Wandering the neighborhood with infrared

Making Pictures with John Enman - Wandering the neighborhood with infrared

Infrared pictures

Infrared pictures

Spring is here with cool nights and warm days. The snow has finally disappeared in my neighborhood, except on the mountaintops that surround the river valley in which I live, and everything is starting to get green.

I had decided this should be the week to wander the roads near my home. I selected my camera that I had converted to infrared some years ago, attached a 24-120mm lens, and headed out.

Over the past 37 years I have photographed everything in my nearby landscape again and again, and I won’t try to guess at the number of different cameras, films, and film formats I have used.

My goal this time (I always like to have some type of goal or plan), was to wait for a cloudy day and make use of the low, dramatic, and directional light at day’s end. I wanted to use my infrared camera as I have many times in the past.

Using infrared is always fun. The resulting images are always different and interesting. Before the days when I had invested in an infrared camera conversion, I had used Kodak infrared film. There wasn’t an exact ISO rating or even very consistent settings for that film. One would make test exposures for the filter density one used and the developing times. Good results would finally be obtained, but always after exposing several rolls of that expensive infrared film.

Nowadays my camera no longer requires a specialized infrared filter, and I don’t have to spend time in a lightless room developing the film.

Yes, there was a cost to having my DSLR camera modified so that the image sensor is only sensitive to infrared light, but it has since paid back generously, because it is well worth the expense to be able to create unique images.

Most experts say infrared radiation peaks around noon, however, in my experience morning or evening is better, and the accompanying long shadows makes great pictures in infrared. So I waited a bit after 5pm before stepping out.

I went along the road searching out features I knew well, and that I thought might be perfect in the late afternoon light.

My main interest was the sky. I wanted the very dark, hazy skies one obtains with infrared that are so dramatic, compared to those with visible light. As I stood alongside the road I thought about how the pictures I was making would be nice as colour images, but infrared and the black and white conversion I intended to apply would create more impressive, or as one writer called them, “otherworldly” scenes.

All my images from that day received some post-production using PhotoShop and Niksoftware. I shoot RAW so the original files from my camera are red and white. I convert each photograph to black and white, increase the contrast, and sharpen and strengthen the highlights and shadows. The final vision isn’t supposed to be a pretty, scenic document as much as it is my personal artistic vision.

It is possible for photographers who want “infrared-like” pictures to manipulate their normal captures using Photoshop, or any of several other programs, that emulates the effects of infrared.

However, those photographers like me that are interested in something different can find an older DSLR and send it out to be modified. Since I had my camera modified, there are several companies that have appeared, like www.lifepixel.com.

These folks’ webpage begins with the question, “Are you tired of shooting the same stuff everyone else is shooting?”

So I suggest, if you would like to do something completely different, try infrared like me.

These are my thoughts this week. Contact me at www.enmanscamera.com or emcam@telus.net. Stop by Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops.  And if you want an experienced photographer please call me at 250-371-3069. In addition to providing several levels of personal instruction regarding cameras and photographic techniques, I also sell an interesting selection of used photographic equipment.