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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

I have an inaugural post, Low Light and Flash photography, on the first-class blog–B&H Insights.

There is no doubt about it; India is a photographer’s carnival. The colors are kaleidoscopic; the scenes are cinematic; and the light is luminous. I’ve been traveling to Rajasthan for the past few years to lead the National Geographic Expeditions India Photo Tour—a tour that has focused on light and lighting.

However, even the best light sometimes needs a bit of enhancement or a creative touch. I don’t bring a lot of lighting equipment when I travel because I have to carry everything myself, on my shoulder, for hours. I use a Canon 5D Mark II and usually work with only one flash, 580 EX II flash, and an assortment of small, lightweight, but very important flash accessories.”

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM, ISO 800, 1/80 sec. at f/3.5

Read the rest of the post on B&H Insights. Enjoy!

And join me in Tampa, Florida Sunday, September 26th or in Chicago, Illinois Sunday, October 3rd for the National Geographic Traveler CREATIVITY IN LIGHT one day seminar. It is a blast of a seminar; I share my insights with the fabulous Dan Westergren, photo editor of NG Traveler Magazine. If you can’t make it one of these cities then hopefully we will be somewhere near you next season when we go on the road again.

October 28 Update: I just arrived at the Pushkar camel fair and have 15 minutes (and a good Indian cell/bluetooth connection) to explain a bit about the images I posted the other night. The updates are in this color red.

October 26: I don’t have much time to write but here are a couple of images from Rajasthan on the sand dunes! I’m leading a National Geographic Expeditions tour and we are having an amazing time. More on the photo technique tomorrow. but for now enjoy … the natural light and exuberance

_MG_3594

This image was taken with a 100-400mm lens probably close to 400mm. It is not easy to find the perfect sand dune – where people and camels can walk right on top of the ridge so you can see their feet kicking the sand. So this was a find! We were riding our camels in the evening, spotted some local girls and enticed them to come with us to dance on the dunes. Because of the dusty sky the sun did not flare into the lens. I have so many great ones that it is hard to choose my favorite. I surely do not mind that!

and here is an image combining natural light with a bit of off-camera fill flash with a warming gel

_MG_4084

This image was taken the next night at Jamba. This is a spectacular place but not the “perfect sand dune” for silouhettes showing feet so I bent very low, almost lying down, and photographed upwards. I had a slightly amber gel inside a diffuser on my flash which was held by my left hand outwards and upwards, at -1 EV. I took a light reading off the sky (about 20 minutes after sunset) and held the camera as steady as I could with my right hand. But I wasn’t worried about camera motion or the fact that 1/3 sec. at f/3.2; I knew the flash would give the illusion of sharpness. I positioned myself so I could see the two men and the camel in the background. I love images with depth.

And now I’m off to enjoy Pushkar!  more camels. more images. more fun.

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