INFRA-RED, BEYOND VISUAL

My last post revisiting old photos got me thinking a bit more about the film stock that was available back in the day. One of the more curious was Ektachrome Infra-red film marketed by Kodak (IR film is still available). This was a film that did wonderful things with foliage and water, if it was green it would come up a deep magenta, bodies of water could render purple-blue. Infrared reveals what the human eye does not see.The human eye observes wavelengths between 400nm-700nm (from purple to red). The light above 700nm is infra-red, not visible to us homo-sapiens. There are B&W IR films available for the Luddites out there who eschew the digital life. If you are fully embracing the analog life, developing and printing in your own lab, it’s a great way to go. Otherwise, you’ll have to find a lab to process the film and scan it for you to finish off digitally. Consider instead the advances and flexibility digital photography offers in rendering infra-red. A digital camera can be converted, a company called Life Pixel does this, to a variety of infra-red ranges; deep black and white, standard, enhanced, super color and more up to full spectrum. If you are seriously interested in pursuing infra-red photography this is the way to go and from what I gather, there is a substantial learning curve.  

Bartholdi Fountain

I did shoot a few rolls of the Ektachrome IR film many years ago, I thought it was neat, but I had other work to do, so I didn’t do a deep dive into the subject. My interest was peaked again during those dreadful Covid isolation months so I gave IR a second look, like everyone, I need a reason to live and I thought IR might be the happy pill I was looking for. Buying and modifying a camera that would use the lens arsenal I already had would be an expensive, not to mention confusing, route. As it turns out, you can purchase infra-red presets for use in Adobe’s Lightroom. These presets emulate various characteristics of infra-red without the purchase of a dedicated modified camera. I would not claim that they are equal to actual infra-red photographs but for my amusement, they worked. 

These photographs from my book, Washington D.C. • Home Again, were IR conversions done with a few of the presets I’ve referenced.

Air Force Memorial Reflection

“Spires” AF memorial, aerial night view

Dupont Circle neighborhood

Disabled Vets Memorial eternal flame

Now that we are able to get back in the real world, my interest in IR has waned, but that does not mean it is not worth your consideration. For a good look into some beautiful IR, check out Kathryn Stiver’s color landscapes and more on her web site www.distantlightstudio.com  or Justin Minns black and white IR images at www.justinminns.co.uk/infrared

©Photos by Aboud Dweck, All rights reserved
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