Baby Steps in Infrared

For me and yes it may be related to age, every new project is not approached as you might say when trying to bake a particular cake, marshal the ingredients, follow the recipe, put in the oven and “Voila” success or failure. No it is always a voyage of discovery and that takes time. True there will be stages along the way when you have a degree of success but in reality it is a creative journey where mastering a new (to you) craft is just a necessary prerequisite to exploiting the technology to produce something original and personal.

It reminds me of being a keen student at art school in my late teens. You did life classes because drawing the human body is one of the classic basic exercises that every aspiring artist has to master, it is an essential skill and fundamental to developing observational awareness. It is possible that the “greatest works” of your lifetime may indeed be based on this discipline but generally speaking, not so likely however, it is the springboard for creating other things.

So to Infrared

Although I have had my original infrared converted camera since last Winter and have used it during every month since then, it is only really in the Spring and Summer months with their copious foliage that infrared images start to buzz and get really interesting. However that is only the start of things, stimulating though that is when you see your first results but there next comes dealing with the editing, establishing a basic approach and sequence. From this you start to see how the light impacts your images, it is not just the composition, some pictures just ‘work’ and others don’t.

One thing to grasp quickly is how setting a “custom white balance” can be highly significant in what you end up with because white balance is key to developing your end images. Gradually it starts to make some sense and order arises from the chaos so that you can start to combine your experiences of both taking pictures and editing them and from there target ‘appropriate’ compositions.

False Colour Images

I don’t imagine that I’m even ‘halfway’ there yet as far as mastering this medium is concerned but never the less I thought I might include a few images to demonstrate something I have enjoyed. When we think of infrared we tend to think of those visually odd “false colour” images a gallery of which are on this page and yet infrared also provides an excellent base for pure black & white images too.

There is an oddity in that because this is going out on the web you reduce the images to the smallest size possible for fast transmission and whilst the false colour versions seem okay, the B&W versions less so, they seem happiest at full size. In due course I will test this out by printing both versions out at A3 size but for now it’s not a priority.

The Question of B&W

As we start to approach the end of Summer and the start of Autumn where the angle of the Sun changes so that it is a lot lower in the sky, I have “discovered” a whole new world which is best seen in black and white. I can remember being told many years ago that the problem with colour film was that colour is seductive and you really need to shoot in B&W to develop a real understanding of structure.

The thing about shooting in infrared is that you are capturing heat expressed as light and when processed as monochrome, you really start to understand structures particularly if shooting through the leaves of trees against sunlight. Whatever, I find it really exciting and worth pursuing in some depth in the time ahead.

As a check on these images, I took similar shots in ‘normal’ colour of a number of these locations and the results were interesting because at first glance it may be that infrared holds a wider range of detail better than a colour image converted to black and white. At this stage I wouldn’t state that this is always “true” because it is way too early for such a statement and I may need to evolve my editing skills further to decide that but we shall see. However this is just the start of a journey as far as this project is concerned and I can see lots of potential to play with on the road ahead.