Infrared photography trials
I tried infrared (IR) photography once in the past with very little success. I didn’t really know how to do it properly and I got discouraged by lack of results. All my knowledge even to this day is purely theoretical. I watched couple of tutorials, read some articles but trying it, is by far the best way of learning. Sun is shining high in the sky today. It couldn’t get better for IR photography than this. I don’t have converted IR camera, I only own Kenko R72 infrared filter. My first ever take on IR photography happened few year back with my (already sold) Nikon gear. Unfortunately I didn’t own a lens suitable for IR photography. They all rendered very strong hotspots. This is a known issue of some lenses. Not every lens is performs well when it comes to IR photography. For example, Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8 is an expensive professional lens and it was absolutely useless with IR. Hotspots were so severe it was impossible to edit them out. After this disappointment the filter disappeared somewhere deep in my camera bag only to emerge recently after a big cleaning. This time I am taking it out with my Fujifilm X-T1 and Fujinon 14mm 2.8 R lens. This combo is known to be ok for IR shooting at least according to few forum posts I have read.
I headed to Centenial Park in Sydney fairly early before crowds start to gather in the park. It’s a public holiday so I expect it to be very crowded mid day. Luckily sun was shining early morning and I counted on most people to be very lazy to get out of the bed before 10am. I quickly did a custom white ballance on clean patch of grass. Another alternative is to set the WB to 2500K which was a recommendation I saw on the web after the shoot.
Framing and focusing was supposed to be an issue as IR filter is very dark and cuts out good few stops of light. I noticed that when I set the ISO temporarily to 6400 I could very well frame my image with filter still on the lens. Also for focusing I used peaking (with color set to white or blue). I kept the aperture at F8 for most of the time and focused little below infinity marking on the lens. Exposure times were in 20-30 second range for most of the time with ISO kept at 200. I obviously used a tripod and 2 second timer delay to let that camera settle down before taking the shot. It worked well and I was able to shoot without unscrewing the filter off the lens. After about 2 hours in the park and I stopped shooting when I wasn’t able to frame a clean shot without people and cars creeping into a frame. Seriously…..park should be car free.
For postprocessing purposes I created a custom dng profile using Adobe’s DNG profile editor. This step is necessary since white balance range in Lightroom is hard coded and limited for IR editing. With custom dng profile I was able to eliviate most of the red/purple cast that is specific for IR files. Then I edited files in Photoshop using traditional channel swap technique. I made some faux color conversions and few black and white versions which I tend to favour over color. I noticed the files had plenty of light leaks and ghosting. I attribute that to long exposure. Actually I mounted the filter to lens using a step-up ring. That is just one extra element that can potentially be a reason for leaks. I tried to edit them out where I could They become a non-issue for BW conversions. Here are few images from the shoot as a result of first real serious attempt of infrared photography. There is definitely room for improvement in shooting technique as well as post processing which is quite crucial in this genre of photography. This will not become my mainstream photography agenda but it is a welcome break away from my traditional subjects. Also I cannot see myself to convert a camera just for this but trying it with filter from time to time is refreshing. I'll definitely give it a go again.