Alternative Processing

Yosemite in Winter with Infrared by Brenda Hartshorn

All images below were taken using my IR camera that was converted from a Canon 5D.

For the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir images, I used the methods of Straight Photography in respect to the early photographers who dedicated themselves to taking photos of the West.  These images provided evidence to help conserves our national parks today.  The most famous of these photographers was of course Ansel Adams, but there were many others apart of Group f/64.  Others included Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, John Paul Edwards, Sonya Noskowiak, Henry Swift, and Willard Van Dyke.  These photographers would pack 100 pounds of photography equipment in order to bring back images of these great landscapes.  In some cases, a mule was required to carry their large format 8x10 camera, lenses, tripod, film, and portable darkroom into the wilderness.

For the photos taken at Mirror Lake, I also did some alternative processing using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to help pull out the difference in luminosity of the areas reflecting the IR spectrum.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Yosemite has a few different entrances into the park, most of which lead to the well known Valley Floor.  However, the North end of the park also has an access point to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

It is said that before the reservoir was filled, it was an area that was just as beautiful as the rest of the park.  And, to some, it has been considered a great loss to have filled this area with another reservoir. After hearing this commentary over the years, I had always assumed that this area of the park was off limits.  I was wrong.  Not only is this area open to the public, it has fairly well maintained trails, is very beautiful, and has no entrance fee for day use.

This area of the park is less developed than the greater Yosemite.  There are no camp grounds, stores, or hotels here.  However overnight backpacking is allowed with a wilderness permit.

With the recent rains, the waterfalls and cascades in Yosemite were looking very impressive.  There was so much water that small streams had formed, taking over sections of the trail by running across and even along them.  Waterproof boots required.  The water increased difficulty of the hike, but it was still manageable and I would recommend checking out this area of the park.  I do not see this reservoir as a tragic mistake of lost tourism opportunities.  It is in fact still beautiful.

With the recent drought that California has been going through, we need all the reserves we can get without further damaging the environment.  Dams for the purpose of creating energy, are not very effective when compared to other methods and should not be driving reason for construction anymore.  They are also not good for the ecosystem as a whole, since they trap the needed sediment that our shorelines use for protecting us from the ocean's powerful force of erosion.  However, dams are not a great evil.  California does not have the same luxury that Washington state has in terms of the abundant supply of rain water.  There is no one fix-all solution for being able to provide resources to the people.  We must look at what we have locally to best decide how we can provide what is needed.  Northern California would benefit from its reservoirs and water treatment plants to recycle waste water during its cycles of drought.  I would like to point out that this area of California is not a desert.  It has  rich areas of soil provided by the erosion of the Sierra Nevada's that is carried downstream to the Northern and Central part of the state.  In these rich areas of Central Valley, it provides 1/4 of the nations produce.  If the rest of the country is only capable of producing in large quantities wheat, corn, livestock, and energy- the country, and the world, will continue to hear about California's drought concerns every 5 to 10 years.

Desalinization for this part of California would not be a good idea for economic and environmental reasons.  To produce water through desalinization, it is double the cost in comparison to obtaining it from reservoirs and it has proven to be very destructive for our marshy shorelines.  However, desalinization could be beneficial to other areas.  As a response to the recent drought, Southern California has started a project to create 15 desalinization plants.  For them, this may serve as a better source of obtaining water than piping it all the way down the state as they have better areas for disposing the unused salt down there.

Mirror Lake

The lake was more full thanks to the help of the snow this season and one busy beaver family.  There was a lot evidence of their work from the half chewed tree trunks along the perimeter of the lake and the pile of limbs at one end of the river.  It was only last spring, that a person could walk across the meadow-like area to reach the other side of the trail. We estimate that the water depths now range between 2'-10' based on the known heights of boulders that were accessible for climbing on before.

Although beavers can be very destructive in changing the landscape, we may be able to thank these little structural engineers for helping restore this area back to its name and historical environment.  Mirror Lake had been slowly disappearing due to the natural build up of sediment flowing into the lake bed.  Although beavers are not native to the Sierras, the park at this time has not published if they will be removing the rodents from their new home.

Custom White Balance for IR by Brenda Hartshorn

Hello Sun, it's so nice of you to drop by

Unlike many parts of the US, the Bay Area (and California in general) have been experiencing some early warm weather.  Warm to almost hot, I tend to run on the chilly side and even I was sporting a t-shirt yesterday.  More to the point, the weather has made getting outside with the camera much more appealing.

Alternative Processing Made Easy

I have been experimenting a bit with doing In Camera Custom White Balances while shooting with my Infrared Camera (near IR.)  Instead of just looking at a red image on the back of my camera's preview screen, I'm able to get a better idea of what my post processing is going to look like by simply creating a custom white balance profile.

Sure, I know that with a shift in temperature the skies are going to look red-orange to yellow and plants will look blue to white.  However, I found that this is actually very useful when shooting flowers as the petals and pollen reflect much more IR light than their leaves.  I was immediately able to see the difference not only simply represented in value differences in the grey scale (or red scale image?) but also in hue.  In fact, the some flowers reflect so much IR light that they appear nearly blown out in comparison to the leaves.  When creating the correct exposure for the petals, the rest the plant and background becomes underexposed and even towards blue.

To really emphasize the difference in IR reflective properties, it also helps to push the tint and switch the red and blue channels.  This allows the flowers to appear a cleaner white.

To really emphasize the difference in IR reflective properties, it also helps to push the tint and switch the red and blue channels.  This allows the flowers to appear a cleaner white.

Ready, Set...

  1. Find fresh foliage in full sun
    If possible, find the living plant that you desire to look white to base the balance off of
  2. Fill frame with greenery
    You're going to want to make sure that there aren't other objects in the image 
  3. Take an exposure at normal
    Shouldn't be under or over exposed as this doesn't provide an accurate levels range for the camera to match and correct to.
  4. White Balance
    For Canon Users: Go to Set Custom White Balance and select desired image
    For Nikon Users: You're actually going to do this step before taking the exposure
  5. Edit
    Process as desired.  If you don't like look of the Custom White Balance, you're not married to it if you're shooting in RAW.  Instead of having the White Balance to As Shot you can switch it back over to Daylight when processing and start at square one.
There is also always the option of using those IR images to create a rich black and white.

There is also always the option of using those IR images to create a rich black and white.

Liking the Lichen by Brenda Hartshorn

I had a lazy day on the water this weekend. I went out to Lake McSwain with my parents on their boat.  It is one of the few reservoirs that are being kept full during the drought.  In comparison, the larger reservoir up river, Lake McClure, has drop over 100' of water revealing old structures that have been underwater for many years.  To get an idea of how much less volume that is, back in December it was estimated that the lake was only at 23% capacity.

It's Alive!

I think the most interesting thing (from an analytical view) that I photographed was some moss and lichen that was growing on a rock.  After slight processing, the moss and lichen were a very prominent blue indicating that it was indeed very much alive and reflecting quite a bit of IR.  

Oh my deer...

Other interesting comparisons is where you can see the grass by the water still glowing a bit blue in contrast with the dead grass further up the hill. Visually, all of the grass looked dead to me so it is cool to see that some of the grass by the water was still hanging in there.  I will have to take some normal visual spectrum photos for comparison in the future.  The deer photographed normally with no detectable differences, so fur reacts much differently than skin to IR.  

Hue-mor me

My little self-portrait of my feet ended up actually being an interesting photo as it shows that IR can see through nail polish.  I had not painted my toes for a couple weeks, so they are horribly chipped.  Other than the shine difference from the natural nail to the orange polish, there is no visual tone, color, or value difference.  I think I will experiment more with what paint and ink does in IR... I might need to find some people with tattoos.  Living in California, this should not be a hard quest at all.

Just for fun

I did a little alternative processing. For landscape photos that I'm not trying to analyze, I'm enjoying the look of switching the red and blue channels. The skies are so vibrant and you might say the land is just radiant ;)