Saturday, April 26, 2014

Creative Infrared Photogaphy - Another Approach to Leaves

This post is a continuation of my article, Infrared Leaves Don't Have to be White.  Most infrared landscape photographers approach leaves and other foliage en masse using foliage to frame or highlight the primary subject. As a close-up and macro photographer, I am drawn to the interplay of light and shadow on individual leaves or on small clumps of leaves.

Light through the trees.  Infrared 
My previous post featured this photo which shows a beam of sunlight streaming through the leaves. The red sky provides nice color contrast and highlights the sepia and white leaves.  The dark branches provide texture and some visual interest.

While I like elements of this photo, it is not an approach that appeals to me because it is quite busy and the leaves, the focal point of the photo, are a little too small for my taste.

This photo does, however, reflect my approach to this type of shot. I look for highlighted leaves with dynamic shadows that are silhouetted againast the sky or are bright against a darker background. I meter on the leaves because they are the brightest thing in the photo and I let the rest of the photo go dark. I also use a camera with standard IR conversion (720nm) to get the cyan leaves in the shadows.


Infrared light and shadow.
The next photo shows an image that is closer to my goal.  The leaves are the subject of the photo and I am starting to see some 3-dimensional effects.

I set the white balance for this photo using Nikon Capture NX2 and the darker green leaves emerged from the photo. There was no channel swap. I did some toning to balance the luminosity and increased the contrast.

I added some microcontrast using the Unsharp mask function in Photoshop. The amount was 10%, radius was 40, and the threshold was 0. Microcontrast improves the three-dimensional characteristics of the image.

While this is a better photo from my perspective, there is still has too much going on in the visual field. There are too many dark branches and the bright leaves at the top of the image pull my eye away from the leaves in the center.  Finally, the center leaves don't have enough visual interest to hold my attention.


Infrared leaves, light and shadow.
This final image is my favorite. It has stronger composition and the cyan leaves are the major background color. This composition minimizes the number of branches and the diagonal foreground branch provides a leading line drawing my eye from one clump to another.

The bright leaves have more details than the previous image and they appear to pop out of the photo.  I really like this 3-dimensional illusion.

So that is my approach. I hope you find it useful.



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