, amazing unexpected views across the roofs of Genoa, at about 4.45pm.

Lesson for next time: must remember to put the pocket tripod in ones pocket, just in case.


Spring, tralah etc

I spent last weekend in Christchurch, a city justly famous for it’s blossom-tree filled parks.  Thinks look just a little different in the near infrared: branches about to burst with buds are glowing already, and sometimes colours sharply different in daylight aren’t (magnolias for egs, the dark dark purple kind and the white kind, both look the same).

Duck Lake, closeup blossom and a Field of not-golden daffodils, all with the 35mm lightweight macro lens which has become my go-to holiday lens choice.


IR Huka Falls

Huka Falls

The Huka Falls are a 10 minute drive away from Lake Taupo township, and a road-side tourist photo trap of epic proportions.  But the place is not quite as exciting as it was when I was a small child.  Way back then the bridge over the most squeezed part of the gorge was just a narrow swing bridge, and my darling brothers would usually jump up and down to make it bounce.  It was quite slippery with spray most of the time as well.

Huka Falls
Looking upstream, from the bridge

These with the IR mod camera, 35mm lens and a 590nm filter. Colour swapped.

Castle on a clifftop #46

Dunnottar Castle

As scenic as any scenery you’ll ever see: the ruins of Dunnottar Castle near Aberdeen, Scotland.   If I was a different kind of photographing tourist, the kind who researches carefully, and arises several hours before dawn to get to places by sunrise, I’d have really amazing photos of this place.   I confess that this trip had much more of a “oh, lets sleep in, then stop for a delicious brunch” travel style, interspersed with “hey, look, there’s a thing let’s visit it” moments.   But heck,  this castle is an amazing place to wander around and imagine the everyday lives of long-ago people who lived here, and the waves of invading armies that they fought off – until they didn’t.

With the IR modified camera.


Home from the holidays


I found it pretty easy to pack my suitcase for my big trip this year: five pairs of identical black yoga pants, six interchangeable t-shirts, something for cold days, something for the occasional flash restaurant, walking shoes and casual shoes, toothbrush and sunscreen and done.  But choosing which camera and which camera lenses to take is difficult.  Trading off considerations such as “what if I see X, and I don’t have xyz”, against the weight of good lenses and a laptop.  And security: travel insurance doesn’t cover you if electronics is stolen from your car, and expensive, visibly expensive gear is going to make you a target for thievery in general.  Also, my husband was taking a camera and was going to be standing beside me so . . . I didn’t want to be taking too-similar photos.

So, this time: not my best camera, not my best lenses, which are either expensive or heavy.  No laptop.  Instead, I took my IR camera (which is a modified A6000), with just basic lenses, a pancake 16mm for landscapes, and 55-200mm zoom for the rest.  My husband’s camera is an unmodified A6000, so we could share spare batteries and the charger.   I also took a small but very good compact (an RX100iv) for ‘normal’ photographs and collecting images in museums (ie, stock to use in future projects), and for days when the weather was clearly not going to work for IR.   I used an android tablet for some basic processing of images to share on Facebook during the trip, using the jpgs that Sony creates when you use their app to transfer photos for uploading and Snapseed to tweak ’em.  I took an usb harddrive and a Filehub so we could back up our SD cards.  One exceedingly useful gadget was a $30 5 port travel USB charger that came with adapters for the UK and Europe and Australia, and high powered slots for phones and tablets, so that we could charge our ridiculous number of electronic devices (fitbits and camera batteries and phones and all).  And, as just a small backpack’s worth of gear this setup worked together pretty well.

Except of course, now I’m home.  And I have . . . a lot of files to process.  So many castles.  And amazing landscapes.  And wild stormscapes rushing up dramatic cliffs.  And all the rest.  Expect this blog to groan under the weight of some ancient European monuments in the next week or two.

Cloudy skies on sunny days

Clouds look different in IR – solid cloud looks fairly blah, and cloudless sky uninteresting, but skies that are sunny with vague wisps of white cloud have a hidden and dramatic turbulence.

Trees IR camera

Sky sea clouds infrared

Marlborough Sounds

Technically: A6000 IR mod camera with 650nm filter on 16mm lens.  F5, iso 100, 1/350 and 1/500 sec.  Slightly odd settings, but wider f-stop seemed to work better in this light, with this lens.

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.


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