160517 AIR Play - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

This is a learning process. In just a couple of days with the IR'ed Coolpix A I've already learned enough about living with it that I've completely changed my post-processing routine. Even some of these photos – like the one above, a natural colour image with the 590nm+ conversion – have  already been redone with better versions, but for the sake of expediency I'm moving on and leaving the copies I uploaded alone.

Converting IR images has been more… interesting than I had anticipated. This was my first effort at a colour swapped image, which means exporting it from Lightroom as a tiff, briefly editing it Pixelmator, and then back as a tiff into Lightroom again. From there I'll play with the colour curves and saturation brushes to see if I can reach an end point I like. Admittedly, that doesn't always happen.

But it turns out that there are some interesting differences between raw and tiff files. More on that in a bit.

Here I've eased off a bit, going for a moodier image to suit the stormy afternoon. This is my walk home, when I want it to be.

The blessing and curse of infrared is that there's no real way to know how surfaces will translate in the different spectrum. This scene has one car that has a vinyl wrap instead of paint, and it shows up completely differently. The good news is that the photo still works in black and white.

There are two ways to do black and white with infrared – for me, at least, I'm sure others have more. This one is done the "hard" way, with a BW093 IR-pass filter that excludes all visible light, leaving monochrome as the only real option. This filter gives whiter foliage and darker skies than doing a monochrome conversion from a colour+ image, at the expense of more limited options.

Either way – using the extra IR-only filtration or the stock modification that sees reds and orange in addition to infrared – I'm spending more time with local exposure tools than I ever have before. Perhaps it's because I'm specifically looking for high contrast scenes, or because I'm playing more, or maybe it's the metering and exposure being a little different when I'm into the unanticipated part of the electromagnetic band. Time will tell, I suppose.

I've also set my Coolpix AIR to bracket three shots across two stops of exposure. The sensor has enough range that I can usually just pick the one with better timing and composition, but not always.

These three are just different treatments of the same file. The two-colour image is the native colour response, the blue sky photo is swapped and selectively desaturated, while the monochrome is just tweaked through the usual Lightroom methods. But there's a bit of a twist: I didn't do the raw conversion in Lightroom.

My latest IR workflow innovation is to use DxO Optics for the raw conversion, handling lens correction and dynamic range compression, exporting a tiff file that I then move to Lightroom. This is actually similar to what I do with my Merrills, but with much better software, so it's not that much of a hardship.

Editing tiffs in Lightroom is very different from raw files. Adjusting the colours via the H/S/L tab in raw files seems to reach all the way back to the original sensel data to recalculate its channels. That's great when the camera is recording colours sensibly, but breaks down with the AIR's modifications. Adjusting something that looks blue ends up adjusting the reds; adjusting the reds also ends up adjusting the reds. Working with a tiff file, with its colours locked in, solves that problem. And with that taken care of it's easy to fake the hard-IR look without losing the false colour potential of the colour+ images.

And, for what it's worth, this is my walk to work every day. Yes, life is hard.

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