Exploring the World of Invisible Light

by | Jan 28, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

My personal philosophy is that photography should be fun. Part of having fun is trying new things. To me, digital infrared photography is lots of fun because it helps you look at your world in a new way and lets you create images that look unlike any other technique you’re likely to try. That alone is a good enough reason to try infrared digital photography.

How I made this shot: I photographed this scene at the 17 Mile House Farm Park near Parker, Colorado and which seems to be constantly under restoration since I made this shot. I’m sure all the work will be finished real soon now. Camera used was a Panasonic Lumix G6 with Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (at 12mm) with an Av exposure of 1/500 sec at f/11 and ISO 400. Camera had the Enhanced IR filter conversion from Life Pixel.

Every photographer knows about visible light but there are other kinds of light that we can’t see. What you see as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet are different waves of light. Shorter waves are blue and the longer ones appear red to our eyes. Every color’s wavelength is measured in nanometers or one billionth of a millimeter or microns that are a millionth of a meter. Red light begins at wavelengths of about 0.65 microns. Violet light has wavelengths around 0.4 microns and yellow light waves are 0.6 microns. Your eyes can’t see light with a wavelength longer than 0.7 microns. When we feel the sun’s heat of the on our skin, we also experience thermal infrared light.

Ultra Violet light comes from the Sun but the Earth’s ozone layer protects us from most of this light but that doesn’t mean you don’t need a UV filter on your camera. While many photographers keep UV aka Haze filters on all their lenses as protection, UV filters reduce the amount of ultraviolet radiation striking the image sensor or film and suppress atmospheric haze or dust. When photographing at high altitudes of 14,000 feet or more, you need a capable ultra-violet (UV) filter in front of your lens for your camera to approximate the same color correct view your brain send to your eyes.

For my personal photography, I consider light having wavelengths from 700 and 900nm to be infrared light and this band of infrared light is a thousand times wider than that of visible light yet completely invisible to our eyes. Infrared film and some video cameras are sensitive to what is called near infrared. This is also the type of IR light that your television remote control uses. You can read all about how to test your camera for it’s infrared capabilities using a TV remote in my post in Determining Your Camera’s IR Sensitivity.

I try to write a post about infrared photography at least once a week, so if this topic interests you check back from time to time.

Life Pixel does a great job with IR conversions and they have done most of the conversions for my Canon DSLRs and all of my Panasonic Lumix G-series cameras.

Used copies of my book, The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography are available starting at $23.56, as I write this. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a chapter on IR photography and is available from Amazon for $37.81 with used copies a steal at a little more than $2.00 and like the IR book would make a great gift for your favorite photographer or yourself.