My Path to B&W Infrared Photography / by Chris Dahl

Many years ago I shot a fair amount of Kodak B&W Infrared film in my cameras. I used two cameras. A Brooks Veriwide 100 which shot 120 film and a Widelux 35mm. Both of these cameras were “Panorama” cameras shooting wide angle with extended field of view. There were lots of limitations to the Infrared film process. The film needed to remain sealed in the original film cans until you were ready to load the camera. The camera needed to be loaded in a dark room or a black-out changing bag. The film is overly sentive to daylight and would easily fog.

You needed a filter to go over the lens to block out light spectrums other than Infrared.

BrooksVeriwide 100.jpg
Widelux.jpg
Darkroom.jpg

I also had a darkroom in my home and would process the film and make the prints myself. That is a whole other process worth discussing another day. Darkroom work is very fulfilliing.

Below are a few images that were shot on film, printed and then in later years scanned. I still have the negatives and a few film processing tanks but I have sold the other equipment.

Sadly, I sold the cameras as well.

Film is making a comeback, and you can still get Infrared film but the choices are much more limited. Kodak is completely out of the Infrared film business today.

If you are interested in the film process a good site to visit is Freestyle Photograpic Supplies, they have a good selection of film, chemicals and equipment. They also have a nice database of articles in a section called Photo Know-How.

Click on the images above for the full view.

About two years ago, I decided to research B&W infrared photography and figure out if I wanted to revisit this format. I quickly ruled out film. I did not want to get back into the wet process at this time because I did not have the space to dedicate to it.

After some research I found several companies that would convert your existing camera to Infrared. However, this is a big commitment. Once converted you cannot take what you consider normal photos with that camera. I wanted to find an easier way to test the process, so I settled on buying a filter to go over the lens of my existing camera. Then I used digital processing to finish the image.

I purchased a Hoya R-72 filter and started reading blogs and testing the concept. This is an inexpensive and low commitment way to get involved. I am including some links to the various products I used if you are interested. I appreciate you using my links when you decide to make a purchase.

There are many resources and varied opinions on how to make and process the images. You can spend hours with google and find some really good tutorials.

The image below was shot on a Nikon D800 using the Hoya filter and processed in Lightroom with a pre-made white balance applied to the image. I also, processed it dark and with lots of contrast to create a mood in the image. It paid off as it placed in the Landscape Category at the event it was created.

Here are a few good links:

Introduction to Infrared Photography

How-To from Digital Photography School

LifePixel Blogs

Shadows

After a year of experimenting with this process, I decided to take the plunge and get one of my cameras converted. I chose LifePixel as a vendor and boxed up my older D800 and sent it off for conversion. I chose to use their Standard IR conversion on this camera. I truly like the look of the Deep IR, but I wanted the chance to have some color options. They also give you an hour of one-on-one video training with some Photoshop Actions to aid in image processing. I would recommend LifePixel if you choose to go this route.

The above images were all taken with the Infrared converted Nikon D800. You can click on the images to get a larger uncropped view.

I use many of the processing steps suggested by LifePixel, but I have added a few steps of my own. The white balance is done in Nikon Capture NIX-D, the Tiff image it produces is imported into my Lightroom library. I use Lightroom to do some basic contrast and levels adjustments.

Then I export and edit the file in Photoshop. I use one of the actions provided by LifePixel to set the tones in the image. I usually have foliage, so I am working toward white leaves and grass.

I then use Luminosity mask to create additional tone changes and maybe add an Orton Effect to the image.

Please leave me comments and questions. If there is interest, I will go into more details of my processes.