Saturday, May 24, 2008

Infra Red B&W Photography

Hello Fellow Artists-

Today's post is about Infra-Red B&W photography. Infra red is an amazing film. It records radiation in the Infra Red spectrum we don't normally see. It can be tricky to use, but well worth the results. I will share with you some of the lessons I learned the hard way about this film.

My first tip is by the book pictured here. The Art of InfraRed Photography by Joseph Paduano. I would have saved myself a lot of grief and more than one roll of ruined film had I read this book first. It also has a great collection of images that can give you an Idea of some of the things this film is capable of.

Here is list of things to keep in mind when using this film.

  1. Always load and unload the film into your camera in total darkness. This film can fog right thru the can! (cause of my first ruined roll)
  2. The focus wheel on your camera has a little dot or hash mark just to the right of your normal focus location. Manually focus and then shift the focus point over just that smidge to the infrared focus point. (cause of my second not so good roll)
  3. Shoot with a dark red filter over your lens. You will not notice much of an InfraRed effect without it. (further not so good rolls of film)
  4. Don't try to figure out a working ASA (film speed) with this film. It changes on the conditions. I have learned to use a base exposure I use for everything and bracket 1 stop up and 1 stop down from that exposure (ie I start with f11 at 1/60 of a second and also shoot at f8 and f16). If it is a really amazing location and you want to guarantee you get the shot bracketing 2 stops is not a bad idea.
  5. If you are not going to develop the film yourself then make sure you discus with your lab that the film is InfraRed and needs special handling (More than 1 roll lost to this issue) One thing labs commonly employ is an InfraRed camera system to be able to observe racks of film in the development process. Guess what this does.... you got it totally fogs the film. (once you unload it from your camera into the plastic can it is safe for the trip to the lab. I also had more than one customer service person at the lab accidentally open the can of film and fog it. Clear communication with the lab is key)

So what does this stuff look like? It has an almost magic sharp grainy yet soft quality. The green grasses and foliage in landscapes becomes very light while the sky can become almost black. Here are some of the images I have created with this film. These images were scanned from enlarged contact sheets as I can not currently find the negatives from these shots and the prints I have are too big for my scanner so I apologize if the images are a little off. You will see I have sepia toned the images which can add to the quality of them.

So, hopefully I have not frightened you away from this amazing film and the beautiful images you can achieve. With a little experimentation and care you can get create images totally different from your current photography.
In a future post I will pick up this thread and talk about getting the same kind of results with your digital camera and Photoshop.


Janice Thomson said...

These are really quite phenomenal - the lighting is superb. This is like HDR only in B&W/ sepia tones. This technique is utterly fascinating Carl.

Carl said...

Hi Janice-
Cool Stuff right? I am going to be doing more with it soon including testing some new films.

I am fascinated by HDR imaging and will be trying a poor man's version of it soon. I know Photoshop CS2 has a built in wizard for it, but I'll be working in CS1 and will post the steps I take and some of the results.