by Paul Gallagher Published 01/10/2016
After studying many variations of exposure and lighting conditions, and after time spent understanding how to bring to life the subtlest of mid-tones, I felt I had a photographic companion to hand with my IR camera. Also, working with a camera that essentially sees what we cannot, poses challenges when you are trying to standardise your approach. I soon learned that the slightest introduction of sunlight from a breaking cloud, even soft sunlight, would throw the exposure to the right instantly, even if this was by no means apparent to the naked eye. I had to remind myself that the slightest rise in sunlight would affect infrared levels of light far faster that it would visible sunlight.
Paul Gallagher The Infrared Landscape
Having spent a career as a black and white photographer, I have always been mindful of light and I consider my understanding of luminosity to be quite acute; but this practice required me to train my eye even more! Subtle light is slightly exaggerated by infrared resulting in an image that displays beautiful luminosity in the highlights without the overbearing shadows associated with strong light. Therefore if you can understand these subtleties, and learn to ‘see’ them, you can capture fleeting moments of light that IR will render as sparkling and retain shadows with rich luminosity.
Now infrared has become a large part of what I do but an entirely different approach is needed when I choose work in colour. Now I have control of what I am doing I feel confident when pre-visualising compositions as I have an understanding of what the finished photograph will look like.
Pre-visualising is critical to me and always has been. Working in black and white, you have to have an understanding of what colours will look like in a series of tones from black to white. In infrared this is equally important to me as the tones will be different to black and white film, and reading the slightest shifts in light and knowing when to make the exposure is the craft of making it work.
I have begun to explore subjects that I would not have considered in either colour digital or black and white film. I have become rather obsessive with certain areas of woodland and returned time again to explore the variations of light on the trees, in particular a stand of beech trees in Applecross. Last year I was staying on the borders of Scotland with my family and I ventured out each morning and evening along the tiny lanes that link the many farms in the area. I found I was overwhelmed with the opportunities on hand that consisted of small stands of trees, copses and open fields, and made many photographs. During this time I experienced huge storms passing over the land and calm moments on overcast mornings, all of which helped me explore the infrared tones that they offered. I must confess that I have made images taken on brighter days, but now with the sole intention of making a photograph with stronger tonal values and being in control of them.
Infrared for me is the platform that has replaced my beloved black and white film and my newly converted infrared camera goes everywhere with me. I can thus switch between colour and infrared as and when I choose, which for me, is complete freedom. If you ever search on line for infrared photography the results will mostly look the same - photographs made in sunlight with deep blacks and bright whites. I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with this, but I am convinced that there is so much more to infrared than a single approach - in the same way there is not one approach to making any black and white photographs.
Paul teaches regular infrared workshops - see www.aspect2i.co.uk
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