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Guest Deena

Steps to paradise - Florida IR shot questions

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Guest Deena

I'm in Florida visiting relatives. I was told the weather was beautiful and it's been a while since I worked in IR so I thought I would break out my converted D70s and take some shots. The weather has been gray and windy but I was determined.

 

I have included below the original image as it came out of my camera and my processed one. I'm interested in feedback in general since I can easily get back to this location to keep trying to improve it.  And, it is actually sunny today but very, very windy.

 

1) Focus point - I was using manual focus. I tried a number of focus points but the one that seemed to have worked is making sure the palm trees against the sky seemed sharp. It's really hard to focus with my D70s. I tried focusing at the top of the stairs or even a little into the grass (about 1/3rd into the image like I would for a landscape shot) but that didn't get the trees sharp. I wanted to focus on the nearest part of the large clump of trees but it was too hard to see in my viewfinder. Where would you suggest I focus on this for IR?

 

2) Exposure -- I had to slightly underexpose; the histogram was on the left 2/3rds of the distribution. It was really windy. I didn't think the IR would do well above 200 ISO. I was at f8 and 1/500. I even felt that I could have needed a faster shutter but f8 seemed the minimum DOF I needed. What do you think about the tradeoff? Would you have pushed your ISO and figured you could get rid of noise later in post processing? In short, did I make the right choice? I thought of underexposing further by increasing my shutter speed or going to f11 and counting on my RAW file to be able to be corrected in Lightroom enough. I essentially did that but not to an extreme. Would that have made sense with IR? (I sometimes do that with visible light images.)

 

3) Post processing - I pulled the RAW files into Lightroom and didn't alter them (they have some minimal Camera Neutral calibration and some sharpening by default). I then edited in CS6. I'm not exceptional that CS6. I probably haven't used it in 8 months. I swapped the red and blue channel, used auto tone and auto contrast. Then, I used two hue/saturation adjustments. One was a global one to desaturate red and yellow and green. Then, one on the blue and cyan to work the sky. I then went back to Lightroom and fixed the angle/crop slightly. Is that too much processing? I wish I could do it all in one shot and I wasn't sure if the starting sharpening in LR made sense to export as a starting point in CS6.

 

Lens was 17-35mm Nikkor at 22mm. I didn't correct for the lens. I was shooting handheld but I did bring a tripod.

 

I'm just wondering what other folks would do here and if I can go again, what I should try to improve on this in any way.

 

I have attached two files. One is the original RAW file in JPG 100%, 72dpi output and the other is the processed one same way.

 

Thanks for looking,

Deena

post-1700-0-09554900-1385559965_thumb.jp

post-1700-0-24565000-1385559982_thumb.jp

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Hi, Deena, the title fits the second treatment better.  The image is leveled, too.  Trying to keep fast shutter speed to keep the motion blur at bay makes sense here.  The image look calm this way, which is suitable for the title.

Edited by Akira

"The eye is blind if the mind is absent." - Confucius

http://www.flickr.com/photos/akiraphoto/

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Deena - looks to me like a worthy IR photograph and nice idea - Steps to Paradise.

 

Focus point:  I would have tried a variety of focus points - palms, stairs, etc. - to review later in the editor to see what worked best. When you have a very near and a very far object in the frame, something will always be out of focus unless you are shooting at, maybe say, f/16. But even at f/16 something will be out of focus, you will just notice it less. :D You have to choose - as the artist - what you want in focus and what can remain blurred (or slightly blurred). There's no right answer.

 

Many folks would try a 3-stack of close, middle and far focused shots to get the appearance of focus everywhere in such a shot as yours.

 

Yes, it is difficult to see to manually focus IR in the Viewfinder. Do some focus bracketing and review the shots to see which is best focused. (Cameras with Live View do make such focusing easier.)

 

ISO: I usually do not push the ISO too far in an IR photo because noise shows up in IR just like in any visible photo. And the D70S - while a good camera - does not do as well at higher ISOs. So I would try to stay at near the base ISO with this cam.

 

THE IR SHOT: /8 and a speed of 1/500 seems pretty fast unless the wind was really strong. But nothing teaches like experimentation. Set up some scene and make a whole cardful of shots at different apertures and ISOs to test how far you can push your camera and learn the boundaries for a good IR shot from that camera. I have seen stellar IR work from a D70S, so I know it is possible.

 

IR has inherent "problems" of low contrast, narrow dynamic range (usually) and slight softness. In the converter/editor, after you have changed the white balance to something you like, then play with global and local contrast settings to bring up the IR detail. While shooting, however, stick to neutral* settings so that you can best judge the exposure. I try to keep the main hump of the histogram somewhat to the right of center. Too far to the left and you get a noisy  mess (with the D70S). Too far to the right and you get unrecoverable blown highlights (with the D70S).

 

*neutral settings: Moderate tone and saturation. High to medium-high sharpening OK.

Of course if these settings don't work for you while shooting in order to judge the exposure, then tweak 'em!! This is just a starter suggestion.

 

While shooting, try the Incandescent white balance setting. Or perform an in-camera white balance "on the scene". The incandescent setting helps a tiny bit to keep the reds down so you can better judge the exposure. If the D70S will let you do the in-camera WB while aiming at the scene, it will produce a more toned down look which also helps while shooting. (The D70S will not perform a "perfect" white balance in-camera with an IR filter. Most Nikons won't.)

 

EDITING:  This is an entirely personal thing. There is no such thing as "too much editing" or "too little editing" because you are performing the edits to please yourself and your art. It is generally true, however, as mentioned above, that contrast must be tweaked in most IR shots. Something that is easily seen with experimentation. It sometimes helps also to pull the end points of the curve in to meet the end points of the histogram because of IR's narrower dynamic range. And local contrast enhancement via either a high pass overlay or a wide-radius USM helps bring detail out in an IR shot.  Take some care with your highlights so as not to lose too much detail. This might mean masking in CS6. Or making use of the Highlights slider in the converter app.

 

Hope this helps !!

Just keep shooting and experimenting until you like what you are getting. :D;) :good:

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Guest Deena

Thank you for the comments, Akira.

 

Andrea, thanks for the detailed thoughts. I did do a custom white balance before I took the shot but I had a really hard time getting one. The D70s has always given me a hard time with this though I got a good one earlier in the day. I didn't know about the Incandescent setting and I will try that next time I have an issue with custom WB. Thanks for that tip.

 

I couldn't go back today because the winds were even stronger. There was a tornado watch or warning last night in the area so things were really, really windy but I hope to try tomorrow. I think f16 would be adequate for this (plus I am struggling with focus stacking on some flower shots and am not sure my PS are up to par!) and what I would prefer so hopefully I will have the chance. What I originally wanted for composition was just the main clump of trees but there are fences and houses on either side and it's hard to get a good angle. And, in general, it wouldn't work with my 17-35mm but I rented a 24mm Tilt Shift and I am thinking of trying that with IR. I used my 17-35mm because somewhere in my memory, I recall reading, possibly on Bjorn's site, that that lens did well in IR. 

 

Regarding post, I just need to get a system down. I have this mish mash of options - LR, PS, Color Efex Pro, and I've seen a number of different workflows that include different ones of these. I just haven't been able to figure out the right order of things. I think I should start with WB in LR or ACR and then go straight to PS or through LR to PS. I guess it's just a matter of taste rather than right or wrong. 

 

Thanks again,

Deena

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Well, Deena, please avoid all tornados !! :D :D :D

 

Because of the long waves in Infrared light, you will find that the effects of diffraction set in sooner than happens in Visible light shooting. The point being - sharpness in IR is likely at a peak around f/5.6. Stopping down to f/16 may or may not buy you anything extra by way of detail in IR. Again, only experimentation will tell that tale for your particular combo of lens and camera.

 

For IR editing you need to initially tackle white balancing, adjusting the exposure (setting B&W points or adjusting curve endpoints or hitting the exposure slider) and recovering highlights. I usually don't have to do much with shadow lifting in IR, but that would happen in this first set of edits.

 

Once the photo is then looking well-exposed, you can work on global or local contrasts - which a typical IR photo will need some work on in order to bring out a little "pop", for lack of a better term - and other edits such as pulling back areas of oversaturation (if any are left after the WB step) which can destroy detail. Save sharpening until very last.

 

Adobe Camera Raw would certainly have the sliders necessary to accomplish an excellent conversion of a raw IR photo to bring it to a "well-exposed" state. I always liked the ACR clarity slider for tweaking IR work after exposure adjustments. After ACR send the photo to either LR or PS for more work if needed. For now, just pick whichever is easiest to use.

 

Find a houseplant to practice on until the stormy weather passes. :sungum:

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Guest Deena

So, as a follow up, I spent a frustrating night struggling with post processing and got nothing I was happy with but learned some things so that's good. So, I went back and did things "right". Setup my tripod, cable release, made sure my WB was really done well, etc. I tried a couple of lenses. 

 

What I found is that the f5.6 shots seem to be sharper than f8 at the primary focus point/plane but of course I get more perceived DOF with the f/8. 

 

More importantly, I realized that the biggest issue I have is that I just can't see that well to focus through the D70S viewfinder. I think it's a combination of my eyes aging and the fact that I am used to the D800. And the D70S screen on the back is pretty small and hard for me to see to check. I have to wait until I can load the images onto a computer to see if I got the focus right.

 

What I did notice is I got a very sharp nice image from the 24mm tilt-shift lens and I'm looking forward to processing that one. 

 

I also figured out how to make a custom camera profile for the D70S-IR so that I start out much better on the WB setting which I am hoping will help me with post processing.

 

I appreciate your pointers. I am very open to getting a different camera for IR, one that I can focus. Are there any other NIkons that work particularly well for IR that have bright viewfinders or options for changing focus screens? I will check the sticky next for that. 

 

Thanks again.

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One thing that has not clearly been mentioned in this thread is that many lenses show a focus shift in IR. So after finding optimal focus for visible light, it is often necessary to twist the focus ring a little closer, until the subject gets a little blurry. I use an all matte Katzeye focusing screen on my D40x-IR720 with a DK-21M, which helps evaluating both optimal visible light focus and the right amount of blurriness in IR. Since my D40x was calibrated to LifePixel's standard 18-70mm (works well with my 12-24 mm), the IR shift mark on the lenses if present cannot be trusted. Thus I have mapped out the IR infinity position of all my lenses by focus bracketing, and I carry a little cheat sheet with photographs of those positions for when I have problems remembering.

 

I think you did very well with you edit in #2, and I cannot see much problem with focus at the given reproduction size.


Øivind

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Guest nfoto

Focus shift, as marked by the little red dot or IR tick, is calculated for IR film and cannot be trusted either with digital, whether or not your camera has been 'recalibrated'. The reason is the IR spectral response of film was much more narrow than with digital. I also have a lurking suspicion these days that optics designers care less what happens outside the visible band, as the internal filtration found in today's DSLRs cut off IR (and UV) so sharply. Thus a modern lens can be near unpredictable in its focus shift, except for the certainty there is a shift. It might even go in the opposite direction (more distant instead of closer focus), some zooms display this behaviour.

 

Remedies are using short focal lengths, focus bracketing (if you don't have a workable LiveView on the camera) and stopping the lens well down. Yes, I'm aware of what Andrea stated earlier in this thread, but for once I don't agree with her. The reasons being most lenses are not corrected for IR so require more stopping down than diffraction concerns should dictate. One just has to strike the balance between an aperture that minimises optical nasties in IR while at the same time doesn't make the entire image go soft due to diffraction. Now diffraction is not a 'brick wall' feature in the sense it either is or isn't there; in fact it's always present to some degree. You don't want it to dominate the output, though, meaning for DX/FX formats f/11 often is a sensible end point for stopping down. Minor errors in adjusting for focus shift are usually covered simultaneously so you kill two birds with one stone going there.

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Guest Deena

Thank you. This is helpful. I do try subtle focus changes but it's not scientific! I was being mindful of this by using the 17-35mm Nikkor which I believe I read in the sticky and on Bjorn's site at one point, had little to no focus shift. (Unfortunately, I got rid of my kit lens which I believe was also supposed to be good in this regard.)

 

I wasn't sure what to expect with the 24mm tilt shift but my preliminary results seem good and if I can process one, I'll post it. I don't think it had a shift. I recall focusing a bit more easily with it than the 17-35 and then the shots were generally more crisp. I know the larger circle of projection helps with that anyway.

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Guest nfoto

While the 17-35 does not have excessive focus shift it still is present.  However the effects can be masked due to the short focal lengths involved.

 

"I know the larger circle of projection helps with that anyway." This description of the 24 T/S I simply don't understand. On the contrary, the lerns designers face bigger problems keeping up the image quality when the focal length is fixed but lens coverage increases.

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Deena, may I suggest an inexpensive "consumer" DSLR to convert for IR? They now have Live View, the sensors provide incredibly improved image quality and you can pick up used models for cheaps. The D5100 comes to mind as just one example. I converted that to IR and loved it.

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Peak sharpness may be around f/5.6 for many IR rigs, but that is hardly anything to agree or disagree with !!

It's just physics, merely a fact to learn about for one's particular set of IR gear.

Then decisions can be made about the tradeoff between softness and depth of field.

Later editing can bring out some detail & sharpness to mitigate some of the diffraction effects.

 

Deena, if you look in our IR Sticky, you will find observations about many lenses and their utility for IR.

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Guest nfoto

The blanket statement that you should stop down less for IR is what I simply cannot agree with. You will get better results with most lenses for IR by stopping down *more* not *less*.

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Am confused.

I do not see in what I wrote any recomendation for f/5.6, merely an observation about possible peak sharpness there. I do recommend experimentation.

 

Because of the long waves in Infrared light, you will find that the effects of diffraction set in sooner than happens in Visible light shooting. The point being - sharpness in IR is likely at a peak around f/5.6. Stopping down to f/16 may or may not buy you anything extra by way of detail in IR. Again, only experimentation will tell that tale for your particular combo of lens and camera.

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Guest nfoto

Yes, as I repeatedly have said.  IR is different so the recommendation for f/5.6 is possibly buying you peak sharpness for visible light, but not for IR. Thus it's plainly wrong to recommend f/5.6 when you do IR.  It's true there is more diffraction because the wavelengths are longer, but that does not entail one should stop *less* down. You should stop down more not less. The balance between performance improvement due to better control of aberrations and performance degradation due to increased diffraction shifts. Yes, more stopping down makes the lens perform worse (from diffraction), but at the same time there is an improvement due to the larger aberrations in IR that require more stopping down. So the optimum shifts. f/11 is a typical peak area for most lenses in IR. The same lens may have its peak in f/5.6 in visible. The overall performance in IR generally, but not necessarily, is worse in IR than in visible.

 

I will not repeat this again. Enough is enough.

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