Outside the Visible Spectrum

Hands Across The Merrimack

Our eyes only pickup on a small percentage of the spectrum of light. Beyond what we see are other wavelengths, some of which are able to be captured on a camera sensor. At one end of the visible spectrum we have ultraviolet light. At the other, we find infrared. By adding a filter onto the lens to block visible light, infrared light can be photographed by many cameras. The result is a surreal scene of white trees, black water, and sometimes ominous clouds.

There are numerous quirks associated with shooting infrared light, such as the fact that the light focuses at a different distance than regular light, you can’t see through the viewfinder of the camera, and shutter speeds are abysmally slow. However, the dreamlike quality of some of the images can be worth the trouble. Infrared light, when used in portraiture, softens the skin and helps even out complexion. It can also make the pupil look abnormally dilated by ignoring the color difference of the parts of the eye.

Luckily, the best times for infrared photography are often found during the worst times for regular photography. The harsh noontime sun with its directionless shadows and flat light is undesirable for a normal photograph and perfect for shooting in IR. With a simple filter and a bit of creativity, it’s possible to photograph a whole different world. As of now, I’m imagining a classy, dreamlike image involving a dress, an umbrella, a tree and a field beneath a partly cloudy sky.

As a challenge to myself, I wanted to create an infrared panorama of a scene that I captured a couple of years ago with a wide angle lens and without a tripod. This time, I was going to try a 50mm lens on a tripod and stitch numerous shots together to create a larger version. The bright sun was beating off of the trees, mosquitoes were swarming, and the river was too high to let me walk along the beach to my desired locale, but as I set up and started capturing images, I was pleased. After stitching the photos into the final panorama, I was left with the image below. At full size, it is 4-feet wide.

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