8 minute read
Infrared Photography Guide
Harnessing the unique capabilities of FUJIFILM GFX100 IR, Nate Rochefort reframes the iconic vistas of Interstate 90 from beyond the visible spectrum
Travelers of the United States’ sprawling landmass will find countless natural wonders to behold – but they are not well-kept secrets. Proudly shared through the imagery of pioneering photographers, and many who have come since, this diverse topography is familiar to many who have never set foot on American soil.
In such a saturated figurative landscape, it seems a near impossible task to document new perspectives – yet, to the testament of today’s creatives, it happens daily. Through recent months, Nate Rochefort has been exploring Interstate 90, on a road trip from Massachusetts to Washington, equipped with FUJIFILM GFX100 IR.
This specialist version of GFX100 is ordinarily unavailable to the general public – its capabilities reserved only for professional forensic, scientific, or conservation uses. However, for the purposes of this infrared photography series, Nate has been granted exclusive access to GFX100 IR with the intention of using its otherwise practical infrared and UV functionality for artistic pursuits.
Photo 2023 © Nate Rochefort | FUJIFILM GFX100 IR and FUJINON GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/800sec at F6.4, ISO 100
Photo 2023 © Nate Rochefort | FUJIFILM GFX100 IR and FUJINON GF120mmF4 R LM OIS WR Macro, 1/400sec at F5.6, ISO 100
“I was first introduced to photography when my dad gave me a film camera at 13,” Nate begins. “I went to an art and design college, but transferred to study something else. It took a long time before I rediscovered my passion, but over the last seven years, I’ve continued creating with real intent, and even got my Master of Fine Art in photography. It’s become very important in my life.”
While some prefer photographic tools that are a minimally disruptive means to an end, Nate takes great joy in discovering how technology can be harnessed for the sake of art. Moving past the at-home infrared camera conversions of his younger years, the photographer accepted the opportunity to explore GFX100 IR’s fieldwork potential, packed a bag, and headed out towards the American West.
“Part of the project was about understanding more of the camera. It’s intended for, and has a lot of applications in, varied technical fields. It may be used as a tool to investigate the subsurface layers of a painting for museum conservation, for example. But there’s also this beautiful way it can create images with more of an intangible value. It’s a more artistic side to the camera,” Nate explains.
“Personally, I love learning about the creative tools I use – it gives me motivation. When I know what a camera is capable of, I can apply those ideas to a project. Understanding how a camera can see the world helps reframe our own vision. It’s a cycle. You go out, make those images, come home, research or experiment to figure out new aspects of the camera – and that leads to another idea.”
Photo 2023 © Nate Rochefort | FUJIFILM GFX100 IR and FUJINON GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/320sec at F8, ISO 160
Photo 2023 © Nate Rochefort | FUJIFILM GFX100 IR and FUJINON GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/250sec at F8, ISO 160
For a large part, Nate’s choice of location stemmed from a childhood love of nature, and a desire to travel beyond I-90’s eastmost corridor. On a deeper level, however, it was an examination of the United States’ historic representation through landscape photography.
“The natural variation along I-90 covers a lot, which worked for the technical side of things,” Nate continues. “What’s more important is that these are preserved natural spaces. Their aesthetic and cultural value is more significant than anything that could be extracted as a resource. In a way, these spaces have become representative of an American landscape. I wanted to re-evaluate visually how these places are seen, using the very real means of infrared to reframe and change them.”
Photo 2023 © Nate Rochefort | FUJIFILM GFX100 IR and FUJINON GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/320sec at F8, ISO 100
Photo 2023 © Nate Rochefort | FUJIFILM GFX100 IR and FUJINON GF120mmF4 R LM OIS WR Macro, 1/250sec at F8, ISO 160
What transpired was an awe-inspiring set of images. Exactly how they were created in great detail – from selecting wavelengths to discovering hidden ultraviolet patterns in flowers – is as interesting as the why. As ever, it all begins in-camera.
“Photographing with a full-spectrum-enabled camera, like FUJIFILM GFX100 IR, requires special considerations,” Nate reveals. “Some of the usual concerns associated with ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) photography, such as focusing and light metering, are solved by the GFX100 IR’s mirrorless design. Others, such as white balance, appropriate use of filters, lens performance, and post-processing, require additional knowledge. The remainder of this series will explore the basics, providing a quick-start guide to IR photography.”
Photo 2023 © Nate Rochefort | FUJIFILM GFX100 IR and FUJINON GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/400sec at F9, ISO 100
Photo 2023 © Nate Rochefort | FUJIFILM GFX100 IR and FUJINON GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/200sec at F5.6, ISO 100
What Can We Learn from IR Photographs?
“Infrared photography is used for technical and creative applications alike. In the field of cultural heritage and artwork conservation, it is used to study paintings and artifacts in a non-destructive way – revealing details that lay just below the surface. Forensic scientists employ IR cameras extensively for crime scene and evidence analysis. In agriculture, it helps evaluate the health of crops; in aerial surveying, it helps gather information on the land composition and geological features. Astronomers use IR to document images of celestial bodies.
“Infrared is composed of longer wavelengths than the visible light wavelengths we can see with the human eye. The longer wavelengths allow IR to travel further before being disrupted by different materials. This is why it can penetrate through the top layers of a painting – and pass through the atmospheric gasses that usually disrupt our vision of distant objects.
Photo 2023 © Nate Rochefort | Visible light (left) & 830nm IR Filter (right) | FUJIFILM GFX100 IR and FUJINON GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/200 sec at F8, ISO 100 | 1/60 sec at F4.5, ISO 100
“In the above photographs, a few things are revealed by the IR. The dry brown ground surrounding the base of Mount St Helens becomes bright white in IR, showing that it’s a strong reflector of IR radiation. Upon seeing this, I realized it was not dirt but grass. The small body of water in the lower left now appears black, becoming much more pronounced against the white of the surrounding vegetation. Finally, it is now noticeable that there is a fine powder being blown off the volcano. This was almost entirely invisible in the visible light photograph, but grew more evident in IR,” Nate continues.
“Here’s one final example of IR’s ability to make the invisible visible. The following photographs were made on the edge of a wildfire containment zone. The air was filled with smoke, and visibility was minimal. While the scene was nearly opaque due to said smoke, IR light could pass through the haze and be documented by GFX100 IR.”
Photo 2023 © Nate Rochefort | Visible Light (left) & 830nm IR (right) | FUJIFILM GFX100 IR and FUJINON GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/250 sec at F8, ISO 100 | 1/160 sec at F4, ISO 100
The Electromagnetic Spectrum
Understanding the electromagnetic spectrum is an essential part of creating IR images – but also highly valuable in understanding the process from an outside perspective. Notably, it informs filter choice, and subsequently impacts the look of an image greatly. Nate explains more.
“The electromagnetic spectrum is a range of energy that travels through space as waves, and includes everything from radio waves to gamma rays. It’s typically divided into regions, based on the wavelength or frequency of the radiation. Visible light is the small section of the spectrum that we can see with our eyes, while UV and IR radiation are outside the visible range.
“To measure electromagnetic radiation, it’s common to use nanometers (nm) as a unit of measurement. UV radiation has a shorter wavelength than visible light, while IR radiation has a longer wavelength. The UV spectrum ranges from about 10nm to 400nm, the visible light spectrum ranges from about 400nm to 700nm, and the IR spectrum ranges from about 700nm to 1 millimeter.”
Focusing and Metering
“Focusing and exposure metering are not an issue for GFX100 IR. The camera’s mirrorless design means both processes are completed using information received by the sensor. If the subject can be seen through the EVF or LCD, then GFX100 IR’s sensor also gets that information, and can meter for an accurate exposure. Similarly, it can use its contrast detection autofocus system to achieve correct focus,” Nate reveals.
“Still, I recommend double-checking the scene is in focus. I have found the following a very effective method for ensuring consistent and accurate focusing for UV and IR photography.”
- Photographing in manual focus mode, using the AF-ON button for autofocus when needed.
- Switching on Focus Peak Highlighting.
- Using the Focus Check function to zoom in, making micro-adjustments when necessary.
Reflecting on the trip of a lifetime, and a body of work brought to life by GFX100 IR, Nate brings the first chapter of conversation to a close.
“Having been able to travel and create for this length of time, I feel incredibly grateful,” he effuses. “There’s no way I could come away from this feeling the same as I did going in. There’s so much to explore, and a lot of different opportunities to create with GFX100 IR.”
Continue with the techniques behind infrared photography in part two of Nate’s Infrared Photography series.
GFX100 IR is a specialist camera designed for forensic, scientific, and cultural preservation applications, and is not available for general sale.
To learn more about GFX100 IR and its conditions for use, visit the dedicated page here. Alternatively, explore the rest of the GFX System and experience the power of ultra-high resolution photography.