26 September 2008

Training Alone

Took a walk around a park with my Pentax *ist DL2 when I came across this wheelchair bound person doing his workout. He was approaching very fast and was a picture of pure determination. Thought about shooting him as he approached but as I saw the road markings I knew it would make a strong composition, and made the shot as he passed by.

Pentax *ist DL2 DA 14mm f/2.8

18 September 2008

Kids & Dogs

Took these IR shots of kids with their dogs at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Particularly like the sensitive expression of the girl with her dog. In contrast, the three boys were pretty rough and tumble in their play. All taken with the Pentax *ist DL2 with the FA 28-200mm zoom.

15 September 2008

DA 14mm Tryout

Just a couple of days ago I was at the office of Shriro, the local Pentax agent here in Singapore. The friendly folks there offered to let me try out the DA 14mm f/2.8 wide angle for a couple of days. Since I let go of my DA 16-45mm f/4 a few months back, I don't have a rectilinear wide angle that goes wider than the DA 18-55mm II. So I welcomed the opportunity to satisfy my curiousity and get acquainted with this lens.

In making a choice between the current crop of Pentax wide angle lenses, it's a toss-up between the DA 14mm prime and the DA 12-24mm f/4 that Pentax jointly developed with Tokina. The prime has the edge in maximum aperture while the zoom has the versatility of having a range of focal lengths and it also goes wider. It is also more expensive than the DA 14mm.

Looking at specifications alone isn't enough as wide angles offer a dramatic perspective that one needs to appreciate first hand at the viewfinder. I opted to try out the DA 14mm. My reasons were threefold: to see if the f/2.8 really made a big difference, to find out if the angle of view was wide enough and to see if the lens was IR friendly (no hot spots). The answers to all three questions were a resounding yes.

I'm sure I would like the DA 12-24mm for the focal length versatility, but I've been told it hot spots when taking IR images, which is unfortunate to say the least. The DA 14mm is very solidly made, is optically sharp to my estimation, controls flare quite well and focuses very fast. I've enjoyed my brief tryout with it and this will certainly be one lens that I'll definitely be on the lookout in the near future.

Here I've taken a few images using my IR modified Pentax *ist DL2 at a reservoir near my home. I've managed to enjoy the camera more and have gotten the hang of fine tuning the post processing the IR images. Post processing was done with Photoshop.

13 September 2008

Getting Familiar With Shooting IR

A few more IR explorations. Took these scenic landscapes with the *ist DL2 with the DA 21mm Limited. As I mentioned awhile back, digital IR photography is essentially a 2 step process: capturing the IR image on camera and secondly, post processing the images.

In the short period that I've been shooting digital IR, I've found that I've needed to pay attention to a few areas prior to shooting. First order of the day is to establish the baseline white balance of the camera. This applies to both modded IR cameras or a DSLR with an IR filter attached. Taking a manual white balance reading from something that reflects a lot of IR light like a patch of green grass/leaves in bright light is the proven method. The key issue here is taking the WB reading in bright sunlight. Take a WB reading on an overcast day and you're likely to get a somewhat different result when post-processing later.

IR images look best when there is good contrast in the scene. That said, it is pretty important to get the exposure right to reduce subsequent post processing issues. Because only a fraction of the light spectrum is recorded on the camera's sensor, I tend to think the camera's dynamic range is reduced a little.

Underexpose and you're likely to have flat or noisy images. Blow the highlights and you lose detail. The best aid in exposure determination is using the camera's histogram on the LCD as it can be difficult to eyeball the reddish brown images captured on-camera. As exposure can vary according to the scene, it is a good idea to bracket. It is also a good practice to delete those images that for want of a better word, "cannot make it".

Shooting in Manual mode offers the best control but shooting in Aperture priority with +EV compensation is another workable method. Focusing wise, autofocus is definitely useful. To compensate for the slight shift in wavelength, some tweaking of the AF in the debug menu (for a modded IR camera) is good, but if you're using a standard DSLR with screw-in IR filters, stopping down will cover the slight focus shift. Use the lowest ISO setting possible.

The images here were taken just a few days after I got the modded camera. They aren't perfect in my opinion. The WB wasn't really spot on and I was a little rusty in the post processing department, but these so-so shots provide good feedback on small details that need to be worked on to get one's personal look in IR lanscapes. I'll post some information on the post processing that I use in a later post.

06 September 2008

Going Ga-Ga Over Infraread

Yesterday, my Pentax pal dropped me a text message that he had a Pentax ist DL2 that had been converted for infrared (IR) photography available. Decision time, so without hesitation I immediately jumped on the offer.

Pentax *ist DL2 with the DA 14mm f/2.8

The *ist DL2 was the last iteration of the Pentax *ist series DSLRs and was introduced just a few months before the K100D. Pretty much identical in specification to the K100D with the exception of in-camera Shake Reduction and fewer AF focusing points.

The *ist like the K100D series uses the excellent 6.1 megapixel CCD sensor. It's favored for IR because the sensor is particularly receptive which allows exposure times to be relatively short. On an IR modified camera, the camera simply has it's sensor's low pass filter removed. In it's place a very thin infra-red filter is installed. In this case wavelengths lower than 720 μm are filtered out.

Well you may be asking what's the practical benefits of having a IR modified camera as opposed to a conventional DSLR with a R72 IR or equivalent filter mounted? Basically there two. Firstly, as there is no IR filter in front of the mounted lens, the view in the viewfinder is clear, just like a normal DSLR. This greatly speeds up the process of picture taking.

The second obvious advantage is in exposure times. The IR filter mounted at the sensor is much thinner than a conventional screw-in filter. This allows exposure times to be reduced well within the limits of hand holdability. Roughly speaking, depending on the subject, exposure is typically between +0.7 to +2.0 EV over what the camera's TTL meter suggests. The shorter exposure opens up a wider realm of picture taking opportunities.

Shooting people is always a challenge because of the exposure times but the examples of a wedding couple that I shot show the capabilities of a modded camera. Skin tones take on a ghostly shade of white, but after all that's the fun of shooting IR. Lens used was the FA 28-200mm zoom.

With newer DSLRs with larger megapixel count being introduced, the generation of 6.1 megapixel cameras of the *ist and K100D series now seem to be overshadowed. The option to convert these cameras to be dedicated IR only cameras is an option I would recommend for those of use contemplating buying the newer crop of DSLRs. IR photography is fun, and a converted camera definitely brings the fun back.

03 September 2008

Rock and Reeds

Took this image a couple of weeks ago but just didn't have the time to go through it. I like the idea of the hard rock juxtaposed against the flexible and pliable water plants.

K20D DFA 100mm f/2.8 Macro