I think I mentioned last year that I might convert my old 40D to infrared when I bought my new camera. But then somebody wanted to buy the 40D and I had to decide between making money on it, or spend money on it. Kind of a no-brainer! But I was still interested in infrared, so I got myself an IR filter instead. It has been a long wait for spring and foliage so I could use the filter, because what I am mostly interested in is the way you can use the filter to turn the greens into white to create this spooky atmosphere in the picture.
It turned out that using the filter is a lot harder than I anticipated, and what I mean by that is the post-processing. Taking the picture is not so dramatically different, all you need to do is to compose and focus the picture without the filter, and then add it and use a very long exposure to take the picture. It’s like shooting through the lens cap, you can completely forget looking through the viewfinder, it’s pitch black there. Live preview works, but the picture is completely red and lacks contrast so I’ve gave up with it pretty quickly.
As with the live preview, the resulting picture is red. I mean, completely red – there’s absolutely no other colour it in, just hues of red. Cue a lot of post-processing. After a lot of googling and experimenting, I finally got something that is at least in the ballpark of my expectations. All the IR pictures I’ve seen on the net are way cooler… and no matter which tutorial I looked at, nothing gave me similar results. Experiment is the word. The easy way of processing IR pictures is to make them monochrome, but if I want monochrome pictures then I can just convert my normal colour pictures. Ergo, experiment some more. For every landscape picture I take, I will take one version with the IR filter and see what I get out of it. So far I’ve learned that sunlight makes all the difference, in fact, I can finally make use of the harsh noon light!4 comments
The photographic slump continues, waiting for the greens. It’s actually starting to happen now, with ever so slight green tint on the birches. Some birches actually very nearly sport mouse ears by now, so give it another week and the landscape will be transformed. Exciting times… this is the spring equivalent of first snow!
I have been keeping an eye on Mon, to see when the ice would melt. Those blocks of ice left on dry land after the flood waters disappeared are huge – a couple of weeks ago they were at least half a meter thick, on average! So even with the warm weather, it takes time before they melt, and then it takes a bit more time before anything grows there.
I’ve done a lot of cycling lately, exploring all the small roads in the forest. Last year the roads were unpassable because of the fallen trees, but now they have cleared out the wreckage. Mountain bike is a must – as I found today, some of the roads don’t actually lead anywhere, they just get gradually smaller until they disappear completely. In the middle of the forest. I haven’t discovered anything new to shoot but it doesn’t really matter, it’s a lot of fun just to ride the bike through the forest. But still, I’m really itching to get into photography again!2 comments
I have some more flowers coming up now, so I got to try my white theme on non-white flowers. The fake background sure has some benefits, as for example with this glory of the snow the natural background was a disaster and I couldn’t have pulled off anything usable even with the lens wide open, but now I was able to shoot at f11 so I got some more depth in the flower. I like a shallow depth of field but to be honest, sometimes it’s just a means of blurring out the background rather than a purpose on its own. But with the background issue sorted, I can now use whatever aperture I think is necessary to show off the subject!3 comments
It’s now when I start to warm up for April. Landscape is still very bleak, but in the garden the first snowdrops are in bloom and a lot of other flowers are coming up. And with almost all of the dirt roads (even those which were not plowed in the winter) are free of snow, I was able to open my bicycle season. It was heavy work though, because the roads are still wet which means they’re soft which means the bike sinks and… well, if you’ve ever tried to pedal through sand,you know what I mean. But still, it was fun!
But these snowdrops then. My theme for this season will be high key – using my portable light tent to create white backgrounds for flowers. Nothing natural about it of course and not everybody’s cup of tea and I don’t know if I’m going to like it either, when I get to try it on coloured flowers and not just these white snowdrops and the pale pasque flowers I did last year. Using some darker flowers will help with the background in any case, because if you compare these two pictures you’ll see that the first one has a greyish background and the flower is lighter, but in the second one it’s vice versa. The difference in creating the pictures is that the second one is actually backlit. With darker flowers, I can overexpose the background without losing detail in the subject.
The crocuses will start to bloom in a few days, so I can do some further experiments with my light tent!2 comments
Everybody (including me) has been complaining about how cold it has been. But last weekend, it turned around – we finally started having nights without freezing temperatures, and now the nature is changing so fast that you could probably see it if you looked hard enough. The first flowers are up – I saw a lot of coltsfoot last weekend, and a few butterflies as well, and some of the flower bulbs I planted last year are now delighting me with the first flowers. I planted a whole lot of them to different spots, because I had no idea which places would be good. Just as well, because I don’t see any life in some of those spots while others, which I had already forgotten I even planted, are now producing their first flowers. I’ll do some macro shooting this weekend for sure!
Yesterday evening when the sun was going down, I saw a group of roe deer cross the field again but this time they were a bit closer to the house than they normally are. Still not close enough for my 300mm lens, but I wanted to document it anyway because it does show the stage of the snowmelt. 24 hours later, there are only some scattered tiny patches of snow left.
Even though the nature is not looking at its best right now (understatement – I think this is when the nature looks at its absolute worst), I find it incredibly soothing to see things emerge from under the snow. It won’t be long now until things will be visibly green!3 comments
It was supposed to be a good chance of aurora last night so I stayed up late, which in my case is midnight. With no sign on increased activity I had to go to bed, just couldn’t keep my eyes open any more. But even if I missed the aurora (or not, because looking at last night’s aurora plot it never got really hot), I shot a few frames of Cassiopeia and the Pan-STARRS comet. The comet is now getting quite close to Cassiopeia so if I get a clear night next week, I’ll try to zoom in for a “close-up” of Cassiopeia and the comet. But as it is now, I used a wider angle so I can include the horizon as well. The comet is just barely visible in this small web version, and I can see it only because I know where it is.
I have also included full resolution crops of the details, so you get an idea of what I’m talking about. The weakest star you can see with normal eyesight is about magnitude +4 or +5. Think about the Pleiades – it is considered good vision if you can count seven stars in the cluster (provided you don’t have any light pollution), and the weakest of those seven is +4.76 (the higher the number, the weaker the star). The comet currently has a magnitude of around +5 but it is a bit fuzzy, not a distinctive dot like the stars. Absolutely impossible for me to see with naked eye, and I have trouble spotting it even with binoculars. It’s a little bit like night vision… you see things with better in the periphery of your vision, rather than looking straight at it. Same thing with the Andromeda galaxy, it should be visible at +3.44 but I can’t see it. And in the 100% crops you can see what I mean, both the galaxy and the comet are weak and fuzzy while the stars are clear.
The focal length I used for this was 45mm. In order to compensate for the shorter exposure time necessitated by the long-ish focal length, I used ISO 3200. Obviously, it gives me a lot of noise so I applied a 70% noise reduction in Lightroom and the result is not half bad. If I spent some on fine tuning the NR settings I could probably improve it but it’s good enough as it is… I mean, it’s not like I’m going to do poster size prints out of this!
For those of you interested in spotting the comet, I’ve marked it with a red dot in the last picture. I’ve also enhanced two stars in Cassiopeia because they are quite neatly pointing directly at the comet. The comet is moving up to the right, so in a few nights you will have to look down from the rightmost star in Cassiopeia to find it.3 comments
I told you I would get the comet! The Pan-STARRS comet is higher up in the sky and moving north so now I can actually see it from my kitchen window. Since I have failed to find it so many times already, I sat in the kitchen with lights out and binoculars glued to my face and I finally spotted the darn snowball! Then I used my macro lens to shoot it, anything shorter than that would be too short and longer than that would give me nasty star trails so I used a “digital zoom” and cropped the picture to half. I got away with a 3.2 sec exposure, f2.8 @ ISO 2500 and ended up with a black picture with a lot of dots and two smudges. The smudge on the left is the Andromeda galaxy and the smudge on the right is the comet. Mission accomplished!3 comments
I checked Top Sport in Bruksvallarna. They had the right model, but wrong size – so no ski boots for me. I’ll have to try again next winter.
But as long as I have snowshoes, I’m fine. I had an ambitious plan for yesterday, I was going to hike up to Kariknallen (even if you don’t need snowshoes for it, the trail is like a highway). That’s almost 5 km – all of it uphill! Normally I take the snowcat but I felt that I’m in good enough condition to manage it on foot (and if I’m not in a good enough condition, then hikes like this will help to improve it). Turns out that I was right, I felt really good about the progress I was making but I shouldn’t take all the credit for it. I think a big reason why these uphill hikes are suddenly so easy for me is that I’m using the poles like the physical therapist recommended. I still think using poles without skis attached to your feet looks a bit silly, but I am now a convert with regards to the benefits of using them. When you read about nordic walking (walking with poles), they all say that it’s good for you, but then you just dismiss the idea because it looks so silly. It required an order from a PT for me to start with it but now I wouldn’t even consider doing a hike without poles. As soon as I get home, I’ll order a pair of good hiking poles because the ski poles I use at the moment are not practical in the summer and not to mention, they will look even sillier in the summer than they do now. The poles have several benefits (besides the upper body exercise which I think was the main reason why the PT wanted me to use the poles): They help me to walk faster, they help with maintaining a good balance and most of all, they help with carrying the load on my back. As happy as I am about my new backpack, it’s the poles that take off some of the weight. So the poles and the Loka, it’s a winning combination in my eyes! I was already looking forward to the summer hiking season but now I really can’t wait for the premiere tour!
The conditions yesterday, once again, were just amazing. The blue-white Finnish flag supposedly gets its colours from the snow and the sky but even if it wouldn’t be me showing my true colours, I absolutely love the combination (although, not just for the colours themselves but for the simplicity they represent). Photographers in general prefer some fluffy clouds in the sky to spice up the landscape but on days like this, a cloud would just be a distraction. Using only the snow as a compositional element, you can strip the picture to the basics and I felt that the long hike uphill was well and truly worth the effort!4 comments
I think I achieved some kind of personal record of doing nothing. I had decided to do an afternoon hike so I had all morning to do… nothing. The only meaningful (if you can call it that) thing I did was to write the previous blog post. Well, I did say that this was a mini-vacation. I’m taking it quite literally!
In the afternoon I finally set out. I started following the snowmobile trail with the snowshoes but found the trail so hard that I didn’t need the snowshoes, so I strapped them on the backpack. And I have to say once again, I just love the Loka… it carried the extra weight of the snowshoes like a champion!
It had been a sunny day but there were some clouds around, and one of them drifted in front of the sun quite soon. With the warm feeling thus gone, the air felt just as cold as it was (which was a few degrees minus) and I found that I was freezing. I was determined to have a cup of coffee in a snow pit regardless, so I sat down and pulled out my extra sweater from the pack. Without the sun though, it wasn’t very pleasant so I hastily downed my coffee and snacks and rushed to climb up the last little bit to reach the plateau. But then my stomach started hurting… could be the combination of coffee and orange, or all the hiking right after eating, but whatever it was it wasn’t good at all. So that kind of took the edge out of my inspiration but I wasn’t going to quit that easy, so I zigzagged the tundra in search of nice mountain birches. A little bit disappointed to see that there were snowmobile tracks everywhere, so none of the birches I found really worked because I couldn’t find a good angle without the tracks showing. I was considering to give in to my stomach and frozen fingers when the sun started to come out a little bit, which instantly improved my mood. I got a few pictures made in the end but I started feeling more miserable by the minute so I gave up and hiked back.
Not a good hike for sure, but I got back alright and I’m feeling a lot better by now. Even if my backside is still frozen… I think I’ll go and sit on a radiator for a while!2 comments
Gotta love these Easter breaks. 5 days off, it’s a mini-vacation! The only place to be during Easter is the mountains, so I drove to the cabin already on Wednesday evening. I’m glad I have the fireplace now… even though my neighbour had turned up the heat, it was still a bit chilly in the cabin. The nighttime temperatures drop down to -15 degrees centigrade which is very cold for late March. The weather forecast says that the daytime temperature is not above freezing either, but the sun makes it feel a whole lot warmer than that. And with this cold spell having lasted so long, it means that there’s a lot of snow left. Last year Easter was week later and the snow cover had broken up in many places, but there are no such problems now, and won’t be, a week from now.
Yesterday morning I drove to Funäsdalen. The cold night was evident along the road, with mountain birches covered in a thick layer of frost. I almost started worrying that I was under-dressed, but as long as you stay in the sun it’s not a problem. And I did have sun, plenty of it – my face is red after over-exposure, I completely forgot sunscreen! There was a lot of people out, as Easter is every cross-country skier’s favourite time of year. There were snow pits everywhere and almost all of them were occupied but I found one good one for myself to enjoy my lunch in the sunshine.
I rented skis, again, with the idea that this time I would buy the kit if the boots are ok. But would you believe… the left boot was chafing so I got a sore heel, although luckily not so bad as to become a blister. So no way would I buy these boots and I asked if they had a pair of those I rented the last time, but I was out of luck. They told me that the sports store in Bruksvallarna might have them so I’m going to go there tomorrow. I’ll buy if they have them and do a snowshoe trek if they don’t!2 comments