Working with Color Infrared
This is a technical post, which I never do, so apologies in advance. I’m actually fairly enthusiastic about some recent developments that I wanted to share. I have never enjoyed my only rather mundane efforts with color infrared images. They never looked right to me, only somewhat “cooked” in digital photo parlance. As such, I typically convert them to black and white and sometimes am pleased with the results. I”ve been working with a new process for the past several months, and actually published a few results on my previous Earth Day blog. I have continued to experiment and been relatively happy with the results so I thought it might be useful to share a few details.
The story begins with an e-mail from Kolarivision (my new Infrared camera conversion company with which I am quite pleased) regarding a course they were recommending. Perhaps bored at the time, I thought I’d give it a try. The name of the course is Creative Light and Infrared. You can find out the details about the course here. I’ll stress up front that I am not a paid endorser for this group, F64 Academy, have never met them, nor talked with them, ever.
The course offers an in-depth exploration of the digital infrared post production process, along with several accompanying and quite useful tools. If you’ve done any infrared photography, you know that there are a few significant challenges you face in post production, particularly with color. The biggest one is that the white balance setting you use in the camera likely won’t hold once you bring an image into your average photo editing program. It goes all red or at least mostly so. Worse yet, most photo editing programs don’t have enough range in their white balance settings to be able to fix the problem. Second, if you’re interested in color infrared images it can be most helpful to effect a “channel swap”, coverting the red channel to blue and the blue channel to red. I’ve known that for years, but like many photographers was never, ever satisfied with the results. Adding insult to injury, if you get an image to actually work for you, it is hard to replicate it.
The course walks you through the process of creating a Lightroom/Camera Raw profile that you can apply to your images and effect a nice looking white balance. In addition, the course provides a set of LUTS that layer on top of the correctly balanced image that will offer you various different channel swapped looks, including looks that are fairly photorealistic. Finally, the course ships with an extensive panel of actions for use inside photoshop, as well as detailed instructions for their use.
So enough with the jargon. These are from my work with mills in the Blackstone River Valley of Central Massachusetts. The first two are of the Bernat Mill in Uxbridge, Massachusetts. The mill burned in 2007. The last is from the Wilkinsonville Mill in Sutton, Massachusetts. Wilkinson was an associate of Samual Slater, the first builder of mills in the Blackstone Valley.
This is still a work in process as you can see, but my interest hasn’t flagged so far. One of the most interesting aspects of photographic work is the almost never ending opportunities for learning that you can stumble across. Courses like this aren’t cheap, and some are duds. This one was helpful. Of course, YMMV.