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Friday, December 1, 2006

Infrared Photography

IR Possibilities • Flying With Photo Gear • LCD Viewing • Image Compatibility • Brightness/Contrast Methodology • Sensors & Wide-Angles

Infrared Photography IR Possibilities
Q) I have a Fuji FinePix S20 Pro, which I read a few months ago is supposedly capable of making infrared digitals. Any idea how I would do that?
Rick Matukonis
Via the Internet

A) Digital cameras are extremely sensitive to infrared (IR) light, but in order to get better color results, the manufacturers place an IR cutoff filter in front of the sensor. The filter keeps most of the infrared light from reaching the sensor. You can still take IR photographs with an unmodified camera by placing a special IR filter over the lens. But because so little of the IR light reaches the sensor, your exposures will be exceptionally long. Much of the digital IR photography being done today uses a permanently modified camera. The cutoff filter is removed and replaced with a filter that allows only infrared light through to the sensor.

An IR digital camera offers many advantages over the old IR films. IR film was difficult to handle and it fogged easily—neither is a problem with digital. The digital IR camera is more sensitive, plus gives better resolution and sharpness than film. Overall, IR digital is a lot more fun while yielding better results. For more information on converting cameras and purchasing IR filters, go to www.LifePixel.com, www.IRDigital.net, www.maxmax.com and www.singh-ray.com.

This panorama image of Goblin Valley in Utah was taken with a Canon EOS-1Ds converted to IR. Note for scale the man and dog in the far right of the image.


Flying With Photo Gear
Q) I'm flying soon from Italy to the Canadian Rockies via London Heathrow. The more stringent restrictions on carry-on luggage have me worried. How can I best protect my cameras and lenses?
Sandro Porreca de Cecco
Pescara, Italy

A) This is a difficult question to answer as the rules about carry-on luggage and excess weight charges for checked baggage seem to change daily; in addition, they're also different, depending on the class you're flying. Steerage is the most restrictive—usually limited to one carry-on bag and a second, smaller item such as a purse or computer case. For me, this means that my carry-on is a Lowepro AW Photo Backpack containing my essential cameras and lenses. The smaller carry-on is a computer with its accessories. Choose your traveling companion wisely! It helps when your partner will carry on another piece of your equipment, such as a long lens in a separate bag.

In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration allows photographic equipment to be carried on in addition to the other two allowed items. I don't push this much because most TSA personnel don't seem to know the rule. But if you need to do it, go to www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/assistant/editorial_1248.shtm and print the policy. Carry it with you. It may help you get through U.S. security checkpoints. Check with the airline ahead of time to be sure they won't object to the extra bag when you board.

In addition to carry-on bags, I usually check a large Pelican case containing chargers, flash accessories and any other needed pieces of photographic equipment, which if lost, wouldn't keep me from completing my assignment at my destination. I put approved TSA locks on this bag, but I have to say the agency personnel is careless about replacing them after they're opened.

I've gone so far as to buy a seat for my gear. Some very small planes have weight restrictions that don't accommodate my bags. It's expensive, but not as expensive as the cameras and lenses, and I do what I have to do to get myself and my stuff where I need to be.

What if they say you have to check your camera gear? I've never done that. If forced to do it, I probably would abort the trip because most camera bags aren't designed to withstand the baggage hold. If I knew in advance that I couldn't take the gear on board, I might consider packing it properly and shipping it ahead via a secure, insurable carrier.

LCD Viewing

Q) How do you deal with the problem of seeing the histogram and the image on the LCD when you're outside in the sun?
John Harmon
Boston, Massachusetts

A) It's important to be able to use the information on the display, of course; you want to check your results while you're still on location. In the past, I've looked for shade or used a hat to darken the viewing area. Sometimes, I throw a black cloth over my head and the camera, which seems a bit ironic when I think of my colleagues who use large-format cameras, which have always required that technique. Recently, I came across the best solution so far. An accessory from Hoodman allows me to put what looks like a loupe over the LCD. The HoodLoupe is a good optic with an adjustable diopter and just the right magnification for viewing the digital image on the LCD. It works on standard and the new, larger LCDs. Order from Hoodman at www.hoodmanusa.com.


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