Black & White

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.

Fashion in San Jose by Brenda Hartshorn

I recently joined a Meetup group for photographers and models in the San Jose area.  Sandy organized a portfolio builder day last week with a local model, Sarah Desiree.  We went down to San Pedro Square outside the Spaghetti Factory where there were some nice looking brick walls.  It was great to get outside and work a fresh face.  I'm looking forward to doing some more fashion shoots with this group.

Testing IR Camera Mod by Brenda Hartshorn

With the help of UPS, my cameras found their way home from LifePixel.  Like most children who leave the nest, they came back different... but I'm still hopeful that it will be a good thing.  I now have a camera that is a dedicated to Near-infrared and the other one for the Ultra Violet spectrum.

UV Testing on Hold

Due to the cloudy weather in San Francisco, I was unable to test my UV camera this weekend. The ozone does a pretty good job of cutting down the UV light, and clouds make it even worse... well, worse for exposure times in UV photos- it's a great thing for all things living.  I was able to do a bit of testing with the UV mod earlier this week, but I'm finding that I'll need to get some additional lights.  There is really just not enough UV light bouncing around here on the ground for reasonable exposure times.

IR Test Run

As expected, the in-camera images look very red and yellow. The images are  nearly impossible to see any variations in properties and characteristics.  Thus, to enhance the look of Color Infrared, I have altered the white balance of the images.  The temperature is at 2000 and Tint is shifted towards green at varying levels to remove or reduce the red/pink look in the plants which reflect a lot of IR.

Alternative Processing

The more you shift the Tint towards green, the vegetation will look white.  However, if you sift the Tint so that the vegetation is bluish while also keeping the sky in the yellow-orange range, you can achieve the above look by using the Channel Mixer in Photoshop by switching the Red and Blue Channels.  This is not a method that I came up with, I read about how to do this on LifePixel's website.  

It's not all about looks

Other than looking cool, alternative processing actually has useful purposes for being able to pull more detail out of the information that the camera sensor is collecting.  Sometimes you need to look at the different channels individually or enhance them to stand out against the others to actually see everything.  The example that comes to mind right now is how we are able to use near-infrared to see underneath the surface of the skin to see if people are having a problem with blood circulation.  This can reveal serious health problems with the circulatory system.  It can also show evidence of repeated physical abuse that may not have left visible bruising.  Alternative processing with UV photography is also useful for being able to clearly see skin cancer.  

Test Findings

Ultimately, I plan to do different studies using people with IR and UV, but for now I'm going to bench test the equipment in different environments.  First major thing that I'm noticing is that the camera is now hyper sensitive to flare in the IR spectrum.  I enjoy a little flare in my photos from time to time, but I was not looking to go all J.J. Abrams with everything.  Normally, I just flag my lens with my hand in the rare times that I need to, but these photos reveal that it's going to be a whole lot more often with this mod.

Locations of the photos featured in this post:

  • Shoreline Lake in Mountain View, CA
  • Metson Lake in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
  • California Academy of Science in San Francisco, CA