Using a Camera Modified for Infrared on vacation.

Infrared lightInfrared tree  construction IR  Cupola IR  Waterfront IR  Infrared and brick  Marina in IR    Infrared in street  Tower IR  IR light on clock  Flag & Building in IR

When on vacation I always bring along my camera. Actually most of the trips I take are for the purpose of relaxing and making pictures. If I couldn’t bring a camera I would suffer because I would see shots I wanted to take and wouldn’t be able to do it.

I enjoy wandering about with my camera wherever I go and for the short vacation my wife and I took to the coast of Washington state at La Conner.  For this trip I wanted to make a real change from my everyday shooting, and decided to spend each late afternoon making exposures with the well-worn Nikon D100 I had modified many years ago to only “see” infrared light.

Digital camera sensors are as sensitive to infrared light as to visible light. In order to stop infrared light from contaminating images manufacturers placed in front of the sensor what they call “a hot filter” 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 for infrared only.

The first day we had lodging in the town of La Conner.  I began walking the town in the morning with my Nikon D800e, and then returned in the late afternoon walking the streets and waterfront with my Modified D100 for infrared images.

On the second day, after a leisurely drive sight-seeing unsuccessfully trying to get close to the annual snow geese migration, we went a bit further to some big stores at an outlet mall near Seattle my wife wanted to check out.  Next day we moved about 20 miles down the road to a motel in Anacortes and again I roamed the streets, alleyways, and oceanfront with my infrared camera in a new location.

There is nothing quite like infrared (IR) Photography. Making an image with a modified camera is an exploration.  I like the contrasty tones that I can obtain when I convert the image to black and white. I suppose, like any form of photography, or art, it’s all a matter of taste.

Reflected IR light produces an array of surreal effects. Vegetation appears white or near white. Black surfaces can appear gray or almost white depending on the angle of reflected light. And the sky is my favorite part; it will be black if photographed from the right direction. The bluer the sky, the more the chance there is for a dramatic appearance.

Get everything right and there will be a “crispness” that’s rarely seen in regular photography, with everything looking very different from a normal black and white conversion.

The low-angled, late afternoon coastal light created lots of deep shadows on the buildings and trees, and it was that light and the contrasting effects that I was able to capture.

I like photographing architecture and other human-made structures. Well, actually, I like photographing just about anything. But on a trip when my goal is to photographically discover, or in this case, rediscover a small town or city, I let myself be as creative as possible with the many architectural structures, and a camera that sees only infrared does help. In addition, the colourful coastal architecture is very different from what one finds in the usually very dry, forested interior of British Columbia where I live.

I walked and walked. I photographed and re-photographed. I talked to people I met in the alleyways, along the street, and on the waterfront. My only goal was to capture the way the infrared light touched things and to be back at the motel before dark.

Life Pixel, http://www.lifepixel.com/ writes on their website, “Are you tired of shooting the same stuff everyone else is shooting?  Then be different & shoot infrared instead!”

I don’t think I care whether I’m shooting the same stuff as others, but I sure do like to change how other photographers sees the stuff I do shoot, and infrared works perfectly for that.

Of cours….I am always happy when someone comments. Thanks, John

Visit my website at www.enmanscamera.com

Infrared Photography on a winter day

old truck in infrared Infrared roadside Farm in Infrared

Photographers always tell me that they are participating on some kind of photo challenge or another: a photograph-a-day for a year, or once-a-month for some specific time, or some have even decided to follow a particular subject through each season. I like the idea, however, I expect dedicating time to making a photograph every day (unless one works in a busy studio and is doing it as part of the work day) could become quite a chore.

Personally, I have tried projects that require that kind of stick-to-it dedication, but I get side tracked easily and rarely complete what I started. Last February I thought I might photograph a bridge a month. I live near a big river so how hard could that be? I did get a few and then I just forgot.

When it comes to my personal photography fun stuff just happens. For example, it was one of those days when I was too lazy to do the stuff around the house that I should have been doing.  I was reading some and just thinking about photography in general. OK, for me thinking about photography isn’t that unusual, it is actually what I prefer to do.

I was lazy, reading and thinking about how I should have a photo project. OK, the project: drive up the road a couple miles and photograph neighbour’s places poking out of the snow and do it with my infrared camera which is fun.  Criteria: Hope for some sun.

I have an older digital SLR camera (Nikon D100) that has been modified to only see infrared light. Infrared (IR) light is light that has longer wavelengths on the red edge of the spectrum and is invisible to human eyes.

The sensors for digital cameras are sensitive to more than just the visible light spectrum. This causes problems with colour balance, so camera manufacturers place a filter in front of the sensor that blocks the infrared part of the spectrum that only allows visible light, and not infrared, to pass through. The modification for my D100 was accomplished by removing that filter, and installing one instead that blocks visible light, allowing mostly infrared light to reach the camera’s sensor.

The camera still functions normally with full autofocus and autoexposure, except that it’s now able to record the infrared wavelengths that are just beyond what the human eye is capable of seeing.  When infrared photographs are produced as black and white the photographs show trees with glowing white leaves and black skies opening up new visual opportunities for photographing the world around us.

Many think of infrared photography as the stuff of military night reconnaissance, or, as frequently portrayed in movies, as aerial thermal imaging that finds the bad guys. With thermal imaging one sees the heat the subject is producing, however, infrared as photographers use it, with our modified cameras, is about capturing the light or radiation that is reflected off a subject and doesn’t involve thermal imaging at all.

In 1800 Sir Frederick William Hershel described the relationship between heat and light and let the world know about the existence of infrared light in the electromagnetic spectrum.

I don’t know how conversions are accomplished with modern sensors. With my old D100 I need to preset the white balance and be aware of a meter that is easily tricked with the white snow. I must check my camera histogram after every release of the shutter and usually make two or three exposures just in case. However, everything appears normal through the camera’s viewfinder.  Also, because so much light reaches the sensor one can use high shutter speeds and so it is easy to hand hold while exposing a photograph.

I would have liked a clear sky with more sun to increase the infrared effect, but the high clouds let in just enough light to make things interesting and challenging. Some subjects don’t work very well with infrared, so I just experiment, take lots of pictures and hope for the best. I knew on that not-so-bright-day my images would take some work with PhotoShop and NIK’s SilverEfex.

Infrared photography is fun. I was only out wandering my neighborhood for a little over an hour before I hurried home to work on what I got. Everything changes when one is working with infrared, forcing even the least creative among us to think creatively. I can leave my images with blue trees the LCD displays or move the white balance off the preset to cloudy and get red and black pictures instead. Opening an image file in PhotoShop is always a bit of a surprise and from there on its all experimenting and personal vision. Yes, infrared is fun.

As always, I appreciate your comments.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com