by Paul Gallagher Published 01/10/2016
The next part of my journey using infrared as my digital black and white workflow was to extend this experiment to all of the seasons and in many different lighting conditions. I began by heading out in what a lot of infrared photographers considered the poorest conditions, overcast days with hardly any direct sun - in fact I was discovering that virtually no sun at all gave me the tones I wanted.
I also soon discovered that the use of filters became almost redundant.
Because of the narrow histogram and the way the camera records a narrow bandwidth of light, there were hardly any situations where I felt the need to fit a neutral density, graduated filter, as the highlights were recorded beautifully. The other filter that is often used in infrared photography, and one that I used myself as a student, is a polariser. This will accentuate further contrast and tones, and generally spoil wide tonality in the final image. For that reason alone I hardly ever use one.
I have loved and explored many aspects of landscape photography over the years, and I always seemed to feel at home being close to water, in particular, the coast. Since I began using DSLRs I was never as content with the results when photographing trees or woodland, as I had been when I did this using film. For me, the tones did not look right and they appeared lifeless. My exploration of infrared was about to change this.
When I chose to photograph rivers and the coast in infrared, the tones of the water looked awful, flat and lifeless but I soon learned that the opposite was the case for photographing trees. One of the frequent challenges to the landscape photographer working in or around trees is the dynamic range of the subject. Woodland and forests creates dark shadowed areas and if there is any directional sunlight, this creates a greater dynamic range between the shadows and highlights. Because I was intentionally aiming to retain a narrow histogram and later tease out the mid-tonality, working in this type of environment proved to be ideal. I began heading out to woodland whenever I could if the light was muted and there was plenty of cloud about. Working freely with no filters I soon learned to position the exposure exactly were I wanted it on the histogram to achieve the Raw file I needed. Exposing too far to the right would crunch together all the highlight detail I wanted, and exposing too far to the left resulted in a Raw file that soon displayed horrible noise as soon as adjustments were made.
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