Old Trucks in Infrared

Mail Pouch Barn and 1935 Ford three-window coupe, discovered in Pennsylvania.

Having recently upgraded my hardware to a new MacBook Pro and software to Adobe Creative Cloud, I was sorting through old RAW files when I happened upon several infrared photographs of old trucks that I took back in 2012.

The McKenna truck.

These photographs were all taken using a Nikon D200, converted to 720nm, that I bought used from Tony Sweet. Because the D200 has only a 10MP crop sensor and no Live View, I wasn’t expecting much of these images but was pleasantly surprised by the quality of some them. So, I decided to re-process the original RAW files, using the additional knowledge of IR post-processing that I have gained in the interim. These are some of the results.

While the first image of the Mail Pouch Barn and old Ford sedan has the most successful composition (the balance between the main compositional elements seems to work well), I was particularly pleased with the post-processing on the second image of an old Ford truck, previously owned by the McKenna company, as one can see from the lettering on the driver’s side door.

The E. P. Martin truck.

When capturing this image, I first set a custom white balance in-camera (the D200 is the last of the Nikon DSLRs that allows this). In post-processing, I ran the Khromagery infrared action in Photoshop, then adjusted the individual color channels to achieve a pleasing balance between the cool blue/grey of what’s left of the paintwork and the warm red of the rust on the top of the bonnet, then desaturated the rest of the image to bring out those colours.

Tony commented on the McKenna truck image a couple of days ago, describing it as “not too bad”, which is the nearest thing to a compliment I’ve ever had from him. I was hoping for an upgrade to his famous “not too shabby” rating, but fell short.

The third image, of a Ford truck formerly owned by “E.P. Martin, Plumber”, is from the same truck graveyard at Point of Rocks, Maryland which, sadly, is no more. In this case, the RAW file did not offer the same promising base colours after the IR conversion, so I processed it as black and white.

With all three of the truck images, I used the Detail Extractor filter in Nik Collection 2.0  selectively on the paintwork to bring out the texture and applied the Glamor Glow filter selectively to the vegetation to accentuate the characteristic luminous look that greenery takes on when photographed in IR.

One of the most welcome developments in the photography software industry recently has been the French company DxO’s takeover of the Nik Collection from Google, who bought it from Nik of Germany some years ago and, having obtained Nik’s innovative U-point technology that it wanted for use in its smartphone apps, decided to cease maintaining the software. For a while, photographers were faced with the bleak prospect that this indispensable suite of plug-ins would become unusable. DxO recently issued version 2.0 of the Nik Collection, which I immediately bought (the upgrade price is only $60) and used in processing these images. All the suite’s original functionality is still there, plus DxO has added a set of “recipes” to accompany each filter, so the software feels similar to how Topaz Labs’ plus-ins function. I haven’t explored the recipes yet, as I have my own way of processing images in Nik, but plan to do so in the future. My images tend too look rather samey, so I’m hoping the new recipes in Nik 2.0 might offer me a way to break out of the post-processing rut I’ve been in for a few years now and develop a different look.

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