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From RAW to FINAL: Infrared Long Exposure Photography

Hello everyone,

after a long break, I am finally back at the keyboard and this blog.

It has been a busy summer, filled with photography and much needed great and relaxing times with the family. I travelled to Europe and across Canada, and now I am back in Vancouver for just a little longer before heading back out on the road.

The image I'd like to share today was photographed in June, here in Vancouver.

I was teaching an advanced long exposure photography workshop (together with Sharon Tennebaum and Grant Murray), and one of the students had a very unique camera that he let me use to take this image.

Image Details: Cambo Wide RS with 23mm Rodenstock lens. Exposure was 10 seconds at F22. ISO 35. Leaf Credo 80 megapixel full spectrum digital back. 20 stops of ND filtration.

We took the workshop to one of my favorite locations to photograph the famous Lions Gate Bridge here in Vancouver. We were very lucky with the weather that day, and the tide was out far enough that we could use the numerous tide pools to enhance our compositions. The reflections in the foreground really make this image sing (in my humble opinion).

Here is a quick shot behind-the-scenes showing our camera(s) setup:

I used a Cambo Wide RS camera with an ultra-wide 23mm Rodenstock lens for this. Combined with the Credo 80 megapixel digital back the field of view is much wider compared to 35mm format. With a lens as wide as this, movements are very limited but I did manage to apply approx. 5 millimeters of upward shift to correct for the tall bridge structure. The very wide-angle view also allowed me to crop the final image to a square while maintaining lots of negative space and expanse.

Below you can see the original RAW file:

When I saw this image for the first time, I remember being utterly surprised. I had never worked with a full spectrum digital camera, so wasn't used to seeing this strong of a color cast. Turns out, this is actually a very normal 'look' for a full spectrum image.

Starting with this, the first step in my workflow was to fine-tune the white balance, and with it the overall color balance in this image. I used Capture One software for this task, which works much better compared to Adobe Camera RAW.

One thing I should mention is that you can clearly see how much I pushed the limits of this lens and its image circle. With 5mm of rise (aka upward shift) applied, the black corners on the top right and left edge of the image clearly show you the limits of the image circle of this lens. This kind of vignetting cannot be corrected - the lens simply cannot 'see' any further. The lens rise did allow me to keep the bridge relatively straight though, and I was able to fine-tune my results further by using perspective correction in Capture One Software.

The next step involved cropping, this is where I decided on a square crop for the final composition.

Below are 2 alternate crops, both of which are in my favorite 2:1 panoramic aspect ratio. Please note that those images are NOT completely finished, they are just 'working files' I made to evaluate composition and aspect ration only (not tonality and final look and feel):


Although I did like the added expanse and negative space in both of these panoramic compositions, I felt strongly about choosing the square crop for the final image. It's been a while that I published a square image, so it may have been time to re-visit old habits :-)

To continue my workflow, I opened the image in Adobe Photoshop CS6 for further processing.

As you can see, it did not take many adjustments to arrive at the final look. One thing I do want to point out is that I used 2 Silver Efex black and white adjustment layers (something I don't often do).

Because if it's full spectrum quality, using color channels was a very effective way to process this image into a black and white. The first time I used Silver Efex, I worked the red channel to give the image a strong infrared look (white foliage). I was able to not only get this effect in the trees of Stanley Park across the water, but also in the algae in the foreground. Highlighting those in the foreground really gave the image a good and strong infrared feeling and balanced the tonality nicely.

You can see the white foilage and overall layers and adjustments in this 100% crop in Photoshop:

The second Silver Efex Layer was created for the sky and its tonality and contrast specifically. I used a mask to prevent it from changing the foreground and the foliage.

As I almost always do, I finished this image by using a Burn and Dodge layer that I placed on top of the layer stack. This allowed for further fine-tuning of tonality and contrast in specific areas of the composition.

So, there you have it. One of my first digital infrared images. If only the camera wouldn't be $50K +, it'll likely take me some time to get my hands on one of these again.

As always, please leave your questions and comments below. Please also let me know if there is any interest for me to do a short video about this image and how I processed it. Just leave me a comment.

More tk... 

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Reader Comments (2)

My suggestion: we can convert your P45+ to full spectrum, and then you can buy an IQ260 and you'll have the best of both worlds :).

October 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Peterson

Good work!! Your tactics brought out natural look on them. wowApic

November 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

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