Seeing beyond visible light: my first attempt at infrared photography

I always had a strong interest in infrared photography and its capacity to produce dream-like images so I had an old Canon 20D body sent for IR conversion. The operation, conducted by a specialized vendor, consists in replacing the internal hot mirror filter with a high quality glass custom manufactured infrared filter. An alternative would have been to add a filter in front of the lens, but since its primary function is to cut down most of the light from the visible spectrum, the image seen in the viewfinder becomes very dark and thus, composing becomes a challenge. With the filter added downstream of the lens and onto the imaging sensor, no such problem exists as the image seen in the viewfinder in perfectly normal.

Camera lenses are not designed to focus for wavelengths longer than the visible spectrum. Therefore the resulting image may suffer from front or back focus shift. The vendor performing the conversion also calibrates the modified camera body for a given lens. This operation cannot ensure perfect focus across the entire focal length range of a zoom lens so I chose the 50 mm f/1.8. In the end, I still shot pictures with a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 wide angle zoom with large apertures to reduce the likelihood of incorrect auto-focusing.

So while traveling to British Columbia, I decided to take a few pictures on a sunny day at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a venerable touristic attraction in Vancouver.

Theses are my first IR shots. It is quite apparent when converting IR images from RAW that there are so many possibilities in terms of exposure, tint and white balance settings, since the image is not bound by the expected realism of colors, that mastering the art of producing outstanding IR images will require a lot of effort from the image capture and processing perspectives, i.e. I have much to learn…

All in all, I am glad to have access to the modified Canon body and will certainly carry it around to snap pictures and try to better understand the circumstances that make interesting IR images. As always, trials and errors seems the way to proceed.

Equipment: Canon 20D DSLR body modified with Standard IR filter, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L lens, RAW conversion using Lightroom 3.6

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