I hate winter, ..... hate it.
For me as an artist, it is the most depressing, discouraging time. I don't like the cold and find it hard to see the beauty in everything being ...dead.
I've felt this way for years and have spent plenty of winters with my camera not getting much use. I've learned from talking to other photographers that my feelings are not that uncommon and I even had one person tell me there's a name for the pain, it's called Seasonal Affective Disorder. Now I don't know if that's what my situation is, but I've been successfully fighting back against it for a few years and I thought I'd share my Winter Therapy with you.
After thinking about it, I realize that my problem is that I am not able to be creative which is a major part of being artistic.
So I need to be creative, and I found an easy solution.
I go out into that cold, cruel world and pick up some fresh flowers, and then get out my Lensbaby Velvet lenses.
Why the Lensbaby lenses?
If you've read some of my other blogs, you know I am a big Lensbaby fan. I love their lenses for artistic images both in color and Infrared. They have this sharp/soft thing about them that makes it so easy to create interesting-looking images. I have shot with many of their lenses and never had an issue with IR hotspots or any issues at all. As I have completely transitioned from DSLR to mirrorless, I keep a converter ring just for using my EF Lensbaby lenses with my mirrorless R5.
For my Winter Therapy, A Velvet lens is crucial. For this, you could get by with just one, but since I have the 85mm and the 56mm I bounce back and forth between them depending on the needs of the shot.
Normally if I am shooting still lifes indoors I have a small setup with solid color backgrounds, but one, I feel lazy and two, for what I have in mind I don't want or need a solid background.
So where am I going to shoot? That depends on the light. I want to make use of the available natural light for the Infrared, so I find a good spot and then pull back the window coverings and let the light fill the area. For part of this shoot, I was in my living room, part in my kitchen.
What I am looking to do is shoot with a very narrow depth of field, making use of the softness that The Velvet lenses produce.
I am shooting with a Full-spectrum converted Canon R5, and I'll use a band-pass filter for some color, a Standard IR filter for 720nm IR and a Super Color filter for 590nm IR. I'm going to use a tripod because I want to use exposures longer than 1/60th of a second, and I want to get some interesting angles.
In some cases, I'll shoot the flowers in the vase with other flowers and in other cases, I'll isolate one stem and elevate it to get different perspectives.
I'll start by setting up a single Rose, get the angle I want, and manually focus the image with the lens at f8. I know I'm going to shoot at a narrower depth of field than that, but by focusing at f8 and then adjusting the f-stop I can get a precise focus. With a mirrorless camera when I lower the f-stop number while viewing the image, I can see the area in focus (DOF) slice narrower until I get the exact look I'm wanting. I'm also shooting everything bracketed to get the best possible image
Here's my first attempt. This is f5.6, ISO 50, 1.3 seconds
This is exactly why I like the Velvet lenses. The image required almost no post work and has a soft glow to it. The nice part is you can't see the couch behind it or my chocolate lab who is staring at me while I'm taking it.
Now let's try some IR.
I switched to a Standard IR filter and then backed off a little bit. To make it look different, I used a spray bottle to give the rose the look after the rain feel.
And this was the result. This was f5.6, ISO 800, 0.8 seconds
We're off to a good start, but let's try different lighting, so it's off to the other studio set, the kitchen counter.
I turned all the lights in the room off and relied only on the sunlight from the window so that the light is much more subdued.
This is f5.6, ISO 400, 1/5 second.
Due to the unusual lighting, after a red/blue channel swap, I got red, but no yellow, and only a touch of cyan that looks a bit like green.
Okay, now on to the wildflowers. I do love roses, but the bunch of mixed flowers I pick up has such a variety of looks.
I'm going to want more light though, so I had to pack up and make the long haul back to the living room and the coffee table.
For the sake of variety, a few color images will work.
This is f4.0, ISO 50, 1.6 seconds
Now for some Super Color IR. For this, I elevated the flowers and got my camera angle low so that the wall and ceiling become my backdrop. With all the sunlight flooding in, I thought there was a chance that the white wall and ceiling would take on the color of the sky, and I got lucky and it did.
This is f6.3, ISO 800, 1/8 second
I immediately noticed the two flowers on the bottom right side of the image and decided to isolate them next. Still in Super Color, I lowered the flowers, slightly elevated the camera, and moved in closer.
The end product had the feel of a mother and child.
This is f5.6, ISO 800, 1/6 second
"I go out into that cold, cruel world and pick up some fresh flowers, and then get out my Lensbaby Velvet lenses."
The next flower I found was a single-stemmed large bud and I thought both high key and low key might work.
For the high key, I went with a Standard IR filter. I upped my exposure time and flooded the image with light. In post, I made the image a monochrome, and then worked the lights, neutrals and Blacks in Selective Color, in PS.
This is f6.3, ISO400, 1.3 seconds
Oh, and by the way, that dark area just below the bud that helps set the image off from the background is my Chocolate Lab watching me shoot. She ended up being exactly what I need there.
For the Low Key version, I went with Super Color IR, and just adjusted the settings to get less light in and give the bud a softer look by lowering the f-stop.
This is f4.0, ISO 50, 1/3 second
I didn't move the flower, just adjusted the camera and lens settings and got two different looks.
There's more, but I think you get the idea. With two small flowers bouquets and my Velvet lenses, I got my creative juices flowing, created some new images, and uplifted my mood.
And the best part is tomorrow I'll have new subjects as the flowers change.
And here's something to consider, don't throw those flowers out when they turn until you try a few shots.
A withered Rose can be very beautiful in the right light.
This is a natural color image f8.0, ISO 100, 1/13 second
And here it is in Infrared, both high key and low key.
For a couple of bucks, I got to shoot, create some new images, and forget for a little while that it's supposed to start raining soon and then turn to 4-6 inches of snow.
So, what do you think?
Leave me a comment below.
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Dan Wampler is an internationally published digital artist who has been teaching photography since 1982. His passion for the art form has been his motivator to constantly improve, change, and adapt his style. He sees digital art as more of a journey than a destination. His current passion is with Infrared photography, and he splits his time between being the Creative Director of Life Pixel Infrared and leading African Photo Safaris. In his career, he has taught hundreds of photographers and his approach to training allows the photographer/student to improve their art while maintaining their own creative style. Dan has been a Lensbaby user since the early days of its existence and has a particular fondness for the Velvet lenses.Work Website