Experimenting with Infrared Photography

I'm a big fan of trying new things in photography and was kindly given an infrared camera recently that wasn't being used by a friend. I'll be honest, I haven't really felt a pull towards trying infrared photography and I wasn't sure what use I would have for it considering my focus has been on film photography recently. That said the camera was gratefully received a couple of weeks ago and I promised to give it a try.

The camera is a Canon G10 with a 720nm conversion. This is a point and shoot camera from 2009 with a 14.7MP sensor. It's a great little camera and I particularly like the analog controls and dials on the body, something sadly missing from most of the current modern cameras (Fuji aside).

 The Canon G10 with 720nm infrared conversion

The Canon G10 with 720nm infrared conversion

Funnily enough it was my complaints about the appalling summer weather we have been having (the worst in 100 years) that led to the camera being offered to me i.e. perhaps I could get some interesting cloud details in IR seeing as cloud is all we are getting at the moment!

Anyway, the first venture out was on a dog walk in the local neighbourhood. Being a point and shoot, it's easy to carry and hand hold so I slung it around my neck and off we went. 

I took a few snaps and on getting home loaded them up in Lightroom. Initial impressions were that the images were extremely different and captured some unusual details. Clouds are certainly rendered dramatically. Greenery is rendered almost snow white, which I already knew, but when contrasted against backgrounds (sky, water, walls) it stood out in a very unique way.

Editing wise I did a cursory read of a couple of posts relating to infrared processing and played with both black and white and colour images. Both appeal but I can see great potential for unique black and white work moving forward.

One note I want to make at this point is that I have purposely not spent hours reading and researching how to post process infrared images (and it may well show). It's not often we are able to approach something in photography without having a preconceived idea of how things should be done or how things should look. I therefore deliberately wanted to minimise the influence of other infrared photographers, aside from understanding the very basics, in order to create my own images and style. We shall see whether this works!

A couple of days later we took a trip out to Nesjavellir and the area around Þingvellir with our dogs. I took all my normal photography equipment but only ended up reaching for and using the Canon G10. 

I was pretty pleased with the results. It was another grey day but I was able to find a few different subjects which I thought would work well and I enjoyed playing around with post processing in black and white and in colour depending on the scene. When it is possible to get some colour from the sky I can see the potential IR offers in brighter conditions (when it is more traditionally used). That said, in grey conditions I really like that it can create real drama from the clouds. I even had a play with stitching a panorama together as seen in the beach image above.

One thing I did notice is that there is more noise in the images than I am used to. This despite keeping the ISO at a very low 80. I imagine this is due to the nearly 10 year old sensor technology and it isn't a huge issue. In fact it gave me an idea to experiment with stacking and averaging images of the same scene in the future to reduce the noise and possibly even create larger super resolution images (similar to how pixel shift works in modern cameras).

I ventured out again last week to explore a road that has been closed all winter and which only just reopened. This wasn't intended to be a photography trip, more of a scouting mission to determine if the road was passable. As such I grabbed the little G10 and headed out. Here are some images from the journey. 

I again found myself really enjoying using the G10. Aside from infrared still being a novelty for me, having a point and shoot, and therefore a portable little camera, was also extremely helpful. I forget how limiting it can be sometimes to heft around a DSLR or film camera with a set of lenses and associated accessories. Being able to grab the camera, flick it on and grab an image was refreshing. These images show me the potential of infrared when there is good light. The landscape can be lit up with what almost appear to be floodlights. Combined with a dramatic sky, I can see myself really enjoying this type of dramatic IR photography in the future. I only wish that Mamma Sheep had looked up when the light was on the hill but unfortunately she didn't.

 A final panorama

A final panorama

So this has been my first foray into infrared photography and I'm by no means an expert or producing amazing work. I am enjoying it immensely though and I think this is the most important thing. It opens up some new creative opportunities for me with the landscapes here and I definitely see myself adding it to my portfolio as my skills and understanding improve. I am very grateful to Richard Stern in the US for sending me his camera and encouraging me to give it a try - thank you Richard!