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.


Capturing motion with a converted camera   Leave a comment

Here is perhaps the most compelling reason to go with an IR camera conversion rather than using external IR filters. With a converted camera, you can stop motion since the camera works virtually the same as it did before the conversion. This is not possible with external filters. You can’t achieve a shutter speed fast enough to stop the action, and in most cameras, you won’t be able to see your subject in the viewfinder because of the super-dark filter. This was shot in the coastal community of Los Osos, California. I saw the great egret flying around the bay, switched to my Canon 70-200 f2.8 L which performs flawlessly with Canon 20D converted to 665nm enhanced color infrared (even though the camera was calibrated to focus with my 24-70 2.8 L) and waited for it to fly by me. I just don’t think this shot is possible without a converted camera. The image underwent my standar IR processing method, with a white point and black point set in Photoshop’s levels, then a red/blue channel swap in the channel mixer.

IR lens flare: good, bad or a little of both   Leave a comment

No question about it, a converted digital IR camera is quite susceptible to lens flare, even with the use of lens hoods. It’s especially prevalent with back lighted or side lighted scenes. In my early photography years, lens flare was considered to be pure evil, to be avoided at all costs. Today, lens flare seems to be in vogue. I have even seen filters that you can buy just to put lens flare in your photos! That’s one filter I won’t have to buy, since lens flare has never had much trouble finding me! A nice thing about lens flare with digital IR is that it is very easy to see in the viewfinder, so you’ll know it is there before you take the shot. You can decide to leave it there, you can move around a bit to position it where you would like it to be in the frame, or if you don’t want it there at all, you can move and watch it disappear from the viewfinder. With a converted digital IR camera, it’s your call. Use it for effect, or get rid of it. I found these moss covered trees in an oak preserve in Los Osos, California, a quiet and beautiful coastal town near San Luis Obispo. Talk about a natural IR subject! Camera was my Canon EOS 20D converted to 665nm enhanced color IR and a Canon 24-70 f2.8 L lens. Processing was extremely basic: a white point and black point set in Photoshop’s levels, then a red/blue channel swap to create the Wood effect. The Wood effect is the process where infrared light reflects the chlorophyll and moisture in green foliage and plants and renders them white.

Maximizing the red for dramatic effect   Leave a comment

Mono Lake in California’s Eastern Sierra is one of the most heavily photographed bodies of water in the United States, and I wanted to do something different that has hopefully not been done by anyone else. This sunset on the lake was largely unremarkable. The sunlight remained essentially white the whole time, leaving not even a trace of warm tones. I decided to work with the red cast that is present in most infrared images, the result of the small amount of visible red light that is recorded before moving into the black and white that comprises the near infrared spectrum. This is the result. Camera was my Canon EOS 20D converted to 665nm enhanced color IR, with a 70-200 f2.8 L.

Another IR natural – bridges   Leave a comment

Bridges are a natural for infrared photography. This is the foot bridge over the creek in Arroyo Grande, one of the most beautiful small towns in California. The image required minimal post processing, just a white point and black point set in Photoshop’s levels, and the removal of a slight blue cast, primarily in the couple’s clothing, using the hue/saturation sliders. Camera was my Canon EOS 20D converted to 665mn enhanced color IR. Lens was a Canon 24-70 f2.8 L.

Just like fishing, sometimes you just have to go!   Leave a comment

We don’t get many skies like this in Bakersfield, so when a day like this comes along, you just have to go shooting. Reminds me of the old fishing days; when the bass were biting, you had to make a trip, no matter what else was pressing. This is the result of a couple of hours driving around my neighborhood with my favorite IR photography setup: my Honda scooter and my Canon EOS 20D converted to 665nm enhanced color IR, with a Canon 20mm f2.8 and a Tiffen circular polarizer. Another example of great black and white IR results that can be achieved even at 665nm. And another important note: There is much discussion on the web about “hot spots” with converted cameras and certain lenses. Several sites list the 20mm as a lens to avoid because of this phenomenon. My lens performs flawlessly, with no hot spot.

“Summer and winter in the same shot”   Leave a comment

I took this shot on a commercial shoot. It was a social event at a home on the Kern River in Bakersfield, California, and I thought the beautiful setting might provide an infrared opportunity. The young girl was the only child present, and I spotted her swinging on the hammock. My friend Jennifer Baldwin called it “summer and winter in the same shot.” Camera was a Canon EOS 20D SLR converted to 665nm enhanced color IR. Lens was a Canon 70-200 f2.8 L. Very little processing. White and black point set in Photoshop levels, then a standard red/blue channel swap to create the Wood effect.