Have you ever thought about what the world would look like in the infrared spectrum? The human eye can only see visible light which is a narrow band of all light. Infrared photography allows us to see beyond visible light. For most people, infrared light shows heat signatures. While this is true, heat is a very small portion of infrared light. Infrared photos are taken with a full spectrum camera and special infrared filters on the lens.
What is Infrared Photography? A standard digital camera has several filters in front of the sensor that block infrared and UV light. A full spectrum camera has those built in filters removed allowing all light onto the sensor. To create infrared images, filters at a specific wavelength are attached to the lens. For instance, a 590 nanometer filter allows all light above 590 to enter the sensor. Visible light spectrum ranges from around 380 nm to 750 nm with infrared above 700. The limits are not sharply defined so there is some wiggle room. The lower the filter number, the greater amount of visible light enters the image for more vibrant colors. The greater the filter like the standard Hoya R72 is mostly black and white with some color. By the time you get to the 830 nm filter, it's only black and white.
DEATH VALLEY PALM TREES
During a recent trip to Death Valley National Park, I stopped by the Inn at Death Valley and found a scene set up for infrared photography. The palm trees are the only ones in the park and with the green branches and grass, infrared was the only choice. This image was taken with the 590 nm super color filter from Lifepixel.com. The best part is that while other photographers are done shooting after the golden hour, that's when infrared photography starts.
SNOW BARN OF COLFAX
While out for a long bike ride in The Palouse a few years back, I saw this scene and knew I had to photograph it. When I arrived, the sun was shining through the clouds and illuminating the foreground. The 830 nm deep black and white filter was the only choice for capturing the scene. The fields of green turn white with the filter and make it look like snow. It was about 70 degrees so no snow in the forecast. After doing infrared photography for a couple years now, you begin to understand what filters work best with the scene, I still get images of the scene with different filters just to have the images.
On the way home from a backpacking trip in the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho, I opted for a stop in Joseph, Oregon. Photographers know this location from all the barns in the area. While driving a random road in the small town, I came across this scene that is meant for infrared photography. The owner must have known I was arriving so he staged the scene. At least that is what I'm telling myself. The Hoya R72 which is a 720 nm filter created this image. Not much visible light gets through causing the colors to be muted.
HYPERCOLOR PALOUSE BARN
The filter I use that lets in the most visible light is the 470 nm Hypercolor. This means all light above 470 nm passes through. 470 nm gets into the blue and purple colors of light turning green foliage purple. The best part of this filter is the way it separates colors of flowers and leaves from the rest of the scene. The yellow tree has yellow leaves in visible light and the truck is that orange. The Hypercolor images don't need much editing as long as the white balance is set with a white or grey card. This image can be found in the Panorama and Surreal Infrared galleries.
PIER 66 IR
Infrared photography is not just for landscapes. It works on cityscapes at the blue hour just as well. When my infrared journey began, my camera was converted with a 665 nm filter on the sensor. I was more focused on the white foliage and blue or black sky. Cityscapes take on a new look outside of visible light. This is the first time I started experimenting with the edit process and quickly learned I'm only limited by my imagination. Infrared cityscapes create an image straight out of a science fiction movie to standout among normal fine art prints.
Infrared photography is not for everyone. Like most, I started with the Hoya R72 filter on an old camera but didn't have much luck. The shutter speed was too slow for most scene since the wind was blowing and I couldn't get the focus right. Infrared light focuses different than visible light. The best thing to do is get a camera converted from Kolarivision.com, Lifepixel.com, or Spencerscamera.com. I opted for the full spectrum conversion but other choices are available as well. If you are new to infrared, I offer a workshop in the field and post processing session with Zoom to get you started on your infrared photography journey.