Sunday, April 14, 2013

Seeing the World in a Different Light

One of my first infrared photographs.  Taken at the Matthaei
Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor Michigan.  D90IR (720nm
conversion)and 18-200mm lens.
My original reactions to infrared photographs were those of outrage and repugnance. The world I knew had somehow been violated. Perhaps it was the surreal IR landscapes that were at once familiar and unfamiliar. Perhaps it was the other-worldly black skies and white leaves that reminded me of a photographic negative held up to the light. Maybe it was the porcelain skin and the dark eyes we associate with ghosts and other specters that walk through our world unseen. I don’t know how it happened, but I grew to like infrared photographs and infrared photography.

Photography is about capturing the light and but our eyes react to a very narrow sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum (~400-700nm). Infrared light is invisible to the naked eye but our camera sensors can see and record these wavelengths. If we use a filter to block visible and ultraviolet light, the resulting images show us an unseen world that exists just beyond our normal perceptions. Infrared photographs literally show us our world in a different light. 

Exploring the infrared world is like walking through a sci-fi story where the optical rules of the universe have been altered. Objects reflect and absorb infrared light in unexpected ways and all colors are false colors. Camera gear optimized for visible light photography may or may not function as expected in this world, producing hot spots and lens flare in infrared while working perfectly in the visible spectrum. 

Just like the sci-fi character who enters a new universe, the infrared photographer must learn the rules of the infrared multiverse if they want to consistently produce high quality IR photographs. With this photoblog, I hope to share my experiences as I explore the art and science of the infrared world.    

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