Shooting Infrared Landscapes

When shooting infrared photographs you have the power to transform mundane subject matter into unforgettable images. Everyday scenes that you might walk right by and never think of photographing, take on a more dramatic look when seen in infrared, especially landscapes.

Back in the bad old days of infrared, you had to use special film stock and load and unload the film into your camera in total darkness to reduce the possibility of damage by fogging. To shoot IR film you also needed special—that part hasn’t changed—filters and either process the film yourself or find an ever-dwindling pool of specialty labs to do it for you. When shooting infrared film the process is more click and hope but digital IR images can be made-in camera and you’ll immediately see the results on the LCD screen.

One of the most interesting premium IR filters is the Singh-Ray I-Ray Infrared Filter. This totally opaque filter eliminates all visible light and transmits more than 90% of the near-infrared electromagnetic wavelengths between 700 and 1100 nanometers. Like all Singh-Ray filters it’s not inexpensive. The price for a 52mm filter is $160 but is well worth it if you are serious about shooting digital IR images.

This photograph (above) was just one of a few images that I was able to make before the wind picked up and wiped the reflection from the lake. Photo was made with a Pentax K100D and SMC P-DA 50-200mm f/4.0-5.6 ED lens at 80mm and mounted on a solid tripod. Exposure in Manual Mode was one-half second at f/9.5 at ISO 800. Filter used was the Singh-Ray I-Ray Infrared Filter.

With the proper filter you can capture near infrared images such as this one (below) that was made near Arches National Park. Exposure was one second at f/9.5 at ISO 800 with the camera and SMC P-DA 50-200mm f/4-5.6 ED lens mounted on a steady Titltall tripod. Image was converted to monochrome in-camera—but not at time of capture—using the Black & White Digital Filter found in the K100D’s Playback menu

The K100D series digital SLRs has hidden capabilities to capture monochrome Infrared photographs; all you need is the right filter to unlock it. The photo (below left) was made in Manual mode with an exposure of one second at f/9.5 at ISO 800. (Yup, it was on a tripod) These long exposures are required because IR filters are almost black so they filter all visible light, allowing only invisible (IR) light to pass through. Filter  was a Singh-Ray I-Ray Infrared. The initial image as captured has an overall magenta cast, so the first step is to it turn it into Monochrome using Photoshop’s Desaturate (Image > Adjustments > Desaturate) command. After that a little contrast boost will do it. If you want to get fancy, as I did with this image, you can create an Adjustment Layer-Curves and use it to tweak parts of the image’s contrast curve.

IR.bookMy book, The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography is currently out-of-print but copies are available from Amazon for around $14. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a chapter on IR photography and is available from Amazon with new copies under $6 and used copies less than three bucks, which is a heckuva deal.

Author: Joe Farace

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