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Featured Gadgets Photography

Digital Camera Infrared Conversion- Part 2

I recently wrote about my newly converted Nikon D200 body. I have since been on a trip to Acapulco, Mexico, and have shot over 1,500 images with the new body. Here are my impressions so far.

First, this conversion by Isaac Szabo uses an excellent filter (the infrared filter replaces the high-pass filter over the sensor inside the camera). The infrared images are wonderful, far better than any I got with my previously converted SLR. There is more color in evident in some of the images. With Isaac’s provided Photoshop action, the red and blue channels are swapped making very interesting images that retain the infrared look, but with more conventional looking skies in many cases. The action also has provided an excellent black and white conversion as well, you just have to activate the layer.

Skin tones are rendered very nicely. I shot a lot of candid portraits that look great. I shot most of my images at ISO 200 and got hand-holdable exposures, where I almost always had to shoot at ISO 500 to ISO 800 on my old conversion. The D200 has great characteristics to start with, and its current price point on the used market makes it a perfect infrared conversion choice… 10 megapixels makes a great 13×19 or larger print!

I recommend Isaac’s conversion… look at my images, and the images on his website. Then, decide which camera you want to convert, and start making infrared images!

[slidepress gallery=’infrared-sm’]




Want to see these images bigger?  Click here. Its worth the bandwidth…

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Multimedia Tutorials

Photographs by Britt Stokes

These Files sizes are large. Please be patient.

Taken in 2010 with The Infrared Conversion Digital Camera


[slidepress gallery=’mexican-infrared’]

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Featured Gadgets Photography

Digital Camera Infrared Conversion

Since the 1930’s, photographers have enjoyed the use of infrared films for both scientific and pictorial use. The infrared spectrum is beyond the ability of the human eye to see, and objects viewed in light from the infrared spectrum often look quite different from visible light. Most living foliage will appear light or white in a final print shot with infrared film, and human skin can be almost translucent, with veins showing through the skin like magic. But with the advent of digital capture, most infrared emulsions have been discontinued. I know of only one infrared emulsion easily available now.

An initially unintended consequence of the digital photography revolution was that many digital sensors were very sensitive to infrared, to the point manufacturers put a filter over the sensor to block infrared light. With that filter removed and an infrared-passing filter put in its place, a new world was opened to digital photographers.

One of the main problems with doing infrared film photography was that there was no way to meter the level of infrared in a given scene. Exposure was a series of trials and errors (mostly errors for me). Many photographers bracketed exposures heavily, over and under exposing frames around what they thought was the proper exposure. There were a lot of other problems with infrared film that just made it difficult to work with. Handling was only in total darkness, the film was very heat sensitive, and it was very easy to fog the film.

I first became aware of digital infrared around the year 2000, at a workshop on Photoshop. The lecturer displayed a few images in their presentation that had been shot with a Minolta DiMage 7 camera. I was intrigued. I immediately bought a DiMage 7 and a deep infrared filter, and started on the road to digital infrared. One thing that immediately struck me was that I could see the infrared image – no more guessing if I got the exposure right. No more shooting six stop brackets to insure a good exposure. No more wondering how the scene will look – if the model’s clothing will render the way the eye sees it or not. Wow!

Fast forward 10 years. I’ve been shooting a converted Nikon D100 for over 5 years now. I had a showing in 2008 of my infrared work at Angelina College. The infrared world has been very good… but now, I wanted more. More megapixels, and with the now greater selection of infrared filters available for camera conversions, greater variance on infrared vs. visible light captured, and more color.

Yep, color. The only way previous to digital to do color, or “false color” infrared, was to shoot one of Kodak’s emulsions like Kodak EIR Ektachrome Infrared. Green plants turn shades of red, and Caucasian skin tones turn shades of yellow. Images with this film were stunning… but you still had the problems of difficulty in handling and exposure. With the current crop of sensors and filters, some rendering of color is found in the images captured.

I recently had a second camera converted to infrared by Isaac Szabo, a Fayetteville, Arkansas photographer (http://www.isaacszabophotography.com/). Isaac shoots a wide variety of photographic subjects, and does all of them well. His infrared work is great. I found him while doing an eBay search for “infrared conversion” – I was pleasantly surprised to see his price for a conversion. So after thinking about it for a few moments, I clicked “buy it now” and shipped Isaac my Nikon D200 body.

Not only did the camera get converted, but Isaac set the focus for the lens I supplied with the body. Infrared light focuses at a slightly different distance from the lens than visible light, so this can make some real difference.

My D200 came back converted in about 10 days. I opened the package and immediately shot an image through the window of my office. I was pleasantly surprised to find that at ISO 100, I was able to get a hand-holdable shutter speed. Surprised because my converted D100 would have had to be on ISO 400 or ISO 800 to get the same image. I took the camera to lunch that day (it didn’t eat much…) and shot a palm tree in front of a restaurant… and was again pleasantly surprised. There were shades of color in the obviously infrared image. Back at the studio, I opened the image in Photoshop, and ran Isaac’s action (I forgot to mention that Isaac provides this action and instructions to customers who purchase a conversion) to switch the red and blue channels. The result was stunning… blue sky in an infrared image.

If this sounds like it is for you, check out eBay… do a search for “infrared conversion” and look for the infrared photo of the lone tree  – the auction will be titled “Infrared IR Conversion Service for Digital Cameras” and is currently priced at $200.  (or click on the image of the ebay listing)

And, look for a follow-up article in a few weeks – I plan on shooting my newly converted D200 heavily on an upcoming trip to Mexico.

Categories
Photography Photoshop Software

Photoshop Plugin: Akvis Sketch v9.0

Ever wanted to turn a photograph into a drawing without spending an hour in Adobe Photoshop using layers and high pass filtering to finally separate out a line drawing of that photograph? It’s possible with a plug-in from Akvis Software. The last time I looked they had some thirteen sofware applications for Macintosh and PC computers. Running either as stand-alone software applications or as plug-ins for image editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. Each of their software are available in 10 day free trial versions. The versions range from home editions without commercial usage to professional versions for commercial designers. Check out http://akvis.com/en/store-software.php to see what is available.

But for the moment, I had some need for Akvis SKETCH and here’s a bit of a look at the software and the techniques for using it.

Running Akvis Sketch 9.0 as a plug-in inside of Photoshop will place it as the first item (alphabetical listing, remember) in the FILTER menu items. What you will really get is an item named AKVIS and SKETCH will be an option within it because Akvis has a large number of applications as I’ve already mentioned that can be purchased to run as either stand-alone applications or as plug-ins within Photoshop and Elements in both Macintosh and PC versions.

The first window that appears when your are in the plug-in version from inside of Adobe Photoshop will contain whatever image you already have open within Photoshop itself. You will have a toolbar at the top and an image window with a preview square within it on the left lower side of the frame, and a series of menus and sliders will be available on the right side of the frame. We’ll take a look at each component separately for a quick orientation of the icons and menus.

Below is a shortened version of the toolbar as it appears in Photoshop. Not present in the plug-in version is a way to print directly from the image as can be found in the stand-alone version. Instead, the plug-in version will require you to return to Photoshop to save or to print. Not every tool is explained here; only the ones to get you started with the least amount of work are covered. See the "?" to access the complete application tutorial.

Here’s the pertinent icons and what they allow us to do.

  1. Exports presets. You can save any number of presets. They will end in .sketch in a folder by the same name.
  2. Imports a list of presets from the .sketch file.
  3. Tells SKETCH to process the rest of the image into the same look as was shown in the preview window (the square which can be adjusted to cover different sizes or parts of the image you are working on).
  4. Tells SKETCH to process the image, close the plug-in, and return you to the image in Photoshop. There will be a brief delay depending on the speed of your processor before the image appears in Photoshop. In fact, several times I had to click off the image and back on it for it to refresh on my MacBook Pro, 17", C2D, 2.5 Ghz. I don’t know whether that was an idiosyncrasy of my MacBook or not.
  5. Allows you to exit the SKETCH plug-in without completing any of the menu choices. Without it you are trapped in the plug-in. This access is in the AKVIS SKETCH PLUG-IN item at your main screen left. This button will also bring up the screen where you may UPGRADE, ACTIVATE, or CONTINUE with the plug-in. It will have a BUY option if you have not yet purchased the software and are running it in the 10 day trial mode.
  6. Will access the HELP file which was part of the software installation from the downloaded application file. I suggest you actually begin here because all of the tools, menus, and windows are explained in depth here.
  7. Will access the preferences file where you can change the image preview window size as well as other options.
  8. +brush allows you to draw in blue while working on the BACKGROUND tab. This will select an area where you DO NOT want an effect to occur.
  9. –brush allows you to draw in green the area where you DO WANT an effect to occur.
  10. Is an eraser that allows you to modify or change lines done with either of the two brushes while working on the BACKGROUND layer.

Accessing the SKETCH window allows adjustments in WATERCOLOR, CHARCOAL, and COLORATION. Moving any slider bar to the right increases the effect. The WATERCOLOR effects become noticable at around 17. CHARCOAL becomes too heavy after a setting of 3 unless you are attempting a very overdone, sketchy look. COLORATION is readily visible by a setting of 13 and will almost match the original image by 95.

We’ll look at BACKGROUND next and return to the rest of the adjustments under SKETCH and STROKES in a moment.

With BACKGROUND chosen you have three options, SKETCH, SKETCH & PHOTO, and SKETCH & BLUR. When using SKETCH & PHOTO the effect is similar to using layers in Photoshop where the sketch effect is placed on top of the photo image and the two are blended at roughly 50%. If this is the control you are seeking, the effect is better done in Photoshop itself by combing a sketch image with a duplicate of the original and adjusting the opacity blend with more subtle control.

However, chosing SKETCH & BLUR you are able to define the background that you desire to blur and choose between motion, gaussian, and radial blur.

Still another option is the addition of TEXT. Chosing the TEXT window gives access to all of the fonts available through Photoshop. The font size can be chosen, the line of type (typed into the area that says AKVIS Sketch) can be stretched and postioned via the eight green arrows shown in LOCATION below. The TEXT can be given a color, an outline and a glow.

CANVAS is also an option chosen by USE CANVAS. The texture properties, repetion pattern, reflection, alignment and scale are variable choices. The brightness, embossment, texture, distortion and the direction from which the light is directed onto the canvas can be set in this window.

Returning to the front window, that is, the SKETCH window, the size and angle of the strokes in the sketch are available. The default 45 degree sketch angle approximates the stroke of a right handed artist. The width of the stroke is determined by the size choice and the minimum and maximum lengths of the stroke are chosen to approximate the contour-following strokes of the artist. Choices made with this menu is somewhat unique to each subject chosen and should be the result of experimentation.

If COLOR PENCIL is chosen you must be using some degree of COLORATION in order to really see the effect of the colored pencil. Increasing MIDTONE DENSITY will show more detail and result in a filling of the midtones in your image. Increasing the MIDTONES HATCHING will visibly darken shadow areas and has a tendency to look contrived when the number is too high. Experiment with this setting as well.

The rhythmic flowing of the contour lines in an image are a function of EDGE TRACING. SENSITIVITY increases the number of lines in the image as you move the slider to the right. Generally, a number below 35 combined with a WATERCOLOR number of 25 produces a pleasing watercolor/pencil look. But again, experiment to find what settings produce the look you are searching for.

Here’s a sample image from musicians in an Irish pub. This is a screen grab and the artifacts are normally visible in some preview windows in SKETCH. The triangle surrounded by the red box tells SKETCH to render all of the preview window. The check mark surrounded by the yellow box tells SKETCH to complete the rendering and transfer you back to Photoshop and close the plug-in window.

bar with settings 2@600.jpg

The original picture is the upper of the following two images; below it is black and white with settings on Watercolor 30, Charcoal 3, and Coloration on 0. Stroke angle is 45 degrees and size is 8, Minimum length is 2 and Maximum length is 9, Midtones Intensity is 5 with Midtones Hatching at 95. Colorization is not on in this black and white example.

Bar@600.jpg

The original picture is shown in the upper positon in the two following images, and the second image has the same settings as the upper except Colorization is set at 95.

Below is a detail of the above image with the already defined settings; here it is shown larger for you to examine.

Subjects with low contrast will fail to make separation as shown in the example below where the white of the drawing paper and woman’s blouse fail to separate from the wall behind them.

An example of a subject that works well is the trees in the left image. Both a color version and this black and white verson were tried with little discernable difference. Here the contrast makes for good separation of the branches and sky and produces a good sketch look of the trees.

Here is a self-portrait done with the computer camera on my MacBook Pro laptop.

Here is the same image done with the same settings as used on the bar scene except that COLORATION was about 13. The laptop screen is reflected in my glasses.

The following image is of stones and dead leaves from the countryside in Ireland.

The following image is the Stones and dead leaves using the already mentioned settings with the addition of Coloration at a setting of 13.

A photographer in the Irish countryside as the original image.

The photographer with the already mentioned settings and Coloration set at 0.

What you are getting with SKETCH is an outline drawing such as may be produced by using several layers of the HIGH PASS filter, or variations of THRESHOLD in Adobe Photoshop. You are not producing a contour drawing as an artist might attempt with a pressure sensitive drawing tool (Wacom tablet, pen and ink, graphite, brush, or similar drawing instrument); however, for the artistically-challenged, SKETCH produces an acceptable alternative for many instances of illustrative work.

It’s a useful tool in my filter menu of Adobe Photoshop and can be found at http://akvis.com/en/store-software.php. Look it over along with its companion programs; you will find numerous useful applications there.

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Featured Photography Photoshop Software

Photoshop Plugin: Topaz Simplify

During the last month I took a trip back to Topaz Lab’s webpage and downloaded another of their interesting programs. (Topazlabs.com) If you remember, they make imaging enhancement software for both still and video photography. This time I thought I’d try their Simplify 2; it’s a $39.95 program that can be downloaded in minutes—there’s a fully functional 30 day trial version also. All you have to do is request the 30 day key and you can play with any of their software for 30 days. Replacing the trial key with the purchased key clears your trial for permanent usage.

What does Simplify 2 do? It is an application that allows you to turn a photography into a painting or a drawing on any one of a number of variations; Topaz’ advertising says it this way "Simple and elegant photo interpretations." Download the program and douple-click your unstuffed file—you’ll get a dmg file for Mac and an Exe file for PC, and the application will install itself into your Photoshop Filter folder under a "Topaz Labs" heading. See the ilustration below for a quick visual example.

Image 1 Topaz flow chart-600.jpg

When Simplify 2.0 opens you will see the following window. Along the left side are twelve presets. Clicking on any one of them will directly move you to a still adjustable image because each preset will open with SIMPLIFY, ADJUST, and EDGES as slider-bar adjustments.

Image 1a Simplify-600.jpg

Here are the twelve general presets that you have to choose from. They are (1) BuzSim, (2) Cartoon, (3) Image CrispEdge, (4) Painting colorful, (5) Painting Harshcolor, (6) Painting oil, (7) Painting watercolor, (8) Sketch Color, (9) Sketch hardpencil, (10) Sketch softpencil, (11) Underpainting, and (12) Wood Carving. Remember, each of these presets has slider bars under the categories of SIMPLIFY, ADJUST, and EDGES.

Image 2 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Image 3 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Looking under SIMPLIFY we can choose our Colorspace from RGB and YCbCr; now experiment by moving the sliders back and fourth to examine the subtle variations of the presets. Work your way through each of the menus under SIMPLIFY, ADJUST, and EDGES. At any time you feel like you would like to undo an adjustment, a RESET TAB, will allow the resetting of one adjustment, or RESET ALL will reset all of the adjustments in that particular third of the image adjustments.

Image 4 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Image 5 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Image 6 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Here’s an image of one of the windows in a New Mexico church.

Image 7 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Applying Sketch color to the image produces this result. All that is necessary to select the preset is to click on the appropriate selection to the left of the preview window. Click and observe as you move down the options available.

Image 8Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Here’s a larger view of the results of choosing Sketch color.

Image 9 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Here’s the results of choosing Wood carving.

A little more complex is making two identical original layers one above the other, and applying Sketch color to one layer and Wood carving to the second. Then these two layers are blended together by using the opacity slider in the upper layer and causing the Wood carving to blend into the Sketch color layer.

Here we have the original image on the left, and BuzSim on the right.

Here we have the original image on the top and the Watercolor effect on the bottom. I find BuzSim, Watercolor, Sketch color, and Wood Carving to be the most interesting effects to me personally. Your mileage will probably vary; play with all of the effects with a varied selection of of images. It will become obvious that certain effects/presets work best on certain general types of images. In general, I have had the best luck with scenics.

A simple sand dune in the original is simplified with the Wood Carving preset again.

A ray of sunlight outlines a set of leaves in an otherwise darkened arbor area followed by the same scene run through the Painting colorful preset

One last example is a photograph of the gondolas in Venice, Italy, followed by the Painting oil preset followed by adding (via a merged layer) the Wood Carving preset.

This is the third of the Topazlabs Applications that I have added to my toolkit and I’m actually looking at a couple more. I have found the approach that Topazlabs uses to be very innovative and a very good value for the money. Having put in a lot of time developing certain looks and effects in Photoshop I find that many of my multi-step processes can be duplicated by choosing a Topazlab application and making a few personalized adjustments. In the long run that saves time—a lot of time—and in this business time equals money. I’m very pleased with the value received for the reasonable cost of each application. Bundles of some of the most used applications can produce significant savings. Check out Topazlabs.com and take a look at the selection; I think you will be pleased.

Categories
Featured Photography Photoshop

Photoshop Plugin: Topaz Adjust

I don’t know how many hours I have put in writing actions to allow me to produce some of the currently popular photoshop effects; really more than I want to admit.  By the time I’ve worked my way through reading tutorials, performing the action(s), refining the effect(s), redoing the action(s) and getting client feedback, I have quite a bit of time committed to some projects.  Not that I don’t think some of the techniques aren’t pretty cool and I admire the developers of the concepts; some are dynamic visual improvements that will be around for quite a while and a few will be temporary trends or fads and soon be ignored.
But as a photographer I have often wished that Photoshop had a particular plug- in that would simplify some of the things I want to do.  Photoshop has a number of built-in filters and plug-ins but it also has the ability to add third-party plug-ins either under the filter menu or sometimes under the automate menu. You can spend as much money for Photoshop plug-ins as for Photoshop itself.