Experimenting with Infrared Digital Capture

Using a Lumix G3 Mirrorless Camera for Infrared Capture



David Arnold, MS Aurora Docked on a Dead End Road, 2013.

Constructed in 1955, the MS Aurora was the first ship wholly made in German shipyards following World War II. The MS Aurora began service as a day cruiser named the MV Wappen Von Hamburg, serving the ports of Hamburg, Cuxhaven, Heligoland and Hornum in the North Sea. Later the ship was sold to new owners who converted the ship into a small cruise liner serving the Greek Islands.[1] Since 1960’s, the MV Aurora has gone through 7 name changes with 9 different owners. The current owner, Chris Wilson, purchased the ship since 2005, in bad repair, and has been working to restore the ship. Since being renamed the MS Aurora, the ship has berthed at several locations in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Delta and in San Francisco Bay. In February 2013, a tug towed the MS Aurora from Pier 38 in San Francisco to the ship’s present location at Herman and Helen’s Marina on Little Connection Slough in the San Joaquin Delta, about 10 miles west of Stockton, California.[2][3]


In route to photograph the Venice Ferry, a small cable ferry which crosses the Little Connection Slough, I noticed the MS Aurora hugging the top of the levee. Making the turn in front of Herman and Helen’s Marina, I stopped to take a series of photographs of MS Aurora, berthed beside the road. Gleaming in the late afternoon light, the MS Aurora dominated the landscape. I photographed the MS Aurora with several camera systems but finally settled on using a Lumix G3 converted to infrared capture. I felt that the infrared capture best accentuated the intense visual contrast and the juxtaposition of visual elements which I felt as I approached the ship—the white cruise liner set against the blue sky and empty road was stunning.


Our decisions with what is termed photographic syntax—the decisions we make with equipment and processing, directly influence the look of our images. William Crawford, in his seminal Keepers of the Light, an early history on 19th century photographic processes, first introduced the term photographic syntax. Crawford uses the metaphor of a net to refer to photographic syntax—the shape and size and efficiency of the net allows the fisherman to catch specific types of fish.[4] By extension, our decisions with our equipment and processes allow us to create a specific kind of image. The equipment and processes we select, our photographic syntax, directly influences the work we create. If we make a photograph using an iphone and then use a large format view camera, the images will have a distinctly different look and feel to them.



I used the Lumix G3 to photograph the MS Aurora. The Lumix G3, is equipped with the digital sensor modified to capture the infrared spectrum along with portions of the red spectrum.[5] The Lumix G3, a mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera system (MFT), features a large sensor size in a very compact body with full manual controls, and is equipped with an electronic viewfinder that permits a real time preview of the infrared spectrum in the viewfinder as well as on the rear screen. To photograph the Aurora, I mounted a Lensbaby Tilt Transformer with a Nikon f/2.8 20mm lens attached onto the Lumix G3. The Tilt Transformer is a perspective control adapter made for Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the Lumix G3. Using the Nikon f/2.8 20mm lens with Lumix G3 sensor effectively doubles the focal length, the 20mm lens becomes a near normal 40mm lens in 35mm equivalents.



David Arnold, the Lumix G3, a Lensbaby Tilt Transformer and a Nikon F2.8 20mm lens.


MS Aurora Docked on a Dead End Road is a composite of 9 images, which were later assembled in Adobe Photoshop using photomerge action. Starting at the upper right corner, I captured the scene in a grid pattern, overlapping each section. The scene was first captured with each section in focus, followed by a second set where the lens was titled to optically blur portions of the image.  Composting multiple images permitted me to experiment with creating regions of visual interest in the scene. I’m fascinated with the paradoxes of seeing and in particular the differences between how we view a scene compared with how a camera records a scene. By capturing multiple images with a tilt shift lens, and once composited in Photoshop, I generated different levels of sharpness in the image, and in much the same manner that we might scan the scene with our eyes. Through my use of multiple images, I experimented with a method to create a dynamic visual experience. In addition, I wanted to call attention to how we generate composite or mental pictures of powerful visual experiences. My working methods in creating MS Aurora Docked on a Dead End Road is suggestive of how seeing is a reconstruction of a scene through information supplied by our eyes rather than a matter of recording light as happens with our sensors or with film capture.


David Arnold



Experimenting with a Telephoto Lens

Experimenting with a Telephoto Lens


Depth of field, or the area of acceptable focus within a photograph is influenced by three factors: the aperture of the lens, the subject to camera distance and the focal length of the lens. Our expectations for photographs are that they transparently represent the subject of the photograph. Each of the three components of depth of field offers exciting opportunities for experimentation and with challenging our expectations for a photograph.

Focal length measures the distance from the sensor or film plane to the tip of the lens, which is the distance from the point where light converges on lens to the film plane or sensor. Focal lengths also determine the angle of view of the lens. A telephoto lens reduces the angle of view, or by definition an angle of view less than 15 degrees. A wide-angle lens increases the angle of view of a scene or any lens with an angle of view greater than 55 degrees. Changes in the angle of view with both telephoto and wide-angle lens produce apparent distortions: a wide-angle lens causes objects close to the lens to appear larger than surrounding objects; a telephoto lens makes objects within the scene appear closer, or compressing space, the opposite effect that we see with a wide-angle lens.[1] Wide-angle and telephoto lens are said to distort perspective, however this is a misconception. Perspective is influenced by your relative position or distance from a subject. The choice to use a wide angle or telephoto lens may force you to change your location will influence the perspective of the photograph.[2]



Lumix G3 with Tokina 150-500mm: Shown here is the Tokina 150-500mm f/5.6 SD telephoto lens mounted onto a Lumix G3 Micro Four Thirds format camera. The Tokina is a manual focus telephoto lens. The lens is huge (about 5 pounds and 13 inches long) and is mounted directly on a Bogen tripod head. The Tokina is a highly regarded 3rd party lens which was manufactured between 1986-2000. The Tokina is considered an optically excellent telephoto lens.

Focal length designations vary across camera formats, and have become more complex with the introduction of new formats such as APS and Four Thirds sensors. Focal lengths for a 35mm film camera traditionally have been used to establish the baseline for focal lengths. Focal lengths for each camera format is determined by the diagonal measurement of the camera’s format. In 35mm equivalents, the diagonal for 35mm film or a “full frame” sensor is 50mm. A wide-angle lens therefore is defined as any focal length lower than 50mm, for example a 35mm, a 28mm and the popular 24mm are all considered wide-angle lens. A wide-angle lens provides a wider angle of view than a normal 50 lens. A telephoto lens is defined as any lens longer in focal length than a normal lens, and typically a telephoto lens begins with a focal length of 135mm and longer. Lens focal lengths between 50mm and135mm are considered telephoto lens, but they carry the special designation of a “portrait” lens.[3] Telephoto lenses generate a much smaller area of focus than a normal or wide-angle lens. Wide angle and normal focal length lens appear to shrink objects in the distance relative to objects in the foreground of the photograph, where as telephoto lenses, because of the angle of view will appear to normalize the relative size of objects in a scene compared with human vision [4]



Lumix G3 with Tokina 150-500mm: Shown here is Tokina 150-500mm lens attached to the Lumix G3 using the LensBaby Tilt Shift Transformer adapter. The Tilt-Shift Transformer accepts accepts all Nikon F mount lens and works only with Micro Four Thirds camera and is one of the primary reason I purchased the Lumix G3. With the focal length conversion to the Micro Four Thirds format, the Tokina 150-500mm lens becomes 300-1000mm telephoto lens. As a tilt-shift lens, the Tilt-Shift Transformer also offers perspective control corrections, which are especially useful with the spacial compression issues associated with telephoto lens.[5]


Decisions regarding focal length dramatically influence the representation of subjects within a scene. Long telephotos have traditionally only by wildlife photographers and sports photojournalist, but experiments with depth of field, compression and layering of distant objects and the distortion of scale offer great opportunities for expressive photography. Wide-angle lens have long been the preferred lens choice for landscape photographers, however long lenses, including “super” telephoto lens present opportunities for highlighting graphic relationships in nature.


 DA. Donner Lake, Sierra Nevada, Ca. The Donner Lake photograph was created with the Lumix G3 and the Tokina 150-500mm lenses. The lens was set at f/8. The photograph is a composite of 24 separate photographs taken in a grid pattern from the top to the bottom of the image. The images were assembled in Adobe Photoshop using the photomerge action. By incorporating the shallow depth of field associated with telephoto lens and in particular super telephotos lens like the Tokina, varying degrees of sharpness where generated across the image to create an more dynamic visual experience. The composite of smaller images also generates larger image for print output, the final image size is approximately 25 by 60 inches. 



DA, Barn and Reflection, Yuba Rice Fields, Yuba County, CA. Barn and Reflection, Yuba Rice Fields was created using the same techniques discussed in the Donner Lake image. Again the Tokina 150-500mm lens was attached to the Lumix G3 using the LensBaby Tilt-Shift Transformer. The Tilt-Shift adapter permitted a slight tilt of the camera body forward to compensate for the tendency of buildings to appear as if they are bending backwards.



[1] Henry Horenstein, Russell Hart, Photography, p. 79.

[2] David Falk, Dieter Brill, David Story, Seeing the Light, Optics in Nature, Photography, Color, Vision and Holography, p. 115.

[3] Henry Horenstein, Russell Hart, Photography, p. 83.

[4] David Falk, Dieter Brill, David Story, Seeing the Light, Optics in Nature, Photography, Color, Vision and Holography, p. 115.

[5] Ken Rockwell, Tokina 150-500mm Lens.

See also: Cambridge in Color, “Using a Telephoto Lenses” for an excellent discussion of telephoto lenses.