Over the past couple of summers I’ve been experimenting a bit with infrared photography. I’ve always been intrigued by the alienating look that infrared images can give you. White foliage, black skies, and white faces with black eyes: that kind of stuff. I wanted to try it out for myself and after some research I ended up buying a few medium format rolls of Rollei Infrared 400 and a Hoya R72 infrared filter. Loaded it into my Bronica SQ and off I went, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Now the first issue that you encounter is an obvious one and one I knew about; there’s nothing to see in the viewfinder when the filter is attached to the lens, so you have to frame the image first, focus, then adjust the focus to the IR mark on the lens, put the filter on and take the shot.
For the exposure I used some Google advice and learned that adding 4 or 5 stops would be required, basically treating it as an ISO 12 or ISO 25 film. Since I shot only with direct sunlight I just used the sunny sixteen rule. On most shots I used f/8 @ 1/125. I also shot a few at f/5.6 @ 1/125, but I preferred the 4-stops over to 5-stops in order to keep the skies black. If your camera has a built in light meter, you will need to do some research of your own, as many won’t work with an IR-filter
The second issue I experienced was that it’s not that easy to get a strong IR-effect (the Wood effect). And without it, what’s the point of shooting infrared? I found out that I only got the desired effect with direct sunlight, so no (thin) clouds blocking it. And for the best results, have the sun directly behind me, not lighting the foliage from the side.
A third issue I struggled with was the high-contrast images which showed banding after scanning. I didn’t use the best of scanners (a Canon 9000F MK I) so that might just be me with that problem.
Here are the images. Please click an image to view all five as a slide show.
For the future; I now know when I can expect to see a strong IR-effect. The images in this post were only to figure out the IR-effect, I wasn’t after creating interesting images at the time. So that will be the challenge for next summer; to successfully apply the effect to shoot appealing photos. I will not be doing this with my Bronica. It’s all too convoluted; using a tripod, framing, focusing and continuously having to take the filter of for a next shot. No, next summer I will use my rangefinder which is much more practical for this purpose.
Oh, and did you wonder about the light leak? I’ve got 2 backs, but just one Bronica darkslide. Those are not easy to find, so I use a Hasseblad one instead. Works just as well…. except in bright daylight apparently.
Thanks for reading and all advice is welcome in the comments.
~ Björn Berings
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Finally, don't forget that this series is being produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories.