Death Valley Noir #1: Telescope Peak

This is from a series of infrared images of Death Valley that I began working on a few years ago. I am a “color junkie”, but infrared B&W can be a lot of fun.

This image was done at sunrise with a very humble Olympus EPM-1 converted to IR by Lifepixel, and a Zuiko Digital 14-35mm lens, processed in Capture One. A few more comments from my limited experience with IR photography.

  • I tried it decades ago with film and was thoroughly frustrated, partly by the complications with loading and processing film, but also by the extreme difficulty of achieving good focus and of being able to build a mental picture of what the results may end up being.

  • Digital mirrorless solved all of these problems. Both autofocus and manual focus work just as in the visible spectrum, although this is the only case in which I prefer autofocus. When I sold all of my autofocus gear to fund my collection of vintage glass I kept only a micro four thirds Zuiko to use with this camera (not this lens, though, I sacrificed this lens and a few other Olympus jewels to the Leica and Zeiss gods).

  • LifePixel offers several different IR filter options. It was difficult to decide, and I finally settled for one called “Super Blue”, which passes IR and the blue part of the spectrum. If you use this conversion getting the right white balance is absolutely critical, and there is no rule of thumb. You have to work on each image from scratch.

  • Getting to the final image, at least for me, implies many back and forth cycles between white balance, tonal adjustments, detailed color adjustments and color to B&W conversion adjustments. The wonderful color management facility in Capture One helps, but at the same time slows you down because it offers so many options.

  • I generally create a layer for the sky and its opposite (I call it “anti-sky”) for everything else. Then, if needed, additional layers within “anti-sky”. I apply very strong noise reduction and turn down sharpness, clarity, etc in the sky (except if I want to show clouds, in which case some nuances are required), and make all detail adjustments only in the anti-sky layers.

  • If it sounds like IR takes a lot of time - it does. That is why I don’t do it very often…

Please do not critique this image. Galleries are for sharing and discussion only.
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