Shaun is a photographer with an amazing control of light. His images have such depth and evoke so much emotion. I had to speak with him about his Infrared photography
Shaun, Welcome. Please tell us about yourself and your background
I’m originally from Northern Ireland and have lived in the Washington DC area since 1999. Before that, I lived in London for several years and have also spent extended periods living in France and Saudi Arabia. By profession, I’m a purchasing and contracts specialist and have worked for thirty years in international development. I oversee the contracting for large infrastructure projects in developing countries and have worked all over world, everywhere from Ghana to Mongolia to Samoa.
How long have you been a photographer?
This time, for six years. I dabbled with photography in my twenties, started out with a Praktica-B film camera, progressed to a Canon AE-1 Program and, ultimately, a Canon A-1. I took a few evening classes, read several books on photography and drove my then girlfriend (now my wife) crazy asking her to pose in various locations all over London. Then, we got married, had children, I got serious about my career, put my camera down and didn’t take a serious photograph for twenty-five years. Digital drew me back to photography. In the film days, I never got sufficiently good at it to be able to predict how the camera settings I chose while shooting would affect the negative and the final print; what attracted me to digital was the immediacy of seeing the image the moment I’ve captured it, then being able to make corrections and re-shoot.
How long have you been shooting Infrared?
For about two years now. I got started by buying a used 720nm-converted Nikon D200 from Tony Sweet and loved the B&W and color images that it allowed me to create. About a year ago, I was getting increasingly interested in faux color IR, having seen Mark Hilliard’s beautiful faux color work, so I bought a used Nikon D90 and had LifePixel convert it to 590nm. That’s the camera I mainly use for IR now: it allows me to produce images that include a wide range of colors in faux color IR and also to capture a wider range of tones in B&W than my 720nm camera does.
What is your best photographic achievement?
I’m sorry but I’m unable to answer that question. I don’t think about photography in terms of “achievement”. That’s what I do at work. For me, photography is pure pleasure. I do it because I love it, because of the fun I get out of it. I simply don’t think of it in terms of achieving anything.
What do like best about IR photography?
I am fascinated by the notion that there is this type of light that is invisible to my eyes but that, by using an IR-converted camera, I can capture images in that light, “see” in IR light through my camera and express myself in that invisible light.
Also, I just love the look of IR images, especially in B&W. It’s a look unlike any other in photography. Landscapes in IR can look jaw-droppingly beautiful: clouds pop, blue sky sinks to black, vegetation glows in a ghostly white. It’s a magical look that I find fascinating.
What do you find most challenging about IR?
Some of the technical aspects of IR are still at least partially a mystery to me, including white balance and the various post-processing techniques. It’s a never-ending learning process. I’m not yet sufficiently experienced at IR to be able to predict how the colors that my eyes see will turn out when captured in IR. But, in a way, that’s also part of the pleasure of shooting IR: I enjoy the learning process and the occasional surprise at what I am able to create with it.
If you could go anywhere in the world to shoot IR, where would you go?
Landscapes are my favorite subject to photograph, especially where they include mountains, water and dramatic skies. So, the south island of New Zealand would suit me fine.
If you could pass on just one tip about IR, what would it be?
Keep shooting, experimenting and learning.
Do you have any projects currently going you would like to discuss?
I like to photograph old, rusty cars and trucks. In color, I love the unusual colors and textures that rust creates. Currently, I am working on developing my technique for capturing and processing these kinds of images in IR. Of course, I know that the colors will not be the same but I’m working at optimizing how the textures of rust translate into IR and to bring out as much color as I can through faux color post-processing.