In the Worst Light – Try Infrared Photography

infrared photography harry harris park

The Photo

This infrared photo was taken, June 25, 2020 at Harry Harris Park in the Florida Keys. It was shot with a Canon 5D MKII camera converted for infrared photography with a Canon Macro 100mm f/2.8L lens. Three images were combined into a panorama in Adobe Lightroom and post processed in Photoshop using the Silver Efex Pro plugin. The printed image is 20″ x 30″ at 300 dpi.

The Backstory

Today was our 37th wedding anniversary. Janice and I were definitely a bit stir crazy having been confined to home for the past three months so we decided to do a day trip to the the Florida Keys. Our day trips usually involve pulling off the side of the road to explore a remote beach or marina as we meander down to one of our favorite lunch spots to catch a hogfish sandwich and a margarita. Since we travel midday, there is rarely any time that the light isn’t harsh. And in the Keys, harsh light is really harsh. The sun is directly overhead, almost everything is white, and the water reflects light everywhere. There are few trees and shade is at a premium. That setup is a disaster for fine art photography but its actually perfect for infrared photography.

Making Infrared Photos

My fallback camera for midday photography is my Canon 5D MKII which was modified for infrared photography. What I’ve learned using this IR camera is that it really needs bright high-contrast sun to make stunning pictures. IR is rarely present in deep shadows and doesn’t penetrate cloud cover very well either. IR creates great whites when it reflects off foliage on a clear day which also makes for a dark sky.

The built-in light metering in the camera does a poor job of measuring IR light. In fact, the light meter probably has no IR metering capability and only meters visible light as a proxy for infrared light. Measuring visible light as a proxy works once you learn how that proxy works. For my built-in light meter, I find shooting one to one and a half stops over exposed for visible light is usually best exposure for infrared light. Infrared light focuses differently than visible light which can lead to focusing problems since we can not see the IR light. Although the camera was re-calibrated for the IR focal length, I prefer to shoot with an aperture in the middle of the exposure range to improve depth of field and focus quality.