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Cuba. Havana. Ballet Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba. Digital Infrared.

© Nevada Wier 2012    Cuba. Havana. Dance Studio. Digital Infrared.

Canon EOS 5D   EF 24-105 f/4 IS USM  (80mm)

0.6 sec.  f/6.3   ISO 1250 

I’m on my way to Cuba tomorrow with another Santa Fe Workshops People-to-People sponsored tour of Havana and Trinidad. So I feel it is appropriate to discuss an image I made last year in Cuba.

I’m in the process of printing for my new exhibit featuring only digital infrared prints that will premier at the Verve Gallery in Santa Fe on September 24, 2013. So I have infrared on my mind and want to share this image with you. It will be featured in a summer show of Verve artists titled “Figures Studied” Friday, June 28, 2013 – Saturday, August 31, 2013

For those of you who are not familiar with the digital Infrared process. I sent a Canon 5D (I am now using a Canon 5DMark II) to www.lifepixel.com to remove the hot mirror filter in front of the sensor that blocks infrared light and replace it with a custom manufactured infrared or clear filter filter. To read more about this mystical process please go to their website. I have the Standard Conversion. I love that I am creating an image of a subject that I can see in visible light but I am really making a visible rendering with invisible light; mildly surreal and metaphysical.

The above image was made in at the Ballet Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba studio in Havana, Cuba. We were graciously allowed to photograph for a couple of hours in a two different classes. There were obvious limitations; primarily we did not want to disturb the class in any way.  Even though our group of eight was split up we also were conscious of sharing a limited space. Since I was the coordinator of the group I was especially concerned not to wander into anyone’s frame. (If I was a paying member of the group I sure would be annoyed if the guide was consistently in the best spot.) We also had a limited amount of time so we had to work very, very quickly.

I crouched down in the back of the room, and then consciously moved to either side of the room. We had our own choreography of movement around each other as we photographing the student dancers.

When I have a limited amount of time I work really quickly and try a myriad of combinations of shutter speeds and apertures. Since the image was about movement and expression there are basically two approaches: use a fast shutter speed to stop the action or a slow one to blur the movement. The first choice is the easiest and produces good but often-predictable images. I am a big fan of slow shutter speeds, yet there is more chance of failure. Conversely, there is also more chance of creating a singular personal image. Working in dim light means it is more difficult to use a faster shutter speed; another reason to experiment more with slower shutter speeds.

The room did have a bank of windows coming in from the right side so it wasn’t too dim. Nevertheless, I used 1250 ISO that was amendable to the use of a wide range of shutter speeds without producing too much noise.

One limitation I have with my infrared camera is the unpredictability of the focus. Infrared light does not focus on the same plane as visible light. In the old fixed focal length lenses there is an infrared scale on the front of the lens. However, with zoom lenses this is not possible. My 5D was calibrated for the 35mm focal length on my 24-105mm lens. Nevertheless I try to stay as close to f/8 as possible, and will the 5D I try hard never to go above 1600 ISO.

In this particular image I edged close to the front of classroom on the left side and framed the image through the mirror, hence the graduations in the light across the wall. Most the images when I used shutter speeds close to 1 second were too blurry or just didn’t have the definitions in the torsos and limbs that I prefer. The truth is that I only needed one image that worked. Just one. There are other images that are good but this one is my favorite, primarily because the lead dancer is so sharp, and the other dancers are distinct enough.

Digital infrared allows a bit of the visible light so there are touches of blue and yellow within the image. (Each conversion has different color palettes and there are choices when one processes the image. You can swap the blue and yellow color channel, but I rarely do this. And, occasionally there is a reddish color instead of yellow.)

The image is in the final stages of perfecting the print. For me, printing is like sculpting. I have to create depth and dimension on a piece of paper. I am also there, just a bit more fine tuning in the “burning and dodging”.

However for now, I’m off again to crumbling, fascinating Cuba. I have a new Olympus OM-D EM-5 that I’m using for color photography (usually I take a 5D Mark III but I’m testing the smaller, lighter mirrorless Olympus camera, more on that later). However, I have a Canon 5D Mark II for infrared images. I don’t go on any trip now without my infrared camera.

Here is a preview of another Infrared image I made in Rajasthan, India.

I love the Invisible Made Visible possibilities.  

2011_Rajasthan

© Nevada Wier 2010    India. Rajasthan. Pushkar Fair. Digital Infrared.

Canon EOS 5D   EF 24-105 f/4 IS USM  (24mm)

1/60 sec.  f/7.1   ISO 800

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