Archive for the ‘infrared’ category

December 4, 2008 Childhood’s End

December 4, 2008

When I was a child, playground equipment was simple:  swings, slide, teeter-totter, and merry-go-round.  Like most little boys, I played hard on this basic equipment, swinging higher and pushing the merry-go-round so fast that I nearly got sick.

Fast forward half-a-century.  I now travel with my cameras, seeking emotional connections with the landscapes, small towns, and natural details of America.  When I saw this playground in the forest, I was camping at Pike State Forest in Indiana and using a bit of electricity in the picnic shelter to power my computer.  Then the idea struck me that this old and well-used playground equipment behind the shelter would make a fine subject for infrared photography.  So I got out my old Pentax 6×7, loaded the black-and-white infrared film in a dark corner of the shelter, and set out with my hand-held light meter and B+W 092 filter to get some evocative images.

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Infrared film is tricky to expose, because the film sees a different part of the spectrum than our eyes.  With the filter on the camera, exposures are measured in seconds, rather than a fraction of a second, so a tripod is essential.  Infrared light focuses at a different point than visible light, so one hard-for-me-to-remember step in taking each photograph is to change the focus.  Basically, I compose the image in focus, then screw on the extremely dark red filter, then turn the focus on the lens to a little red mark that indicates the point for infrared focus.  Then I set the shutter to B, cock the camera, then trip it with a cable release, counting one, one-thousand, two, one-thousand, etc. until I want to end the exposure.  The three pictures shown here were exposed about 10 to 20 seconds each in morning light, and I made several longer and shorter exposures for each image so that I could be sure to get what I was hoping for.  Film infrared photography is a slow and deliberate procedure that harkens back to the era when everything about photography was slow and deliberate.  It takes patience and is among the few things in life I have patience for.

Once the negatives were processed and the contact sheets made, I scanned the best negative of each piece of playground equipment and printed it.

Black-and-white infrared pictures render foliage in ethereal shades of light gray and white, which gives the photographs a mystical quality.  And what could be better for looking back through the mists of time to our childhood experiences?

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To see a variety of my photographic work, including photos for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com

April 2, 2008 Caddo Lake State Park near Uncertain, Texas

April 18, 2008


This is part of my weblog documenting my travels and photography.  I am primarily a nature photographer, and you can see more of my work at http://www.leerentz.com.

On a recommendation from a fellow photographer, after the Bayou City Arts Festival in Houston I drove north to camp at Caddo Lake State Park along Big Cypress Bayou.  I didn’t know what to expect here, but was thrilled  with the setting—a bayou with Spanish Moss thickly draped upon old Baldcypress trees.  The Old South come to life in a corner of northern Texas.  

I was especially intrigued by all the old log cabins in this state park, and when I asked at the desk, the attendant confirmed that they were constructed by the CCC.  I happened to know what the CCC was, but another visitor at the desk did not, so I gave him a three sentence synopsis of its history.  Which I’ll also give you, or maybe I’ll make it a bit longer just for you, my dear reader. The CCC stands for the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was created in 1933 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.  The CCC was a vital response to the devastating human toll of the Great Depression, during which family savings were wiped out, homes foreclosed on, and jobs lost in a grinding time of bare survival for many, many Americans.  This program put young men to work in every state:  planting trees, preventing soil erosion, and building the infrastructure for parks.  The young men worked in well-disciplined crews for eight hours a day, five days a week, and earned wages of about $30 per week, of which $25 was to be sent home to help support their struggling families.  Evenings were spent in educational classes and sports.  The CCC ended in the early part of World War II as the nation’s priorities shifted from beating the Depression to winning the War.  The “CCC boys” left a legacy of beautiful, rustic buildings in parks all over America—buildings that used logs and stones to create our shared sense of what a park building should look like.  And what a fine tribute the buildings of Caddo Lake State Park are to the young people who built them in a tough era!

During my two days at Caddo Lake, I spent a lot of time photographing the old CCC cabins and pavilion—both in living digital color and on traditional black-and-white infrared film (which I have not yet developed but will soon).  The infrared film turns foliage a ghostly white, lending a mystic atmosphere to the photograph, which I think is particularly suited to the historic structures.  Infrared light is a different range of wavelengths than visible light, and it actually focuses at a different point, so I have to adjust the focus on each exposure.  I also use a very deep red, nearly opaque filter for this film.  I’ll post the results when I can.

I am also a casual birdwatcher, not too serious about it because intense concentration on birds would mean less concentration on photography.  But I did note the following special birds in the Baldcypress swamp:  Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Wood Duck, and Pileated Woodpecker.

This would be a great park for canoeing, and there are canoes for rent.  Next time.  Word has it that campers can canoe to a place and purchase a few pounds of cooked crawfish to bring back for supper.  Sounds delicious. 

Click on the photographs below to see a larger version with captions.