I Miss Infrared Film
Allen Pond, Bowie, MDShot with Efke IR820, this film was scanned and colorized in Topaz Adjust.
words and images by Warren Wilson
I’ve found that what gets you started in a hobby has a way of sticking with you. I began my journey with photography as a child with a Brownie camera in hand. My parents found it cheaper to feed my habit with black and white, rather than color, film. All I did, especially during the summer, was take pictures. Pictures of dogs, cats, the neighborhood, friends, family, the family car…
Black and white/Monochrome has a way of inspiring me. It has a quality that seems to be lost with color. An oldies movie filmed in black and white comes on the cable station and I’m there for the next couple of hours. There’s just something about those shadows and the way the director lighted the scene. A sense of mystery has a way of keeping my interest.
Lake Artemesia, College Park, MD.Shot with Efke Infrared film, a bridge leads to a stand of trees. And, as with most things I do in photography, I’m always looking for an outside-the-box approach, something that makes the image stand out from the crowd. I’ve found that infrared photography is one technique that helps me do that. I prefer infrared film over digital, mainly because I don’t want to spend $400 to have my camera converted to infrared.
Going the film route, I settled on Efke IR820. I would use a Hoya R72 filter, a red, opaque filter and expose at f/16 for upwards of 3 minutes in bright sun. A bit slow, for sure, but it helps you plan your shot decisions—whether or not it’s worth the time to make the setup and exposure.
I would then hand-process in black and white chemicals, scan my favorites, process them digitally and then print.
The film has a soft, glowing effect which I find perfect for colorizing. Back in the day, I’d use Marshall Oils to paint the monochrome image, usually Sargeant Warren Wilson, 1968Shot with Infrared Polaroid on a matte surface. But now, with today’s technologies at hand, I prefer experimenting with various software plug-ins. Topaz Adjust has worked well in how it handles infrared. I can flip through the various options, choosing the one that’s close to my vision.
Sadly, Efke IR820 has met the fate of many other films—it’s no longer manufactured. Although I still have a few rolls in the freezer, they expired a few years ago.
We’re now witnessing a resurgence in the popularity of black and white photography. With that, there’s a hope film will become popular enough to make it to the store shelves. And, one can only dream that infrared film will make a return. I hope so. I miss those walks in the woods and 3 minute exposures.
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