Saturday, 1 March 2014


My name is Edd and I'm an infra-red (IR) addict. I won't go over the basics of IR photography here, or too much of the techy stuff. There are lots of good sources of information regarding this around the internet (here's a wiki link), so if you're not familiar with this I advise checking that out first. The main topics I want to cover in the coming posts are:

  • Equipment & How To Use It (Cameras, Lenses, Filters etc.)
  • Taking IR photos
  • Processing / workflow
  • IR effects & Aesthetics

My passion for infra-red grows all the time. As I plan a new IR project (more about that soon) I've decided to make this blog - dedicated to IR photography. From IR film to the benefits of digital cameras and various other related equipment - my aim is to spark inspiration as I document my adventures, both in myself and anyone reading this. I hope you enjoy this journey as much as I have.

My attraction to infra-red photography began during my first visit to the lake district around 11 years ago. It was a week-long workshop at the Lakeland Photographic Holidays. For a few minutes during one of the walks John Gravett was demonstrating the potential of IR using a Nikon D100 and a plate glass filter. He did a great job of explaining the basic principals, ideal subjects, how to process the images and many other aspects. I think the reason IR appeals to me so much is that it exemplifies the experimental nature of photography. The ethereal visuals, possible through careful manipulation, are a neat extension of that discovery process.

Nikon D2H, Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 - 30 sec, f/18, iso 200 - B+W 093 filter

These images are from my first infra-red photo shoot, which was my second trip to LPH, in 2005. I set up my camera on a tripod, took one colour image and then attached the filter to capture the infra-red version. The right side of the image is the pure infra-red photo. The left half is a composite of this and the colour photo together. Hopefully this illustrates the potential aesthetics of infra-red photography, while also demonstrating one of the common limitations as well - speed. As you can see from the river's smooth surface (and the exif data) infra-red photography often results in long exposures. The solution here was to use a tripod, but there are other ways around this problem (as I will explain later).

Trafalgar Square - Nikon D3, 35mm f/2 - 4.5 minutes, f/8, iso200 - B+W 093 filter

This image isn't a great example of infra-red aesthetics, but it does show how undesirable slow shutter speeds can be. This is especially true of newer digital cameras - as you can see by how much slower the [2007] Nikon D3 exposure is compared to the [2003] D2H, about a hundred times in fact. This isn't related to the sensor's capabilities, actually all digital cameras are pretty sensitive to infra-red light (much more so than film). However, this sensitivity is inhibited by a filter that's placed in front of it, to improve colour accuracy and contrast. This is called an IR cut filter (or 'hot-mirror') and they've gotten considerably more aggressive over the years.

By adding an IR filter to the front of a lens in addition to the internal 'hot-mirror' you're effectively blocking out light from both ends of the spectrum. There's so little light getting through to the sensor that exposure times are often greatly extended. The other big issue with DSLRs is that IR filters appear completely opaque to the human eye, so attaching one to the front of a lens means you won't be able to see through it. This isn't so much of an issue for mirrorless cameras (compacts or ILC's), although they will still suffer with noisy / slow frame-rate displays due to a lack of light (unless they've been converted).

Rembrandt Park - Canon G9 (converted to 720nm IR) - 1/160th sec, f/8, iso80

Here is an example from a camera that has been converted to infrared. This process involves removing the sensor's IR-cut filter (or 'hot-mirror'), which you can either replace with a glass (allowing for full-spectrum), ultra-violet, or infra-red filter. The down sides to converting a camera to infra-red are the cost of conversion and it's inability to shoot colour images from that point forward. A common option for infra-red enthusiasts is to convert their previous digital camera after upgrading. Note that although most DSLRs can be converted, it's not so true of compact cameras, this is because their sensors are harder to reach.

Kenwood House - Mamiya C330f, 80mm f/2.8  - 1/4th sec, f/8, EFKE IR820 - Hoya R72 filter

Infra-red film has been around for many years. I have dabbled with this myself, using a medium-format camera, but it's not the easiest thing to jump in to. It doesn't negate the use of a tripod and it's very easy to get exposures wrong or even fog the film. This can be quite soul-destroying when it ruins a whole days worth of shooting, processing time etc. and it's not exactly cheap either. Digital photography, just as with colour, makes infra-red a lot easier to experiment with. It has more potential, it's quicker and cheaper, but that doesn't mean infra-red film doesn't look stunning in it's own right.

My latest venture into infra-red is still in the process of being set up. It's a plan involving a brand new type of digital camera, which I will convert to 'full-spectrum' and mostly shoot infra-red with, but before I talk more about that I want to write a few posts about my history with other cameras.

NOTE: Credit for the name of this blog (Infra-Edd) goes to a couple friends of mine (Andrew Stewart & Sam Grice), who now call me this whenever I start talking about infra-red photography.

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