It’s There in Black and White (or Sepia)

What to do when you find yourself either (1) out with your camera in the harsh midday sun, or (2) in other circumstances in which the light will yield unrewarding color images?  Recently I purchased another Canon G11 and had it converted to a dedicated infrared camera, and having, on two consecutive days, ended up in each of these situations, opted to use it.

Sepia Sunflower     On one hot, bright day around noon I arrived at Buttonwood Farm in Eastern Connecticut. The folks at Buttonwood plant acres and acres of sunflowers, and for one week each July they sell bouquets of the beautiful flowers, T-shirts, and offer hayrides through the sunflower fields, with all proceeds going to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.  I intended to return later that evening or early the next morning to do some quality color shooting with my Nikon D90, but meanwhile, here I was, determined to make the most of the bright sunny conditions.Gimmicky Sunflower

You can’t go wrong with sunflowers. They’re photogenic, they have personality, and they’re generally cooperative. Here are two versions of one infrared picture I took.  In both instances I converted the image to normal black and white. Then I converted the one to sepia–I often like doing this either because I’m shooting a “natural” object (such as a  flower) or in order to render an “antique” effect–and in the other I used some Photoshop tricks to turn the sky blue.  I’d like to know which you prefer.  Personally, I find this blue-sky thing, trendy though it may be, somewhat gimmicky.  I don’t think it looks all that great and am not sure what purpose it serves except to show the world that you know your way around Photoshop.

Farm buildingIn addition to straightforward sunflower images, Buttonwood also affords oportunities to shoot the fields and the various buildings. When you decide to shoot in B&W you often want to think more strongly in terms of lines and shapes, and the shadows, instead of detracting from your picture as they often do in color shots, can be incorporated as an important element in B&W shots.


The following day (after having returned to Buttonwood to get color images in more favorable light) I ended up with a friend at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in northern Massachusetts. This was my first time in that part of Massachusetts, and having grown up on Long Island in New York I could relate immediately to the marshy scenery in front of us. The problem here was, thunderstorms were brewing and so once again the light wasn’t great for color shots.  Once again, out came the infrared camera. Among the shots were the two you see here, before the quickly approaching storm sent us hurrying back to the car.Path The monochrome emphasizes the shapes of the tree and the lookout tower in the above picture, and the sepia adds a rustic look to the path image. This path leads through the Marsh Trail and I love photographing this sort of path; I have several such images from my many trips to Rhode Island. 

Is there anything I might have done differently? On this second day I think I’d have used the Nikon D90 anyway. I could have shot in color and converted the images to straightforward B&W instead of the infrared. Most importantly, I could have got an amazing photo of the Rufous-Sided Towhee that, at the pinnacle of the Marsh Trail, perched literally four feet away from us and, without a worry in the world, serenaded us for several unforgettable moments with its beautiful song.

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