Light, Heat And Life: Infrared Photography In A Digital Age
Infrared photography is an enigma—something that isn't as it first appears. It plays with the viewer's emotions and often brings out the whimsical side or the eerie, dark shadows in everyone's hearts.
The fog-bound view of farmland, absorbing light against the mountains in the distance.
Still water is cold and dark, so it’s perfect for adding shape. Flowing water is light, a trill on the structure of a rock or the shore. Reflections can be silvery or lacy—even ominous. It’s your choice, in the camera or in Photoshop.
Thinking outside the box often works wonders. Fog, which is cool and absorbs light, is often dramatic against views of mountain ridges. Sometimes fog is rendered soft and pulls you into a diaphanous world of imagined wonders.
Experimenting is the key. Not only will you find a delightful new way of seeing light, but you also may sharpen your ability to "see" color for your color photography. Remember to think outside the box, and you’ll produce moving images—the kind of images that make people stop, look and think about the message you’ve created.
I converted an old Canon EOS D60 to record only infrared images, but a number of Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm cameras can be converted. When converted, the camera will operate like its unmodified version with these exceptions:
1. You must use only the Custom White Balance that was preset to neutralize the image, but instructions are given to reset it should you need to.
2. Because your camera records visible light, it won’t correspond to the proper infrared exposure, so you should generally shoot at ISO 200, ƒ/11 or above and about 1/30 to 1/60 sec., but experimentation will show you what works best in different situations.
3. Shoot in the RAW mode, and render as 16-bit TIFFs for your sharpest images and best printing results.
4. Be extremely careful with your sensor, and remove dust with a bulb and syringe only.
Left to Right: Dark, cold water flows beneath rocks on a beach to create a silvery texture to the frame; The prominence of a dolphin’s eye becomes hypnotic through the infrared image composed with the converted Canon EOS D60; A dead fish on the beach creates interesting structure amid the sand.
Adobe Photoshop doesn’t recognize the Custom White Balance in the camera, so downloads will look sickly red in RAW, but in JPEG, they’ll look black-and-white. If working in RAW, you’ll have three steps:
1. Set Saturation to 0.
2. Adjust Shadows until the left side of the histogram just touches the edge.
3. Adjust Exposure until the right side of the histogram is near the right edge. Sometimes I’ll also brighten a little at this point. In Photoshop, you’ll need to do a Levels adjustment as well. You also may want to crop, dodge or burn, or remove spots, but little else. When you’re done and ready to save the image file, go to Image > Mode > Grayscale to remove the color information.