Exploring the Mystery of Infrared

For me, the beauty of photography is in the interpretation of subject matter, not in the attempt at representing the “reality” of subject matter, an impossible goal. 

I chose to make this image with my IR camera to lighten the leaves on the trees, at Saqsaywaman in Cusco, Peru, in order to give a feeling of separation between the trees and the distant mountains. If I had been shooting color or regular black and white, the trees would have reflected the same quantity of light and therefore would have been the same tonal value as the hills behind. With IR for this image there is a definite foreground (the darker stone walls), a middle ground (the trees) and a background (the hills).

I feel that this image, interpreted through IR, is more powerful than a straight print in color or black and white would have been, and it is always the final photograph that matters. Finding the right vantage point is extremely important. I recommend looking through the camera from various vantage points.  Choosing the place to stand is the beginning of the editing process.

I have a Canon 5D Mark II that Life Pixel converted to a 720 nm infrared camera. I chose 720 nm because it gives me the most latitude for interpretation. For me, the final photograph represents my feelings at the time of exposure.

Machu Picchu should be listed as one of the wonders of the world.  After several trips I have this one image that works for me.  When I shot in color, my images felt a little to documentary.  The problem is how to bring up the mystical quality of the ancient buildings.  Aside from going back in time 400 years, I had to somehow plug into the un-seen aspect of Machu Picchu.  For all photographers who have the opportunity to work there, I’d like to share some of my experiences.  Early morning is best.  The mist and fog seems to lift around 9:30 a.m.  Finding the right place to set up your tripod can also be problematic. For starters, you just have to accept that where ever you stand, you will have to clone out other tourist.  I find there is a certain mystery that comes through with Infrared that I don’t find with color or traditional black and white It’s an other lever of abstracting from the known into an other realm.

For me, I’m drawn to the mystery and miracles that I feel are always around us.  Occasionally I make a photograph that has a life of it’s own.  Ansel Adams had said that if he made ten good photographs a year he considered it a good year.  We all expect far more, but the quality of our work would be much improved if we were able to edit to Ansell’s formula.

This blog post was re-published by permission at www.lifepixel.com