Generally speaking, photographers aren’t homebodies. It’s not that we don’t enjoy taking pictures of the cat or what we ate for lunch, but it’s hard to make a living memorializing a grilled cheese.
I’ve been looking for something new, something different, a rose-colored filter to put over my lens to transform my neighborhood into a visually exciting existence. My search led me out of the visible spectrum into an unseen world called infrared photography.
If you’re not familiar with it, here’s how it works.
Our eyes can see but a slice of the electromagnetic spectrum. If you want to get a tad nerdy about this, our visible detection is between 380 and 700 nanometers (nm). The color violet is at the lower end (380–450 nm) followed by blue, cyan, green, yellow, orange, and red bringing us home at 625–700 nm. And for decades I was just fine with this lineup.
But now, I need something different.
Infrared begins where visible leaves off, at 700 nm. Beyond this mark, there’s an entirely different world. This is the playground of infrared photography.
Even though our eyes can’t see into this universe, our cameras can. Actually most digital sensors see UV, visible light, and infrared. Camera manufacturers install IR-blocking filters over the sensors to prevent infrared pollution from causing unnatural looking pictures.
For example, If you just want a good snapshot of uncle Bob eating cake at your daughter’s birthday party, you probably want to stick to the visible spectrum. IR light mixed in with visible can lead to some psychedelic results.
Family events aside, what would you see if you had that IR-blocking filter removed?
My experience is that a whole lot of fun follows. Maybe not birthday party fun, but certainly something a bit more edgy; something fitting for a pandemic.
With a full spectrum camera, you can put specialty filters over your lens to work with specific slices of the electromagnetic spectrum. You can go strictly IR with an 850 nm filter, or blend visible light and IR with something around 590 nm. Once you get into it, there are a lot of options.
What this means for a homebound photographer is that there’s a parallel universe right outside the door. If I can’t travel to the far corners of the planet, then why not explore the physics of light in my own backyard? Visually speaking, it becomes an entirely different place.
I know that we are only somewhere in the middle of the pandemic. I have months to go before I can fly into the sunset for a creative adventure.
But I’ve discovered a new world that’s been here all along. I just couldn’t see it. This dimension is filled with vibrant colors and dynamic skies.
My once predictable morning walk is now a transformative journey into a land with no boundaries. And that seems perfectly fitting for the dawn that stands before us.