Friday 26 June 2020

Lock Down Flowers

It's been a very frustrating 2020 for many Wirral photographers. The New Year brought a constant string of Atlantic storms which hit the coastline hard where I live testing only the bravest of photographers resolve. As soon as Spring arrived, the storms receded and we were hit with a virus from the Far East in the form of Covid-19. 

Of course the virus has caused the closure of every public garden, sporting and social event and has restricted our movements to essential travel only which has been equally frustrating. Wales has closed it's border preventing any landscape photography in the Snowdonia National Park which is only a 2 hours drive away.

As I'm in a vulnerable category for Covid-19 infection due to my age, I've taken the UK Government's lock down advise seriously and diligently to protect the NHS and only ventured out briefly to walk our dog and to shop. For that reason I've had to be content with photographing flowers in my garden as they've emerged in the warm Spring weather.


My garden has been given a major makeover which starting last Autumn with the division of established perennials. The work has continued this year with the felling of an ailing tree at the bottom of the garden to let in more light to give existing plants a chance to grow. With more ground water and food available this area has been extensively re-planted with shrubs and woodland plants giving me more subjects to photograph during the year. With nowhere to go the work has taken up most of my free lock down time.


I spent the Winter months creating my own textures to use in the post processing of the flowers and I use them whenever one fits the subject as in the Iris above but there are times when I have to resort to using the excellent textures of Kathleen Clemons to get the painterly effect that I love and which is a feature of her beautiful photography. Putting the right texture and flower subject together is the most difficult part of creating textured flowers. 

Arum Lily

As Spring changes into Summer I'm finding new subjects to photograph in the garden almost every day but I'm impatient for the re-opening of my local gardens at Ness Botanic Gardens on the Wirral Peninsula and Bodnant Gardens in Conwy, Wales in July. The seasons are brief and flowers need to be photographed in their peak condition. Miss a week and flowers can quickly go over resulting in a missed opportunity for another 12 months. My aim during the second half of 2020 when released from Covid lock down will be to capture enough quality flower images to keep me busy post processing during the long dark Winter months.

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Journey Through My Garden In Infrared

I've been a digital infrared photographer for 15 years and for most of those years the cameras that I've had converted have had the ability to record infrared video but the record button has never been touched. It's not that I'm adverse to shooting video, it's just that I concentrated all of my time to learning how to get the best results from infrared stills.

Before taking up photography 15 years ago my family had to get used to having a Canon camcorder following them around on family days out, holidays and during Christmas. We look back on those short presentations of my two girls growing up from 5 yrs old to teenagers and wonder where the time has gone. Shot on Hi8 tape on "Auto" with wind noise from the built in "Mic" and the background click, click of the auto focus, those short cheesy presentation always bring a smile to our faces no matter how many times they've been viewed.

Photography records a split second moment in time and the results when done well can be very powerful, whereas video records a persons personality and character, the way they walked, spoke and laughed, their interactions with others as well as the clothes they wore and their surroundings.

For Christmas 2019 I bought myself a DJI Ronin SC gimbal to steady my Sony A6400 colour camera with the intention of shooting family videos again of my grandchildren growing up, but this time in 1080p HD and 4k video. For audio I bought a Rode external mic and a dead cat remembering how the wind noise and auto focus noise of old would ruin the finished masterpiece. The full days footage of our extended family's Christmas Day was reduced down to a 10 minute cheesy presentation in HD and is preserved for posterity for my grandchildren to look back on when they're adults.

For a few years I've been thinking of trying some short videos shot in infrared spurred on by watching some excellent footage on Vimeo. The purchase of the gimbal coupled with the right weather conditions this Spring gave me the opportunity to experiment with the 1080p HD video quality of my Sony A6000 720nm wavelength converted camera. Wanting to shoot video in pure monochrome I added a B+W 0.93 filter to the lens allowing me to record in the 830nm wavelength of pure monochrome infrared. 

The finished test video "Journey Through My Garden In Infrared" was shot during the Coronavirus lock down and is available to view on Vimeo. The video is just over 2 minutes long. I'm certainly not a talented videographer and it's difficult to make a trip through my garden look interesting but I'm very pleased with this test of image quality and sharpness of 830nm video. 

The captured footage was processed using Corel Videostudio Ultimate 2020 and the naff music came bundled with the software. The footage in the finished video was recorded at 50fps allowing me to slow down the speed to 25fps and the contrast has been enhanced. Apart from those simple adjustments it was a case of cutting and pasting footage together with transitions linking them together. I'm encouraged enough by the results to find a more interesting and challenging project, perhaps street video, once the Coronavirus crisis is over and Great Britain starts to get back to normal.