Michael Pilkington
Michael Pilkington

In September of 2008 I received a call from Tony Howes of Advanced Camera Services who offered me the chance of trying out an infrared converted Nikon D70. My first thoughts were that I was a large format photographer and at that time not really using digital. It had also been a long time since making an infrared image and that was on film. Nonetheless I agreed.

Infra red brings out a whole new dimension to landscape photography

Digital cameras using CCD and CMOS chips are sensitive to the 'near infrared' but to avoid corrupting the image an IR blocking filter is built in.This camera is modified so that it can only shoot in infrared and this is accomplished by removing the camera's infrared blocking filter and then installing an infrared filter which is situated in front of the camera's sensor which blocks visible light. The camera will then function normally in almost every way with full auto focus, auto exposure and normal through-the-lens viewing.

Over some weeks I made some trips with the camera and made some exposures which I then viewed back at my office using Photoshop. These initial exposures served me well to gain an understanding of how the camera performs and what I was likely to get. What I quickly discovered was that it was extremely simple. I personally set the ISO to the lowest with a D70 at 200 ISO and captured in RAW using a tripod as I always do but you could just as easily point and shoot. I occasionally adjusted the exposure + and to gain the effect that I wanted.

Now feeling confident I packed it into a bag and headed for Glen Coe, The Outer Hebrides and Perthshire in Scotland. I was fortunate to get good weather for weeks with strong sunshine in early spring with fresh greens all around me. I found myself getting the IR Nikon D70 out of the bag more and more often and making images. I walked around lochs, into woodland and onto the beaches of Harris and Lewis and the results where exactly what I wanted.

Capturing the subtelties of in infra red on the forest floor

It is worth keeping in mind that infrared photography is not simply about black skies and harsh whites but you can use the camera to make composition of subtle differences in tones that are sometimes more rewarding. I made exposures of forest floors and partially shaded areas as well as the open landscape which gave me the opportunity to explore the subtleties that this camera can produce.

On my return I converted the images into monochrome using Photoshop and with a few simple adjustments using colour sliders in the black and white converter and some simple selections with curves the images came to life. I was taken by the clarity and quality of the images from this camera and could not pull myself away from my monitor until I had processed many of the image files

A more conventional infra red shot that really suits the subject

If I had not received that call from Tony Howes I suspect I would never had ventured out again with the aim of making infrared images of the landscape. The more I use the camera the more I am impressed by its simplicity and the fact that it achieves all I could have done years ago in the darkroom. It is indeed a superb piece of kit and one that I suspect will regularly accompany my Ebony 5x4 when I venture out so I will be able to take back home with me those moments of infrared that I have ignored since my student days.

© Paul Gallagher