Infrared Landscape Photography Part 1- Focus
The range of the electromagnetic spectrum that our eyes and brains can recognize is very small. We in fact only see a tiny percentage of what is around us. From television and radio signals to xrays and even heat we are blind to them all.
There is an exciting world that lies just beyond our visual senses and that is the realm of the infrared. We can feel heat to varying degrees no pun intended but there is much more to the infrared than what we can feel. Growing leaves and grasses for example emit or reflect more infrared than their surroundings. Cloudless skies are the opposite they have less relative heat. To the unaided eye things appear normal. To a camera which has been modified to record portions of the infrared spectrum things are more obvious. Living that is warmer things appear lighter in tone and the opposite for that which is cooler.
I had a 10 megapixel Canon Rebel modified many years ago. It was great fun shooting landscapes during the middle of the day a time when I would normally not be taking pictures. As my color cameras became better in quality the little Canon seemed less and less interesting. The fact that I was now shooting with a Nikon body only made things more complicated. I didn’t want to have two sets of bodies and lenses in my bag.
Fast forward to this past December when I purchased a used Nikon D800. I use a Nikon D800E today for most of my photos. Because I am more interested in shooting black and white I had toyed with the idea of getting back into infrared photography so I had the used Nikon body converted for infrared use. In doing so the camera is useless for conventional photography. An untouched image comes out of the camera looking pink. The pink can be removed revealing shades of black and white recording the infrared.
This is the first in a series which will span the course of a few months explaining how I shoot and process IR. Because winter will be here for a few more months the opportunities to shoot IR are less than in the warmer months although I suspect that I will experiment photographing winter scenes with the new body.
One of the most important things to realize when shooting infrared is that when we focus our cameras we are focusing visible light. Infrared being of a longer wavelength focuses beyond the sensor. My camera is modified so that the correct focus is shown on the preview display on the back of my camera. That means that instead of focusing through the viewfinder I must turn on the preview and focus with it. A small inconvenience.
I was just out in the backyard with the modified camera and took two photos. The top image is with the camera via live view on the camera back. The bottom image is with the image focused through the viewfinder.
Normally I wouldn’t photos at a wide aperture because I want as much in focus as possible but this time I did so as to demonstrate the difference in focus for you. An aside, the sky is clear and cloudless here but goes black without the use of a polarizer and the needles on the spruce tree which are dark green in color photograph as white.