Making the invisible visibleFebruary 18, 2023
Back when the world was young, when the Princess phone was new, ask your grandparents, I bought a roll of Kodak’s Infrared color film. I was fascinated by the colors the film saw that the eye did not see. As it wasn’t relevant to my work at the time, I didn’t pursue it. Recently however, I started seeing posted infrared photos and my interest was once again peaked. I should probably take a stab at explaining what infrared is all about.
The light we see makes up a very small segment of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. At one end is high-energy blue light, at the other end is red light with slower wavelengths of activity. Infrared light is slowest making it invisible to us. Sensors in digital cameras see the same wavelengths we see, that small slice of the spectrum as seen in this clip of the electromagnetic spectrum below.
There are several paths to making infrared photographs. For analog, old-school types, infrared film is still available. It requires filters on the lens for effects. If you have a digital camera and want to be able to use it for general photography as well as infrared, you can use the virtually black Hoya R72 filter on the lens which requires very long exposures for infrared photos. Digital cameras can be modified with infrared filters, which was the path I took as I had a camera to spare. IR is measured in nanometers (nm), and the effect one gets depends on its rating. After a bit of research I chose a 590nm filter called Super Color, for “a super vibrant foliage and intensely colorful sky. With the red & blue channels swapped the foliage takes on a golden orange tone and sky a beautiful royal blue. The most surrealistic, color infrared filter available” (Description from LifePixel, the company that does conversions). OK, enough of the technical stuff, which to be candid, makes my eyes glaze over.
The learning curve for manipulation of IR is deep. Capturing the image in camera is only the start of the process that involves a lot of work in Photoshop. I am just getting started and have not yet mastered the calibration of the camera or my technique, but for first time shots, I think I did OK. Here are three IR examples from my first outing with the camera. These are processed with the colors in the IR spectrum for specific results; full color, black and white split tone with selective color and a black and white tinted version. Click on image for largest display.
I’m just beginning to scratch the surface on this. I have a feeling this will be a recurring topic as I get more familiar with the technique, so expect more postings as I learn my way around this.
As alway, thanks for reading.