By John Ellis
I first heard of infrared photography more years ago than I would care to admit. It always held a fascination for me but also a bit of intimidation. Not because of the obvious aspects of the amazing spectrums of light that it captured, but on taking the plunge and converting a camera that, once converted, could not be converted back. Was it worth taking a not inexpensive camera and dedicating it to only capturing infrared? The answer I can unequivocally give you today is an emphatic YES.
Just this last month I had the opportunity to be the guide on not one, but two different workshops with AHPS that featured infrared photography. The first was ‘See the World in Black and White with a Taste of Infrared’ with instructor Joel Wolfson who is based in Flagstaff, Arizona; and the second was ‘Northern Arizona’s Infrared Sampler’ with instructor Kerrick James from Mesa. Besides being world class AHPS Instructors, both are amazing infrared photographers.
I didn’t just test the infrared waters with one toe, I jumped in with both feet.
Although the two workshops covered infrared, they were very different in tone and delivery and both gave the participants a wealth of knowledge and plenty of practice.
Whereas ‘A Taste of Infrared’ with Joel was a majority of classroom-based methods of processing black and white and infrared images in Lightroom and Photoshop with suggested use of Topaz and Nik Effects, it also took the participants to some well known and also some lesser known locations to avail themselves of the best lighting conditions for capturing the contrast needed for both BW and infrared photography. This workshop had the participants process their captures from beginning to end in the classroom and the final result was produced into a 20×24 inch finished print of their favorite image taken during the workshop.
The ‘Infrared Sampler’ with Kerrick was a 4-day marathon of capturing images in at least eight different locations in northern Arizona with in-field and mid-workshop critiques to make sure everyone was capturing the contrast needed for this magical photography.
I was not the original guide on either one of these amazing workshops but I am so glad I was able to step in and cover them both in August of 2021. Because of recommendations from the instructors, I converted an older Canon dSLR through LIFEPIXEL, a well known company that has a world renown reputation. Their conversions are in the $250 to $350 range and they can convert most dSLR and mirrorless cameras. I found that even though you could use filters in front of the lens to photograph in infrared, the best method in my mind was to convert a ‘live-view’ camera. Instead of opting for a full color spectrum, I chose a Deep Black and White.
After getting my camera back a few months before the first workshop, I quickly practiced using it to capture some scenes at the local park and researched online the answers to questions I had. My appetite for infrared grew exponentially and felt I was ready for the workshops.
Joel’s workshop was perfect to answer more of my questions regarding processing and the lighting to look for when photographing both black and white AND infrared and exactly as the title of the workshop promised, I began to ‘SEE’ the world in monochromatic ways. I did learn that photographing in color and then converting to black and white in LR or PS is not the way to get the best results. You really need to SEE and photograph in Black and White. Joel’s easy going manner makes you feel comfortable in doing just that.
And Kerrick’s workshop had us become ‘Cloud Chasers’ across northern Arizona capturing the most iconic locations in the southwest in a whole other spectrum. Seeing the world and knowing what you’ll get when photographing infrared takes practice and patience but the results can be glorious and as I said, ‘magical’.
If you’ve been thinking of trying this exciting, other-worldly style of photography, make sure you do the research and ask questions of the experts or those who have already taken the plunge. There are different spectrums and wavelengths of infrared that will give you a variety of looks ranging from deep black and white to bright psychedelic colors. A great source is LIFEPIXEL and I’ve included a link to begin your journey:.
Happy Shooting, Peace.