Monday, 26 January 2009

A Journey into Infra Red

It's interesting to see where things might lead if you keep an open mind.

I have (or should that be 'had') no interest in Infra Red photography whatsoever. Sure, it was the kind of technique I thought I might 'give a go' one day - I even bought a roll of infra red Kodak film back in the good old days - and I've probably still got it somewhere? From the little I had read about it infra red photography seemed like, well, too much hard work.

But that, of course, was before digital. Not that I had any burning desire to play with infra red techniques with digital either. Until I saw a camera come up on Trademe.

Infra red in the past, even with digital, meant using special (read expensive) filters, long shutter speeds, guesswork in terms of exposure and focusing (manually because the infra-red colour spectrum is on a different 'length' than normal) - and lots of trial and error. See - too much hard work.

BUT - as with most things technical, some clever-clogs had the idea of pulling apart their perfectly good digital SLR, removing the infra red filter that blocks out IR from the sensor, and replacing it with a filter that will actually capture the IR wavelengths. And viola - a digital camera that 'sees' in infra red.

Above is an image I took last weekend with my 'new' infra red Canon 300D - a digital camera set up to capture IR images. It's a breeze to use - having been calibrated to focus in the IR spectrum (although it still pays to use fairly small apertures of around f8). On a bright, sunny day (great for infra red) you can hand-hold all day with shutter speeds of 125th - 250th. This is unheard of with 'traditional' IR using filters.

I was initially excited about the cameras Wedding applications - skin gets an eerie glow to it - almost ghost-like, together with the white of foliage, will make stunning photos here on the 'green' West Coast. But the more I looked into what others were doing with 'digital' IR, the more excited I got about it for my landscapes.

Getting your 'old' digital SLR converted to IR is trendy at the moment - some are even converting their (gasp) 5Ds to Infra red! Boy, you gotta love the results to do that. Once converted, the camera will ONLY take IR images - unless (and until) you convert it back. This is fairly major surgery, and something best left to the professionals. There are a handful of technicians willing to do the conversion, as well as some company's offering it now as well. I would strongly suggest you use them, rather than attempt the conversion yourself - although their are sites on the web that will take you through it step-by-step if you have a deathwish for your camera (or more money that I have to throw around).

I gotta say, it's pretty addictive - and I think I'm hooked. But I'm not 'quite' happy with the 300D I got from Trademe. Turns out that there are different 'grades' of filters you can use, to get different effects, and my camera just happens to use a very strong grade of filter so that I can only achieve the Black & White IR look. Other, less strong filters, will allow more colour to pass through as well - and this is called 'false colour' infra red. The effects of which can be simply stunning!

I have a 10D kicking around doing nothing now that I use the 1D and 5D at weddings. Maybe the 10D will find its way to a technician who will convert it into 'false colour' IR for me? I'd say that's more than likely...

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