I haven’t had much time to experiment with the infrared converted Pentax K10D, but did manage to take a few snapshots while in central Indiana earlier this week. Here’s a semi driving by a row of trees, as seen from the far end of a soybean field:
Category: "Pictures Of Trees"
A great new tool arrived in the mail yesterday – an infrared converted Pentax K10D! This is a digital SLR which has had the infrared blocking filter removed from the sensor and a 720 nm IR filter (blocking most visible light) installed in its place.
I did a lot of work with my standard K10D (and still have it as a backup for the K7). It’s a competent camera with excellent anti-shake and great ergonomics. It is not as full featured as the K7, but it is fast and the missing features are not essential.
So… home in the early evening I fired up the new camera with a standard zoom and stepped outside to take a snap shot of the tulip poplar in my side yard. I set the white balance manually off the green grass. I didn’t expect much in terms of the photo since it was cloudy, rainy, and overcast. But it was late in the day and IR light is a bit more pronounced at twilight. So here’s the first snapshot – I swapped the red and blue channels in Photoshop to enhance the colors:
Today remained cloudy, though a little bit of sun poked through the clouds now and then. With temps only reaching in to the low 60’s, fall certainly is in the air. I ran off to the McLinden trails to see if I could snag a dragonfly or two with the IR camera. With the clouds, gusty winds, and cool temps the dragons tended to keep low to the ground, but there were plenty of autumn meadowhawks out and about. Here’s one IR shot I managed – the bright red dragon takes on a slightly different hue here:
I’m really impressed by how sensitive this camera is to light, which means how great the shutter speeds can be. Just an initial observation – but my impression is that the altered camera is two to three stops more sensitive than a standard camera. I will do some comparisons when we have a sunny day and stable lighting.
Shooting the dragonfly reminds me of a shot that has been languishing on my hard drive for some years now. Here is a Twelve Spotted Skimmer, shot with my old *ist-D and a Hoya RM90 filter for IR work. At ISO 1600 it was a three second shot. Getting the shot was a challenge – I had to set up a tripod close to it, manually focus without the IR filter, put the filter on and shoot. Well, it came out, more of a curiosity than anything else. But it will no longer languish as the sole infrared dragonfly image in the vault.
Jah is I light and salvation,
whom shall I fear?
Jah de protector of I life,
of whom shall I be afraid?
Dreadlocks At Moonlight, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry
The equinox has come and gone. Michigan’s mild winter slips easily into spring. The snow melts, the plants green, the flowers bloom.
I head out to the high banks area in the Allegan forest. There, some of the banks that face due south are the first to thaw and produce hepatica and other spring wildflowers. And sure enough, the first hepatica has broken out of the ground cover and few have started to bloom. It’s early, even for them. Snow still clings to the northern slopes and clear evening still drop well below freezing, but they will be out soon.
I also visit the fields along 48th Ave, which used to be my main destination. The logging activities have taken their toll, and places I used to visit are completely gone. Obliterated.
The seasonal pond is still there – still flush with water and hosting various water fowl – but all around it the logging activities continue. The trees that have been felled have been dragged through the fields to a staging and processing area on the north end. There, huge rows of logs are hauled away, a dozen at a time, by a steady flow of semi trucks. Dragging the trees across the field has completely stripped away the top soil. The tall grass, scrubby oak, prickly pear cactus, wild strawberries and grapes are gone forever. So too are the small creatures that lived in the grass land – the blue racers, toads, chipmunks and tree frogs. It will take years for the area to recover, once the logging stops, and I doubt I will ever again see it the way it was.
A few shots of how it is now:
A a shot I took some time ago, and on impulse named “Tribute.” Maybe its my tribute to the place this is now gone:
But the pond has not silted up, and the dragonflies will emerge from it this spring. If not from there, then elsewhere. And they will fly over the barren field, uncaring, indifferent, and ancient.
Belatedly - the Signature Artist Cooperative has a group exhibit at the Portage Public Library, in neighboring Portage, Michigan. The theme of the show is “Renewal.”
I’m not doing much of anything with exhibits at this point in time - I let the deadlines on all of the early year entries slide away. But, I managed to conjure up this piece for the Portage show. You might have seen in before - from last summer.
When I hold a camera in my hands I feel like I am in possession of key that can open up the wonders of the world. I feel all the more like that when there is something special, different, unusual and ephemeral about that key.
This summer I broke out a few of my last rolls of Kodak High Speed Infrared film. 35mm black and white film loaded into a glorious old Pentax LX – if ever there was a key capable of tumbling the barrels of the most obscure lock, this is it…
Oh well – not much to show for it. A stunted, shot up tree out standing in a scrubby field that I visit all too often.
To me the key might be an old camera loaded with expiring and extinct film. For others it might be the latest wonder digital camera and the uber-fabulous long lens. But in photography, keys are ever more available. And once you have that dream-bag full of keys, the real work begins: finding the locks…
Saturday, November 28.
Winter gave a slight feint earlier this week. It grew cold on thanksgiving and that night a bit of snow fell – enough to linger for a few hours the next morning on rooftops, cars, and piles of leaves. But it was gone soon and here we are, the next day over, and it’s back to 50 degrees.
I was impressed to see dragonflies lingering-on last weekend – will they still be around now? Do the Autumn Meadowhawks stay until it is too cold to hang on any longer, or are their days numbered by some other measure? It seems that if all the other dragonfly species come and go based on the unknown logic that whirls behind the natural world, then someday the autumn meadowhawks will also just disappear for the season, even if it never gets cold at all.
They probably will – though it will get soon cold so who can tell which from what. But after last week’s successful hunt I ventured back out to the Allegan Game Area today, specifically to the Swan Creek Levee, to see if any Meadowhawks remain. It’s almost the end of firearm deer season (it only lasts two weeks) and the woods were already less crowded, though the road back to the levee was dotted with parked vehicles and occasional parties of hunters.
At 1 PM the thermometer in my car registered 49 F. (An hour later it rose to 52, and then dropped for the rest of the day.) The November sun hung low in the sky as we pulled into the parking area. I figure that the levee area is pretty safe during hunting season – the game preserve is to the north, Swan Creek is to the west, and the area due east of the levee is often flooded (it more or less is now.) There were no dragonflies in the parking lot and none in the field next to it. I made my way down to the levee, with the low hanging southern sun glaring in my eyes. A short way past the dam a dragonfly rose up before me. A few minutes later, two more rose up and then flew out over the water…
And that was it. Three individual dragonflies, but still - three.
I wandered to the end of the levee, and walked back with the sun to my back. One skittish Meadowhawk flit form rock to rock, sometimes landing on the gravel trail. The image above is the one shot I managed to get of it before it too flew out over Swan Creek. I’m guessing, that’s it for this year.
A couple of hunters wandered down to the levee while I was shooting, rifles in hand. Lookin at their orange jumpers and jackets, I felt a bit underdressed in my greeen shirt and blue jeans, with only a faded hunter-orange stocking hat on my head. Time to head home.
On the way back I drove by the field I affectionately call the Old Farmstead to see if the logging had begun. As I mentioned in an earlier post, several of the pines had day-glo ribbons tied to them, and logging activity had begun in the field directly to the south.
Sadly, the logging has started in earnest. The small parking area that I would slip into is chewed up into a rutty, muddy mess. I’m not sure why they bothered to mow the field because it looks like the trees are being cut down and then dragged across the fields. The very sandy soil has given up the plants that clung to it, and now a good portion of the field is just a torn up sandy mess. I’ve seen similar tracts in the other fields around Allegan – swaths were there are just ruts, open sandy soil, and few plants growing. I never knew where they came from – but now I do.
Oh well – they seem to only be taking pines at this time. Hopefully the large oaks will be spared. I can’t criticize the cutting of trees in a place where they were grown to be cut, but it’s sad to see a place that I enjoyed visiting being treated so roughly. I should have spent more time at other places, so to have something to fall back on.
Next summer’s reports will be from new locales…
Stylurus over at the Urban Dragon Hunter’s blog logged a new late-date for Michigan Odonates this year - December 1st. You can read his post here - be sure to read the comments since that is where he updates on his sightings.
Last week I found myself in the flatlands of Indiana. The corn was just getting started. This place was pretty flat - the earth seemed to stretch out forever in all directions. At day’s end the setting sun lingered on the horizon. With no hills or buildings to obscure it; sunset lasted forever, bathing the land in the sweet light that comes at the end of a long summer’s day.
Here’s a snapshot of some trees in a place where the grass was left to grow long.
That little Nikon camera really came through with this shot. I pulled a 12 x 18 inch print of this image on the Epson 3800. The quality is great - good enough to exhibit - and I supect that the image will hold up for a 16 x 22 inch print. I can’t ask for much more form any digital camera at this point, but from a compact point and shoot? That’s great.
There are few places more compelling than a green woods on a sunny day. The sunlight dances through the leaves. It is filtered and rarified, and splashes on the ground most wondrously. Some splashes of light are big enough to stand in, others are so small a fly can barely warm itself in the healing rays. But in the woods at Noon all the myriad rays of the sun come together like a symphony, playing visual music on the forest floor.
Noon is a good time of day. Shadows are short, light is long – though the day is half passed it feels early and it seems as if anything can be accomplished before the light fades.
But then, noon is the bane of photographers. The light is too harsh. No good work can be done at noon – go home, work in the darkroom, watch HBO, call your agent – do anything but try to photograph at noon.
Serious photographers creep through the twilight hours when the light is weak – we call it “sweet” - it has character and complexity. Like rodents at silflay we roll in dewy grass – not really wet, but certainly not dry. Somewhere in between in all regards, we find magic in ambivalence and vagary…
Well, I like Noon. Demanding, uncompromising, brutal Noon. Contrast is outrageous – the distinction between dark and light is never clearer than at Noon. Come Noon, the world is a clean and well lit place.
And so, a couple of years ago - which would be 2007 - I devoted a lot of time and effort to shooting in the Allegan Forest is the hard light of midday. I wanted to explore the relationship between light and dark, I wanted see the forest as it stood at Noon.
Since my interest was only in the play of light and shadow, I decided to do this work with black and white film . I didn’t want color to, um… color my perspective. Having several hundred rolls of B&W film moldering in my freezer made that decision easy. And so, full of hope, I wandered in the no-man’s land that has swallowed many a photographer – the world at Noon.
I shot and scanned over 1,000 frames that summer, all in the name of this project. I spent hours down in the basement by the concrete laundry sink, developing rolls of 35mm film. I learned a bit about different films and developers – Efke, Plus-X, Delta 100, Rodinal, HC110, D76, D19, Microdol-X. It took months, well into the dark days of November, before all the rolls were scanned and could be evaluated…
By then, I had lost interest. It really was an idiotic idea and I should have spent my time doing something useful - like shooting dragonflies or bees. Disinterested, I was drawn to distractions and the work from that summer was left behind.
Here in the digital lab I have almost 2.5 terabytes of images sitting in an array of hard drives - photos from the last 5 years or so. I guess that eighty percent of them have never really been looked at. The “Light and Shadow” project, as I call it, is probably the biggest chunk of unfinished work in the tub, and so I think I’ll start to look it over.
Wow – what a long winded intro to this humble photo –
Just a gate, a trail, and a bit of sun splashing on foliage. Sun on leaves to the left curls around, sun to the right glimmers on the path that circumvents a feeble barrier. Three trees plop dead center in the frame with sun lit foliage beaming in the background.
Yah – I couldn’t take a decent photo to save my life.
This was shot on Efke R100, #25 red filter, developed in Rodinal 1:50. The base of that film clears to be as clean as a window pane, and with the Rodinal it produces a tonality that, close up, looks like charcoal sketched on paper.
I never really know when I’ve learned something. I plan to work with these photos to see what lessons might be there. At the end of the day, I don’t think I accomplished anything tangible with this project. None of the photos will be marketable, none will be in calendars or books, none will even spark interest here.
But when I shot those photos I was where I was meant to be. I felt it at the time. I relish it in memory. Who could ask for more from a handful of days?