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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Invisible Light

Nevada Wier’s color infrared images show the people and places she photographs in an ethereal and surreal way

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In 2007, about the same time as I had my first show of color images, I discovered that digital cameras were the perfect device for recording the hidden beauty of infrared light, and there were many more creative possibilities than before.

Digital cameras are so sensitive to infrared light that manufacturers place a filter in front of the sensor to block the infrared light from spoiling regular photographs. By removing this filter and replacing it with one that blocks most of the visible light, the photographer is able to record near-infrared light with a bit of visible, deep red light. The result is a surreal image with a bit of color, usually shades of blues and amber with occasional magenta. (There are a number of places where you can convert a digital camera to infrared red; I use a company called LifePixel, www.lifepixel.com.)

Left: Dressed for Carnaval in Barrio Abajo, Barranquilla, Colombia, 2013.
Center: Dongri Khond tribe girl, Sakata village, Orissa, India, 2012.
Right: Young boys from the Tangkhul Naga tribe, Sithai village, Manipur, India, 2012.

It's possible to avoid having a camera converted and, instead, use a filter to block the visible light from your sensor (usually, a Hoya R72 or Wratten 89B), but the filter is dark and it costs you approximately eight stops of light, so it becomes necessary to use a tripod for exposures that can last up to 30 seconds. I don't often use a tripod because my subjects are usually people who are in motion. It's also very difficult to focus with these filters because the viewfinder becomes virtually opaque. I think it makes much more sense to use an older digital camera and convert it for infrared photography.

There are many infrared conversion choices—Super Color IR, Enhanced Color, Super Blue IR, Deep BW IR and more. I've worked with a number of the different conversions, and my favorite is the Standard conversion. I like the subtle look of the images and their discreet touches of color.

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