As you may know, I got bit by the infrared photography bug a few months back. I bought a Hoya 720nm lens filter for my Canon DSLR and fell in love with the surreal world of infrared.
Not satisfied with having to rely on tripods, I decided to buy a dedicated infrared converted camera from the fine folks at Kolari Vision. I chose Kolari over the competition for a few reasons. First off, price. There aren’t many brands in the infrared conversion business for obvious reasons, so I understand why prices for niche photography equipment run high. Photography is an expensive undertaking to begin with, which means esoteric stuff tends to cost a lot. Somehow Kolari manages to offer IR equipment at decent prices even people like me can afford. Second, I read lots of positive feedback on Kolari in IR photography forums as well as detailed testimonials on their website. I felt pretty confident I wouldn’t be wasting my hard earned money on a faulty conversion. Third, I happened to read an IR editing tutorial on the Kolari blog I found quite helpful. The tutorial worked for me, and established trust with the brand in my mind.
I am happy to report that the Kolari team didn’t disappoint. I initially purchased the wrong item (I paid for a camera conversion as opposed to an already converted camera) and notified their customer service. The next day I received an email with a refund and ordered the correct item. I was impressed with the prompt reply and ease of the refund process. My new camera arrived in just a few days all the way from New Jersey a day early. How’s that for fast shipping? For these reasons I recommend Kolari Vision; I plan to have them convert my Canon Rebel T3i when I’m ready for a DSLR upgrade.
Lumix DMC-ZS35 Infrared Point and Shoot Review
Since I’m new to IR photography, I wasn’t ready to make a big investment in equipment. I have a lot to learn about shooting in IR and am still debating what type of conversion will best suit my desired outcome. I went with the standard 720nm IR conversion on this affordable Lumix DMC-ZS35. After shooting with it a few times, I believe I made the right choice as it’s an excellent learning tool. I love being able to see my shots in the viewfinder and shooting normal exposure times without a tripod. The compact size makes for easy carrying on hiking trails or tucking into my purse for everyday shooting. Manual mode plus custom white balance allows for sharp IR photos; the only things I really miss are the ability to shoot in RAW and having a broader aperture range at my disposal.
Chatsworth Park North Infrared Photo Gallery
Right away I realized I needed to retrain my brain to compose in infrared. Reason being many photos that have plenty of contrast in the visible spectrum just don’t translate well in the IR world. This is why you’ll find most IR tutorials recommend simple compositions of nature subjects.
I headed out to Chatsworth Park North on the west side of Topanga for a test run with my Lumix. I tried snapping a couple of pics on the Browns Creek Bike Path on my way to the park. That’s when the whole retraining my brain concept dawned on me. The colorful flowers I wanted to capture lost all their contrast in Infrared as you can imagine.
At the park I focused on a big (Oak?) tree not far from the rear entrance. The cloudless fall afternoon sky presented a challenge as far as adding drama to my shots. I figured the best way to convey the essence of the nature scene in front of me would be to concentrate on the sunlight. So I composed this shot with the sun positioned directly above and behind the top tree branches for a glowing halo effect.
Then I turned to the dirt pathway in front of me and saw the way the sunlight peeked through the branches creating serene shadows. I didn’t have much luck with shadows in early attempts at IR photography; however, I saw a way to stand so as to show both the shadows and a well lit part of the path together to increase contrast in the image. I hoped to draw your eye up towards the sunspot between the leaves.
To the right of the pathway I saw a small trail leading up the rocks on the hillside. I caught a radiant sun burst through the leaves. The shot is kinda messy, although I think it expresses the anticipation of hiking.
I made my way towards the rocks and passed this old beat up caution sign. The spray painted sign looked jarring compared to the background scenery, a kind of symbol for human destruction of the natural world.
Just beyond the sign I had a good view of the rocks ahead. As you can see, the rocks came out almost as light as the foliage in the shot.
I climbed up to a hillside clearing that made for a nice lookout point. I spotted a line of palm trees in the distance and used the zoom to zero in on them as best I could. They’re a bit out of focus, which enhances the vibe in my mind. I also got a couple of shots of a park recreation building and a dome shaped house hidden among the trees.
As I walked back to my bike I spotted a little lizard sunning itself on a rock. I wondered what the reptile would look like in infrared, and slowly sat down for a macro photography experiment. The lizard stayed more or less still as I zoomed in for an IR portrait. He didn’t seem disturbed until I got up to leave; he ran off as soon as I started to stand. I’m quite pleased with the bokeh background effect I got without a tripod, a testament to the Lumix’s wide aperture capabilities.
On the way back home, I made a second attempt at photographing the Brown’s Creek bike path close to Devonshire St. I stopped to see if I could get a good shot of a dangling vine. Rather than focus on the vine itself, I included other elements in the frame to create a vanishing point for perspective. I think this shot comes closest to the typical white foliage with blue sky look of other infrared photos you’ve seen online.
Infrared Panorama and Selfie Mode Experiments
I’d be remiss to leave out the Panorama and selfie shooting modes on the Lumix DMC-ZS35. These are fun bonus features I didn’t realize the camera included when I bought it.
The Panorama shooting mode works well based on my preliminary test at Chatsworth Park South. I arrived at the park late in the afternoon i.e. not ideal shooting time for infrared photography. Nevertheless, I think I got a pretty nice IR sunset pano of the park. All you have to do is flip over the shooting mode to Pano using the dial next to the shutter and hold down the shutter button as you move the camera in the selected direction (the above shot is left to right).
I also tried a self portrait in front of a dead tree the same afternoon. The tree limbs looked like something I think Jim Morrison would have appreciated given his escapes to the desert and rumored Coral Canyon Cave hangout. The viewfinder flips up to face front for simple selfies. The camera also gives you a 3 second timer delay when taking selfies so as to avoid camera shake from pushing the shutter button. Infrared portraits of people are pretty funky, and I’m pleased with the way this quickie came out without a tripod.
In sum, I am excited to refine my IR photography skills with the converted Lumix and look forward to shooting more San Fernando Valley parks. Do you have a suggestion for a park I should visit next? Leave your IR photo suggestions in the comments below!