Escape Into Infrared

Recently, infrared fine art photographer Rain Hayes talked about her work and techniques to our photo club and it was highly enjoyable. With her complete dedication to infrared photography, she has made it her own in a way that I had not seen before. Rain described looking into the electronic viewfinder of her converted mirrorless camera like peeking into a portal to another world and a form of escapism.

The peek into this portal is slightly more difficult for me because the infrared camera I use is one of those old-school devices with an optical viewfinder. :) I can use Live View to get an idea of what my photo will look like, but I’m not too fond of Live View because the screen is tiny compared to the vision-filling viewfinder (and also I need my reading glasses then) — but it sure is helpful to be able to focus for infrared light that way.

When we went for a mid-morning walk the day after Thanksgiving with friends, at the nearby riparian woodland of the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve in Poway, I brought the infrared camera as my photographic escape from the perfectly blue skies that we’re “suffering from” right now here in Southern California.

The colors in infrared are always a bit of a riddle. As we can’t see infrared light with our own eyes, what the camera’s sensor captures is shifted into the visible spectrum by means of a white balance adjustment. The colors aren’t real, and so there’s nothing in the way of just taking them wherever they want to go. :)

In fact, Rain mentioned that to her, most infrared photos and the subjects in them have a way of telling you where they want to go. I tried to embrace this idea, so the color appearance of the photos below is pretty much all over the place! Some have heavy color shifts from a green/magenta tint adjustment, others use the “fake” red/blue channel swap for infrared in Lightroom. I used additional adjustments in the HSL panel, primary calibration, and whatnot. Selecting a color range in LR and adjusting the temperature also leads to interesting results.

You might notice some softness at the corners of some of the frames. This is a lens defect — my 16-35mm lens has this problem at close focusing distances. Not a problem with visible light in most situations, but since infrared light has a different wavelength (“infrared infinity” is at the 2 ft distance marker), I promptly ran into this obstacle, and didn’t notice it on the tiny screen of the camera of course. I should just replace the lens, but then I’d be spending money on the “dead” Nikon F lens mount… sigh.

Buy Alex a Ko-Fi ☕️

With a one-time donation or a subscription (starting at just $1/month), you help me as an independent artist and freelancer. I also offer affordable small & medium size prints, beautiful folio sets, and open-edition fine art prints, in my print-on-demand store. THANKS!

Previous: A Long Lens at the Beach

Next: November 2022 End Notes

12 thoughts on “Escape Into Infrared”

  1. Wow! I feel like I am in Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings. It’s a whole new perspective to Blue Sky Reserve. All your shots are great but the first one of the sycamore really is amazing. Awesome light effects. What camera are you using? Makes me want to convert one of me old bodies to IR.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you, Edward. These were photographed with an old D5000. As long as the camera body has a Live View feature focusing will be easy, but very old camera bodies without LV require manual focus and that’s like flying blind with an optical viewfinder… :)

  2. Infrared really is a completely different way to see the world and I love what it can show. It’s been a while since I’ve done any. Granted, I only have infrared filters for non-converted cameras but it’s still fun. I like how different each of your photos are. This is inspiring me to find some time to play with infrared again.

    • Thanks, Todd. These were all made rather casually, hand-held. Slight advantage of an IR-converted camera. ;) (I believe you mentioned one that with the filters on a non-converted camera you always end up with exposure times of 30 seconds or more.)

  3. That Cold Glowing Sycamore is gorgeous! I was re-organizing my camera cabinet and my old IR converted D300 was there in the back and remembering Rain’s presentation I decided to take it our and maybe play around with some IR. Unfortunately the buttons are all sticky, the rubber grip is separating, and the memory card door release is pretty much unusable. Off to the junkyard with it.

  4. Wow, Alex, these are superb. It’s clear that you were inspired and then went your own way, with great results. The first image is so painterly – I immediately wondered about the bright Sycamore leaf shapes. I’m thinking they have that impressionist brushwork look because the highlights became much stronger than the parts in the shade so each leaf is more suggested than fully shown. Whatever the case, it’s a wonderful effect. In the second photo, I love the way the branches are flat against the background – that two-dimensional look. The third is effective and fun. The colors in the fourth are luscious. It has a pleasing Japanese print feeling. The fifth makes me think of yin and yang because of the way the branches reach across the frame. The sixth is inviting – those frothy leaves! BTW, a bit of softness in the corners does not take away from these, in my opinion. I hope you do more!

    • Thanks, Lynn. The bright glow of the leaves is indeed one of the biggest appeals in infrared, as foliage and living plant parts reflect a lot of infrared light (in particular when they’re sunlit, of course). Thanks for your thoughts on each of these, much appreciated!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.