A new house guest

A fox in our garden

Meet our latest house guest – Mr Fox. After 3 months of observing the garden at night via our remote camera trap and beginning to lose hope of seeing any foxes, he turned up. What’s more – he was a bit of a show off in front of the camera too. Fingers crossed he returns soon. It just goes to show – patience does pay ūüôā

To soften or not to soften? That is the question

The Light of the Land

So the age old photography mantra is to capture sharp images. But since I have started taking infrared shots I have found myself experimenting with post processing like never before.

Some new effects which are gradually introducing themselves to my processing regime include boosting contrast to crazy levels, softness, graining and vignetting. (!) I know, I know… I said I would never post process to this extent, but I do love the way that infrared light challenges preconceptions about sharpness and detail. All of a sudden the detail almost does not matter – the light is the star of the picture, not the subject. And as long as I disclose how I post process, then surely there is no harm in a little creative experimentation?

That’s how I see my infrared photography… it’s more of an art form, a creative experiment, a play on expectations and the norm, it’s painting with monochrome – for grown ups :)Take for example the image to the left. ¬†This is a very soft image, purposefully created in this way to accentuate the light and concentrate the focus on the bands of lights that help to illuminate the single tree.¬†I have purposefully framed the shot so that the light and the tree top are the main focus, complemented by the foliage at the foot of the shot and the dark endless African sky above.

Compare this to a sharper version of the shot (right). I like both, but I feel that the detail in the image to the right somehow detracts from the beauty and rawness of the image. Sometimes all you need is light?

But I’d love to know which you prefer!

Other infrared shots from Taraji Blue are available in our online infrared gallery.

A lone African tree captured in monochrome

Frolicking Friday

Impala enjoy a friday night in the South African bush

One¬†Friday¬†afternoon as we were heading back to camp (in Kruger National Park, South Africa), we came across an incredibly playful group of Impala. They were bouncing, chasing each other, mock fighting, charging and seemingly just really enjoying a rare cool afternoon. We stopped to watch them for a while and it became apparent that there was a ‘path’ that they were all ‘racing’ on, which took them through a tunnel of trees. I decided to set my infrared camera up to try and capture a shot of them running through the trees – but the light was not right. For once, the sun was hidden and the impala were in too much shadow. However, after 10 minutes the sun broke through through the clouds for a brief moment and cast a shard of light into the trees – just as the impala ran through. Heart¬†pounding¬†I took the opportunity to capture a shot (and hoped for the best). This is the image that resulted.

For the majority of my infread photography I use an infrared modified Canon 550D and favour the prime 50mm lens.

Lessons in infrared photography – just when you think you have cracked it…

Regular followers of the Taraji Blue blog will know that I have recently become obsessed with infrared photography. For Christmas, Ali bought me a compact digital camera complete with infrared filter and I was immediately hooked. After first experimenting with the style of photography in Lapland over Christmas, I took to the streets of York every available weekend to hone my skills further. The wee compact was fun to use and gave some really great results Рthe only issue was that because the screw on infrared filter was so black you could not focus using it. You therefore had to unscrew the filter, focus and compose the shot, then replace the filter to take the image. Very fiddly and time consuming. Not an issue for landscape photography Рbut much more so when attempting to photograph wildlife or humans. Regardless, my main aim was to build up my skills with the equipment before the real test РSouth Africa in March 2013.

However, Alistair delighted me with a lovely birthday present just days before we¬†traveled¬†– a second hand Canon 550D which had been chipped to take only infrared stills and¬†infrared¬†HD video. ¬†Needless to say, it had not been out of my hands for the entire trip to South Africa. It is a fantastic wee camera and I really loved using it. I spent most of my time using a prime 50mm canon lens – a lens that I have never really used /¬†appreciated¬†before, however I found it really made me alter my perspective on Africa – I’d shift my focus from the Big 5 to the endless skies and textures of Africa. I’d take more notice of the light and the way it illuminates plants and trees. I’d spend time waiting for the right light tunnels though forests, or waiting for shadows to dance across the sands and waters of Kruger. It gave me an¬†entirely¬†new focus.

I’d love to be able to share some real tips with you on infrared photography – but to be honest, I am still learning and don’t¬†want¬†to show myself up. I thought I had got to grips with it¬†quite¬†quickly – but then after using it¬†intensively¬†in¬†Africa¬†I became more and more¬†attuned¬†to the subtle differences in light and texture that would result when you¬†altered¬†your focus from landscape to sky, or from light to dark subjects, but the results were not consistent and I have been unable¬†to draw firm conclusions. The time of day also had a huge impact – I expected¬†the raw midday sun to¬†yield¬†the most dramatic¬†results, but instead I¬†found¬†myself¬†drawn to the light at dusk and on overcast days when the sky would be covered in thousands of tiny clouds of cotton wool.

Twhree wee tips I can, however, offer is to:

a) buy a pair of very tinted sunglasses. I used some reasonably cheap ones with a sepia type tint which illuminated the light in the clouds, sky and landscape in a similar way to infrared – offering me a glimpse of what shots might work before I even lifted the camera to my eye.

b) ¬†Turn the photo preview on your camera to monochrome (opposed to displaying the images in infrared) as this gives you a much better ‘feel’ for how the picture will turn out once post processed.

c) Use a small¬†aperture.¬†I used F18 a lot, as this enabled me to capture a huge¬†amount¬†of depth in the texture of the foreground as well as the endless cloud filled skies. It also allowed for many different¬†variants¬†of light to be captured in the image –¬†illuminating¬†plants, skies and the ground in¬†unique¬†ways.

Above is my favorite shot from Africa taken with my Canon 550 infrared camera. Further images are also available in the Taraji Blue infrared online photo gallery. I welcome any feedback on my images  Рand any tips Рbecause, as I say, I am still learning and have a long way to go!

Too Dark?

Lapland in infrared

I have been experimenting with the infrared shots¬†I took in Lapland and have decided to re-review some of the shots I discarded to see if I could ‘rescue’ any of them from the trash.

I stumbled upon this shot – it lacks the intensity of light that I¬†have¬†become used too when using infrared in the UK – but that’s why I am drawn to this image. I quite like the¬†occasional¬†highlights of the snow on the trees and the lakeside, it reminds me of the way the bright moonlight bounced off the¬†landscape¬† creating moments of bright brilliance on cloudy Lappish nights. ¬†I also like the darkness of the shot – infrared allows you to experiment with the contrast and¬†temperature¬†of the blacks and whites and I when I can use them to extreme, I tend to try and do so (because this type of¬†photography¬†affords this rare¬†privilege). I am just not sure if it is too dark and too¬†extreme…. I welcome your thoughts.

More of my infrared photographs are available in the Taraji Blue infrared experiments gallery (not all are this extreme!).