National Parks had become popular in 2020. Indoor entertainment has been put on hold for at least a year, people have searched for more outdoor options, and National Parks fit the bill. This is both a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. It’s good that everyone is enjoying the National Parks, and it a bad thing that everyone is enjoying the National Parks. The latter is particularly challenging for photographers. When practicing the craft of landscape photography, fewer people is better. I guess that just added to the challenge that is 2020.
I have always enjoyed Acadia NP in all seasons and try to visit at least once a year. Winter is beautiful, but there is limited access, spring is difficult, summer is popular and crowded, and autumns are spectacular. In 2020 I visited during the second week of September. This allowed me to have summer access with just a small hint of the coming autumn. It also gave me a chance to do some Infrared photography.
I use converted digital cameras to capture my infrared images. The infrared film has been around almost as long as film itself, but that form of capture and development is time-consuming and difficult. Converting a digital camera to record the non-visible infrared light is relatively inexpensive and easy to use. I use a company named LifePixel (www.lifepixel.com) to convert my cameras. The camera I currently use is a Fujifilm X-E2 mirrorless camera with a 23mm F2 lens.
Using a converted digital camera lets you capture images in the same fashion as visible light capture (normal photos). Film infrared required special focusing techniques and shutter speed compensations. Your results would not be known until your film was developed, which in itself was a difficult, time-consuming process. Digital infrared, like traditional digital photography, allows you to see what the sensor is recording at capture, allowing you to make real-time in the field adjustments.
Infrared light recorded by a modified sensor “sees” the spectrum of red light just above the visible light spectrum. The best time for recording this light is midday, with a hot sun high in the sky and plenty of foliage growth. That is why I find summer to be a perfect time for infrared photography. You have plenty of midday hours with the sun directly overhead. This keeps shadows to a minimum since they appear as black strips across the image that I find distracting.
Using a converted digital camera is easier than infrared film, but it still has its technical challenges that must be addressed. You will need to record a custom white balance in the camera before you start recording images. Post-processing also requires some additional steps. You will most likely need to use the camera manufacturer’s pre-packaged software to obtain a working white balance. If you are using a color infrared filter, you will need to complete a Photoshop channel flip. This will help give you a blue sky – if desired. This is a process of flipping the red and blue channels. It is a relatively easy process with Photoshop doing all the work.
Infrared photos are no different from other images when it comes to making impactful images. The composition is still king. Lines, light, and moment still matter. This is why I find Acadia National park as such a strong location for infrared images. Its jagged coastline and intimate forested paths provide strong leading lines. Its many lakes and tidal pools create strong compositional elements, and its many meadows and vistas provide excellent backdrops. Its coastal location lends itself to plenty of daily sunshine hours – a critical ingredient for infrared images. Infrared offers an excellent opportunity to continue to shot in between morning and evening traditional photography.
If you are looking to breathe life into an old digital camera collecting dust in your cabinet, then maybe an infrared conversion is in your future. Just make sure to pack it on your next visit to a national park.