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Infrared: Our Unseen World

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Film photography, specifically black and white, has allowed me to see the world differently. I observe my surroundings as tones, shapes and leading lines far more intuitively than when I was shooting primarily in colour. That colour often tells much of the story. Strip it away, and these other elements play an even more critical role in the composition. It is now my preferred type of photography.

Cottage in woods

This past summer I spent some time out West with a fantastic group of photographers, one of whom introduced me to the technical aspects of infrared photography. Talk about seeing the world differently! IR Photography allows you to capture light not visible to the human eye, and the resulting images are otherworldly. This fascinating technique involves the use of an IR-sensitive film, such as Rollei Infrared. This film is also sensitive to visible light, so different filters are used to block varying degrees of the visible light spectrum, so only the unseen IR light is captured.

Once back home, I managed to venture out twice with IR film and the necessary filter. For my first attempt, I utilized my Hasselblad 500 CM. The process involved composing the image through the waist-level viewfinder prior to mounting the extremely dark IR filter and dialling in 4 stops of exposure compensation. At that point, you are shooting blind! For my second attempt, I utilized a Mamiya C330 twin-lens reflex camera. The design of a TLR lends itself perfectly to IR photography, as you can mount the filter to the bottom-taking lens while composing the image through the upper unfiltered seeing lens. This will be my IR camera of choice moving forward. 

The results are out of this world. Vegetation appears snow-covered, while watery surfaces darken significantly. It offers up new creative possibilities and I can’t wait to try it again!

IR photography is not specific to film. Most modern digital cameras have built-in filters that block IR light, however, there are companies that will modify a digital camera sensor to make it IR-sensitive. I certainly wouldn’t do this with my primary digital camera, but if you have an old one lying around unused, an IR modification could be just the thing to open doors to a wonderfully unique form of photography.

Happy shooting!

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Editor’s Note: If you are interested in purchasing any of Jason’s photography you will find his contact information on the right sidebar.

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