LomoChrome Purple 400 is Lomography’s answer to the legendary color infrared films Kodak Aerochrome and EIR. Much like its predecessors, it’s technically demanding and full of surprises. Here’s a rough guide to get that purple color you’ve always wanted.
Like many Lomo enthusiasts looking for a different reality, I fell in love with the strange and beautiful world of color infrared (IR) films. Following a lead in the Lomo community, I too signed a petition asking Lomography to bring back the long-extinct Kodak Aerochrome and EIR, and develop a new color IR film.
Originally developed for military aerial surveillance, Aerochrome can highlight foliage in bright red or pink, depending on the filter used. Red is the color of passion, but also danger. Photographers can put a creative spin on such color shift, turning the lawn into a red carpet, backyard into magic kingdom, and jungle into bloody carnage.
I love black & white IR film for its glowing Wood Effect and jet black sky. I love Aerochrome when playing with color symbolism and to accentuate the outlines of leaves. Needless to say, the Purple newcomer has some big shoes to fill and a lot of high expectations to meet.
Having played around with a few rolls of Aerochrome before, I knew IR photography is very technical and doesn’t necessarily mix well with the “Don’t think, just shoot” crowd. If *LomoChrome Purple* is anything like its sensitive and unpredictable predecessors, be prepared to bracket like crazy! The wavelengths of visible light and IR are different, so much so that old lenses used to have a red dot for IR focusing. So I half-expected focusing issues too.
On the upside, this new Purple film doesn’t require filtering to block out the visible spectrum nor does it need refrigeration or loading/unloading in complete darkness. All these tell me that Purple XR probably sees both visible and IR light. The first batch of LomoChrome Purple finally arrived in the Summer of 2013. Here are the results of my test roll, all shot with an old Canon EOS SLR.
A New Color Palette
To see what colors show up in this Purple film, I photographed a rainbow umbrella. Noticeably, yellow is absent, and without this primary color, there can be no orange (yellow + red) or grass green (yellow + blue).
Green turns to purple and even blue
Yellow turns to pink
Orange turns pinkish
Red turns to a hint of Brown
Blue turns to cyan
The lack of yellow can also be seen on this misty two-tone rainbow. What used to be seven colors is now magenta plus cyan. But don’t worry, yellow does show up occasionally (on pink flowers).
Unpredictable, Darker, More Contrast
By now, you should also have noticed that:
- Not all green plants will turn purple, it’s all trial and error. Which also means more color variation!
- The sensitivity of this film drops really quickly, meaning greater contrast or large dark patches
- Purple jumps out way less than green. Bear it in mind during composition and framing.
- The fresher the growth, the lighter the natural green, the more punchy your purple will be.
The LomoChrome Purple film is marketed as ISO 100-400. So should we be shooting at ISO 100 or 400? As it turns out, the difference is subtle on evergreen plants. In a sunny afternoon, I got the most intense purple shooting at ISO 200, or at ISO 100 with a circular polarizer filter.
Direct Sunlight or In the Shade?
This really depends on the natural color and texture of the object. If it’s a waxy watermelon, direct sunlight will make it look rather washed out at ISO 100. In general, I’d shoot at ISO 200 under the sun, or ISO 100 in the shade. I think the purple got more intense as the sunset.
For those who are not convinced about shooting outdoor plants in the shade, just look at these magical mossy parts of a Bonsai. Again, it’s hard to predict what will turn purple.
Still the golden hour! If you want intensity and saturation, wait for the sun to set.
Because of the false colors and high contrast, I’m a lot more aware of the different shapes and contours. What I love most about this new film is how purple can morph into cyan and turquoise on the same leaf. Is it because of the fuzzy surface of the lotus leaves? Is it how the sun was shining through the palm? Guess we’ll have to do more experiments to find out.
So there. Hope you’ve found bits of this review useful. My LomoChrome Purple test shoot album can be found here. I’d like to end with this question. Why do you want purple?