Unseen Light Learning Curve.

Infrared (IR) images have been something I have been working towards for a little while now. This time last year I set myself a goal to own and know how to use an IR camera. That dream is now a reality but it has come at a cost.

Combined-comparison-webI fell in love with the image capability IR can give with a cheap IR filter. I had to have my own real IR camera. Not only Is it harder to find a camera with IR capability but you also need to learn through trial and error how to control such a camera. You would think that knowing how to use a normal camera in your sleep would be enough but the truth of the matter is it’s much more complex than that.

Problem one was once I had bought a camera I wanted converted I needed to get it done. There is a couple of places that are highly recommended like LifePixel (now Kolari Vision) but they are over in America and for an Australian artist the cost can be hard to cover.

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So next would be an Australian company. If you are a little fussy with how far you are willing to send your camera from you then this could also be a tricky one. The only store I have found that is highly recommended in Aus is Camera Clinic down in Collingwood Victoria. The only other options you have are those small dodgy ones over on Ebay who are cheaper.

So you cringe a little at ether forking out more for a recommended conversion house or getting it done cheaper through ebay and hoping you don’t pick a bad egg.

IMG_0047Next you have to choose what type of conversion you want. See there is not just one standard conversion for IR like there is for Ultraviolet and normal visible light. Questions you need to be able to answer are things like, what conversion do you want? The answers to this depend on your own likes. I found Kolari Vision has a great write up on the types. I don’t like the weird color you gain from the likes of false color or lower nanometers (NM) and so I went with a “Deep Black and White Filter” that is an 830nm filter.

Now the hype hits you. All you have left is to wait for your new camera. You start looking on the web at all the amazing images people have taken with your chosen filter. you get the camera back home, take it out on the first ideal day and BAM your dreams are shot down. Maybe you can’t get exposure right, or maybe it’s blurry, or heaven forbid you can’t find something great to shoot.

This is where I was at about six months ago. New camera in hand and I just had to plunder through with trial and error. I was prepared for this to some extent but it was like you had turned up to do a course on your camera and the teachers didn’t know what to do. This thrilled me but I found I had to sink a lot of hours into the camera before I could just take it out and shoot what I wanted quickly.

 

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Visible Veins, Zombie eyes, slight see through top

I broke it down into parts. 1) Green is my new white so that must be exposed correctly. 2) Sky is supposed to be black or mostly black. 3) Skin is supposed to be white not grey or with veins visible. 4) Hotspots, dead looking eyes (Zombie Eyes) and overly soft edges are not good 5) Editing is harder and takes more time 6) Clothing does not mean you are covered in the final picture.

The next six months I learnt how to control the outcome of my images. After many hours, notes, failed images and tears I got a feel for what I needed to do. I am sure my husband hates the fact I got my IR camera. I have had it all about that camera since I got it. There is no real one way to use these cameras. They are so unique and even how one camera interacts with the same lens at different aperture and stuff your whole image. If there was ever a camera you needed 10,000 hours on to master I would have to say this is it.

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I am far from a master at this point in time but I am also well on my way to mastering the camera I have fallen in love with as well.

 

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“I am..” a series about a feeling.

I published a preview on my facebook page about this series as I like to do to find out what people think. It didn’t take long to have people miss understand what the images were saying at all.  Some took it as I was just my condition while others just could not understand the concept at all. This is normal and I am glad people are talking about the image. That means I am doing my job.

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For those interested in why this series has come about in my mind please read the Medical Criminals post on this blog and for those who are interested in the things I hope to achieve in this series strap yourselves in and enjoy the next instalment in my mind.

This series has been a full on process for something I was hoping would be a smaller project. I was originally planning on doing it as close to accurate as I could to real life.

Lesson one was learned right here. Just because it is accurate does not mean you will create an effective image. For example the board is not held by the person in the photo but is off to the side. While this is accurate information it creates a sense of space from the subject and I didn’t want that at all. I want the disability to ‘own’ the person so this needed to be changed.

fibro

Lesson two was a close second. It is much easier to connect with models than with real sufferers. I wanted this series to be made up of people who suffer the illness mentioned and a lot of the time these people are not comfortable doing this kind of project until they have seen all the information and proof pictures for such a series. They take care due to the subject but the effect is so much more powerful with a diverse range. Oh and for the record kids can be interesting to work with but having treats or toys for them to play with after the shoot help lots.

Lesson three came in post production of the pilot image. I started editing and then realised that my polished format on the last series should not carry over to this series. I mean how often do you see a flawless prison photo? There is always slight washed out or slight dark photo, there is often little consistency in the type of people in the images and lets face it if the people pictured were perfect they would never have been caught. So how can I show this in my images? How about a botch image? The lines are not straight or measured properly, they don’t match, the illness name has been added in post production and done clearly so you can see the lack of truthfulness in each image.

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The series is not about the truth or about what outsiders see looking at a person with one of these illnesses. This series is about how a sufferer can feel about their illness. I do know not all of us fighting invisible illnesses think we are seen like this however I do know some of us at times do.

I am risking doing negative things to my artistic merit doing these things in lesson three but I believe that these changes for this particular series increase the message I am trying to send. Any artist could do these things yes but tell me what other artist has already?

Medical Criminals

This post is a part of the upcoming “I am… ” Series by myself.

I am a massive fan of Lie To Me. I watch them on a regular basis and love picking the emotions the actors are challenged with portraying in a microsecond. I sometimes wish my mind would just settle on this one thing but alas I am not one of those kind of people. My brain starts drawing connections to my own life. Small at first, after all who normally finds things in common with criminals? The pain caused is kind of like the pain I feel from my own medical ailments, people who they don’t mean to hurt get hurt, the lack of ‘normal’ emotion in their faces due to concentration and these are just the start.

 

Wow looking at these things I don’t feel much different to a criminal. But wait, I am not in jail or waiting on a criminal charge so why do I feel like this? There is a very simple answer here. I feel like this because I am disabled. Not in a chair like a paraplegic or even visible like a missing limb, no. My disability is invisible so this means I am quite often seen as average. I could, for every thought, be replaced by those people in the crime shows. Replace the people the criminal minds hurt with friends and family then replace the detectives and policemen with a range of medical staff designed to help me. After all a diagnosis is almost the same as incarceration. That board with their number and name is just the same as our diagnosis label. The only difference is we are not shown the way to others like us or given meals close to us. We are not put on a register that other people can see or publicised by the papers. We are just given this label and left to flounder around in hope we will find our feet.

So you see we are alike even though we are worlds apart. This leads me to ask however what would people think if medical illnesses, both common and uncommon are displayed like the sufferers see them? Something that should be shut up before it destroys their lives and that of their family.

Photographic Series: Invisible Illnesses

A deadly cocktail of medical help is quite often all medical specialists can offer to ease the pain.

A deadly cocktail of medical help is quite often all medical specialists can offer to ease the pain.

When I started my photography pursuits I never thought it would lead to this.

Every place I turn there seems to be people who feel confident enough around me to open up about their own invisible pains and turmoil. Quotes such as, “I just got sick of being judged so I don’t talk about it any more,” “no-one understands when I tell them so I just don’t bother” or worse yet to me, “They think I just want attention or am saying it to get out of working.”

Is this what illness is? Is this what we have brought upon ourselves or what society should think about an illness that is invisible? Why is it Cancer, Diabeties and even to some degree Depression are accepted and believed but not something like Anxiety, Lupus, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Why do we struggle to understand and believe these things happening to friends and family?

Should you pretend the pain is not there? Who would believe you if they can't see it anyway?

Should you pretend the pain is not there? Who would believe you if they can’t see it anyway?

Fibromyalgia hit me like a ten tone truck. The pain was extricating to say the very least but was still nothing compared to the pain I felt from friends and family who struggled to come to terms with what I was going through. Some family were great while others I can only imagine could not understand and thought I just didn’t want to work any more. It was not the first  time I had been told by a doctor that the pain I had experienced was all in my head but it was the first time I had gone from pregnant to menopausal in one sentence. After three years of wanting to chop off my arms or wake up from the nightmare I got a diagnosis. I cried for an hour after it. Finally someone could explain what was going on and I had a name.

So next you google your new prison. You need to find out what you can expect to be able to do and if you will ever get better yeah? Well the answer for me was not good. Never going to get better and may even decline with age. No cure and then BAM 75% chance your kids will develop it. Oh god you can’t even explain it. How on earth are you going to teach your kids the warning signs? This was the stage I was at. I needed to explain what I could feel but people were having trouble visualising it all as I said it.

There has to be a better way I thought. So you go back to google and look for pictures of invisible pain. Lots more words, a few people in jars/thorns and a couple of references to something called “The Spoon Theory.” Well that was a giant waist of time hey. This was leaving me a little flabbergasted. How can something be so under represented? Now I need to do something about this. I needed to push this issue and find a way within my new limitations to describe my pain in a visual format.

Just having finished a cert IV Photo Imaging at tafe I felt pumped about getting started. The next 12 months I would fine tune the ideas I had been getting during the last 6 months of tafe. All these things I had learnt about myself I was determined to show the world. Determined to convince others like me they are not alone. The sleepless nights channelled into nights of planning each image. Focusing on the pain to better be able to describe it to a model so they could portray it as I needed. Planning of each and every step. The symbols used in each image, the way the light rests on a model or amount of space around them. Everything had to work.

Submission to the pain in your body.

Submission to the pain in your body.

I ended up with 10 images of varied strength that represented everything I had felt up to that point in my journey. Little did I know that when the series was released at RAWartists;Glimpse it would have such a profound effect. One woman came up to me and was in tears as we talked about how she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 2 weeks prior. She could relate to every image with such intensity. Another person asked to show his workmates the series to open up a new way of thinking. People stood and talked to me or each other about the images and it gave such a good feeling to see people opening up in front of my eyes.

Color Correction without a Spyder

I have seen a few people on Facebook and the likes asking about color correction and vibrancy.  These things are interesting subjects on their own but can cause a lot of drama together as well. Before I get into how I color correct an image in Photoshop without any added software please remember that sometimes a “color correct image” is not as good as an “incorrect color image.”  This is the case in things like Infrared photos that turn out quite red/orange normally out of the camera and also on occasion a visible light spectrum image that seems week or uninteresting at first can be made to be interesting with false color.  De-saturation is good and can be used to change the feel of an image. Much the same as an over saturated one.  I am not a magazine photographer by any stretch of the imagination. My work is at best compared to theirs, outlandish but would you compare Bill Henson to Andy Warhol?

Still want to be color correct all the time?

Now that’s out of the road lets get down to the nitty gritty.

Photoshop color correction is rather simple and can even be done on a black and while screen if you know what you should be doing. Each image should have a “true black” and a “true white” value in them at some point. These values ensure you have a good dynamic in your image and are a great way to correct the color in your image. So how do you use this to correct?

Step 1 – Open a Curves or  Levels layer. Once open you will see A black slider and a White slider. (little arrows at the bottom of your graph.) If you click on the sliders you will get numbers underneath them. These are important to change if you want true black found within a printers capability. Printers can not print at a ‘0’ value or a ‘255’ value. So you must change the values. On a levels layer you simply change the value that says ‘0’ to ‘5’ and the one that says ‘255’ to ‘250’. On a levels layer you need to click the slider and then change the input and output to ‘5’ for black and ‘250’ for white. Clipping the values by 5 allows for the printing color to be correct.  Refer to below.

Where to find the curves layer shortcut and the sliders to change the range of color in a photo.

Where to find the curves layer shortcut and the sliders to change the range of color in a photo.

Step 2 – The colors correction step it’s self. On the left there are 3 eye droppers. Eye droppers are used to “sample” a color or tone. In this case we are going to use them to Sample from our “true white” and “true black” places on our image.  The easiest way to figure out where to find a value is to find the brightest highlight and darkest shadow. The spot between closed legs is almost always true black if they have black pants. Pupils in the eye are another great one. For true white look for things like the shine on hair or the reflection of your softbox in the eyes.

So now you know your “true values” click your black dropper (top one of the 3) and hold down the ALT (PC) COMMAND (MAC) key while hovering over your image. The image will go very funny colors but don’t panic. The true black will appear to be the darkest color on your picture now. If you need to zoom in to make sure you sample the right pixel don’t be afraid to. Your zoom in shortcuts will not remove your eye dropper tool. Once this is done your image may look a little funny but that’s ok as it will be fixed when you use the lowest dropper or white dropper in the same way. This time when you mouse over with your modifier key to get that funny looking image you are looking for the brightest point of the image to sample from. Use the images below for assistance on what you should expect.

The black and white eye dropper locations on a curves layer.

The black and white eye dropper locations on a curves layer.

A view of how the ALT/COMMAND button will change view in dropper mode.

A view of how the ALT/COMMAND button will change view in dropper mode.

 

That’s all there is to it. I want to remind you that not all photos need or even should be color corrected. Some images are better with artists impressions and false color on them. As I was told many times before you should understand the rule before you break the rule. Also consider making sure your skin tones do not need to have an additional color correction layer on them to keep both them and the background color corrected. Sometimes a flash or reflector will change the balance of your foreground in comparison to your background. Layer masks and an additional layer are friends if this happens.

Consider printing out a Color calibration sheet and having it printed at a print house such as RGB Digital or Arthead (ask and they will send you the file and printed one from their machine)  and manually making sure your colors are correct in your computer to aid your color choices. When manually setting your screen it’s advised to use a daylight globe in the room and set while it’s on. It’s very hard to set a screen in the dark because there is no light hitting the paper so your brain is trying to compensate more while you do it.

Product tables and reflections

That amazing time of year! The time we all hold our breath and hope the tax man likes us enough to give us enough tax back for what ever it is we want at the time.  For me this was some new equipment and what do you know I was lucky this year. So after a little looking and a lot of planning I had enough to splurge on a new set of lights. In combination with my new product table that had been given to me for an early birthday and Christmas present.

My son has been asking me for a shoot with his skull money box for a while now and I had told him sure, when I get the new table we can. But alas I had miss read the description of my table and it was a non-reflective table. ( a little part of me had dead when I realized) But this could be fixed. A trip to Imageplastics in Padstow NSW set my happily on my way again.

It felt like a lifetime ago that I had been working with a product table and had forgotten something. The first photo I took was lacking the reflection, the second not much better and the third too. What on earth was I doing wrong? I had my light set up under the table and it had a low intensity too but I just could not get a good reflection like I did as a student.

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It took a good few minuets to think back long and hard about it until it dawned on me. We were using two lights not one when I was a student. One from the back and one from the bottom. Maybe it was the back light that caused the reflection so clear. Well worth a try if i am to deliver on my promise to my son I thought. So moving the light and keeping an eye on the time for being a mum I worked on my reflection dilemmas. Light had always seemed to fall into place for me so I was to say the least a little flustered at myself for not getting it within the first few shots. Then taking the next shot showed me a miracle. The reflection was much stronger now.

Reflection

So light manipulation is not just a throw here and laugh a bit. The angle and intensity is so important even for a simple little shot like this flower. I had a reflector underneath the table at one point too but found that the more intense light underneath the table was making the reflection less pronounced so took it away. The light underneath the table works against getting a nice reflection on the table. It’s all about the back light not the under light. This valued realization needs to be stored some place more than just my mind and so I hope now it will help you too.

 

Beautiful, Deadly and Dark

This post will refer back to my post Bill Henson, a Master. Through a few trials I have been experimenting with lighting like Hensons’ work. For the most part the selections shown will show the unique feel of my own work but also borrow inspiration from Bill Henson. Enjoy the viewing and small peek into the world I see.

Exploration of how low the light can go.

Exploration of how low the light can go.

 

Seduction or Shame? The image featured here is one of the very first I completed and explored what can be called the extreme low end of low key photography. The subject is barely seen and the lighting is almost screaming seductive movie notions. Would you consider this a forbidden fruit image or a person trying to make ends meet?

 

breaking a rule

Breaking the Rules

Flash Back. Light dances in a unique way every time you shine it. Grain to add a bit of truth and light in the frame to constrain your eye a little. The texture of the models hair created a wonder land for light to play and give me an image I can come back to time and time again.

 

almost a distant memory

Almost a distant memory

Apparition. The nights sky is amazing to loose yourself in at the best of times. Memories take hold and if you let your mind wonder you may find yourself looking at an apparition in the sky. A dream or a memory, it does not matter. They are always vivid and rarely clear. Always wanting you to spend a little more time within yourself to try and bring back more detail.

 

 

Power within an image

Power within an image

Film Noir. Every man has no clue and every woman wants to dominate or murder you. Women were traditionally inferior to men at the height of Film Noir. The thought of a man being controlled by a woman was unheard of. Power struggles are seductive and dangerous. They can come from within and also come from a third party. It’s a struggle we deal with on a daily basis  to some degree. A big thanks to Scott Vidler and Trudy Milton (Mumma Bear Magical Creations) for the amazing shooting session this image came from. The next photo is also from that shoot. Model- Ayla Stapleton

 

 

Self Confidence

Self Confidence

Femme Fatale. Would you cross her path? Venetian Blinds and a powerful model create unbelievable images. The protrusion of the model from the darkness adds to the mystique of the image. She appears to be able to command even the darkness it’s self. There is a certain come and get me if you dare feel that is hard to capture in such a basic minimalist way.

Back light

Back light

Back Light. This image was just a thought in my head for weeks. The vague thought of an egg on the body of someone had a sexual aspect to it. The lines and minimalist approach is almost signature of my work now along with using a flash as my light source and not a studio light.

Front Back

Front Back

Front Back. A matter of perspective. Are you looking at the front of a woman or the back of someone?

Friends, lights and sights

 

Wollongong at night

Wollongong at night

Wollongong is not a place you would consider a one of a kind shooting area. Add friends and dinner however then my photography brain has to fight with my social brain.

Fish and Chips probably fueled this image in all honesty. My childhood was filled with fish and chips after sailing on a summer day and so this is kind of homage to my memories of fish and chips from a wharf shed.

I heard my partner tell our friends that this was the price that was to be paid by requesting my camera to be taken out of it’s bag for a photo of their new relationship. A price I guess I am going to have to pay in future holidays and catch ups and something my partner understands and allows space for.

Bill Henson, a Master.

I relate to Bill Henson’s work maybe a little too well. His work is almost magnetic to my subconscious mind and in being able to reach that could be considered dangerous. My mind was considered a very dark place for a long time and like many artists depression is a well-known friend of mine.  A particular picture of his that I become entranced in is Untitled #27 2007/08 Bill Henson

Bill Henson work

Bill Henson Untitled #27 2007/08

The minimalist approach to a lot of his works is characteristic of a coping technique taught to depressed teenagers. The aim is to teach the patient to see more positive things around them and less negative things. In this exercise you are to take a walk and only allow your eyes to travel between positive things. You simply ignore the negative things around you. Trust me this is not as easy as it seems.

Henson’s work takes the theory from the above mentioned coping technique into the artistic world by concealing the possible negative aspects or undesirable aspects of his pictures in black. The parts revealed are not violent and almost harmonious in their own rights. There is a serene sense of juxtaposition within his pictures. The color schemes used often convince the viewer that a darker sinister thing is brewing in the shadows but his image it’s self is calm and never violent to my knowledge. Quite often this dark color scheme is coupled with an intimate moment between people.

Bill Henson Untitled #8 2007/08

Bill Henson Untitled #8 2007/08

I love the way his images portray almost a painterly quality to them. The stronger and almost primal way the light dances on his subjects is hard to describe but can be likened to chiaroscuro technique used by painters and drawers in the early renaissance period. (14th – 17th centuries)  This technique in crux is simply put to be a small hole made into a piece of paper or cloth to project an upside down picture onto a canvas that the artist would trace the lines and shadows to portray a near life image.

I have dabbled in a lot art based things during school and even outside of school. Up until I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in my mid 20’s I was very partial to having a pencil and sketch pad close to me.  This is a part of my life that I can’t escape from and nor would I want to.

So how could someone like me be comparing my own images to this great legend? I simply can’t begin to compare my work to the depth Henson places into his but I can become inspired by it and this I do. His lines and minimalist approach is amazing while his clashing emotions leave you coming back for more.  All your mind is doing when you look at his work is looking for the next part of the puzzle. Looking for what your mind thinks it has missed.

Bill Henson Untitled #8 2008/09

Bill Henson Untitled #8 2008/09

So the question is now what did you miss? The answer is most likely nothing at all. But can you be sure? Why not have another look just to be certain?

How many times did you go back to that image?  Three, maybe four? This is what I love about Henson. His way of implying that there is more there if you look again a little deeper.

Inspiration from unlikely places.

Today I was looking on NineMSN and to my surprise there was an article about none other than Beyonce and her new single ‘Partition’ where she proves yet again that she has what it takes to turn heads. Now you may be asking me how this relates to inspiration because a humble woman of my kind would not likely get a chance to shoot for such a wonderful woman as Beyonce. Well your answer would come in probably an unlikely place. I would like to explain that I am not a “Current” music girl, in fact I would much rather listen to the Eagles and Bonjovi but this article interested me so I amused myself and took a peek.

While watching this particular video on youtube (explicit Video) my mind wandered to Bill henson’s work and how the dramatic shadows are almost similar. I know Beyonce did not use Bill Henson’s images for her saucy new routine however I could not help but notice the similarity in lighting positions. The way the light dances along the body, the lack of distracting aspects near the body and keeping it under lit to arouse the mind. (in Beyonce’s case probably more than just the mind) The exploration of light and minimalist positioning entices the mind to find more than the light wants you to see. How a leg can seem like something else or the way a shadow ripples against a curtain can want you to step through into a world that begs you to come in.

In coming weeks I am going to start exploring this low key lighting and style. The drama Bill Henson shows through his images is eery and dark while not violent. Kind of like a storm inside of the viewer. While I love the low key images I think I will probably focus a little more on the lines and less of the darker feelings. I may even employ my inner Beyonce a little to bring forward some saucy images if I can find a willing model with a body suit to give an illusion of the naked body.