Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Remarkable Infrared Photography of Ali Shamsul Baha

Today I am featuring the work of photographer Ali Shamsul Baha. Ali is an accomplished photographer and visual artist from Kuantan Pahang, Malaysia. He works in visible light photography, video, and infrared photography. I am pleased and honored that Ali allowed me to showcase five of his remarkable infrared photos in this post.

Shooting under the ray (Infrared) by 2121studio
Shooting under the ray - Infrared - 2121studio on Flickr
The most striking thing about Ali's images is his use of selective color techniques to produce visually stunning infrared images. Some infrared photographers shy away from selective color editing because they believe these techniques move them from the realm of photography and into digital artistry. Obvious Photoshopping has become a cardinal sin in some photographic circles. Not so in infrared photography.

Every IR photograph has been manipulated in some way. Camera software starts this process by taking signals generated from the invisible spectrum and assigning visible color values.There are no visible colors in the infrared spectrum. We set white balances to get even more visible color separation and then we perform channel swaps to get blue skies. The list of “standard” IR manipulations goes on and on. The bottom line is that all colors are false colors in infrared photography. We can embrace this fact or pretend it does not exist. Ali Baha embraces this fact and his color infrared photos certainly have that "WOW" factor..

Bungalow (Infrared) by 2121studio
Bungalow - Infrared - 2121studio on flickr
The first photo “Shooting under the ray” was taken in 2009 at a nature photo camp in the Royal Belum Rain Forest, Tasik Banding, Grik Perak, Malaysia.

The second photo, “Bungalow” was taken from a moving vehicle in Sumatera Utara, Indonesia. Ali used a moderately fast shutter speed (1/500 sec) to freeze the motion of the vehicle.

All of the featured photos were taken with a Nikon D50 and processed with Photoshop CS3. I mention these facts because we really don’t need the most expensive stuff or the latest and greatest software to produce stunning images.

Mount Bromo, Batok & Semeru (Infrared) by 2121studio
Mount Bromo, Batok & Semeru - Infrared - 2121studio on Flickr
You can find information about Ali's post-processing technique in his photo blog. Ali allowed me to paraphrase the technique here.

Ali brings the image into Photoshop and applies the Image > Autolevels function. He then performs a red/blue channel swap using a pre-defined Photoshop action. (The channel swap procedure can be found at the end of this post)  This will give you the "blue sky" effect.

For his selective color technique, Ali does the following:

   Duplicate layer (Ctrl + J)
   Image > Adjustments > Replace color
     Select the color you want to change with the eyedropper tool
      Move the 'Hue" slider to the desired color
   Add a layer mask to the duplicated layer
   Using a brush set to pure black, paint over the areas where you do not want the color change.
   Merge all layers (Ctrl + Shift + E)

Repeat the steps above (duplicate the layer, color replacement, mask, brush, and merge) to change other colors.  Ali recommends the following YouTube video that describes the color replacement procedure.   

Perahu @ Lata Berkoh (Infrared) by 2121studio
Perahu@ Lata Berkoh Infrared - 2121studio on Flickr
The third image “Mount Bromo, Batok & Semera” was taken in the Bromo - Semeru - Tengger National Park in East Java. This image brings together Mr. Baha’s photographic and artistic skills to produce a truly memorable photograph.

The fourth photo, “Perahu@ Lata Berkoh” was taken during an outing at Taman Negara, Lata Berkoh, Jerantut, Pahang, Malaysia.

The final image, “Wonderland @ Upih Guling (Infrared)” was taken at the Endau Rompin National Park (Peta), Johor, Malaysia.

Wonderland @ Upih Guling (Infrared) by 2121studio
Wonderland @ Upih Guling - Infrared - 2121 studio on Flickr
I want to thank Ali Shamsul Bahar for allowing me to share these wonderful photographs. You can see more of Mr. Bahar’s photographic work in his Flickr feed and in his photo blog. The photos featured in this post can be found in his Flickr Explored set.

Ali Shamsul Bahar:
Flickr Feed: http://www.flickr.com/photos/87731897@N00/
Blog: http://2121studio.blogspot.com

How to Do a Photoshop Channel Swap
In its simplest form, a Photoshop channel swap is accomplished as follows: 
Image > Adjustments > Channel Mixer
  Choose the red output channel
     Set the red slider value to zero
     Set the blue slider to 100%
  Change the output channel to blue
     Set the red slider value to 100%

     Set the blue slider value to zero

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