I’ve been surprised by the level of technical interest in near infrared digital photography as a result of recent shots I’ve posted from Walt Disney World. It’s a novel look and I’ve really enjoyed playing with it and learning about it, but trying to explain it can be a bit confusing. In posts and responses I’ve talked about “false colors” and the way a scene looks with and without the infrared filter, but since a picture is worth a thousand words I figured today I’d let the pictures do most of the explaining.
I snapped this quick shot of the Imagination! Pavilion at Epcot the other day while checking out the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. I chose this location rather than any of the festival’s gorgeous flower beds and topiaries since the process eliminates all color anyway. Also, by shooting here I wasn’t going to end up with my backside in the middle of hundreds of guests’ pictures (definitely not my best side, by the way). As you can see, the original color photo makes for a fairly average snapshot.
Once a #87 infrared filter – which blocks all visible light – is added, things change dramatically. The exposure time plummets from 1/8000 of a second to a full 30 seconds at f/2.8 at 400 ISO (for you photo types, that’s a drop of 18 stops), allowing the moving clouds and fountains to blur. The resulting colors also change dramatically and everything becomes a monochromatic pink. Different cameras’ sensitivities to near infrared light will yield different looks and exposures, however. These false colors, like seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, do have a surreal beauty to them.
Once you’ve got a color infrared image, it’s a fairly simple process to put it into a computer and remove the color information using any of a number of image editing applications. I love the resulting contrast of the sky and clouds coupled with the ethereal look of the foliage. The black-and-white also helps give it a classic landscape feel.
It’s a fun way of looking at the world and is strangely addictive, and I seem to have a tendency to get carried away with it. I need to make a mental note to stop before all of my colleagues show up with tissues and duct tape to stage an intervention.
There’s a knock at my door. Gotta go…