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SCENES IN INFRARED
at the Grounds for Sculpture
Hamilton, NJ, USA

EXPLANATION ABOUT INFRARED IMAGES


by Flo Deems
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The light and colors we are able to see occupy only a very small part of the whole electromagnetic spectrum. Beyond the red end of these frequencies lies the infrared band, which we feel as heat, but do not register it with our eyes. However, bees and certain other insects see into the infrared and also the ultraviolet end, beyond the blues and violets of the visible frequencies.

Many years ago, Kodak and other film manufacturers developed films and filters so we can photograph the infrared or heat wavelengths of the spectrum. But infrared film required special handling, such as having to be loaded into the camera and also in the dark room in total darkness, or they would become fogged and ruined. So many photographers did not bother shooting with these types of film.

Then along came digital photography. Digital sensors are sensitive to infrared frequencies, so manufacturers of these sensors must put a special filter in front of the sensor to block the infrared rays, so we can shoot images using only frequencies in the visible light spectrum.

Several years ago, Fujifilm was using Nikon D200 bodies as housings for new digital camera "innards" they were experimenting with. They came up with a unique sensor that is unusually sensitive to infrared and ultraviolet frequencies, as well as all the visible light frequencies. So they marketed a camera that they named the FinePix S3Pro IRUV body that uses lenses with a Nikon mount. Police, military and other agencies found this camera model very useful in forensics and military applications. Fine art photographers who specialize in black and white images also found this model intriguing.

The images you will see on the next pages were all made with this particular camera model. Since images made in the color mode of any camera capture more information than images made using the black and white mode, I used color mode for most of these images. Infrared results in images having a mostly-magenta cast with very little other colors evident. Using the red, green and blue channels, these other colors can be made evident, but the results will look very surreal. Color IR images can also be converted into monochrome, or black and white, with beautiful, yet surreal, results.

Bright sunny days from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. offer ideal conditions for shooting infrared images. This is the time of day when many landscape photographers do not like to shoot, but then they are using visible light. The green leaves of trees and other plants will show a very light tone, because they reflect a lot of infrared or heat wavelengths. A clear blue sky, on the other hand, will show black, while clouds which do contain heat will show almost white. Objects that do not radiate heat will show up as dark tones in the images. Focusing for infrared shooting usually results in "soft focus." Older lenses for film cameras had a special mark on the focusing ring to show people where to set it if they were using infrared film. The focus, to be sharp, must be slightly in front of where the focus for visible light would be. Newer lenses do not have IR marks, unfortunately.

It helps also that no light can get into the camera via the optical viewfinder. If this happens, we can end up with images that have large "hot spots" or areas that look almost blown out in their centers. These are areas of over-exposure. If we wear a white or light-colored shirt and the sun falls on it, light/heat can also be reflected into the viewfinder from the shirt. So when shooting on a bright sunny day, we need to make sure that we cover up the viewfinder before clicking the shutter button, or wear a black or very dark-colored shirt.

Another thing I've discovered is that the light metering system is not made for accurately exposing infrared. I find I must set the EV at -2.5 or even -3.0 to get properly exposed IR images. Also, when post processing IR images, I nearly always must increase the contrast quite a bit.

On the next pages are infrared scenes, a few in (surreal) color, but most in black and white. I have sepia-toned many of these monochromes. Just a personal preference of mine. All images were made at The Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, USA.

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