May 31, 2021

A Spring Garden

With Provincial COVID-19 restrictions ruling out photographing people, and suggesting people limit their travel, I have done little in the way of photography. One element of the new Canon EOS 5R that continues to intrigue me is the "focus bracketing" option, which in theory makes in the field (and even hand-held) focus stacking surprisingly easy. I experimented a little with the approach on New Year's Day, and was very pleased with the results.

Digital original, 60 frame focus blend

After some hand-held experiments (which for the most part failed), I moved the camera back on to the tripod, and used a more traditional approach. While the default in camera is set to a 20 image stack, it ended up that I needed 60 frames to cover the above composition of some forget-me-nots. The final assembled image needed some manual correction of blending errors, but overall, was really pleasing.

Digital original, 68 image focus blend

As convenient as the automatic focus bracketing is, it really works best with a static subject; the above image of hostas provided the perfect subject, and a camera setting of 70 images provided the 68 frames needed to get infinite depth of field, without any diffraction compromise. Unlike the first image, this needed no manual tweaking to generate the final composition.

Digital original, 2 image focus blend
The last image is less of a focus stack, and more just a two-frame blend - an f/11 image of the centre of the dandelion, and then an f/2.8 image for a super silky background.

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!