Digital artist Dave Whenham took a moment to discuss with me his interest in Infrared Photography.
Welcome, please tell us about yourself and your background
Like many before me I have had an interest in photography from an early age but only started pursuing it more seriously around five years ago. Fortuitously the advent of affordable digital SLRs coincided with my children becoming less dependent upon me so I put away the film cameras and have enthusiastically embraced all aspects of digital photography ever since. I “retired” three years ago and now concentrate mainly on personal photographic projects with a number of family and portrait shoots fitted in every year to ensure the hobby pays for itself.
How long have you been a photographer?
I have been involved with photography in some shape or form since the 1970s and my interests are wide and varied ranging from fine art black and white landscapes to capturing natural and informal portraits of children and also exploring the world with an infrared camera. I started to move from film to digital in 2008 and by the end of 2009 I was almost 100% digital. Landscape is my passion but it is the portraiture that pays for my pleasure!
How long have you been shooting Infrared?
I worked with Kodak IR film occasionally in the 1970s but found the whole process fiddly and expensive so never really pursued it fully at that time. It is only since having my first DSLR converted in 2011 that I have been able to really explore this fascinating medium more fully.
What types of Infrared images do you make?
Mainly landscapes, I am particularly drawn to the ethereal quality that IR can impart upon a scene. My non-IR photography is largely black & white landscapes so the false-colours of IR represent both a challenge and a refreshing change to my normal way of working. I originally had a DSLR converted intending to use it for monochrome IR but quickly became absorbed by the potential of false-colour work and I would think that 80% of my IR output is now colour compared to around 10% of my non-IR landscapes.
What is your best photographic achievement?
There have been many over the last few years ranging from having work published and exhibited, professional endorsement of my work by The Guild of Photographers and several award-winning portraits but publishing my first solo project in December 2014 was a big highlight of the year for me. It documents a year in the life of a local ceramics artist and from initial idea to finished book represents around fifteen months work for myself.
What do like best about IR photography?
I just love the potential for something a little out of the norm, or that looks “ normal” at first glance but then you realize that you are looking at a subtly different take on the world. This is especially so where the scene has a lot of foliage when it seems to just glow with an intensity that visible-light photography cannot match. The discovery of false-colour and channel-swapping in post-production was a revelation and I am always learning which is another thing I enjoy.
What do you find most challenging about IR?
Realizing my vision. Exposure and white balance are the two most important elements when capturing the images and getting these right is a priority. Processing the RAW files is arguably more important for IR work to my mind especially given the significant changes that even minor adjustments in post production can produce. A jpeg straight from camera is not something that usually gives the best IR result in my view so shooting RAW and experimenting with the processing is a key element.
I’m not sure I need to go anywhere specifically to shoot IR, there are endless opportunities all around me. However, one thing I would like to experiment with is IR portraiture so perhaps somewhere hot with blue skies and white sand!
If you could pass on just one tip about IR, what would it be?
To bracket! I carried out a lot of experiments last year on the effect of different exposures on the way that the image converts, especially when channel-swapping, and now routinely bracket one stop either side of the metered exposure. That is the beauty of digital IR compared to film, the incremental costs of an extra couple of exposures are negligible and so my camera is set to automatically bracket as the norm.
I am always working on several projects, short or long term, and usually have half a dozen formulating somewhere in the back of my mind. I have been documenting the local canal in black and white throughout 2014 and am very excited to be moving to capture it in false-colour IR during 2015 which I think will make a fascinating visual counter balance. I hope to exhibit the work locally later in 2015.