Churches on The Patch

Holy Trinity Church in IR
Holy Trinity Church in Infrared
Of the three months of themes for +The Patch - PhotogrAphy Themed CHallenge it is obvious to me which one has been my favorite so far. The month of March has 5 different architecture categories, and this past week was Churches, and when it came to choosing a photo I found that I had quite a number of shots to choose from with different processing for each. The above shot of Holy Trinity Church, established in 1863 in Trinidad, CA, is the shot I chose to show. This is an infrared shot that gives it, in my eye, a different feel, a subtle glow to it.

Without getting too much into the science of light, infrared is a near visible area of the spectrum that our eyes can't see. Cameras can see IR, but most cameras have a filter on them that minimizes that wavelength or blocks it altogether, an IR blocking filter. An IR filter (non-blocking) is a filter you attach on your lens, or permanently on your camera's sensor, to effectively block most of the visible light and allow mainly infrared light to hit your sensor. With a lens based filter this usually leads to long exposure times as the sensor needs more time to gather more light to make a well exposed shot since the camera has IR blocking or minimizing filters. The above shot taken on a very bright sunny day with an aperture of f3.9 and an ISO of 160 has a shutter speed of 3.2 seconds. A similar shot I took without the IR filter and nearly identical settings produced a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second. That should show you just how little visible light is hitting the sensor with the IR filter in place.

Side view of Holy Trinity in IR
Holy Trinity in IR Side view
My filter is designed to let the 720nm wavelength of infrared into the camera. This is supposedly the "do it all" wavelength for doing the very fantasy-like faux color infrared photos and the very contrasty black and whites. I think for my camera and the IR minimizing filters it has I should have gone with a less strong IR enabling filter if I wanted better faux color shots, as I've been very unhappy with those attempts. It may also be that I bought a cheap IR enabling filter and spending more for a bigger name in the filter business would get me better results.

So why bother with IR? Early on in my photography journey I stumbled across some faux color IR photos and found them to be a treat. Something I wanted to understand and eventually do. I'm still not there yet as I think to do it to my standard I'll need to convert a camera permanently to IR so I can take much shorter exposure shots. The black and white IR shots usually come out very contrasty after doing a white balance adjustment then doing the basic conversion. There also seems to be a soft glow to the whites on the church that I can't seem to easily replicate in post processing a standard black and white shot. Also, I love what IR does with plants, turning them into whites. Take a shot of a field of grass and it comes out looking like a field of snow, it's really unique.

And here are some other shots that I considered:

Chapel at Point St. George Heritage Site in Crescent City, CA
This tiny chapel was sitting next to a very large abandoned or not very well cared for house. I was unable to go inside it, but through the windows I could see that it had been recently used to hold services. This is a "standard" black and white as the light was too harsh to do much with color.

Large Church, Ferndale, CA
I was unable to fit the whole church in from the front-side angle so you'll have to settle for the rear-side angle. This is also the church from my earlier shot. This is a 7 shot HDR.

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