Digital Infrared Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher

One of my colleagues is an architectural photographer who shoots digital infrared images a great deal of the time.  Unfortunately, he lives several hundred miles from me and when we are together (which actually is seldom) we spend our time talking about our lives and clients–and lately, hurricanes (since we both live in areas that are affected by storms).  That means that we don’t spend a lot of time talking about infrared photography, which I would really like to do.  For me, that’s unfortunate because I am actually very interested in the “look” of the infrared photograph, and years ago in my film days I actually spent some time experimenting with black and white infrared film and the appropriate filters.  So the theory is not unknown to me, but the practical aspects of digital infrared photography is very new to me.

But a new book crossed my desk.  It is Digital Infrared Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher,published by Rocky Nook Press.

The author, (as I quote the book cover) is Cyrill Harnischmacher a photographer and designer who lives and works in southern Germany.  His first book, “lowbudgetshooting” won the prestigious Fotobuch-award of the German Booksellers Association in 2005.  He is a studio photographer by profession and a nature and infrared photographer by passion.

It has been my previous experience that picking up a book from Rocky Nook press is to experience a book-lovers joy.  Digital Infrared Photography is printed on acid-free paper and laid out with clean, uncluttered, linear design and printed with wonderful concern for the accuracy of color and the depth of the black and white illustrations, so it certainly does not disappoint.

While the volume is attractive enough to simply be a small coffee-table book; its content filled me in on the state of the art with modern digital cameras and had enough theory to refresh my memory and probably enough to satisfy the casual reader. Mr. Harnischmacher begins with the basic theory of infrared photography and then discusses the specialty cameras that make the process of digital infrared photography possible.

He introduces us to modified cameras that have had their infrared cut-off filters removed and to cameras like the Canon 20D and Fuji SLR S3Pro UVIR models which are specifically designed for areas such as scientific use by astrophotographers.

The clip filter system for the Canon EOS system cameras is quite interesting in that in selected EOS models (300D, 350D, 400D, 10D, 20D, and 30D) which have had their IR filters removed, a clip filter can be inserted into the camera body to enable the body to perform specific scientific functions.  The insert filters are manufactured by Astronomik (www.astronomik.com).

The Sigma SD14 camera is capable of infrared photography right out of the box but has some specialized problems of its own.

Astrophotography is a field with its unique problems, specialized equipment, and equally unique rewards if the reader is willing to commit to the learning experience.

The practical aspects of infrared photography are discussed through the introduction of While Balance, Exposure, and Settings.  This is followed by some very practical thoughts on Composing and Setting up shots.

Tabletop and Still Life photography as well as the use of an infrared lightbrush (suitable flashlight) can produce suitable images in infrared when patience and experimentation are utilized.  Macro photography and the suitable filters for infrared as well as using on board camera flash and external flash units are discussed briefly.

The Digital Darkroom is the key to the processing of digital infrared images because it is extremely seldom that digital infrared images do not require specialized post-processing.  Photoshop or similar processing software is needed. One of the techniques described in converting infrared into a black and white image is through the use of the LAB color space. Grayscale conversion via the channel mixer is also demonstrated.

I think the book examples for adjusting the color levels with gradient curves produce some of the richest and most striking images in the book.  The use of layers and layer masks, techniques that should be familiar to the usual Photoshop artist, are of real use for infrared photography. Partial Colorization with the Channel Mixer, Color Effects via the Channel Mixer, Channel Swap Variations, Colorization, Duotone Effects, and Soft Lens Effects round out the offerings.

A last page gives you access to the sources for information to modify digital cameras for infrared work, where to find infrared filter information, and the Clip filter system.

While almost any of these effects are worth prolonged study by the interested digital infrared photographer, the brief overview presented by Mr. Harnischmacher will get the viewer started and provide the basis for understanding the possibilities of these effects.  At 105 pages, it’s not a large book, but the information is good, the illustrations are rich and varied. This book is a nice addition to the photographers’ bookshelf and a good introduction to digital infrared photography.

Comments

  1. Due to the arrival of digital photography, we can take infrared pictures whenever we please, mixing them with “normal” ones, and see results on the spot, tweaking the settings to our hearts’ desires. Infrared photography is definitely very interesting…

    – Karen Stevens

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