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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 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.  


© 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

Update on Carson-Infinity Platine Fibre Rag: A few weeks ago http://www.shadesofpaper sent me a test roll of this new beautiful paper. I have tested it on a number of prints and can honestly say that it is a stunning paper — equal in quality to the Hahnemule Photo Rag Baryta and Ilford Gallerie Gold Fibre Silk.

As I said said earlier, the choice of paper is very personal and should be evaluated by each person based on needs, aesthetics, and their current printer and inks.

The Hahnemuhle papers were supposed to go up in price as much as 30%, depending on the paper, at the beginning of August. However, outraged customers have forced the company to suspend their decision until September. At this moment, the Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta is still my paper of choice for images that require a high D-max. I also feel that it holds the saturation better than the other two papers. I have read on forums that a few people have noticed some imperfections in some rolls and sheets from Hahnemuhle. I have not had this problem (although I have had similar problems with Moab papers). However, if Hahnemuhle does decide to raise their prices significantly, then I will switch to the Canson paper, as the HPR Baryta is not that much better than the other two papers. You can find information on the new Carson paper at

So for now:

For printing my Infrared images I prefer the matte Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Bright White.

For color and desaturated color images I prefer Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta.

You can find these papers at Contact Eric Mateer.

Re HP Z3200 printer: Last year when I was printing my show A Nomadic Vision, I had issues with the orange/red gamut on the previous model HP Z3100, so a number of my images had to be printed on a Epson 7800, a printer that I thought I would be retiring since I was not happy with the gamut nor detail in the shadows.

After testing the newer Epson 9900 and HP Z3200 I decided to purchase the latter since HP significantly printed more details in the shadows, even though I was not convinced that they had solved the issues with the orange/red gamut. I was afraid that I would have to continue upgrading two brands of printers (not a pleasant thought). This week I completed my tests. A big sigh of relief…the updated HP Z3200 has beautiful reds and oranges. I can finally retire my Epson printers.

Again, it is a personal matter as I know many people swear by their Epson printers. However, I found that even the new Epson 9900 blocks up the blacks on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag and Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Bright white matte papers–not as badly as the Epson 7800 but still much more than the Z3100 and Z3200 HP printers.

This is just my .03 cents based on my desire for the highest quality and for my personal aesthetics and archival longevity on the papers I have chosen to presently use.


© nevada wier      Gujurat, India 2009

I  started in photography with a Deardorf large format camera and a black & white darkroom. I loved the alchemy of watching a print emerge in a tray of liquid emitting vapors of toxic fumes. It was, and must still be, simply magic.

However, once I began color photography and realized that it was my natural affinity, I left the wet darkroom behind. Perfecting the art of exposing for the limited dynamic range of transparencies consummed me; adding the distraction of color mystified me.

Yet, I never made color prints. I hated limited range of glossy or matte papers. I despised Cibachrome and other color printing processing; not even the complicated dye transfer process held my interest. My prints were from the four-color process of magazines and books. Then Arthur Meyerson had an exhibit of digital prints in Santa Fe (I can’t remember the year) and I knew a color printing revolution was amassing.

I tried working with various  companies (Mac Holbert at Nash Editions is a genius) but realized that I needed to take control of the printing process myself. So I now have THE GRAYROOM, instead of  The Darkroom (yes, the walls are 18% gray) and my own Epson and HP printers.

I had my first major show January of 2008 at the Verve Gallery in Santa Fe (see past posts) with over 50 images printed on a Epson 7800 (24″)  and an HP Designjet 44″ Z3100 using Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Bright White paper.

This summer I am printing for a new show, tentatively titled Outer India, to be hung at the Verve Gallery July 2010. Not only do I have a new printer — HP 44″ Designjet Z3200 (I bought it instead of the Epson 9900 which did not have the shadow detail that I crave), but I wanted a new paper with a greater D-Max. I am printing images in a different style with more de-saturated colors and deeper blacks. The rag papers with matte Ink give me the feel I want but not the deep, deep black tones. Picking a paper is very personal; it has to feel and look right to whomever is printing.

I researched the current fine-art gloss papers which have a “rag” feel and picked 5 papers: Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta, Ilford Galerie Gold Fiber Silk, Innova FibaPrint Ultra Smooth Gloss, Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Pearl, and Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper. Unfortunately I have not been able to get a profile for the Exhibition Fiber Paper (and I probably would have nixed it anyway since it only comes in sheets).

I printed out test sheets of various images on the four remaining papers. I don’t like the texture of the  Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Pearl so it was nixed. I loved the whiteness of the Innova paper, but it was too blue/white (and I should stay away from OBA whiteners for archival purposes). Ultimately, it was a tough choice between the Ilford and Hahnemuhle Baryta papers. However, Hahnemuhle Photo Rag has consistently been a great paper for me so I decided to stay with the brand.  The luscious  Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta won my confidence and heart (until a better paper comes my way).

Note: I get my papers from Contact: Erik Mateer


© nevada wier.   India, Nagaland. At the border.

nevada’s website


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