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Embracing Infrared

Michael Pilkington

Iron­i­cal­ly, one of the things I don’t like about infrared pho­tog­ra­phy is that leaves and foliage are rep­re­sent­ed as white. Indeed, an image can be over­whelmed by the infrared effect, high­lights and whites dom­i­nat­ing. I have usu­al­ly been attract­ed to images that sub­tly show infrared light. I spent many years sup­press­ing the effects of infrared bright­ness in my prints. Strange behav­ior I know! This all changed one Christ­mas. A client of mine sent out a Christ­mas card of a scene which was actu­al­ly tak­en in the sum­mer in infrared. Obvi­ous­ly, the scene was very white. Look­ing at his image it could eas­i­ly have been a snow cov­ered land­scape. I was very impressed and was moved to revis­it some of my files which I had neglect­ed to post process.

"This experience taught me one thing and that was to embrace the full effects of infrared"

The image above, of the Lang­dale Val­ley in the Lake Dis­trict, had been tak­en a cou­ple of years ear­li­er. I was par­tic­u­lar­ly attract­ed to the clouds and the shad­ows they cast upon the land­scape. These shad­ows pro­vid­ed tonal vari­a­tion and visu­al reces­sion. I was very pleased when I had fin­ished pro­cess­ing this file and had print­ed it. This expe­ri­ence taught me one thing and that was to embrace the full effects of infrared. I still pre­fer sub­tler images but always look to ensure that the effects of infrared have their right­ful place in my images. This is a les­son that I share with the many peo­ple I have taught infrared pho­tog­ra­phy over the years. It is not uncom­mon to shy away from what can be seen as the gar­ish effects of infrared in an image. How­ev­er, treat­ed sym­pa­thet­i­cal­ly, it can still dom­i­nate an image and be pleas­ing to the eye.

If you would like to see how we approach infrared pho­tog­ra­phy, why not check out our e‑book In Anoth­er Light’ here.