A new opening

A new opening

July 12th, 2020

It was supposed to happen a lot earlier but various – shall we say – impediments prevented it. Until the last month when Breakthrough Filters sent me their XR 2 infrared filter to try it out.

I have been an avid admirer of infrared photographers for many a year and still clearly recall the moment when I first really took notice of it. It came to pass when I was devouring ‘Master Printing Course’ by Britain’s most authoritative practitioner of the art and science of toning monochrome prints. An accomplished photographer, writer, and lecturer – Mr Tim Rudman. Infrared images presented in the book captivated me and I instantly surrendered to their charm. Some were taken in Epping Forest, a place in north-east London which at the time I visited more than often and took countless bad images of it. I still clearly recall asking myself why I never tried infrared there.

Tim Rudman is a master of photography of course. So was Lincolnshire photographer Sir Simon Marsden, Baronet of Grimsby and so was famous American photographer Minor White. We had the pleasure and honour of presenting Tim ‘s work, as well as Paul  Gallagher’s whose infrared images I hold in high esteem and often visit his website to feast my eyes.

There are of course many great infrared photographers across the world now and the list could be endless. I am of course not going to do that here.

New is always exciting and welcome.

One should always be careful when opening a new box.

Those two above are not just mere sentences – there are, in fact, two different approaches to life. Neither is strong enough to cancel the other and they can co-exist within the same persons and both seem to stem from experience.

‘Let’s go for it’ and ‘Better safe than sorry’ are hardly compatible. The comport zone is a dreadful and highly dangerous killer of creativity and – consequently – killer of the joy that can be found in photography. One of the reasons for me to welcome the arrival of the XR2 filter all the more.

Since I predominantly work use old prime lens for my long exposure work it was a tad easier as I need not to worry about hotspots and had am aided by a clearly marked infrared focusing spot on the lens barrel. This may seems like nothing much but in fact it is of serious help as focusing is very different when shooting IR with a filter.

Most important for me though was the opening of new possibilities for my photography – not only finally being able to shoot my own infrared images but – as my trusted workhorse is not converted to IR – shooting infrared long exposures with different kinds of ISO to control shutter opening times (normally I never leave ISO 100 so this was something new). The next step, one I clearly need to put a lot of work into, was to combine my long exposure infrared with ICM, a technique I massively enjoy utilising.

It is advised to do infrared photography in bright light so naturally, being me, I defied the rule and experimented with different light conditions. Experiment is the key here – my mind is rarely occupied by the ability to sell my images – I am not fixating myself on the fila outcome but am interested in trying whatever comes to my mind, combining techniques, using different filters, shooting into the sun as such like. As long as I am entertained by this process it is absolutely fine with me if the final image is not worth printing.

Those of you who ever processed film in tea or coffee and developed the final images in the darkroom will know exactly what I am talking about here. Those who never have – you have missed a lot and should try it at least once.

It has been two months of such photographic shenanigans for me so far and of course most of the images went straight to the bin. Experimenting and excitement took me a number of places – those I knew very well and those I had never been before to. Shooting itself its of course not a big deal but post-processing does require learning a few new tricks and can initially be a little frustrating (which I believe is a good thing). In the process I discovered that I like a few things and that I do not like a few others, so I learned something about myself.

Let me just say I found this whole exercise (which has barely started for me to be sure) highly recommend it to anyone who is not interested in having a camera converted to IR but is looking for new ways of expression in his/her photography. As for me, I am opening this new box like a little child opens Christmas presents.

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