Category Archives: Infra Red

Infra-red, the story so far…..

As well as my passion for the stark winter mono images, I’m also very fond of infra-red photography.

Although I had been aware of IR photography for some time it wasn’t until around 2002 that I became more serious about it. I won a competition in the now long dead “Digital Photo Art” magazine and part of the prize was a trip to the New Forest to meet a lady called Kathy Harcom who specialises in infra-red photography. I thought her work was wonderful and it inspired me to have a go myself.

IR photography opens up a new dimension for photographers and offers a ‘different’ way of looking at the world around us.
It offers us the opportunity to explore the world of the unseen.
Why “unseen”? Because our eyes cannot see IR light, as it lies just beyond what is classified as the “visible” spectrum which human eyesight can detect.
When we take photographs using infrared-equipped film or cameras, we are exposed to the world that can often look quite different from that we are accustomed to seeing.
Colours, textures, leaves and plants, human skin, and all other manner of objects can reflect IR light in unique and interesting ways.
Like any form of photography or art however, it is a matter of taste.

Here is a comparison between colour, monochrome and digital infra-red—–

052As you can see from the comparison of the church taken in colour, monochrome and infra-red, that the IR picks out different detail from the others, look at the foliage in particular, it’s almost white with a soft glow that typifies IR.

After doing a bit of reading and talking to people who used IR film I bought a roll, loaded it into my camera and was ready to go.

My first trip out was to York Cemetery which is a fantastic overgrown place with lots of potential for any kind of photography.

As you can see the film is very grainy but it has a lovely glow which I like a lot.

054 053The process is quite tricky as the film has to be loaded and unloaded in compete darkness, so any light leaks and the film is ruined. The film also had to be bracketed 1 stop either way to make sure of getting a good exposure, so out of a 36 roll of film you got 12 images. The exposure is quite hit and miss, so you are lucky to get more than two or three good pictures out of a 36 roll of film.

055This was on the Isle of Mull while we were there on holiday and the only decent picture I got from 5 rolls of film, so it became a very expensive image!

We went back to that location a few years later to retake the previous shot with the digital camera, which I’ll talk about later, but the boat had disappeared, though I suspect this is it on the shed roof!

056


 

UNCONVERTED DIGITAL CAMERA AND IR FILTER

Another way of doing IR photography is by using an R72 IR filter that attaches to the front of your digital camera’s lens.
The IR filter prevents visible light from passing through while only allowing IR light to strike your camera’s sensor.

As your sensor has an IR blocking filter in front of it, very little, if any, IR light reaches it.
The combination of the IR blocking filter and the IR filter on the front of your lens requires very long exposure times.

Not all cameras are able to take infra-red images, as some have a stronger infra-red blocking filter on the cameras sensor than others.
There are a number of problems associated with using an IR filter attached to your lens.
The primary issue is motion blur because of the long exposures (Which we actually really like).

Also as the IR filter is very dark, you have to focus before attaching the filter to your lens which can be a bit of a faff.

However, the upside of using the IR filter is that you don’t have to convert your camera, so you can still use it for normal photography.

Back in 2004 I discovered we could take digital Infra-Red images using our Nikon D70.
This gave us exposure times ranging from about 10 seconds up to a few minutes.
The great thing about taking these shots digitally is you can instantly see if you have the correct exposure by looking at the histogram.

Unlike infra-red film, digital infra-red produces a very fine grained image which personally we like a lot.
This shows the image as a raw file straight from the camera and after it’s been processed

058059Spring is a great time for infra-red photography with all the fresh vegetation as it records particularly well.

As does the stonework in the dales walls, which can look very graphic and it contrasts well with the soft glowing foliage. I love nothing better than wandering round the moors and dales looking for interesting features in the landscape like these.

061This image was taken on the Hawnby moor road to Osmotherley, although it isn’t as apparent that its IR as some other pictures, but I love the depth and fine detail it produces. I’d had my eye on these trees and their roots for a while and had been waiting for the right conditions to take them. They are right at the side of a busy narrow road and you take your life in your hands taking this shot. It’s a place I visit regularly to have a look at, but I have never been able to better this image.

062


 

ANOTHER OPTION IS CONVERTING YOUR DSLR FOR DEDICATED PHOTOGRAPHY

This option requires some specialist modifications to your camera, so this means it has to become a dedicated IR camera, but it does have the advantage of being able to shoot at more normal shutter speeds.
No more long exposures, no time spent pre-focusing, then needing to shift your focus mode from AF to manual and no more fiddling with IR filters on the front of your lens.

The IR blocking filter that sits in front of your sensor is removed, and substituted with one that allows only IR light to be passed through.
It is the equivalent of taking the external IR filter, and substituting it for the IR blocking filter.

The cons of using a dedicated IR camera are cost, the inability to use the converted camera for anything other than IR photography, and probably voiding your DSLR’s

warranty and also the problem of carrying an extra camera.

My trusty D70 died in Castle Howard lake a couple of years ago and I was forced into making a decision about which way to go next. After some research I opted to buy a modified D90 from Protech Photographic and I haven’t been disappointed.

It’s well worth a look on their website, they sometimes have converted cameras on there for sale.

Be careful what you buy though as some conversions only remove the IR filter from the sensor which means you still have to have the external IR filter and all the associated faff that goes with it.

I do tend to go out with the camera more in the spring because of the way IR renders the fresh foliage, although you can take good IR shots all year round. As you can see the infra-red is very effective recording the spring foliage and I really like the delicate texture it gives.

065Also when the conventional camera goes away for the day the IR camera comes into its own, around midday on a bright sunny day with a few clouds to break up the sky are IR heaven.

067Skies are almost as important as the subject you are taking I think. If you aren’t careful the sky can be too dark and dominant but a few fluffy clouds help a lot. Although on this occasion I think the clouds merge with the trees a bit too much.

068This image is the exception to the rule. On this occasion I think that the stark black sky actually makes the image.

069If you fancy something a little different, there is a way of channel swapping the colours in Photoshop to give you a blue sky which can be quite effective. Though I’m not too keen on the effect I’ve got with this image.

070I normally either convert to monochrome or tone the IR images but I liked the tones on this one of the Reading Room at Appleton-Le-Moors so decided to leave it as a false colour IR.

071As with this one, I have also converted this to monochrome but for some strange reason I prefer the false colour.

072Of course you can play with the colours in channel mixer and get some great effects. I took this by moving the camera up and down during the exposure then playing with the colours afterwards in Photoshop.

073

In conclusion, Infra-red photography allows you the opportunity to venture into the “unseen spectrum” and produce some ethereal images that transcend normal photography and open up new possibilities to explore another world.

If you have been inspired by this, we are planning to run some infra-red workshops during the summer. Please contact us for more details or check the website (details will be available soon) www.rjbphotographic.co.uk/tuition.html

A passion revisited ……

I first became interested in infra-red photography in 2003 when I met a lovely lady called Kathy Harcom and spent a day with her in the New Forest along with Roger Maile the then editor of a fabulous magazine called Digital Photo Art. Sadly DPA is no more as well as Creative Monochrome which was a great loss to all its followers.

I didn’t know much about Infra-red photography before then even though I grew up with black and white film but what I did know was it was very tricky to handle and process. I had come across a few IR photos mainly from a friend David who had briefly dabbled in the medium.

Meeting Kathy was one of those ‘Eureka’ moments, especially when we went back to her house and she brought out her prints. Masterpiece followed masterpiece and I was totally in awe of the work she produced. There is something of the otherworldly about IR photography that appealed to me then and continues to this day.

So back home and full of enthusiasm I decided to give it a go after doing a bit of research and talking to friends (“don’t go there” and “you can do it on the computer” being recurring comments). As usual I decided to go my own way and bought some IR film.

The film had to be loaded into the camera in complete darkness so I had to get one of those black bags that you put your camera, film and arms in, zip it up and then try and load the film into the camera by touch! That was the easy part!

Film loaded, now where to go and take my masterpieces? I needed a place with lots of overgrown foliage and something interesting among the foliage. I know, York Cemetery.

I was using an Olympus OM2 and the great thing about the Zuiko lenses was that they had the infra-red focusing line on them so focusing was made easy with that. (IR light is a different wavelength to normal light so a slight adjustment in the focus is required.) Added to that I had to bracket the shots so I took +2 stops, +1 stop, normal, -1 stop and -2 stops! So out of a 36 roll of film I could take 5 different scenes. Invariably I realised after a while that the ‘normal’ one was the best exposure of the lot so I was able to cut down the amount of bracketing a lot and get more out of the film.

York Cemetery is a fabulous place for photography, if you like wild places and don’t mind the odd scratch from the brambles. It’s a haven for wildlife and plant life in the middle of York.

Back to the black bag to unload the film and load it onto a spindle to go in the developing tank. Easier said than done, getting the film out of the camera was the easy part, threading it on to the spindle by feel took ages, aided by a lot of unladylike swear words (not sure they helped!) and it’s at moments like this when you can’t do a thing about it that you need to sneeze! Of course you can’t take your arms out of the bag because that runs the risk of letting in light which would be disastrous for the film.

I very carefully processed the film, it’s amazing how long you can hold your breath at this stage, anticipating and fretting at the same time! At last the film was processed and ready to come out, dare I? Phew, there is something there and it may be in focus and OK.

Once dry the negs were scanned and ready for printing.

1SCAN-YORK4-JYork Cemetery

1SCAN-YORK5-JYork Cemetery

I was really pleased with my first attempt so buoyed with this success I bought a further 5 rolls of film at £10 each and we took them on holiday with us to Mull.

There was lots of subject matter and one that really appealed was a boat slowly sinking into the pond at Calgary Art in Nature.

SCAN-DOVECOTE POND-JPond at Calgary Art in Nature, Isle of Mull

Secret ShedI went back a couple of years later with the DSLR,the boat had gone, I think it had been used to roof this shed!

Disaster struck though and out of the 5 rolls this was the only decent shot. Somewhere along the line light had leaked onto the film and ruined it all. Feeling very depressed the camera was put away in disgrace.

Soon after that we bought our first DSLR, a Nikon D70 with one of the tiniest screens I’ve seen, thank goodness they have improved considerably since then. It was soon after getting this camera that we learned that we could take IR images on it by using an IR filter on the front of the lens. The early DSLR’s didn’t have the IR blocking filter that the later ones have.

So, buy the filter and go out into the garden to try it out, it seems to work, hooray! A bit fiddly but a lot easier than the film technique, AND you can see immediately whether the exposure and composition are correct.

The D70 was a great little camera and I took some of my best IR images with it, until I dropped into the lake at Castle Howard Arboretum! It was full of smelly, green slime, ugh!

How GillOne of my favourite IR images, on the Osmotherley road.

70-1-5029-REven Richard got the bug, this one from Kingthorpe on the Pickering to Whitby road.

 

So my IR journey had another hiccup.

By 2014 I was getting serious withdrawal symptoms so I decided to investigate the possibility of getting an IR converted camera, this is one that has had the IR blocking filter taken out and been replaced with a filter that lets the IR light in. I had to do quite a lot of research to make sure I got the right camera as some conversions still require the infra-red filter on the front of the lens. This is something to bear in mind when looking at IR conversions on the likes of Ebay, always read the small print and find out before you bid. Basically if you want a camera that will take both colour and IR images you want the camera conversion the still requires an IR filter on the lens. If you want a camera that takes IR images only and nothing else you need the conversion that replaces the filter inside the camera.

Since getting the converted camera it’s had quite a few outings and I’m gradually re-honing my IR photography and enjoying every minute. It’s given the much needed new perspective and interest I was craving for so long may it last.

90-0271-JWalking in the woods at Cawthorne

90-0281-JWalking in the woods at Cawthorne


90-0348-RTrees at Calgary Art in Nature, Isle of Mull

90-0085-JTemple of the Four Winds, Castle Howard

90-0497-JThe Nelson Gate, Duncombe Park

90-0531-J
The Reading Room, Appleton-Le-Moors

Infra Red & dreams!!

Old Mill HouseMull was an Infra Red dream this year!

Very changeable conditions led us into the woods and finding such places as this old mill and the shed at Calgary.

Both taken with an unconverted D70 which led to some looooong exposures, but we were out of the wind so that was OK.

Used custom white balance on them too which has led to the false infra red look of the old mill. I like the effect on the mill but didn’t like it on the shed so it called for a conversion to monochrome.

Shed!