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Why Infrared for Trees?

People may be surprised by the look of these “black and white” images. The leaves are typically closer to white.  The reason for that is that the original image capture is done with a camera, in this case a Nikon D200, which has been “converted” from one that captures in normal color to one that captures in infrared.  Any thing that reflects infrared light will appear bright.  Chlorophyll which of course can be found in the leaves of trees, readily reflects infrared light, giving the leaves the apparent brightness that you see here.  (This particular camera was converted by a Life Pixel , one of the leaders in the field.  The cost is not great.)

So, why infrared?  Ironically, by highlighting the foliage, infrared also shows off the trunk, at least as long as there’s any sun around.  The trunk is less reflective of infrared light, and so stands out in all kinds of weather. So much of the story of a tree can be told by the trunk.  It’s the truck that gives the tree character, that tells you about the problems the tree has faced (lightening, disease, dog you know what, lack of sun and whole host of other challenges), the tree’s job, the tree’s age, and ultimately the trunk represents a testament to the life that has passed out of the tree when it’s time comes.  Of course, for great trees, that time can be quite long.  In the city, trees tend to live less than twenty years.  But most of the trees you see here have been around much longer.  Not everyone likes the IR capture of imagery, but for me, IR allows me to convey something of what I feel like when I’m interacting with a great tree, even one whose time has passed.  These images are all from recent trips to Elm and Institute Parks, in Worcester, MA. Click on the images for a larger view.

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