Editor’s Note: Joe Farace is a photographer’s photographer. He, like me, has been around the block a few times. He’s an amazing writer with more than 30 books to his credit. You might also recognize him from his regular column in Shutterbug Magazine. Photofocus is proud to welcome contributions by Joe.
Guest Post by Joe Farace
One of the biggest advantages of shooting infrared images is that the medium has the power to transform seemingly mundane subject matter into unforgettable images. Everyday scenes you might walk by and never think of photographing, take on a more dramatic look when seen in infrared light. Tree leaves in general appear to be white. This is an effect produced by deciduous trees and grass because they reflect the sun’s infrared energy instead of absorbing it.
To give foliage that famed infrared glow you need to shoot at time of day when there’s more sun on the scene, which puts your best shooting time around mid-day! This is not the best times to make conventional images but these are the “golden hours” for infrared photography. If you need a rule of thumb, try this: the best time of day to shoot digital IR is when it’s the worst time of day to shoot normal images.
One way to check if your digicam is capable of infrared capture using filters is to point a TV remote control at the lens, push a button, and take a picture or look at the image on the camera’s LCD. If you see a point oflight, you’re ready to make IR digital images but this test is not infallible. The only bulletproof digital infrared test is to stick an IR filter in front of your camera and make a test shot. Which IR filter?
Filters are engineered to kick in at a certain levels and can cut part of this spectrum off which is why results vary depending on the filter’s design. For most of my filtered digital IR images I use Hoya’s (www.thkphoto.com) Infrared (R72) filter because it’s affordable and works great. In smaller sizes, such as 52mm, the Hoya R72 costs less than $40 making it a bargain for digital infrared photography. Cokin (www.cokinusa.com) offers a 007 (87B) filter that’s available in A, P, X-Pro and Z-Pro sizes. When using the Cokin modular filters in their holder visible light can leak in from the sides and pollute the IR image. Instead of a holder I use my fingers and hold the filter flat against the front of the lens. The camera should be on a tripod anyway because the optical density of all IR filters produces long exposure times.
Fans of premium filters from B+W (www.schneideroptics.com/filters/filters.htm) and Heliopan (www.hpmarketingcorp.com/heliopan.html) will have to spend a bit more but not too much more because most IR filters are by their nature expensive.
Singh-Ray’s (www.singh-ray.com) I-Ray Infrared Filter is a totally opaque filter that eliminates all visible light and transmits more than 90% of the near-infrared electromagnetic wavelengths between 700 and 1100 nanometers. Price for a 52mm filter is $160.