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There are a couple of ways to shoot infrared images and this is the simplest if not the most efficient. Every digital camera has a filter that is designed to prevent infrared light from hitting your sensor. Infrared light, given the right equipment, is just as visible as the light in our ‘normal’ spectrum, just not to the human eye. However, if you can make your camera see this end of the light spectrum then you can really get some ethereal results. Once your camera sees infrared, leaf-covered trees become a glowing white, blue skies become black and lakes take on the appearance of a deep, dark, tar pit.

These pictures were taken on a Nikon D70 – a camera especially well suited to IR – with a IR filter on the lens. This means that you will be taking a long exposure; most of my images were around the 20-30s mark even in bright sunshine, and then converting your shot to black and white. Don’t forget your tripod. Set your aperture, focus your shot without the filter, switch your lens to manual focus, put on your filter, lengthen the exposure time and don’t forget – check your histogram!

When you take the shot you will see a red/pink image on your screen. To turn it into these magical black & whites you need to do some post-production. Nik Silver Efex 2 is ideally suited to the task. I generally use the the Fine Art filter, followed by just a touch of the ColorEfex Glamour Glow. That combination really brings out the other-wordly aspect of IR photography.

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When we lived in England I would sit at my desk in my study and look out of the window into the cherry tree standing just outside the house. There I’d watch the Chaffinches, Blue Tits & Great Tits who visited, eating their way through the balls of fat and peanuts that we’d hang out for them. Then we moved to Canada and bought a house with no garden and where the office window looked out onto the fence that divides us from our neighbour.

Over the last 3 or 4 years the garden has been transformed, the pool that took the whole area has been removed and we now have grass, plants, flowers and shrubs. We also no longer have our dog, Gracie, who, although she was a sweet basket case of a hound, made the garden smell pretty awful at times. With Gracie gone and the garden recovered, we decided it was time to put in some bird feeders and see what we could attract. Of course, bird feeders means bird photography and that meant getting out the Sigma 150-500. Which camera to put it on? Well, this is where the DX crop of the D7100 wins out over the higher quality of the D610 full frame sensor. Add to that, the D7100 can also shoot in a further crop mode, giving the lens an effective reach of nearly 1000mm.

Male House Finch
Backyard birds

We quickly started to see birds arrive, Goldfinches, Northern Cardinals, Downy Woodpeckers and the ubiquitous Starlings and sparrows. But all of them wonderful to look at and photograph. If you can’t get away at a weekend to shoot, look and see what’s in your own backyard. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the opportunities on your doorstep.

Mourning Dove
Backyard birds

Male Northern Cardinal

And you never know who else might drop by…
Backayard visitors

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