A long-time fan of plastic cameras, Argentinean writer and photographer Lorraine Healy is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera. In this article, Healy explores the world of color infrared film and its somewhat steep learning curve.
After the fabulous article published in October of 2010 by @lazybuddha, about his equally fabulous Aerochrome images, is there anything left to say about shooting color infrared film? @larslau published another great article in 2009 and had an excellent comparison of how the color infrared behaved if developed in C-41 chemistry as opposed to E-6, plus if you were ever curious about what a portrait taken with color IR film could look like, your prayers were answered.
Why do I revisit the topic? Well, this type of film went away sometime after both articles were published, and then a couple of years ago that lovely troupe of film idealists known as “The Film Photography Project” found a whole bunch of the film somewhere, and started rolling it by hand and selling it in 35mm format. The price per roll varies, from special offers of $20.99 per roll to the usual $28 per roll. So, cheap it is not! There is a learning curve to using it, too, so you can plan on throwing away the first 2 or 3 rolls you shoot. You also need at least one filter on your camera lens, which can be a red R25, a 12 yellow, a 40 orange, or one called Wratten 87B/89C—all still available in every thread size.
Because color infrared is so light-sensitive, it will only work on cameras that don’t have the little windows that allow you to see what film you have in it. Those solid SLRs and rangefinders from the past--the Minoltas, the Pentax, the Canons A and AE-1, the Nikon F2, Olympus Pens, and of course Leicas -- are the cameras that will work the best with this film. FPP rates it at ISO 400 and suggests it be shot at f16, in open sunlight, with one of the filters I mentioned before on your lens. They say if it is not really sunny, don’t shoot it! Like we say in Spanish, “no se luce”; its beauty won’t show, it can look pretty muddy.
B&W and color infrared (IR) photography started out as a non-artistic medium, with its applications being military aerial observation, forestry development, and mapping. The person who really put color IR photography on the artistic sphere is Irish photographer Richard Mosse (Take a long look at his website. In our own Lomo world, I have been swept away by the color infrared images of @furn7973, who is probably Irish too, since he lives in Clifden, Ireland. Run to his LomoHome, friends! His color IR panoramas are something to behold.
There are many websites and books that deal with the technical side of infrared light, infrared photography, and color infrared photography in particular. My idea of writing this article is to try to give you as much practical information as I can about how to shoot the color infrared film that is still available and to share my experiences with it so that hopefully you won’t have to throw away those first two or three rolls.
I got my first few rolls of FPP’s color IR film about this time last year, and then had to wait patiently until we got enough sun here in the Pacific Northwest to merit trying it out. In late July I went to the Palouse region of Washington State, my paradise of bright light, wheat fields, and crumbling barns and got…NOTHING. Not a thing. I had put the film through my Pentax K 1000, it clearly had not loaded well, and by the time I had “shot” past frame #29 (of a 24-frame roll) I realized I had a big problem. The gang at the Film Photography Project cautions users to be careful about not going past frame #24, this being a hand-rolled film and therefore a bit less hardy in handling compared to film that has been machined into place by Ilford or Fuji or Kodak. So, here is one of the steps of the learning curve: This is hand-rolled film, it needs to be loaded and unloaded in darkness (I use my changing bag), and it needs to be loaded and unloaded carefully. Make sure those sprockets are securely in place and moving smoothly!
I then took four rolls of FPP’s color IR film on my 18-state, three-week road trip last Fall. I used a red R25 filter and got great joy out of three of my four rolls—one jammed and advanced haphazardly until frame #4, but by then I decided to cut my losses, rewound it, and kept it out of the light. I got four pretty crazy shots out of it! But the other three rolls… I was hooked! Some of the landscapes I went through, like the Badlands of South Dakota, the flat terrain of central Nebraska, the shimmering aspen in the heights above Flagstaff, Arizona, the New Mexican desert became even more magical when shot in color IR.
Seeing how decidedly well the film had worked for landscapes, I wondered what it would do in an urban environment. Since I knew that Buenos Aires in February and March has all the bright light one can want, I took some rolls down South with me. I shot these images in the La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires and then downtown. Not having finished the roll, I took it out a different day when I was hunting for street art in the Coghlan area, but it was slightly overcast and had less open sunlight. I think the results show exactly why the Leslie Lazenby of the FPP says not to shoot in anything but open sunlight (So, no shooting into the sun either, or in less than really bright conditions).
One thing I had noticed, when looking at other photographers’ color IR work, was that some of them had a different tonality to them, really blue instead of the more green hue of the ones I was shooting. I realized that the color of the filter used might have something to do, something that I recently confirmed by buying the FPP’s new Holga K280 MOD camera—a 35mm Holga sporting a wide 28mm lens, plastic everything, point and shoot. Michael Raso carefully cuts up yellow filters and gaffers them in place, and voilà, here you have the perfect IR point-and-shoot camera; it works great with B&W IR too. Here are some examples of the same film stock shot with a yellow filter:
To be truthful, I cannot decide which look I prefer, the film shot with the red or the yellow filter, the bluer or the greener. I really like the stark blues, reds, and whites of the images shot with the yellow filter. But when I look at the shot below, of the Badlands, I see a lot more gradations and subtleties in the color range. Of course, that could be the difference in the camera lenses: a pretty decent 28mm f2.0 on the Pentax (below) versus a plastic p&s. Then there is the orange filter, which I purchased but haven’t tried yet. Stay tuned!
NB: I try to research absolutely everything I write about, but I am not a technical photographer, so mistakes or erroneous statements might slip by inadvertently. If you notice some technical mistake, please send me a message! Thanks so much.
Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is an Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. A long-time fan of plastic cameras and she is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from Amazon.com.
written by Lorraine Healy on 2017-05-24 #gear #infrared #35mm #color #buenos-aires #gear #argentina #pentax-k1000 #wa #route66 #fpp #film-photography-project #infrared-color #holga-k280 #holga-k280-mod #whidbey-island