Infrared Photography - A Start
Within the last year, I have joined other photographers in exploring the world of infrared (IR) photography. It started when a photographer friend of mine, Lori Rowland over at Oregon Exposures, was keenly interested in having a camera converted to IR. She was enthusiastic about the possibilities and encouraged me to consider this realm of photographic work. While I had viewed some interesting IR photos, I have to admit that my interest was mild. My thoughts at that time were simply to buy a filter that could be mounted on a lens and would let IR light pass through onto the sensor of my Fuji X-T2 camera. This would be an inexpensive way to explore IR photography to see if it really would capture my interest. Then, while reading through a Buy & Sell photo forum, I saw that someone had a Sony Nex-7 IR-converted camera for sale at a good price. I decided to buy the camera and give IR a try with a converted camera. Using a converted camera has the advantage of being able to photograph in a normal way. The type of IR filter that I had been considering requires a lot more effort in setting up a shot, including focusing and metering prior to putting the filter on the lens. The filters are very dark and block all visible light. So, having the opportunity to work with a converted camera seemed much more appealing.
Working with the IR-Converted Sony Nex-7
The IR-converted Sony Nex-7 turned out to be a great little camera for trying out IR photography. The small body and ease of controls made the camera easy to work with. When spring arrived and foliage finally emerged, I took the camera out to a local wildlife refuge and worked with it. Seeing the world in infrared was fascinating. Everything that I saw through the viewfinder seemed magical. Foliage was bright and clouds popped in a very satisfying way. Before editing the images, I had to prepare a camera profile for Lightroom and then was able to work with the IR images using false color. My attempts at false color editing on the IR images were not all that great, but I could see a lot of latitude for creativity.
Later in the spring, I spent a day out on the Zumwalt Prairie in northeastern Oregon. Over the entire day, the sky was filled with beautiful cumulus clouds. This was the first time that I really felt that I was able to capture some really nice shots with the IR camera - everything came together with the landscape and environmental conditions.
As sunset approached, I was watching the light on the undulating prairie in the distance. Looking closer to where I was standing, I noticed a jumble of barbed wired sloppily left on a fence. It was an ugly reminder of carelessness and I shot it with the IR camera as well. This image turned out to be one of my better false-color photos.
After working with the Sony camera for a while and researching various aspects of IR photography, I decided that I liked it well enough to move forward in IR photography with more seriousness. As much as I like the little Sony Nex-7, I decided that it would work better for me to use a Fuji camera as I have been migrating over to Fuji gear. This approach would make things easier as far as lens compatibility goes, plus familiar handling and controls of the camera.
Decisions for IR Camera Conversion
Infrared camera conversion is a modification to the camera sensor that limits the range of wavelengths that reach the sensor. Infrared light is in a part of the light spectrum that resides outside of the visible spectrum. By converting a camera, we can see the world in a whole new way - a way that is impossible with an unmodified camera.
Three decisions needed to be made for conversion of a camera to IR. The first is deciding on a camera to convert. The second and third are the company that will perform the conversion, and the wavelength (or range of wavelengths) for the conversion. After researching and finding that there have been many people who were happy with their converted Fuji X-T1 cameras, I purchased a used one that was in nearly like-new condition. This is the camera that I sent in for conversion.
Three companies that are probably the most well-know for high-quality infrared camera conversions are: Kolari Vision, Life Pixel, and Spencer's Camera & Photo. All three have excellent reputations, and frankly, it is difficult to choose between them. I went with Kolari Vision and have been very happy with the conversion. They were very helpful and responsive to questions. The conversion only took a couple of days once they had the camera in their hands.
Selecting an IR filter, which determines the band of wavelengths that are allowed to reach the camera sensor, was a little challenging. All of the options are interesting and have unique characteristics (check out this link for information: Choosing an IR Filter). The Sony Nex-7 had been converted to 590nm and I realized that for my style of photography, a different filter would work better for me. I ended up selecting the 720nm filter because it allows for terrific black and white conversions, is sharper than IR filters that allow more visible light, and also gives opportunity for false-color IR images as well. I have to admit that I was keen on the 850nm filter as well with it's beautiful monochrome possibilities.
Traveling with the IR-Converted Fuji X-T1
A few weeks after I received the converted Fuji X-T1 back from Kolari Vision, I spent some time on a camping vacation covering parts of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Terrific skies, combined with beautiful landscapes, provided excellent opportunities for IR photography. Driving the unpaved back country roads provided for superb photographs.
I had been interested in photographing geyser landscapes in IR as well. Stopping at Black Sand Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park, I was able to capture some intriguing landscape shots. Later in the day, a walk on the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake provided exceptional conditions for IR photography.
A target location for the trip was the Wind River Range in Wyoming. The first three days were spent at Upper Green River Lake. During that time, the sky had no clouds and smoke from wildfires was present. Those conditions made for less-than-stellar photographs. Smoke can ruin an IR shot just as much as a visible spectrum photo.
A few days later, as we progressed toward the southern end of the Wind River Range, the skies became more interesting and there were opportunities for photography in which the smoke was not so bad.
Inspired by Infrared Photography
At the time that I write this, I have just dipped my toes into the world of IR photography. It is fascinating and beautiful. Viewing the world this way provides an unusual and sometimes surrealistic experience. It is a joy to see things in a way that is a part of the natural world, but that is normally not visible to the human eye. I plan to enthusiastically continue this form of photography. Please visit my gallery of infrared photos to see more of my work: Infrared Photo Gallery.