Custom White Balance for IR by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

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.

In Search of Dark Skies by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

It's been a long time since I've had the opportunity to get out into an area without light pollution. When I look up into the night sky, I question if my memory of the Milky Way was only my childish imagination run completely wild.  There are only a few consolations and planets visible where I am now.  If it wasn't for the moon, I would forget to look up sometimes.  I first became interested in astronomy when my dad took me outside of town to see Halley's Comet.  I was only a toddler and it is probably one of my earliest memories.

Perseid Meteor Shower

After seeing the Perseid Meteor Shower in 2004 during a New Moon and witnessing hundreds of meteorides, it has become an annual quest for dark skies.  This year had only a very small window between the sunset and moon rising for the meteor shower.  When the window is so short, it is often advised to look before dawn on dates when the moon is near full.  


I decided to head out towards the Lick Observatory near San Jose to get a good view. Taking photos of the sunset with my infrared camera proved to be beneficial.  I especially like the photo at the top of the post that shows the city lights of Silicon Valley with the illuminated sky.


HWY130 & Star Trails

I unfortunately did not pick the best location for taking astrophotography.  Although Highway 130 leading up the observatory may seem remote at first glance, there is actually a surprising number of people that were traveling on it last night.  There are plenty of wide spots along the highway to get great vista shots.  The light traffic poses a problem though long exposures and the possibility for lens flare.

In the photo to the right you can the tail lights of a car that drove by during my 10 minute exposure.  Even though the photo has its flaws (lens flare, noise, and light streaks) I do like that I was able to capture one meteoride blazing as it fell towards Earth.  Make a wish.


Liking the Lichen by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

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 ;)