Church False IR


Infrared photography, based on heat rather than light, offers images with a different color palette. It’s a different way to the look at the world. And even though it’s technically restricted to film, digital effects can simulate it.

That was something I decided to try this week when I discovered this old church. As its boarded up windows stared over the town’s roofs, an atmosphere of quiet age brooded over its tower. I later learned it had been converted into a residence, and I admit to feeling a little envious of anyone who got to live in such an amazing place. It must be the gothic architecture: that always makes my mind take flight.Church Front

For the image itself I started by taking three bracketed shots with my tripod-mounted 7D and a Tamron lens zoomed out to 18mm. Each image was two stops apart, to capture the entire dynamic range. Later, Photomatix Pro stitched the images together; and Topaz B&W effects accomplished the pseudo-IR effects seen here. Lastly I added some of my signature vignetting.

Exposure Data: ISO 100; f/16; 1.6″, 1/3, 6″

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Magic Hour – The Sunset Tower

Posted: November 18, 2014 in Fine Art, Tips, Urbex
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Sunset Tower


Somewhere in upstate New York, there is an abandoned factory in the center of a nearby village. It’s owner is attempting to renovate it, but in the meantime it stares silent and crumbling over the heads of the nearby peaked roofs. It was late in the day when I drove by, and the last rays of the setting sun were touching its uppermost tower. I attached a 50mm prime lens and managed to snap a signature image at ISO 100.

Magic hour, golden hour, whatever you call it, the first and last hours of sunshine provide lighting quality you won’t find at any other times of day. If the sky is cloudless enough to admit sunlight at those times, the atmosphere’s refraction couples with the angle of incidence on your subject can turn almost any object into an instant work of art. In this case, the gray face of the factory tower turned into a castle’s turret out of an Arthurian dream.

Exposure Data: ISO 100, f/9, 1/80

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The Old House


“You really need to see this!” That’s what JoDee told me on that day. And that’s what she showed me on a morning photo expedition that kept us viewing one thrilling sight after another. She had recently been on a drive through the countryside where among other things she scouted out locations that begged to be photographed through the dark filter that is The Twilit Lens.

As one generation succeeds the next, families flourish and fade, often leaving behind strange legacies in wood and stone. And there were several of these buildings on this road, behind whose gray dust-rimed window panes only brooding emptiness grinned. The surreal silence of the structures and the colorless sun-bleached boards groaning in the wind creates endless movies in the mind. Let your own thoughts drift with me…

Part of the objectives of any photographic composition is to draw the viewer’s eye to the subject. And at the risk of sounding like a gear evangelist, the Lensbaby’s “sweet spot” and accompanying bokeh effect is something I never tire of; because this lens has a unique ability to draw the eye. And some vignetting and low-key digital filtering in post-production further highlighted the subject.

Exposure Data: ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/100

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Old Fort


Here is another honeymoon shot. The weather was cool and overcast, my favorite kind. The scent of the bay and the fishing industry were quite noticeable and lent an air of age. Our car’s trunk was packed with photo gear and our minds were filled with the love of exploration. Lobster pots were piled near a small dock at the other end of a cul-de-sac. And before us, the old fortress loomed.

When most people think about fisheye lenses, they see images in their minds’ eyes of heavily distorted interiors and exteriors warped wildly until they resemble a reflection in a funhouse mirror. But this inherent distortion can actually be controlled to make for extremely wide-angle landscapes views.

This external view of Fort Popham in Maine is a nice example. By leveling the lens with the horizon, the image looks less distorted and makes for a great panorama. In fact the view reminded me of some of the stories of gladiators in ancient arenas, fighting it out in the midst of towering walls while cheering crowds egged them on.

Bracketed shot taken with Canon 7D and Rokinon 8mm fisheye. Mounted on a Vanguard Alta Pro tripod and stitched together with Photomatix Pro in post-production.

Exposure Data: ISO 160; f/11; 1/400, 1/25, 1/10

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Dungeon Corridor

JoDee and I visited Fort Popham in Phippsburg this past week. This old ruin is truly amazing to visit. The interior actually reminded me of the underground catacombs in Fresno, and I thought back to Tolkien’s underground dwarf kingdoms. I wanted to recreate an image I had in my head of a dungeon corridor, but since this wasn’t exactly an underground setting it was necessary to create a small illusion.

I set my camera on a tripod and deliberately underexposed the ambient light. Then I had JoDee take four separate shots while I walked to four different pillars and held a speedlight that the camera triggered wirelessly.

Photoshop was used to stitch all four images together via layering and removing my own presence with the clone stamp tool.

Exposure Data: ISO 100, f/22, 1”

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Mansion Ruins


Near Portland Head Light in Maine lies Fort Williams, an abandoned fortress and mansion that was used to monitor shipping for the city of Portland. Though closed in 1963, it’s still a great place to get some urban exploration photographs. Unfortunately the section once housing the Goddard Mansion, a place used to house soldiers’ families, has been largely fenced off.Fisheye on Tripod

Thank goodness for tripods and fisheye lenses! I’d seen quite a few ultra-wide-angle shots of castle courtyards and was inspired to try something similar here. Mounting my Rokinon 8mm onto the 7D body and clamping everything onto a tripod, I extended the legs and set the self timer for ten seconds while I hoisted the camera over the fence for a peek into what was once the floor of the mansion, now quite overgrown with grass and weeds.

Floorless, roofless, and tenantless, the mansion still held some ghostly grandeur as the lowering sun shown through the empty window frames. I tried to imagine what the mansion must have been like when it was fully in use, both as housing and the club for the non-commissioned officers. And now it’s an empty hulk whose only sound is the sea’s wind and the distant crash of waves on the shore. Time left this place behind, a plaque in the front yard all that remains to tell of what happened here.

Exposure Data: ISO 125, f/11, 1/85

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Sock Monkey in Graveyard

Does anyone besides me see something just a little creepy about sock monkeys? Those staring button eyes, the perpetual red grin. Put them in the right context and they can be positively chilling.

With Halloween approaching, during our honeymoon I took my new wife to Providence in Rhode Island, home of H.P. Lovecraft, and took her on a tour of some very haunting environments. One of these is the churchyard of the Cathedral of St. John’s Episcopal, a place with a great deal of history not to mention being one of the haunts of Edgar Allen Poe himself.

Now enter the sock monkey. JoDee had just acquired it as an amusing wedding present from a close friend and decided it needed to be photographed. I couldn’t help but oblige when she placed it on a nearby grave stone. The idea of the sinister doll is quite the horror story staple, and inspiration followed rapidly. :)

This shot was taken with my Lensbaby Spark. The bokeh effects of this speciality lens truly suited the scene. Later on, Topaz Black and White Effects was used to create a second layer, some of which was erased with a soft eraser tool to preserve the little guy’s original colors.

Exposure Data: ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/125

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