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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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.