If you are someone who like Monochrome Infrared, then you will love the Infrared digital art of Vern Bartley.
Welcome Vern, please tell us about yourself and your background.
I literally discovered photography in 1960, quite by accident. I was in a freshman high school woodshop class and the teacher asked for a couple of us to stay after school to pose for a photograph that the schools physics/photography teacher was going to shoot for the yearbook. I stood behind an old wood lathe for three hours watching him set up all those lights, tripods and a big black camera with a folded tube that the lens attached to. Then he kept sticking small black boxes in and out of the back of the camera and I was mesmerized on the spot.
The next day I visited the physics teacher and told him “I want to be a photographer !”
That was 55 years ago! I am still a very active photographer today and I have loved every moment of that journey.
How long have you been a photographer, and shooting Infrared?
I tried shooting some infrared film in 1964 while in a college photography class. The professor had shared some of his experiences with IR and I was curious. After shooting a couple of rolls I became pretty frustrated with the process and end product so I moved on. You couldn’t see through the viewfinder to compose the shot because of the required, really dark IR filter, you couldn’t trust the image would be in focus because the IR focus points are different than those for panchromatic film and getting the correct exposure was always a challenge. I loved shooting, B&W over everything else, but I really struggled trying to create anything with IR film that I wanted to share with anyone.
Now, if we fast forward to the late 90’s with the emergence of (DSLR) digital cameras everything changed. In 2004 I read an article about shooting Digital IR photography and the old curiosity was back. A little while later I purchased a Nikon D-70 sent it to Life Pixel to have it converted to B&W IR and I was off and running.
I shot the D-70 for a couple of years trying to utilize it in almost every setting. I would shoot my landscapes with my color camera and then pull out the D-70 and give it a try. Over time I began to be more comfortable with “seeing in IR“. It was kind of like learning to see in B&W rather than color.
What types of Infrared images do you make?
Today, I am a Fine Art Landscape Photographer. Though, when people ask me what kind of photography I do I tell them “I shoot Rocks & Weeds“. After 50 years of photographing pretty much what everyone else wanted I decided it was time for me to shoot what “I wanted“. Since 2004 I have been almost exclusively a Landscape shooter. My first love, (other than my wife…. of course) has always been, and I expect always will be, B&W photography. When I am working among the rocks and weeds I usually go to my Nikon D-800 IR camera as my first camera of choice. * (I shoot with the Life Pixel Deep B&W 830nm filter conversion) I like to think I see the world a little differently than most other photographers and showing others how our surroundings can look when viewed in a spectrum that is beyond what the eye can see is quite satisfying.
How is your IR photography received by your clients?
I am fortunate that my work has been very well received by those interested in my style of fine art photography. Until recently I have sold my work exclusively through select Fine Art Gallery’s.
Though the B&W audience is smaller just know they are out there and they are alive and well………….. they are just very discriminating in their purchases.
What is your best photographic achievement?
After 50+ years of photographing a little bit of everything I’m not sure how to drill it down to one specific event. I suppose two events, one in late 2014 and the other just a few months ago, would have to be right up there for me. In late 2014 I was recognized as Oregon’s “Photographer of the Year” by the Oregon Professional Photographers Association (OPPA). That award was earned as a result of 5 competitive juried events during the year with my work earning the highest aggregate score for 2014. Then in August 2015 I was notified by PPA that the four images I had entered in the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) annual International Photographic Competition (IPC) and earned the honor of Platinum Medalist.
What do like best about IR photography?
I guess I like the mystery of what IR is going to show me next. After shooting IR for a couple of years I thought I pretty much had a grip on what to expect each time I picked up my IR camera and started a shoot. That was not the case in late August of 2008 when I hiked and rafted into a very remote glacial lake in the Alaskan wilderness in pursuit of ice bergs. The first ice berg that caught my attention when I got on the lake at the foot of the glacier was a lone piece of floating ice that stood about 8′ vertical out of the water. It looked a lot like a graceful woman from one angle and then again like Big Bird from a slightly different angle. The scene was fantastic. The light was great, the sky was super, and the backdrop was to die for.
What do you find most challenging about IR?
It is a small issue, but I have to always be on the lookout for light flares and hot spots on my images. The IR spectrum is prone to flare if the sun (or light source) is any where close to falling on the front element of the lens. And, yes some lenses are worse than others in this arena. I have learned how to remove minor flares in post processing but flares seem to be a natural part of every shoot. On a couple of occasions I have actually incorporated a flare, that happens to fall in just the right place, into my finished image.
If you could go anywhere in the world to shoot IR, where would you go?
Iceland. Without a doubt. Some of the best landscape images I am seeing from time to time are coming from shoots in Iceland. What more could an IR photographer want than ice and snow, glacial blues, stormy skies and untamed landscapes to go with it.
If you could pass on just one tip about IR, what would it be?
Become best friends with your Histogram !!! That really isn’t specific to only IR, but dialing in your exposure to the best of your ability with IR will go a long way to minimizing your workflow headaches. Since the IR filter conversion I chose ends up costing me about 4 stops of light (compared to the visible light spectrum) it is usually kinda like pulling a rabbit out of a hat to get the right exposure on the first frame. I usually begin with exposure settings that have worked in the past and then walk it in via my histogram. Then I’m off shooting. However, I make it a point to check my histogram frequently in case the light within the IR spectrum changes, which can sometimes be very subtle.
Do you have any projects currently going you would like to discuss?
I’m in the home stretch of launching a revised web site that will be more suited to on line sales of my fine art images.
You can see more of Verns work here.