May 07, 2021

A Second Infrared EOS R5 Session

As with 2020, my photographic process in 2021 is being heavily impacted by COVID-19; on the day these photographs were made, Nova Scotia posed another day of record-setting infections, and moved into a tighter lockdown, including the request that Nova Scotian's stay close to no new photos for the remainder of May, while we hope to gain control over the pestilence that is running rampant in Halifax.

Where my first camera tests of the newly converted Canon EOS R5 were made literally the day after it arrived (don't ask about the 30 days waiting in Canadian Customs), these images were made on a day much more suited for infrared photography - bright sunlight and an interesting sky with high, whispy clouds.

Digital infrared original

Though I made the above image with my 17mm TS/E tilt-shift lens, I was interested in pushing the cameras to the limit, so no tripod was used. The camera's focus peaking assist worked wonderfully with the manual focus lens, and the built-in levels helped me avoid any significant camera distortion to the horizontal or vertical plane. It is undeniable that this image would have been faster and easier to make with a tripod, but the fact I could focus and compose so accurately was a real treat, and further builds my confidence that this new IR camera will take my work in directions I have not been able to head before.

Digital infrared original

This image of the tree shadow on Citadel Hill was initially intended to be a photograph of the clouds, but when I saw how start the shadows looked through the viewfinder, I knew the composition would have to include both.

Digital infrared original

The last set of images were made in a graveyard, looking towards the tallest building in the city (which is currently undergoing renovations). This image in particular points out the potential of the EOS R5 for infrared work - the shadows were open and detailed, even through the highlights were subject to full afternoon sun - this bodes well for upcoming work with models where the constrast with sunlit skin and shadows tends to be a challenge at times!

All I need now is an end to COVID-19, so I can head out with a model, and really see what this camera can do.

May 05, 2021

My First Session with an Infrared Converted EOS R5

When I first began the transition from working with film to working with digital cameras, one of the biggest questions was "how can I let go of working with infrared light?" Since 1990, infrared film had been an increasingly important part of my creative process, so this was certainly a concern. All my doubts were set to rest in the fall of 2004, when I made my first set of digital images with an infrared-converted Sigma SD-10; the results were thrilling (though only 3.1 mp in resolution), and this paved the way for more than 15 years of digital infrared photography, between then and now.

Infrared digital original

Since 2004, I have had five DSLR cameras converted to be infrared sensitive; but with my latest upgrade, I moved to a mirrorless camera design, the Canon EOS R5. Switching from DSLRs to mirrorless provides two distinct advantages when working with an infrared converted camera. The first advantage is to be able to see the infrared image through the viewfinder. With my previous DSLR cameras, when looking through the viewfinder, the image viewed is the world in front of the lens (as DSLR cameras permit the photographer to view directly through the lens, as opposed to a digital video image). 

Infrared digital original
For conventional photography, being able to see the real world through the viewfinder is often considered an advantage (especially for sports or action), but with infrared photography, being unable to see what an image will look like before it is made is a real handicap. The only workaround has been to work with LiveView; this shows a video image of the composition on the back screen of the camera - and this was certainly a game-changer with the Canon 5D MKII (which was my first DSLR with liveview), but it also imposes some pretty significant limitations on process, making a tripod pretty much mandatory for most sessions, and making viewing the image challenging on bright days. All this has changed with the mirrorless camera, which clearly displays the image, in all its glorious "infraredness" before I even touch the shutter button.

Infrared digital original
The second advantage is related to the first, but in some ways, even more significant. With a mirrorless infrared camera, for the first time, auto focus works accurately (as the camera focused with the light falling on the sensor (contrast detection), as opposed to the more traditional DLSR method of phase detection. For someone who loves working with large apertures, this is a game changer! Coupled with the incredibly fast and accurate focus of the EOS R5 (including eye focus), this makes working in infrared suddenly much faster and more accurate than ever before!

March 20, 2021

A Snow Session...on the First Day of Spring (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Ever since my first snow & ice sessions with Ingrid in 2008, I have kept out for appropriate winter days to work with a model on...and this was the first time since that everything came together to permit a return to working outdoors in winter (obviously, there have been many days in the intervening 13 years where the winter weather was warm enough, or a model was available, or I was available...but this was the first time all three came together perfectly. The day before had a small snow storm, and while much of the snow had melted off the trees by the time the day had warmed to 5 celsius, there was still plenty of snow on the ground to leave no doubt these were images made in the winter (even though technically, it was the first day of spring.

Digital original

When we arrived at our planned location, another vehicle was parked, so we headed in a slightly different direction, and walked into the forest until we found a suitable location. A fallen tree, covered with a blanket of snow, but with some wonderfully weathered exposed wood was the perfect place to start working. With back lighting flooding across the scene, there was some great play between shadows and highlights provided, and a wide lens helped create some direction and flow to the composition.

Digital original

As was inevitable, working so close to a river, Esme, in mid-pose experimentation, asked if she could do an image of her putting her toe in the water. The result may not be the most dynamic image I've made, but the contrast between the snow around her, and her interest in touching the water is as accurate a portrait of Esme character as I have made to date.

Digital original

During a pause between compositions, the light on Esme was perfect, so we paused the more deliberate work to made some candid portraits - the angular early-evening sun was quite striking as a rim-light on her torso and hair!

Digital original

The last set of images of the short snow-session were of Esme exploring a tree that stretched out over the river. Again the back lighting was really pleasing, with the broad dynamic range of the Canon EOS R5 really contributing to the look of the final image (I doubt I would have had such a lovely result with the older EOS 5DsR). 

All in all, the winter session with Esme was fun; with the snow-cover being relatively light, it didn't have the wow factor that we'd both been wishing for, but beggar's can't be choosers, and given how mild the weather was, it was a really good session, and left us both eager for warmer weather (and water) in the coming months!

February 14, 2021

A Shower Session with Esme

After my recent shower session with Ingrid, I'd asked Esme if she'd be interested in working in a shower sometime. She was, but her personal situation made her modeling in her shower challenging...but then an unexpected development occurred, and after a short text discussion, we set up this session.

digital original

It may be stating the obvious, but I've come to realize that every shower is different; like Ingrid's, Esme's shower has the light coming from the opposite side to the shower head, resulting in all the images being lit from the backside, in regards to where the water was. While less than ideal, short of bringing in my own lighting, this was the way things were, and I had to roll with it. The vast majority of the images were made with my new colour camera (a Canon EOS R5 that I will soon convert to infrared), and the camera worked really well...but in the end, I was less than pleased with the overall colour tonality of the images, so prefer the above black and white image, which calls more attention to the light and water, as opposed to being all about the colour.

digital infrared original

At the end of December, I sold by infrared converted Canon EOS 5Ds, and expected the shower session with Ingrid to be my last infrared session working with a DSLR camera, but for this session, just in case, I brought along my older IR converted Canon EOS 5D MKII, which I had kept as a backup, when I upgraded to the EOS 5Ds; this turned out to be a  wise decision! While there wasn't a lot of infrared light to work with (about 1/10th as bright as the visible light), it turned out the tonality of the infrared images was much more pleasing than the colour photographs, so while I only made a handful of infrared photographs during the session, one of them (above), is my absolute favorite of the show images, both because of the pose and composition, and the tonality provided by the infrared cameras.

digital original

After we'd finished in the shower, as I was packing up my gear, I caught sight of a oval mirror and flower bouquet in the hall, and asked Esme if she'd mind making a small set of images with it, before I headed on my way. Esme enthusiastically agreed, and we made a final set of photographs, working with the space. In the end, the concept worked, but the images, less so - the background (wooden closet doors) was less than pleasing, so after reviewing the images with Esme, we both decided it was worth revisiting, so in the future, we'll return to the space with a more controlled background, and see what we can create!

February 13, 2021

A Winter Field Trip (Halifax, NS)

 As seems to be the trend in these times, this winter has been unusually warm, so it was mid-February before I had any opportunity to photograph water and ice (taking advantage of a Photo 101 field trip as an excuse to get out.

Digital original

As I've been working with ice and water for years now, returning to it felt much like pulling on an old glove - within minutes I was back into the pleasure of working with such a magical subject, and for more than an hour (after the field trip students headed off), I explored the potential of the small waterfall.

Digital original, 2 frame stitch
The real gift of the session, however, came as I was waking back to the car - I passed a beach, and saw that the tide cycle had created lines of thin ice piles, which were catching the reflection of the afternoon sun off of a nearby building - which was quite interesting, visually. I set up my tripod, and discovered it was only with my longest lens (a 300mm f/4) that I could get the composition I thought...but with such a long lens, the depth of field needed to record the entire scene was essentially impossible. So, with great excitement, I turned to technology for a solution, using the Canon EOS R5's "focus bracketing" to create images to focus-stack together on the computer. After some experimentation, it turned out that between 35 and 40 frames were needed for each composition, and the below image was created.

Digital original, 25 frame focus stack