I’m finding ultraviolet photography to be one of the biggest challenges I’ve come across in the photographic process in years. Such a huge learning curve.
Due to the short bandwidth of ultraviolet light, the reflective transmittance doesn’t seem to travel as far as visible light, plus this also causes a focus shift issue as photographing in infrared does.
With the sensitivity of the converted camera, I have been able to pick up the ultraviolet spectrum at a decent iso (around 800 – 1600 as opposed to 200 – 400) and live view permits achieving a fine focus if I take the time to really review and adjust before I shoot.
More of the problem seems to be in the lenses. Glass, air space and the cement used to join elements in a lens all interfere with the UV transmission. True UV transmission lenses (made with quartz-fluorite elements instead of glass) are still manufactured and a few older ones can be found second hand but these are way beyond my price range at an approximate cost of $3000US and up.
Fortunately ultravioletphotgraphy.com has a list of true and “accidental” lenses for ultraviolet photography work. I managed to pick up one of the Steinheil 50mm Cassarits recently and imediately noticed a difference. While not a spectacular shot, it is the first time I’ve been able to achieve focus on any subject farther away than about six inches.
This was shot midday 1/4 second, f8, iso 1600 using a Hoya U360 and S8612 bringing it to around a 360-365nm light source. The Steinheil triplets have been tested to have a cutoff of around 320nm. I am looking forward to testing this lens (as well as an older Cassarit 100mm) with a Hoya U340 to see if I can achieve a deeper UV cutoff point.
Learning Ultraviolet Photography is proving to be such a challenge it reminds me of when I first picked up a camera. How wonderful to be able to shoot 35 photos and not find a single keeper. Reminds me of the film days. I’m finding that trying to imagine how an image will appear, when the focus is using non visible light, has many variables that can affect the outcome.
One of course is the light source. If you don’t have full sun cover, using a dedicated light for a specific bandwidth or a full spectrum flash is essential. Next is choosing quality filters that absorb all light not wanted to affect the image. Also, I’m finding that the lens choice is just as important as the light source itself. Very few lenses are truly dedicated UV lenses made from quartz rather than glass, so the challenge is finding “accidental” lenses that permit good UV transmission.
Below is a basic test I used to determine which of my older lenses would permit the best UV transmission in the 360-365nm bandwidth. I used a pinhole cover with a dedicated Hoya U360 and BG40 filter stack to eliminate all light in the visible and IR range. I used a white plastic as the background and focused a dedicated 365nm light on it. White balance was done on the background. Exposure time was 15 sec and iso 1600. All phtos were post processed with the same settings.
All lenses tested were set to f4 and the rear of the lens was set at 2 1/2 inches from the background. Lenses tested were the Lensbaby Sweet 35 and Edge 80 optics, the Lensbaby Twist 60 and Selective Focus optics, an El-Nikkor 50/4 and Meyer Optik Domiplan 50/2.8 and Helios 44M 58/2. The Domiplan is supposed to transmit down to 345nm from other test located on ultravioletphotography.com (great reference site). The El-Nikkor is also supposed to be a good transmitter. The clearer the light through the lens itself signifies better UV transmission, purple signifies the worst.
From my basic, non-scientific test I was suprised to see the Lensbaby Soft Focus optic seems to perform as well as the Domiplan and both the Lensbaby and Zeniton 35mm lenses performed well. The Zeniton 135 performed poorly, even though it is the same optical construction (4 element / 4 groups) as the Zeniton 35.
Recently I have begun trying to work with UltraViolet light and my full spectrum K1. I’m enjoying it very much as the learning curve is proving to be a real challenge.
Most of my older lenses (and non of my newer digital) transmit the UV spectrum very well but I’ve been lucky enough to come across a few that are permitting me to do a some hand held shots. I’m finding simpler lenses with fewer elements and cemented groups seem to be working best so far. I’ve picked up a few 4/4 Zenitons and hope to show the results later in the spring during the wildflower season.
Here are a few using an older Lensbaby Soft Focus optic. It is 2 elements in 1 group.
The following are the exposure settings, filters and light source I used while photographing a White Geranium.
All were shot at f5.6 and on a 25mm tube.
1st image is shot with U360 & Kolarivision hotmirror filter stack, FS converted speed-light, iso 800, 1/90th.
2nd with U360/Kolari hotmirror and a dedicated 365nm flashlight, iso 800, 1/45.
3rd with BG3/Kolari hotmirror and dedicated 365nm flashlight, iso 1600, 1/90th.
Last month I purchased the Lensbaby Twist 60 Optic.
It is based on the Petzval design and is supposed to produce a swirl of bokeh, much like the older Helios lenses. I had been curious about it since it was released but also very hesitant as most of the uses seemed to be focused around portraiture photography. As I rarely shoot pictures of people, I wondered how this style of lens effect would work with inanimate objects also.
At wide open f2.5 & f2.8 the swirl effect of the Twist 60 optic is very pronounced.
It does mild down significantly by f4 – f5.6 and is almost non existent by f8 producing a normal view from any standard lens. I found the wide open swirl effect to be a little distracting but really do like how a minute amount of swirl from the f4 – f5.6 range does make the subject stand out a bit more.
Where this optic really shines for me is mounted on a 25mm extension tube, bringing it up to almost a 1:2.4 magnification macro.
I did try it on a 44mm tube but didn’t like the effect as much as the 1:2 ratio.
Though I occasionally find a use for the Sweet Spot or Slice Focus of my other Lensbaby optics, my favorite optics so far have been the Zoneplate and Plastic. I’m quickly seeing the Lensbaby Twist 60 optic will join those two.
Something about the “so called” imperfections of early film photography appeals to me.
I’ve been reading a lot lately about Monochrome converted DSLR’s and since I love photographing in B/W, the thought of purchasing a used camera for conversion has been teasing my mind. Since I already have a higher end DSLR that produces excellent monochrome when processed in Lightroom and Photoshop, not to mention a full spectrum converted Mirror-less for monochrome infrared photography, I am struggling with the thought of paying out a few thousand dollors for another camera.
Though I know I would love to shoot in Black and White again, just like the film days, I decided to try the next best thing – software that emulates film. Nik Collection Silver Efex Pro.
Other than the vocabulary, I find working in Silver Efex Pro to be very intuitive much like working in the darkroom. I don’t really care for the preset effects but find the selection of film styles to be very similar to what I had worked with pre-digital. Everything from various Agfa to Kodak films. When I shot film I usually preferred the Ilford Delta series but found I do like the TMAX and Tri-X emulation this software provides. One can set the film style of choice, adjust grain and then proceed with normal darkroom techniques.
The selective point allows adjusting brightness, contrast and detail to a given area. This is where I wish it actually used the vocabulary of dodge and burn but the results are similar. One can also do these adjustments to the image as a whole as well as fine tune highlight and shadow while bringing in detail (structure in the vocabulary.)
What I enjoyed most was the loupe view which has the zone system overlaid so one can see how much of the photo falls into each zone from no detail white to pure black.
And to top it off there is a finalization series to bring the image to full print characteristics. Everything from tones, edge burns, and even custom negative carrier edges.
Here is a before and after, the original was shot on a converted camera with an 850IR filter. The second is the same photo run through Silver Efex Pro. Click to enlarge for viewing differences.
I was originally only interested in the Silver Efex but it comes as part of a complete download in the Nik Collection. I couldn’t help put experiment with the Analog Efex while I was at it. Great fun for creating that 60’s snapshot effect. Another before and after, bland photo turned into vintage.
Best part is Google is offering this software for free now and it plugs right into PS as a filter. It just might curb my desire for that monochrome DSLR.
I’ve really been enjoying working in digital IR this last year and have been doing a few Infrared Filter Comparisons to see which effect I prefer the most. I have attached a test subject of a tree stump in the desert shot with R72, #87 & IR850(87c) at the end for comparison. Continue reading →
As I’ve mentioned on my macros page, I’m not a macro photography purist.
I don’t focus on achieving a 1:1 life-size ratio when photographing a subject.
I do prefer using dedicated macro lenses (at least close focus) or macro techniques while doing close focus work as I find there is less distortion than with wide angle lenses.
I also enjoy trying anything that will spur my creativity.
This last winter, I was reading a website on extreme macro photography lens stacking and came across an article about using the Pentax M200/4 as a barrel lens for micro-photograpy work. Extreme-Macro is a fantastic site for studying anything to do with close focus work. There is a wealth of information ranging from techniques to lenses, lighting or magnification calculations.
The page I stumbled upon mentioned the Pentax M200/4 as a wonderful lens to couple with a microscope objective for extreme work.
As I have an old M200 that doesn’t get used in this digital age, I decided to pull it out and see what I might be able to do with what I already had on hand or at least low cost investment.
A 52mm-52mm coupling ring, a 52mm-40.5mm step-down ring (which I did have to buy) and my old Rodagon 105/5.6 enlarging lens reverse mounted.
I must admit here that I am often lazy about using a tripod unless doing night shots and still prefer using an optical viewfinder over the rear lcd so achieving and maintaining focus with any depth of field would be a challenge.
I was surprised at how easy this combination was to hand hold and still achieve nice photos with a magnification of approx. 1.9:1.
Also, it was a fantastic pleasure to view something larger than life and try to see it in an artistic style.
Next I tried a reverse mount combination of the M200 with a Sigma 24/2.8 for a magnification ratio of approx. 8.3:1.
The added weight of the Sigma made it much harder to handhold but still produced nice results, though even at f16 the depth of field is very shallow.
This will take a lot more practice to get the my creative sight going.
I have been enjoying this new artistic view of the world so much that I just purchased an old EL-Nikkor 50/2.8 enlarging lens to use in the field (don’t want to take my Rodenstock out into the elements)
and am now on the hunt for an infinity focus objective plus adapter.
Recently I picked up a NIB Tiffen #87 Infrared filter to see if I would enjoy working more with the shorter IR wavelengths (to produce a truer Black and White image) or if I wanted to stay with the 720 and under filters to achieve some color from visible light.
I have always preferred viewing B&W photos and movies to color and when I hold an image in my mind it is almost always in B&W.
The 87 comes in around 795 or just at the baseline of the IR spectrum. Not quite as black as the 093 (830) or 87c (850) but still dark to the human eye.
I do like the contrasty effect the monochrome images have over the false color, though it is difficult to achieve focus.
The majority of my favorite lenses are still manual focus, so I will just have to practice more.
If you can find this filter it is made of glass with a metal ring and well constructed, plus it comes in at about 1/2 the price of other name brands.
I find the images comparable to the Lee 87 film filters for those who already have a holder system.
I did notice under the right light and white balance there were a few shots that did have a hint of blue sky after an attempt at color swapping.
I remember trying Infrared Photography a few times in my film days and found it difficult and challenging.
It always seemed I was guessing the exposure time and the focus, trying to approximate the red line on the lens distance scale.
Winter Farm IR
Recently, I acquired a Pentax K-01 and had it converted to a full spectrum camera. Unlike film, digital sensors are sensitive to all light waves (UV, visible bands and IR) so most cameras use a hot-mirror to block the infrared bands and pass only visible light.
Winter Mules IR 1
Most conversions replace this hot-mirror and replace it with an IR based filter for a full time conversion, usually in the 720nm range. With the full spectrum conversion the mirror is removed and the IR filter is placed over the lens, much like the film days; however, unlike the film days I can see the image in live view just as if I was looking through a viewfinder.
Winter Mules IR 2
Apparently the new mirror-less systems make fantastic digital infrared cameras. They automatically set accurate exposure and the focus can be determined manually via live view or calibrated for auto focus. Another wonderful aspect of the K-01 is that it will take all my older Pentax K mount lenses.
Winter Tree IR
I now need to experiment with several to determine which will be good performers or or which will be susceptible to flares and hotspots. Infrared is often most noted for its use with contrast or faux colors with vegetation.
Faux Color IR Canal
Here are a few shots from the winter local scenery, a bit different but fun. I look forward to working with the camera as the spring green comes around.