Thursday, 10 January 2019

Trees and the Wood effect

The effect in infrared photographs where foliage appears bright or white is known as the Wood effect. This is named after Professor Robert Williams Wood rather than wood as in trees. What happens is that light around in the high 600 nanometres wavelength is not absorbed or reflected by chlorophyl. So the light bounces around inside plant cells and either passes through or comes out, including towards the viewer. This happens with snow, which is why infrared and snow scenes are sometimes mistaken for each other.

The amount of Wood effect isn't related to the colour of the leaves, as these two photographs show. First a pair of trees, of definitely different colour ...

When you look at the same trees through a 720 nm filter you can see that they look basically the same ...

Incidentally, the Wood effect happens in very deep red, rather than in true near-infrared. You can prove this if you have a 720nm filter. Go outside on a sunny day and look through the filter at some foliage. It will be very faint, but you will see the glow.

Friday, 5 October 2018

A thermal camera from Aldi

I was somewhat surprised to see that discount supermarket Aldi's latest catalogue includes a thermal imaging camera. It's probably more expensive than anything else they sell, at £899, but to be honest that's not a bad price for a 320 by 240 resolution camera of this type. The cheapest near equivalent I could quickly track down cost over £2,000. To be honest, if what you want is either to track heat leakage on a building, a hot spot in a circuit or find an animal in the dark then this should be fine. 320 by 240 is even a reasonable resolution for some artistic thermal imaging. Of course going for 640 by 480 or even more will set you back well over £10K, so 320 by 240 is almost hi-res for a thermal device.

The make is Rothenberger who, amongst other things, produce a wide range of imaging/inspection products. The company was founded in Germany in 1949.

You won't see these in store however ... it's an online special only.

For comparison, the current FLIR One camera, which now clocks in at 160 by 120 sells for around £400 and works with your mobile phone.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Jason Figgis' Simon Marsden film premiere

Simon Marsden: A Life in Pictures is a film about the photographer directed by Jason Figgis, better known for his horror movies. The film looks at Simon's work and influences. I wrote briefly about the project last year. It is now finished, and gets its premiere at the BFI next week, sponsored by Nikon. I may see you there.

You can find out more, including a trailer, in an interview on the Headstuff website.

You will also be able to see it on DVD/VOD or on the film festival circuit later this year. I should add that I contributed to the project, talking about my impressions of Simon's work and about infrared photography in general.

[I find I originally attributed the sponsorship to Kodak! Freudian slip.]

Monday, 16 July 2018

Richard Mosse - Incoming

Having produced some highly successful images using medium-format false-colour infrared film, Richard Mosse turned his hand to thermal imaging. Taking artistic thermal images is difficult. This is partly any equipment capable of producing images with anything like a pleasing resolution is extremely expensive and often militarily sensitive, but the way objects give off thermal wavelengths can appear to be unpredictable and somewhat messy.

In recent years, thermal cameras have appeared with resolutions comparable with HD TV, and the BBC Natural History Unit shot some fascinating night-time sequences with such a camera. I'm sure military applications have achieved even higher resolution.

Richard Mosse's book 'Incoming', published last year (and apologies for being slow to pick up on this) ventures into military territory with a combination of high resolution and a very long lens. The military have used long lenses with near-infrared photography since the second world war, making use of NIR's capability to cut through haze over long distances, over 100 miles under the right conditions. Such photos were taken with the equivalent of a telescope as the lens. (There are examples of long distance infrared photos taken using astronomical telescopes, notably at Lick Observatory in the early 1920s.) Now thermal imaging technology allows hyper-long-distance shots using far-infrared radiation, and Richard Mosse got his hands on such a device, with the intention of shooting a movie illustrating the plight of refugees. The results are, in turn, illustrated in the 'Incoming' book.

With this level of detail, and a straight monochromatic palette, the results are a surreal version of conventional photography; just slightly out of phase with our usual perception. The down-side is that the camera, with its power-pack, weighed about the same as a person and was mounted in a Steadicam designed for 'old fashioned' 35mm movies. Even then, it lacked anything like conventional controls and had to be operated using an X-Box controller.

Some of the shots are from a great distance, and exhibit extreme telephoto effects. Some are much more naturalistic, with the high resolution exposing folds of clothing and perspiration on skin. Some are tight crops. Some, in the book, may not be true thermal images. Can you take a thermal image of the moon? I'm not sure, but to be honest in this context I don't care. This camera is designed for remote surveillance and is described as allowing us "to see the way missiles see" so it may even be a hybrid.

Incoming's form factor is also unusual. It's around 7-inches square, over an inch thick, with black edges. Everything is full-bleed with a prevalence of black, and the ink has both a metallic sheen and a slightly oily smell. You don't so much read it as become immersed in it. Almost all pages are images, with two essays at the end one entitles "Biopolitics and the rights of man", byGiorgio Agamben, the other by Mosse himself documenting the process he and his team undertook.

More info can be found on the Mack web site, from which you can order the book as well.

Incoming by Richard Mosse
Published by Mack
576 pages
280 tritone plates
17.5 cm x 19.7 cm
€40.00 £35.00 $45.00

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Colour infrared photos from Normandy

Despite Kodak discontinuing their colour infrared Ektachrome film several years ago, some photographer have found ways to continue shooting false colour infrared images on film. An enterprising photographer in Germany, Dean Bennici, has sourced, trimmed, and then sold stock of Aerochrome over the past few years. He has recently been offering a negative false colour film, known only as CIR. This is still (just) available and is a 120 roll film. The larger image size makes a serious difference for this kind of image as photographer like Richard Mosse and Ed Thompson have demonstrated.

I recently came across the work of Lynda Laird, who has used that CIR film to document what remains of the coastal bunkers that were part of the defences along the Normandy coast. You can find her photographs on her web site, and here is an example. As you can see, the film produces very nice results.

Where the film originated is a bit of a mystery. Dean tells me his source was in Russia, but there were no identifying markings on either the canisters or on the film itself. My personal feeling is that it is either Russian or, maybe, from the erstwhile East Germany. I have a document on Soviet Russian infrared technology and I must dig through it to see if there are any clues. After all, there was the extraordinary infrared movie, Soy Cuba, shot by Cubans and Russians using Soviet military-grade infrared B+W film in the 1960s.