The Wood effect in IR photography   Leave a comment

A big part of the allure of infrared photography is the surreal, other-worldly look that photos take on as they reflect or absorb IR light. The “Wood effect” is probably the most desired effect among IR photographers. It is the effect which turns green foliage, like trees and grass, white or near-white, depending on your choice of conversion. It has nothing to do with wood, but is instead named after the American physicist who discovered it, Robert Wood. Unofficially considered “the father of ultraviolet and infrared photography,” Wood discovered the reflectiveness of chlorophyll, a primary component of foliage, when photographed under infrared light. The “Wood effect” allows photographers working in IR to create dream-like landscapes, to make regular, visible light scenes look like winter wonderlands, or to allow creative photographers to explore new ways of seeing that are simply not part of the visible spectrum.

Below is an example of a “winter” look resulting from the “Wood effect.” This is actually the Village of Arroyo Grande on California’s central coast. It never snows in Arroyo Grande. This is a color and black and white version of the same shot, produced with a Canon EOS 20D converted to 665nm enhanced color infrared. The images underwent minimal processing, just a standard white and black point set in Photoshop’s levels, then a red/blue channel swap for the color version and a monochrome conversion in the channel mixer for the black and white version.

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