Sometimes it is necessary for me to get away from doing the usual things. My time as a photographer is spent being precise. I meter for the light and shadow, striving for the best possible exposure, and not much is left to chance.
On the Easter weekend I spent a day photographing a family Christening. My job was to take a creative approach to photographing that religious occasion and telling the family’s story. At an event such as a Christening nothing waits for the photographer and there is no time to correct omissions or mistakes.
The main rule for me was to keep out of everyone’s way, not to become a focal point of attention, and never to miss any thing that happens.
The next morning as I sat at my computer working on the post-production photo editing of the Christening my wife mentioned she would like to finish off the roll of film she had been saving for a sunny day. It didn’t take much convincing to ignore the day’s “to do” list and as I looked out at the clear blue sky I realized I needed something to take off the stress I had been feeling.
There is nothing quite like infrared photography. It is always an exploration when I use the well-worn Nikon D100 that I had modified many years ago to only “see” infrared light.
Vegetation appears white or near white. Black surfaces can appear gray or almost white depending on the angle of reflected light, and if photographed from the right direction the sky becomes black. The bluer the sky, the more the chance there is for an unworldly, surreal effect. And white surfaces can glow with a brightness that illuminates the sky.
I have written about infrared before, but for those that are new to this subject here is the gist of it.
Digital camera sensors are as sensitive to infrared light as to visible light. In order to stop infrared light from contaminating images manufacturers place what they call “a hot filter” in front of the sensor to block the infrared part of the spectrum and still allow the visible light to pass through. My infrared modified D100 has had that filter removed and replaced with a custom filter that allows for infrared only.
My wife wanted to visit a marshy area not far from our home that on wet years fills up with water, and is annually visited by birds, ducks, and geese. But this year’s early dry spring has not given the marsh much water, and when I walked up to the dam two ducks quacked loudly and flew away, and that was the only wildlife sighting for the day.
The back roads always have something to photograph, so we moved on and chose our subjects depending on the light. Linda was shooting with her old medium format 1950’s Ikoflex and was looking for interesting features like fallen trees and rock formations. That particular old film camera doesn’t have an automatic mode, or an in camera meter and requires a hand held light meter. I am sure the few passers by wondered at a woman standing roadside with a boxy thing hanging from her neck while she peered at something in her outstretched hand.
I just explored, and unlike Linda’s limited, 12 exposure roll of film, I had an almost endless supply of digital choice, and besides, infrared changes the way we see things. So I pointed my camera at anything that caught my eye.
I began this discussion with the words, “I spend my time being precise.” And “Not much is left to chance.” However, not so much with infrared. I only use the meter as a not-so-precise guide, and don’t worry about much else. I do try for interesting angles of the subjects I photograph, but sometimes I am in for a surprise when I bring the images up on my monitor.
Shooting infrared is always an exploration, a discovery and moves a photographer far from the usual.
I look forward to all comments. Thanks, John
I love IR shots these are well cool, I was going to have my D990 converted, but it cost too much, and now its part ext for my new camera. Never mind I can enjoy looking at yours 🙂
Thanks for your article, I find IR very interesting and beautiful to look at!
Yes Wendy, IR images are so wonderful. I am glad you liked the ones I posted.
Thanks fragg I am pleased you liked my IR photos. Who knows you might find an used IR camera sometime. If you could stop by the upcoming 26 April Vancouver Swap Meet on yer way home (that would be the longer scenic route) I’ll bet we could find one.
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Haha would love to but the Lear is in the workshop 😀 😀
oh damn…next time.
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Very few times have I handled a IR camera and come away with the thought I’d no idea what the heck I was doing ..I experience the different tones and thought this is not my cup of tea ..but your page say it beautiful to my mind it wasn’t me it the way the camera works ..Thanks John,,I shall try again if the chance ever comes up ..Thank you
Hey Duncan, If I ever wander over your way I’ll be sure to bring my IR camera for you to play with!
Infrared is a fascinating effect. Terrific images and interesting post, John.
Thanks Jane..Yes, infrared is exciting. I remember using infrared film. That was so neat, but I do like digital infrared better.
There is indeed something very special about IR-photography. And these images are simply gorgeous.
Thank you Otto. Gosh, I am glad you liked my IR images.
Good post with some great images: the colour especially.
One of the reasons I kept the D200 was that I will get it converted when I eventually return home after dipping my toes in all this sand 🙂
Did use a R72 but with little success so have held off until I get the conversion done.
My list of things I must do when I return to the UK for good is growing exponentially………….
Thanks David. I’ll look forward to those IR shots when you do convert that D200.
What? Return for good? I thought you’d never tire of all that sand covered history.
IR Photography is one thing I’ve been trying to do for quite some time. I have used my Pentax K10D with a Tamron 24-80mm Lens. I purchased a Hoya IR Filter that just screw’s on to the front of the Lens. The camera will capture a Image, but it’s all Red. It has to be edited. I’ve tried to do this several times in the past, but just can’t seem to get the settings right. I’ve just about given up on the whole darn thing. However, since the last time I’ve tried, I’ve purchased a Lightroom 5 program. Wondering if it would help. ~ Les
Hi Les, I know you are having fun with IR.
My camera has been converted to “only see” infrared that is so much different than using a program to get that IR like image. However, if it is working for you…I say go for it.
This is something else that I’ve considered doing. Taking my Pentax and have it converted over to IR. However, I am rather hesitant on doing this. First of all, it get’s a bit expensive. $200 or more to have this done. Second of all the camera will only see IR light and nothing more. I have been told that after time, IR get’s boring. Seeing the same thing all the time? Not so sure about that. I think that I’m gonna hold on this and keep trying with my IR Filter. If I get settings right, and I can edit the IR the way it should be, I’d save some money. Besides, my Wife would murder me!
Les, I agree converting can be expensive. However, I see that cost as cheaper than purchasing a new camera. When I had my old Nikon D100 converted my choice was sell it at $200 or spend $200+ to turn it into IR. I saw that as an inexpensive way to get a new camera. And thats what I have.
If your only camera is IR then I agree, it would be very boring. I would never suggest anyone not have a proper DSLR. I have a DSLR Full frame, DSLR Cropped frame and DSLR infrared. Each are different tools for different creative choices.
That said, I wouldn’t want yer wife to murder you….Gosh, I am just getting to know ya and I am looking forward to a fun exchange of thoughts and photography.
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