This spring I took a trip to the north of England. It was a wet and blustery week, but the stormy weather meant that on the good days the skies were stunning. I took advantage of one of these days to make a trip to Lindisfarne.
I had visited the island before, but just with my regular camera. This time I had my little Canon 400D that i had converted to infrared with me. Oh joy of joys! That day put two of my favourite things on a collision course; graveyards and infrared skies!
The Abbey is managed by English Heritage but it is free to wander around the graveyard. With the combination of a fabulous sky and the stark stonework, I was in heaven.
The infrared camera is at its best with a sky that combines strong light and blue areas, which photograph dark, alongside a powerful cloud structure. The recent storm front had resulted in an amazing display of cumulus which worked perfectly as a foil for the gravestones and the abbey.
I love the way that the infrared camera sees more than my eyes do, reminding me of my limitations and the value of humility in the face of nature
As human beings, we rely heavily on our sense of vision, basing many of our assumptions about what we see on judgements made as a result of appearance. As a result, it’s very easy to assume that what we see is what there is to see. However, just as our cameras produce images based on the light reflected from the subject into the lens, so our eyes receive reflected light from our surroundings. Light in the visible wavelengths (approximately 390 – 700nm) stimulates the rods and cones in the retina to produce the image, but light outside this range does not contribute to our vision. Some birds and insects such as bees can see the shorter, ultraviolet wavelengths and I remember learning at school about how flowers such as foxgloves have UV guide marks to lead bees to the nectar and pollen. At the other end of the spectrum, there are insects which can see longer wavelengths, in the infrared range, and it’s said that goldfish can see the full spectrum of light.
These creatures are displaying and seeing the world in ways we cannot perceive, yet it still exists, reminding us that what our eyes see is not always the whole picture. Over the last couple of years I have found myself increasingly attracted to infrared photography as a way of representing the unseen in the seen. Initially, I tried using a filter in front of my lens but I found the need for a tripod to support lengthy exposures to be restrictive. This year, I took the plunge and bought a camera to be converted for infrared use. I opted for a 665nm filter, which lets in some visible light alongside the infrared. As a result there is still some colour in the images produced, giving the choice between colour and monochrome pictures. Creating infrared images requires quite a different perspective on your surroundings and I am still learning to judge how a particular scene will appear to the camera’s sensor. Best of all, bright sunny days are fantastic for infrared photography, so my new toy is perfect for a day out in the summer, when other photographers are at home waiting for more suitable light!