When I’m in a beautiful location such as the Sierra mountains, I don’t want to stop taking pictures just because the sun has climbed high into the sky. And thanks to infrared photography, I don’t have to.
Any photographer worth his lens shade knows that the sweet light is two hours after sunrise and the couple of hours before it sets. But does that mean we limit our picture taking to four hours a day?
I don’t think so. At least not me.
When the light gets bright, I pull out my full-spectrum infrared camera and filters and keep working. Now it’s just a matter of what mood I’m in.
I often start with the 720nm filter that provides good b&w images with a dash of toning. In post, I can decide if I want all monochrome, like the image above, or allow a little tinting.
If I’m more in a color mood, as I was during my visit to Bodie State Park, then I switch to the 665nm that allows for blue skies and a bit of warmish tone.
Many of my fellow photographers who want to extend their shooting day also embrace this approach. The image below was created by Harold Mancusi-Ungaro at Convict Lake. Harold likes the 590nm filter on his full spectrum camera, then adjusts to taste in post.
What’s so interesting about IR photography, other than its other-worldly appearance, is that it prefers bold strong lighting, which is the very condition that we often shy away from in visible light work.
So a typical full shooting day could go something like this:
- Sunrise to 9am — Visible light photography
- 10am-4pm — Mix of infrared and visible light photography
- 4pm to Sunset — Visible light photography
When you only have a few days in a beautiful location, you probably want to maximize your work in the field. Adding infrared to your bag of tricks allows for just that.
I’ve been asked many times how to get started with IR. My recommendation is a visit to the Kolari Vision site. Not only do they have tons of information to help you decide your approach, they also have converted cameras, filters, and will even convert an existing camera that you may not be using that much.
Embracing infrared has allowed me to come home with more pictures. I still enjoy a nice long lunch break when out in the field. But if a puffy cloud floats by, I pull out my IR camera and snag it.
Author’s Note: The URL in this article to Kolari Vision is an affiliate link. If you buy something from them, I do get credit and it helps support my writing.