Further Forays Into Color Infrared

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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 delves deeper into the art of color infrared photography, examining the differences achieved by using different color filters.

Silos in Lovington, IL. FPP’s Holga K 280 modified with yellow filter + FPP’s own color IR film.

Two or three weeks ago, I shared my experience using the Film Photography Project’s color infrared film paired with their Holga K 280, a wide-angle point and shoot already modified with a yellow filter. In it, I mentioned the idea of shooting the same image with this camera and with my Pentax K1000 using red and orange filters and comparing the results. What would be the perfect filter for this fabulous color infrared film?

Because this film is not inexpensive, I wanted optimal conditions to carry out this experiment without “throwaway” images. Since I was going to central Illinois in the Midwest, I decided to take two rolls of the film, plus both cameras and all the requisite filters, and make use of the abundant sunlight in the rural areas around the city of Decatur. I wanted grain elevators and silos, weathered barns, fields of corn and soybeans under white clouds, all of which I got in spades. I also decided to throw in a few instances of non-infrared color film shot in my LC-A+, just for the sake of interest.

The Court House in Sullivan, Illinois. Clockwise, from top left: LC-A+ with Fuji Velvia 100, Holga K280 mod with FPP’s color infrared film, and Pentax K1000 with the same film, red filter and orange filter.

I went out on a couple of different days, the first one with not quite full-on sun, the second one a 92°F (33°C) scorcher drenched in sunlight. I drove around Moultrie County, an agricultural paradise in central Illinois, a few miles southeast of Decatur. There is a smattering of small towns surrounded by acres of fields already planted with corn and soybeans. The county seat of Sullivan is slightly bigger, with a very handsome Court House where Abraham Lincoln argued cases as a young attorney. On the edges of these townships, there are cooperative-owned grain elevators, silos, and a number of wonderful old and weathered barns.

The grain elevators on the edge of Lovington, IL. Fuji Velvia 100 with LC-A+, FPP color IR with Holga K280 modified, Pentax K 1000 with orange filter. I love the middle image, no contest!

As usual, my experiment was not 100% scientific. By putting a 24-image roll through the Pentax K1000 and taking the same image alternating orange and red filters, I was essentially halving the number of images I could take to compare against the 24 images shot in the modified Holga K280. But bear with me! The intention here is to examine the photos, see what we like better in which case and muse about highlights and shadows and the different ways in which we can experience reality photographically.

Three versions of the same barn on IL 32, just outside of Lovington: FPP color IR with Holga K280 modified, Pentax K1000 with orange filter, and Pentax K 1000 with red filter. The barn has a “matching” dog house under the tree farther in the background, inhabited by a howling Basset Hound with no interest in photographic experiments. Luckily, the owner of the barn did not feel the same way.

In the above series of three images, I cannot pick one that I like better. For me, each filter brings out a different combination of hues, all slightly surreal, all beautiful. I think the scene was beautifully lit, and that helps each filter “do its thing” clearly. Three or four miles away from this barn, I found these twin Quonset huts that were easily accessible by a side driveway.

Three versions of the twin Quonset huts on IL 32, halfway between Lovington and LaPlace: FPP color IR with Holga K280 modified, Pentax K 1000 with orange filter, and Pentax K 1000 with red filter.

On this side shot of the Quonset huts, my favorite is the top one. When I examine the three images, I see that it is also the one that got the best-balanced shadows: you can see the front of the huts in the yellow-filter image, whereas the photos show with the orange and red filters have the front of the huts totally in shadows.

The same huts, shot head-on. In this case, the red-filtered image (bottom) has almost-blown highlights, but it is still a pleasing image to my eye. Here is a series of 4 shots of a lone tree on a county road, including one with Velvia 100 for that “normal” look to compare it with the surreal IR versions.

Clockwise, from top left: LC-A+ with Fuji Velvia 100, Holga K 280 mod with FPP’s color infrared film, and Pentax K1000 with the same film, red filter and orange filter.

This is a rather “blah” shot photographically, I think, where the real interest is in the sky and the way those small clouds float right above the horizon line. By the way, in the case of the FPP’s Holga modified with the yellow filter, this being a point and shoot camera, there is no way to control exposure. You have to trust that there is enough light available to expose the scene properly, and that is just a matter of developing one’s eye. In the Pentax, the film was rated at 400 ISO and consistently shot at f16, leaving the speed to the camera.

I thought I would try a little dodging and burning in Photoshop, just to see if shadows could be opened up enough to significantly better certain images. See the results below. In my opinion, it worked well in the elevators shot, but I could not see a significant enough improvement in the Quonset hut shot.

Top image was taken with a red filter, the bottom one with an orange filter. Both images were slightly dodged and burned in Photoshop CC, with a brush at 34% opacity.

So, did I answer my own question? Is there a filter that gives me results that I consistently prefer to the others? Well… I think the yellow filter has been the one to deliver the most shots that I loved. The magenta and teal hues that result from the orange filter were a pleasant surprise. The warm hues that result from the red filter have given me amazing results before, like in the image below, taken in the South Dakota Badlands last year.

Pentax K 1000, red filter.

I think I’ll be carrying the three filters with me every time I go out to shoot color IR, and the FPP’s modified little Holga. Maybe with time, I will develop my own eye as to which particular color filter will match the scene in front of me the best. Until that happens, I will keep trying.

Elevators by the railway in tiny La Place, IL: vertical shot Holga K 280 mod with FPP’s color infrared film; horizontal shot, Pentax K 1000 with the same film and orange filter.

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 2017-06-21 #tutorials #35mm #color #pentax-k1000 #red-filter #lc-a #orange-filter #us #illinois #yellowfilter #fpp #film-photography-project #infrared-color_infrared #holga-k280mod

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10 Comments

  1. poglad
    poglad ·

    Amazing!

  2. lomodesbro
    lomodesbro ·

    novel surreal colour

  3. metaluna
    metaluna ·

    Thanks Lorraine, Great info and spectacular shots.

  4. fisheyemary
    fisheyemary ·

    Excellent!!!

  5. moongrowl
    moongrowl ·

    Pentax K1000 with red filter rules!! Love the acidic green of the skies and the orange/pinkish tones of the grass ;)

  6. pinkunicorn
    pinkunicorn ·

    Desconocía que los rollos IR podían usarse sin filtro para infrarrojo! Tengo uno guardado hace años sólo porque nunca recordaba comprar el filtro específico. Voy a probar con el simple filtro de color. Gracias, Lorraine!

  7. nural
    nural ·

    Wow, amazing!

  8. akula
    akula ·

    Refreshing to have such excellent "test" shots and great advice on how to use this film.

  9. fragakis_p
    fragakis_p ·

    I am amazed from this article... great work!

  10. schugger
    schugger ·

    Fantastic shots, I couldn't say which one's are the most beautiful...all of them truly amazing! Thanks Lorraine for writing those cool articles!!!

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