Thursday 30 December 2010

Charles Edward Kenneth Mees 1882-1960

As 2010 draws to a close it is fitting I should commemorate another key player in the history of infrared photography, who died 50 years ago: CEK (Kenneth) Mees.

Mees had a doctorate in photographic theory from the University of London and was joint managing director of Wratten and Wainwright, who had produced the first commercial panchromatic photographic plates in 1906.

Mees had joined the Croydon-based firm in 1906. The father and son team of Frederick Charles Luther Wratten and Sidney Herbert Wratten brought him in as co-owner and joint managing director when they incorporated the company on the elder Wratten's retirement (before that it was a partnership with Henry Wainwright). When George Eastman set up the Kodak research laboratory in Rochester in 1912 he brought Mees over from England to run it. In order to do so he bought the Wratten and Wainwright business. RW Wood wrote to Mees on hearing the news, hoping he had "held 'em up for a king's ransom", asking whether Kodak were going to "close up every plate factory in the world" and hoping that Kodak would now turn out "uniform plates for scientific work". Mees wrote back to reassure Wood, saying that "we shall be able to make even better plates for scientific research than we can make at Croydon".

It is possible that Wood and Mees were acquainted by letter before Wood's European sabbatical in 1910-11, but they clearly became friends and corresponded until at least the early 1950s. In 1910 Mees was an ordinary member of the council of the Royal Photographic Society, and he chaired the Traill-Taylor lecture meeting where Wood presented his Invisible Rays paper. Wood's contact address was listed as c/o Wratten and Wainwright in the RPS exhibition catalogue and it would have been Mees who provided Wood with the infrared-sensitive plates he used on his Italian travels in 1911.

Mees also made use of infrared-sensitive plates himself. The Kodak Research Laboratory archive at the University of Rochester contains thirteen photographs (negatives and prints) taken in Portugal in 1910 by Mees using Wratten and Wainwright infrared sensitised plates (one of which was included in the Infrared 100 Exhibition). The images were taken through a Wratten 88 red filter with five-minute exposures and some show the characteristic dark skies and bright foliage that we now recognise in infrared photographs. However, in his 1936 book 'Photography' Mees credits Wood with taking the "earliest photographs of landscapes by infra-red rays", presumably referring to the images from Wood's 1910 publications.

I won't go into further biographical details on Mees as I can point you to two good sources. One is from the Croydon Camera Club, of which he was a member (explore the Who is Dr Mees item in the menu), and the other is the Image, the bulletin of George Eastman House.

Finally, and nothing whatsoever to do with infrared photography, George Eastman House archives hold a 1922 note from Wood to Mees, affording a written introduction to one Leopold Mannes ...
who has worked out a system of color-photography which appears to me to have some novel features which I think will interest you and perhaps interest your company. It occurred to me that you might offer him the facilities of your laboratory for a few days ... The process is quite simple, and the results which I have seen look promising.[Ref]
Mees did indeed provide facilities to Mannes and his colleague Leopold Godowsky Jr to work on their colour process, which eventually became known as Kodachrome. This iconic slide film was discontinued last year and the last-remaining development facility closes its doors today, at the end of 2010. So it goes.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Antennas or imaging array?

Via last week's New Scientist magazine I came across an interesting announcement from Idaho National Laboratory, which is part of the US Department of Energy. Researchers there, at Microcontinuum in Cambridge (Mass) and Patrick Pinhero of the University of Missouri have been working on an alternative way of gathering solar energy using minute antennas rather than solar cells.

They have produced an array of what they call nanoantennas which are tuned to infrared radiation and, as antennas do, resonate and pass the energy into electrical circuits. So far they have a six-inch circular 'stamp' that can emboss a plastic substrate which can then be coated with metal. The six-inch stamp can produce an array of ten million antennas. So far they are only able to produce arrays small enough to match infrared wavelengths but they plan to go finer and so reach visible wavelengths. One problem is how to handle the energy from the resonating antennas, since this is at light-like frequencies (a few hundred teraHerz) and rather beyond your average radio set!

Why is this of interest to us? Let's follow this through logically and refer to that six-inch stamp as a ten megapixel array and you see what I'm thinking. Could a tuned array of nanoantennas be an alternative way of making an image sensor? Ironically it is easier to make such an array for far infrared wavelengths than for visible light; so this might be a way of producing an inexpensive thermal imaging sensor. The down side is that (I assume) the energy arrays collect energy in serial or parallel and don't give access to individual 'pixel' antennas. For thermal wavelengths there is also the problem of ambient radiation: this is something they wish to capture for a solar array but it would contaminate an image. However, hopefully the former is a question of nano-engineering and the latter is already a problem with some existing kinds of thermal camera so we know how to address it (by cooling the sensor).

Using antennas for imaging has some advantages. To filter wavelengths you simply adjust the size of the antenna to match whichever wavelength you wish to receive. It might even be possible to do this dynamically. The antennas may be inherently polarised as well, which would have interesting applications. They might even be more efficient in harvesting the light energy since the researchers estimate the efficiency as being close to 80% and perhaps you could even make miniature Yagis for more gain. And the cost? "As cheap as inexpensive carpet" says the report. The INL report is actually from 2008 although New Scientist reported some more recent developments.

For over 150 years we have relied on energetic photons changing chemical or electronic structures for our imaging: the idea of tuning in to the energy directly is an interesting alternative. Perhaps the biggest barrier to use as an imaging sensor is scale. Don't forget that ten megapixel array was six inches across. It'd be ironic if a large format view camera was needed to use it.

[Later: It was pointed out to me that the plural of antenna is antennas if it's radio and antennae if it's insects. YLSED!]

Saturday 18 December 2010

Snow and the Wood Effect

As snow falls here in southern England for the second time this December I thought it appropriate to say a little about the Wood Effect. Named after Prof RW Wood, this is the brightening of foliage seen in infrared photographs that can often look like snow, first seen in his photographs from 1910.

The phenomenon had been observed before Wood, but not in an image, by Ogden Nicholas Rood, professor of physics at Columbia University, in his book on colour published in 1890 (or earlier). However this was based on spectrographic measurement of 'green' leaves and not photographic observation.

Willstatter and Stoll produced their theory of leaf reflectance in 1918 in their book Untersuchunger aber die Assimilation der Kohlenseture published in Berlin, and much of the literature on this was published in Germany. Not much is freely available on the web, although Mecke and Baldwin wrote about leaf reflectance in infrared in a 1937 paper which is available as a PDF (from Die Natlirwissenschaften in German).

Basically, the W-S theory says that light is reflected around within the internal structure of a leaf. Some eventually passes through and some is reflected back. Near infrared is not attenuated by the chlorophylls in the leaf as they are transparent at these wavelengths. The physical structure of the leaf is similar to that of snow, which is why infrared photographs can often look like snowy scenes. Unhealthy or dead leaves do not reflect so much because of changes in the internal structure, so the amount of infrared reflected by foliage can be used as an indicator of plant health.

Allen, and Richardson (Applied Optics Vol 12 #10 1973 behind paywall) explored the Willstatter-Stoll theory using ray tracing. This was a cumbersome process with 1970s computers and they were unable to do much, but they concluded that the theory predicted more transmission of light through the leaves than ray-tracing predicted. They concluded ...
The W-S model can be easily improved, however, by introduction of more intercellular air spaces. The modified W-S model promises to be an excellent representation of physical reality. Accurate predictions, however, require an inordinate amount of computer time.
Jacquemoud and Ustin, from Paris and California respectively, looked at modelling the optical properties of leaves in a paper from 2008 that is available online. They refer to a near-infrared plateau between 700 and 1100nm. Here ...
biochemical absorptions are limited to the compounds typically found in dry leaves, primarily cellulose, lignin and other structural carbohydrates. However, foliar reflection in this region is also affected by multiple scattering of photons within the leaf, related to the internal structure, fraction of air spaces, and air-water interfaces that refract light within leaves.
They don't call this the Wood Effect because, like most of the earlier papers I mention, they consider the optical properties across more wavelengths than infrared. However Mecke and Baldwin refer to the brightening of foliage in infrared as the Chlorophylleffekt.

So where is the earliest reference to this as the Wood Effect?

Strangely, this also seems to be in a German publication, in an article by someone named Marmet in a journal called Photofreund, (reference 18: 289-90, No. 15, August, 1938). I have seen this cited in a literature list produced by Kodak at the time, but not the original article itself.

The hunt continues.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Infrared photography declining in popularity?

Google's Web Trends is an interesting facility. It tracks the traffic for search terms and can give you an indication of something's popularity.

Here's the result for Infrared Photography. Nothing of any use before 2007 but a slight decline since the end of 2006. But why the spikes in interest in October 2007 and January 2010? The spike in January was just before Phil Coomes ran a story about the centenary on the BBC web site. You'll notice that there's most interest in the far east: Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia as top three regions. USA is 6th and the UK is 10th below Australia, NZ and Canada. I'm not sure what all this really means but it's curious nonetheless.

The graph of news items shows a dramatic peak around August 2008. Again ... why might that be?

The Google graph is showing a slow declining trend. Is that because less people are interested in infrared photography or could it be that those people who used to ask how to do it now know and don't need to look it up any more. Or maybe it means nothing. Oh, and while you're at it, try 'Lady Gaga' as a search term.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Elliott Landy photos in Montreal and Echirolles

Elliott Landy is the man who took that iconic colour infrared shot of Bob Dylan and was the official photographer at the Woodstock festival. Those of you who made it to the Infrared 100 exhibition in Bath will have seen a large print of his bobness, perched on the boot of a car and surrounded by bright red foliage.

This photo, and others ... including more of Elliott's 60s infrared photography ... will be on show in Montreal until Christmas Eve. The exhibition is called Elliott Landy, Spirit of a Generation and it's at Galerie Lounge TD in the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan, 305 Sainte Catherine Street West. Entrance is free.

More in this story from the Montreal Gazette and at Galerie Lounge. This second includes a video interview (in English).

Also, the Center for Graphics in Echirolles, near Grenoble in France has an exhibition of Elliott's 60s photos. This runs until January 30th. This also includes infrareds and there is more info en français on the Graphisme Echirolles web site.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Centenary year almost up

I've been counting 1910 as the year in which infrared photography started, triggered by RW Wood's articles published in the Century Magazine and Photographic Journal. So we are approaching the end of 2010 as a centenary year ... but is that the end of this blog?

Obviously I'm going to say "No! It's not."

Partly this is because May 2011 is the centenary of a paper Wood presented at the Royal Institution on his invisible rays work and the end of his European sabbatical, but also this is a good place for infrared photography snippets and pointers. So, let's carry on shall we? Your contributions, questions and comments will all be gratefully received.

Here's to Infrared 101 and beyond.

Monday 22 November 2010

RPS Good Picture 2010: Hot Topics in Imaging

December 4th draws near and it's worth another mention of this year's RPS Good Picture event which takes place that day. As the event web page says:
Over the years we have endeavoured to showcase the technical diversity of digital imaging. As 2010 is the 100th anniversary of Infrared photography, we have taken the opportunity to celebrate this by including some IR topics that should be of great interest to all
I know it's a bit invidious to single out individual presentations but there are two that I am particularly looking forward to:
  • John Smith: Infrared in the Surveillance Society
  • Dr Alan Hodgson ASIS FRPS: Practical Options For Infrared Photography
John is very knowledgeable on forensics and as that's a field I know almost nothing about (beyond watching CSI) it will be good to fill in the substantial gaps. Alan has been exploring various ways of making infrared images with what he describes as old kit: a kind of junkyard challenge for imaging scientists. Should be fun.

The day costs £64 (£36 concessions) including lunch and networking. It runs from 10 until 4 on Saturday December 4th at the University of Westminster, Regent Street, London. This is what us old timers still call Regent Street Poly and the meeting will take place in what is apparently one of the oldest, if not the oldest, cinemas in the country.

Friday 12 November 2010

Think Photography

The RPS Think Photography event takes place over this weekend in West Bromwich. There are a couple of small infrared contributions to this: five photographs from the Infrared 100 Exhibition will be on show and Clive Haynes is presenting on Saturday.

Clive is talking on Digital Infrared Image Capture and Workflow at 2pm on Saturday. He takes great digital infrared photographs and will be well worth seeing.

More info on the RPS web site.

Monday 8 November 2010


I've mentioned Joseph Giacomin's artistic thermal images before, and one of his shots was included in the Infrared 100 exhibition recently. Now he has published a book of thermograms called Thermal: Seeing the World Through 21st Century Eyes. The text muses on perception, while the yellow-red images illustrate an alternative way at looking at - perceiving - the world around us.

Available from, and elsewhere.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Portfolio TWO now published

Copies of the RPS Portfolio TWO book are now appearing. In a magnificent collection of RPS member images and articles are three Infrared 100 items: my history of infrared photography, a similar article on thermal imaging by Francis Ring, and infrared photos from the RPS Digital Imaging Group. More info, and online ordering, on the RPS web site.

Monday 25 October 2010

RW Wood 1910 paper now online

The paper from the October 1910 Photographic Journal, that started this whole centenary thing off, is now available in facsimile online. It was scanned from a bound set of 1910 Phot J's that used to be in Kodak's archive but is now in the care of de Montford University. This book, as shown above, is currently residing in the cabinet at Fenton House, as part of the Infrared 100 Exhibition, which closes on Thursday.

The RPS have linked the paper from this news page or from this direct link (PDF). Archival accessibility preparation by the ATSF palaeontology team ... ie me.

Thursday 21 October 2010

48 hour exposures

An image from the Hubble deep-field telescope has revealed the most distant, and therefore oldest, object ever discovered. It is a galaxy known as UDFy-38135539. A small one, but a galaxy nonetheless and the light from it has taken over 13 billion years to reach us; starting its journey only 600 millions years after the big bang. It is also receding so quickly that its light is red-shifted by a factor of 8.6, such that any visible light is shifted down to the deep infrared. You can see the starfield image on the ESO web site. The story on the BBC web site reveals that this was a 48 hour exposure and the ESO web site tells us that the teams responsible were NASA, ESA, G Illingworth (UCO/Lick Observatory and University of California, Santa Cruz) and the HUDF09 Team.

Lick Observatory has historically played a significant part in our infrared imaging story. During the 1920s and 30s scientists at the observatory experimented with infrared photography, as I mentioned in an earlier post. The infrared comparison photos that WH Wright took of Mars in 1924, which proved that Mars has an atmosphere to speak of, were taken there (and are included in the Infrared 100 exhibition at the RPS in Bath this month). If you're interested there is a 2006 paper on the Lick photographs in the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage (Vol 9, No 2, p 181-184) but it's not available online.

And the 48 hours? There's a delicious coincidence which brings me to another historic infrared photograph taken at another famous American observatory, Mount Wilson. In this case the date is 1930, the photographer is HD Babcock and it is a blurry and unassuming image of some objects on a shelf. It is also the first photograph taken in total darkness.

Infrared photograph taken in total darkness by HD Babcock in 1930
I had a telephone conversation with an archivist at Mount Wilson but, so far, we have been unable to find out whether a real copy of this photo still exists. The one you see here is taken from an old edition of Clark, who says that the 'light' source was one or more under-run electric heaters. The plate was sensitised with neocyanine and the exposure was 48 hours at f/2.

So here we have the darker recesses of the universe, one distant and one very close. Both unobservable except using infrared imaging and both taking 48 hours to shoot.

Monday 18 October 2010

Artistic thermal images on show in London

Millennium Bridge and Tate Modern by Joseph Giacomin
Professor Joseph Giacomin works at the Human Centred Design Institute at Brunel University. His 'day job' covers things like the design of cars but he has a sideline in fascinating artistic thermal images. Unusually, he is able to get his hands on one of these very expensive cameras and has the artistic eye to use it creatively. There is one of his images in the Infrared 100 exhibition at the RPS in Bath this month.

You can also get the opportunity to see some of his thermograms of the Millennium Bridge as part of an exhibition called Bridge Stories, which runs from this Friday, October 22nd, until January 21st at Arup Phase 2 in Fitzroy St, London. [More info]

Friday 15 October 2010

Exhibition opening group photo

Left to right: Professor Francis Ring, Councillor Sarah Bevan, Derek Birch, Rosemary Wilman (RPS President), Andy Finney
Photo by Sally Smart

Thursday 14 October 2010

The bolometer

The thermal people often refer to bolometers. These basically are remote thermometers, and usually work by focussing heat radiation onto something which changes its characteristics, in a measurable way, when it warms up. The original version used a platinum foil strip blackened with soot from a candle. Its electrical resistance changed with temperature. The inventor was Samuel Pierpont Langley, in 1878.

This gave rise to the following rhyme/limerick which was quoted several times during the Infrared 100 events last week.
Oh Langley devised the bolometer
Which is really a kind of thermometer
Which can measure the heat
From a polar bear's feet
At a distance of half a kilometre
Who said science can't be fun! Sadly, it seems Langley actually measured the temperature of a cow from a quarter of a mile ... but that doesn't rhyme [Ref]. There are variations and I believe the original rhyme is by Mr Anon.

Monday 11 October 2010

Infrared 100 Exhibition and Symposium

Last week was a busy one. We had the private view/launch of the Infrared 100 exhibition at the RPS in Bath on Monday and the two-day symposium on Thursday and Friday. [See the earlier blog entry]

A corner of the exhibition at Fenton House
A number of our photographers were able to join us for the launch and Rosemary Wilman, President of the Royal Photographic Society was host. Councillor Sarah Bevan, who is the chair of Bath and North East Somerset Council (known locally as BNES) also gave a short speech, and proved very knowledgeable on the subject too. So, as they say, a splendid time was had by all.

The two-day symposium in London was also well-supported and I discovered such things as just how much has been done in infrared astronomy in recent years, not to mention the fascinating way african elephants control their body temperature in an unforgiving climate. My great thanks to Francis Ring and Helen Walker who each organised one of the two days and especially to the hospitality of the Royal Astronomical Society who hosted day one and jointly-branded day two which was in the Geological Society ... both in Burlington House. One guest on both days was Professor Paul Feldman from RW Wood's own establishment, Johns Hopkins University, and it was really great to meet him.

I am now starting discussions that I hope will lead to an exciting event next May in central London which will be open to all. Fingers crossed.

Sunday 3 October 2010

Cover of the RPS Journal

Fishing on the River Avon at Christchurch by Andy Finney
I remember it was Dr Hook who sang about being on the cover of Rolling Stone: they even got there. Well, I'm delighted to say that I finally made the cover of the RPS Journal Infrared Centenary Edition. It's a faux-colour image taken in Christchurch in Hampshire last year. The colours have a little to do with real life but also to do with infrared leaking through the Beyer filtering on the sensor of my Sony DSC-F828 camera. The edition also includes Clive Haynes discussing infrared digital photography and a piece on the background to Professor Wood's 1910 and 1911 infrared photographs, by me.

Friday 1 October 2010

Infrared 100 Exhibition

The Infrared 100 exhibition has opened at the RPS Fenton House Gallery in Bath (a short but uphill walk along Wells Road from the centre of town: MAP).

The exhibition runs until Thursday 28th October, 0930 to 1630 Monday to Friday: info on RPS web site.

Moydrum Castle by Simon Marsden 1978
These are the images included (in title order) ...
  • Aerial photograph at 23,000 feet, showing Mount Shasta at a distance of 331 miles Captain Albert W Stevens, US Army Air Corp 1932
  • African Elephant Thermogram Professor James Mercer
  • Approaching Storm, Cape Cod Joseph Paduano, 1984
  • Baby Stars in the Rosette Molecular Cloud Herschel Space Observatory 2010
  • Bob Dylan,Woodstock Elliott Landy 1968
  • Children watching Mickey Mouse cartoon James Jarché for the Daily Herald 1934
  • Cottage in the Woods Martin Addison FRPS
  • Dover and the French coast Bill Warhurst for the Times May 9th 1932
  • Foreboding Mel Gigg FRPS
  • Group photograph taken in total darkness at Kodak Research lab, October 7th 1931
  • How Caple: the Gateway Malcolm Haynes
  • Infrared rainbow with secondary and supernumeries Professor Robert Greenler 1971
  • Kingsley Pond Keith Millar
  • Lantern slide comparing views of Mars and San José William Hammond Wright, Lick Observatory 1924
  • Lochan na h’Achlaise Peter Clark FRPS
  • Magical Banyans Theresa Airey
  • Minneapolis Dream Diane Syme 1996
  • Mojave Desert Nude Chris Maher
  • Moydrum Castle Simon Marsden 1978
  • New Orleans Streetcar on St Charles Carol M Highsmith
  • Park in Portugal CEK (Kenneth) Mees 1910
  • Puff the Magic Dragon Mike Finley
  • Resolution Clive Haynes FRPS
  • Rosebud as Demeter Abe Frajndlich 1975
  • Shephali at the Taj Mahal Martin Reeves 1990
  • Sunflower Andy Finney
  • The Final Bow Colin Trow-Poole ARPS
  • Thermal Dancer ProfessorJoseph Giacomin
  • Thermogram showing rheumatoid athritis in the knee Professor Francis Ring 1959
  • Tortworth Alan Lewis LRPS
  • Tree with Exposed Roots Tim Rudman FRPS
  • Untitled Akron Ohio Stephen Paternite 1980
You can also see Karl Ferris's fish-eye colour infrared photo of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, on the cover of their first album as released in the USA. Professor Wood's 1910 Photographic Journal article will also be on display, as is the double-page spread from the Illustrated London News of June 1911.

I'll be very interested in your comments if you visit the exhibition. Photos without dates are the contemporary set and all date from this millennium. My huge thanks to Simon Marsden for allowing us to use his photograph to help promote the event. Simon's web sites are: and I would also like to acknowledge the help of ILFORD Lab Direct, who superbly printed our black and white archival images.

Monday 27 September 2010

It was 100 years ago today ...

...that Professor Robert Williams Wood gave his landmark lecture Photography by Invisible Rays to the Royal Photographic Society at its HQ in Russell Square, London. As the RPS members meeting card shows, this was at 8pm.

To put this in context, it was only four years since Wratten and Wainwright had started production of the first panchromatic photographic plates available in the shops. Before this photographers wanting to photograph anything red had to sensitise their own plates. Ironically, the new panchromatic photography had its detractors who said that this was not real photography at all; that the world as seen through the lens should only record ultraviolet and blue. Into this photographic world Wood introduced the often surreal and potentially very useful features of infrared imaging.

At this time it seems that only Wood (starting in 1908) and CEK (Kenneth) Mees of Wratten and Wainwright and the Croydon Camera Club (who took some of his own plates to Portugal in 1910) had ever photographed infrared landscapes. Now Google images returns ten million hits on the word infrared and over a million on infrared photograph. Wood's landscapes are where it all started, over a century ago.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Only one photo left ...

Elliott Landy's amazing infrared portrait of Bob Dylan arrived this morning which means I am now only one image short of the set for the Infrared 100 exhibition. Ilford have done an amazing job printing up the historic images we got from archives both here and in the USA and the photographers I contacted have been extremely helpful in supplying prints and, in many cases, matting them to fit the RPS frames. Even the RPS president has joined in the fun by cutting loads of mattes and even solved the problem of how to frame a century-old edition of the Illustrated London News.

I'll post a list of the images in a day or so but any of you within striking distance of Bath should make an effort to come along to Fenton House. Details in the later post.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Infrared 100 Symposium: Day 2

The second day of the symposium at Burlington House (which also houses the Royal Academy in Piccadilly, London) on October 8th is dedicated to infrared astronomy and organised by the Royal Astronomical Society. Chairs for the day are Helen Walker and Peter Clegg.
  • The UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey
    Steve Warren, Imperial College London
  • Cosmology in the infrared
    Michael Rowan-Robinson, Imperial College London
  • Multi-wavelength far infrared imaging: HERSCHEL today and SPICA tomorrow
    Matt Griffin, Cardiff
  • SWIRE: FIR Luminosity function and the SFR of galaxies at 0 < z < 1.5
    Harsit Patel, Imperial College London
  • AKARI observations of the Galactic Plane
    Mireya Etxaluze, Harvard Smithsonian CfA
  • The impact of HERSCHEL on studies of star formation
    Derek Ward-Thompson, Cardiff
  • Near-infrared performance of the wide-field survey telescope VISTA
    Jim Emerson, QMUL
  • Direct imaging of extra solar planets in the infrared
    Anne-Marie Lagrange, Grenoble
  • Exploring the Universe with WISE
    Ned Wright, UCLA
  • Infrared Imaging with JWST
    Gillian Wright, UKATC
A booking form is available on the RPS-ISG web site and there is a discount for attending both days.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Infrared 100 Symposium: Day 1

Here is the programme for the first day of the two-day Infrared 100 Symposium at Burlington House, Piccadilly London on October 7th. I'll add the second day program (which is on astronomical infrared) tomorrow. The event will be opened by the President of the Royal Photographic Society, Rosemary Wilman Hon FRPS.
  • Keynote Lecture: RW Wood at Johns Hopkins - A Panchromatic Legacy
    Prof Paul Feldman, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA
  • A Century of Infrared Photography
    Andy Finney
  • Infrared Thermal Imaging of the Human Body: from Analogue to Digital
    Prof Francis Ring
  • High-Performance Thermal Imagery from 1st and 2nd Generation Cameras
    Prof CT Elliott, FRS
  • Your Tiny Hand is Frozen
    Prof Kurt Ammer, Vienna
  • Thermal Behaviour of the African Elephant
    Prof James Mercer, University of North Norway
  • Sleep Deprivation and Frustration - Filming Wildlife for Television using Infrared
    Colin Jackson, BBC Natural History Unit Bristol
  • IR surveys of Buildings, the Energy Conservation Story
    John Snell, Vermont, USA
  • Satellite and Terrestrial Thermal Imaging to Monitor Volcanoes
    Talfan Barnie, Cambridge, UK
  • Visualising the Earth with Infrared (in a multispectral context)
    Dr G Awcock, Brighton University
A booking form can be found on the RPS Imaging Science Group web site.

Friday 17 September 2010

More from Chris Lavers

I have already mentioned Dr Chris Lavers' talk Swords to ploughshares but Chris tells me the date has been brought forwards to Tuesday November 9th at 8pm. The venue is the @Bristol Centre Science Café.

His fascinating exhibition of thermal images of animals and even insects is also making more appearances:
  • Bristol Science Centre October 11 - November 9
  • Institute of Physics, London November 24
  • Flavel Arts Centre, Dartmouth January 3-17 2011
More school exhibitions are planned for 2011.

Friday 10 September 2010

Infrared 100 at IBC 2010

Just a quick reminder in case you are heading for the IBC exhibition or conference at the RAI in Amsterdam. There will be a session on Monday 13th September at 1400 called Broadcasting with Invisible Light which will look at how infrared imaging has impinged on television and the movies in the past 100 years. Speakers are Iain Logie Baird talking about his grandfather's work on infrared TV in the 1920s and 30s, Professor Rod Thomas explaining and demonstrating thermal imaging, Colin Jackson from the BBC Natural History Unit showing how they do programmes like Big Cat Live with infrared technology ... and me with a few explanations about how it all fits together and showing a couple of extracts from movies that used infrared.

[Later] Fascinating session for a select audience and I am now learning a lot more about Baird's Noctovision. Thanks to all who came along.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Infrared 100 Exhibition

There will be a small but select exhibition of infrared images at the Royal Photographic Society HQ in Bath running from Friday October 1st to Friday October 28th.

The images on show will represent historic and contemporary work with a mixture of scientific and artistic images. Photographs include the work of photographers including renowned artists Abe Frajndlich, Elliott Landy and Simon Marsden, as well as Society members including Tim Rudman, Clive Haynes and Alan Lewis. The opening hours are 9.30am – 4.30pm, Monday to Friday; admission is free.

The address is Fenton House, 122 Wells Road. Bath. BA2 3AH

Monday 6 September 2010

New linked web site: Dome from Malaysia

We have a new infrared photographic web site joined to the project. The enigmatically named Digital Dome, from Malaysia, and his exotically coloured views from, what is to me, the other side of the world.

His URL is

Friday 27 August 2010

Soy Cuba ... Soy Infrarrojo

In the early 1960s there was a curious collaboration between the Cuban and Russian film industries resulting in an extraordinary movie called Soy Cuba (I am Cuba). The director was Mikhail Kalatozov, famous most probably for The Cranes Are Flying in 1957, and the director of photography was Sergey Urusevsky. The film is a cinematic tour de force, featuring several long single-take sequences which almost defy attempts to work out just how they were done.

This motion picture interests us at Infrared 100 because much of it was shot using infrared film, with characteristic bright foliage and dark skies. The background to this was explained by members of the crew in a Brazilian documentary about the making of Soy Cuba, and called the Siberian Mammoth, a reference to the film being lost and overlooked for many years.

Raúl Rodríguez, Assistant cameraman ...
Urusevsky wanted the film images to be a synthesis of Cuba. Each individual frame should shine like a sugar crystal, transforming the green of palm trees and sugarcane into tones of silver. To capture the Caribbean light he used an infrared negative which at that time was restricted solely to the use of the Soviet army.
Alexander "Sacha" Calzatti, Camera operator ...
It took me several months to go from Moscow to the city where the film negative was made. It was made in a factory that produced military material. It was made in the same factory that produced the negatives for filming the other side of the moon. The infrared film creates a very strong visual effect which is difficult to control. The trick here is that the negative is panchromatic. Some chemicals are added to make it more sensitive to infrared light.
While the pace of the film can be slow at times, there is no doubting its power. If cinematic gems appeal to you I recommend you check it out as the DVD is available, although you need to get the deluxe edition to see the documentary as well.

More background is in the Wikipedia entry and some extracts and a trailer are available on YouTube. I have to admit that Soviet infrared film is a bit of a blank for me. Apart from a colour infrared film tested by NASA, I have not seen any references to actual types. It would be fascinating to see the negatives of this movie and find out just what this stock was called.

I will be discussing the movie and showing a brief extract at the Broadcasting with InvisibleLight session at IBC/Amsterdam on September 13th.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Fluorescent lamp + IR filter =?

A quick diversion from infrared photography to Infrared Luminescence (aka fluorescence). This can be used to reveal faded writing on old and damaged documents, and for other forensic things. I recently discovered a somewhat elderly but fascinating article by the legendary Andrew Davidhazy (of Rochester Institute of Technology in the States) explaining a do-it-yourself approach to this. Usually you need an expensive infrared-blocking filter over the broad-spectrum/white light source and an infrared-pass filter over the lens. Also usually, if you try and take an infrared photo under fluorescent lights you get almost nothing but noise.

Andrew points out in this paper that the average fluorescent light bulb (which presumably includes a lot of those low energy bulbs now prevalent) has a strange spectrum, attuned to our vision, which includes (virtually) no infrared. So if you illuminate your document with this and have an infrared-pass filter over your camera lens, all that will get through is infrared resulting from fluorescence in the document. The light, which includes no infrared, causes some of the document to fluoresce at a longer wavelength and some of that gets through the infrared filter.

Something to try I think.

Friday 13 August 2010

Is this the oldest IR landscape?

I have always been sceptical that the infrared photographs included in Professor Wood's 1910 RPS paper (presented on Tuesday September 27th 1910 and included in the Photographic Journal for October) were the oldest such images published. Now, following a trail suggested by Johns Hopkins University I read an early 1910 paper by Wood on The Moon in Ultraviolet (Popular Astronomy February 1910) in which he refers to his infrared landscape photographs as being of "little scientific value" and says he will explain more in a forthcoming article in the Century Magazine.

There are many editions of Century online and the February 1910 one does indeed contain an illustrated article by Wood called A New Departure in Photography. It includes two infrared landscape photos, of which this is one:

Professor Wood's summer home at East Hampton

These were taken the previous summer (1909) and might be the infrared landscapes referred to in Wood's biography. [Later: no they're not; those were in 1908 and were shots of mountains] If you'd like to read the full article you can find it here in the Hathi Trust digital library. Go to page 565 and read on.

Monday 9 August 2010

Swords to ploughshares

I've already mentioned Dr Chris Lavers' work on thermal imaging in this blog as he has had an exhibition of images in Bristol recently.

Another date for your infrared diary is November 24th 9th 2010, when Chris will be giving a talk Swords to ploughshares: civilian applications for military technologies? at the @Bristol Centre Science Cafe. To quote the event promotional email ...
Whereas in the United States, technologies developed for the military pass into civilian application unless there is a reason why they shouldn't, this transfer of benefits is less observed in the UK's military.

Dr. Chris Lavers, Subject Matter Expert (Radar and Telecommunications) Lecturer, from the University of Plymouth joins us to talk alongside his exhibition illustrating humanitarian and wildlife applications of infra red technologies and share conversations over the wider issues surrounding military technologies.

Saturday 31 July 2010

Minus blue and back focus

In preparation for the session at IBC in September I have been doing some experimentation.

Firstly, with the assistance of friends at the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol, I got my hands on a full-frame Canon DSLR which had had its infrared blocking filter removed. Unfortunately the weather denied me the sunshine that really gives a punch to the Wood Effect but the Clifton Suspension Bridge is always impressive.

One thing I was keen to try was using a minus-blue filter (Wratten #12) to emulate Infrared Ektachrome. Despite the cloudy day the result was promising.

Colour infrared Clifton Suspension Bridge

You can see the first stab here. After some channel equalisation/normalisation this image uses the Photoshop channel mixer to map the camera's blue channel to red (only infrared should be getting through the #12 and the camera's blue filter), maps red to green and green to blue. Some blue (an arbitrary 50%) has been subtracted from both the green and blue output channels. This emulates the process used in Kodak's DCS 420, a version of which was a short-lived colour infrared DSLR from the mid-1990s. It looks as if this deserves further study. If you have a modified DSLR and a #12 filter you should give it a try.

My second point concerns back focus. One problem that you hit when you remove the infrared blocking filter from a digital camera is that unless you replace it with some other glass the lens will no longer focus. I was discussing this with engineers at Ikegami (while we explored modifying a broadcast HD camera for infrared work) and they explained why this happens. It was one of those Homer Simpson 'Doh!' moments. (Forgive me if you already know this.)

What I had forgotten is that the filtration in front of the sensor is actually part of the light path that focuses the lens. The light going through the filter is not parallel, it is converging to hit the sensor. So if you remove the filter (glass) you change the refractive index of that part of the light path and optically extend the lens. To shorten it again you either have to physically move the lens (difficult because you probably don't have much room between the back element and the sensor, even if you could move it) or you have to put back some glass with the same refractive properties as the filter you removed.

You have probably removed more than one filter, bonded together. The camera we were looking at had a removable filter unit which contained a high-pass filter in the frequency domain (the infrared blocker) and a low-pass filter in the spatial domain (the anti-alias filter). Fortunately, for landscape work, aliasing is not too big a problem and some DSLR owners actually remove these to get more sharpness. The actual efficacy of this is a subject hotly debated on various web forums and I won't get into it here.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Hot air at Farnborough

Two air display videos for you: both a mixture of colour and thermal imaging courtesy of Flightglobal and FLIR Systems.

First ... some display highlights. Note the thermal reflections on the Airbus fuselage and how the thermal imaging shows the hot exhaust gases clearly.

Secondly, the American F-22 Raptor ultrafighter. This was briefly at Farnborough in 2008 but is at this year's show every day including the public days over the coming weekend. More info in this piece in the Register, but it's worth noting that this plane aims to be thermally stealthy by reducing its heat signature. It does this, apparently, by channeling heat into the fuel tanks. This isn't so much to avoid detection by people with thermal cameras but more to foil heat-seeking missile systems.

Thermal stealth dates back to (at least) the second World War, with the German navy concocting a special paint for U-Boats to reduce their infrared visibility (apparently under the misconception that the British were using IR to detect subs whereas it was actually RADAR).

It's interesting to see how this particular FLIR camera (Star SAFIRE HD) switches from colour to thermal. This is a multispectral unit including HD thermal imaging. Here's the data sheet.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Infrared 100 at NECC Conference

The 2010 New England Camera Club Conference is taking place at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst from July 16th to 18th. One of the sessions, presented by William Barnett, is called Beyond Human Vision and looks at techniques for producing black and white and coloured infrared photos. Bill is using the centenary as the starting point for his talk.

The conference web page includes a programme and information on how to get to the university. You have to dig into the registration form to find out the cost and who to call to check availability.

Monday 5 July 2010

Hyperspectral universe

I just discovered a fascinating web site called Chromoscope, which blends results from a number of astronomical projects working at wavelengths right across the EM spectrum. Basically you move a slider and change the wavelength at which you are 'seeing' the universe. They added microwave data from the Planck space telescope today.

Near infrared is 'represented' by Hydrogen-alpha data at about 656 nm (deep red really) and there is far infrared data from IRAS. The spectra are not continuous so as you move the slider you blend distinct data sets rather than moving continuously across wavelengths.

Kudos to the University of Cardiff for supporting this open source data-visualisation project, which makes use of the Google Maps API for zooming and panning.

[I plan to list current infrared astronomy projects here, once I've completed some research.]

Sunday 4 July 2010

Thomas Jefferson changes his mind

News emerged over the past few days about hyperspectral imaging being used to confirm that Thomas Jefferson changed a key word in the US Declaration of Independence as he drafted it. It has been suspected for over 60 years that he originally referred to fellow subjects (of George III) but hastily over-wrote it to become fellow citizens. This is in a sentence detailing grievances against King George, although the sentence itself didn't reach the final draft.

A Library of Congress researcher used hyperspectral imaging (imaging the document various times using different narrow bands of light and nearby radiation such as infrared) to investigate Jefferson's rough draft late last year. It is unclear why the news came out now, but it was just before Independence Day weekend. See this web page at the LOC which includes a link to multi-spectral image of the Declaration.

I mention this because one of the things Professor Wood noted in his 1910 paper was the use of different bands of light (in his case specifically infrared, visible and ultraviolet) to investigate documents. Infrared especially has a long history of use for investigating both dubious documents (the euphemism for forgeries and tampering) but also helping archaeologists and art conservationists. As early as 1933 the British Museum was using infrared film to help read and decipher writing on millennia-old Egyptian documents and NASA are even now using infrared hyperspectral imaging to garner more from the famous Dead Sea Scrolls.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Forward Thinking Infrared

Web site The Forward Thinking Museum has just launched its latest exhibit, Infrared: Photography in a Different Light. It not only includes some fine infrared photographs but also takes a look at examples of infrared cinematography, an often overlooked field. Some of the examples make use of infrared film to simulate night shots in the daytime, a technique called day for night (or nuit américaine as Truffaut fans will know). The exhibit also looks at some examples of infrared film used purely for its look ... notably what seems to be an extraordinary Cuban film from the early 1960s called Soy Cuba about which I will now find out more.

Thanks also to the museum for supporting Infrared 100, so they become the latest Infrared 100 Event.

Monday 14 June 2010

Thermal @Bristol

There is an exhibition of thermal wildlife images running in the @Bristol café until July 7th. According the the press release ...
This exhibition builds upon a previous thermal imaging collaboration between Paignton Zoo, Plymouth University, the Butterfly and Otter Sanctuary at Buckfastleigh Devon, and two keen excellent local photographers, Ray and Jean Wiltshire, which has been viewed by over 80,000 people across the South West of England so far.
It has been put together by Dr Chris Lavers, Head of Sensors and Telecommunications at Plymouth University (although he's based in Devonport).

I am particularly taken by some fascinating shots showing 'blood' flow in butterfly wings. (It's not actually blood ... it's hemolymph fluid.) If you're in the south-west of England you'll know @Bristol but otherwise, here's the web site.

That reminds me of the nature of colour in butterfly wings. It's not pigment: most of the colours are caused by diffraction patterns due to the minute scales on the wings.

[Later that same day] Web page for the exhibition

Friday 11 June 2010

Most famous infrared photograph

What is the most widely seen infrared photograph? It may be Anton Corbijn's cover for the U2 album The Unforgettable Fire. It may be one of the images released from the Herschel space observatory. It may be Minor White's Cobblestone House.

What do you think? What was the first infrared photograph you remember seeing ... the first one that stuck in your memory. Let me know by comment or by email (link to the right).

Monday 7 June 2010

RPS Infrared Centenary Events

As hinted before, the Royal Photographic Society is celebrating the centenary of infrared imaging with a number of events. Programmes for two of them are now released and, rather than repeat the information, I will link to the RPS Imaging Science Group pages here.

Infrared 100

Two-day symposium jointly with the Royal Astronomical Society.
October 7th and 8th, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London
More information here

Good Picture 2010: Hot Topics in Imaging

Good Picture is an annual event and this year's is mostly (but not exclusively) on aspects of infrared.
December 4th, University of Westminster, Regent Street, London
More information here

Friday 4 June 2010

Remote IR detection of volcanic ash hits headlines

Easyjet have announced that they are trialling a system to detect volcanic ash from their aircraft. Most of the coverage I've seen refers to this as radar but it is an infrared system not centimetric and it is also passive not active.

AVOID (Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector) has been developed by a Norwegian academic spin-off called Nicarnica led by Anglo-Australian climate scientist Dr Fred Prata. It is presumably a specialised development of their CyClops Infrared Imaging Camera which uses an uncooled bolometer (a type of radiant energy detector invented in 1878) to detect heat radiation in five separate but adjustable wavelengths. The company say that their camera can identify volcanic ash particles and sulphur dioxide gas (a common part of volcanic eruptions) at a distance that is presumably only limited by line-of-sight.

This isn't strictly an imaging system (it does not show recognisable objects) but it does produce an image analogous to radar, showing cloud boundaries mapped against distance. Using spectroscopic analysis CyClops can differentiate between ordinary water/ice clouds and more hazardous types. AVOID will presumably offer similar facilities to allow pilots to navigate around hazardous clouds even if they are invisible to the naked eye.

Dr Prata (together with Ian Barton) produced what looks like their first patent in the field (Detection system for use in an aircraft United States Patent 5602543) in 1991 where the abstract says that the "system is able to detect the presence of volcanic ash cloud ahead of the aircraft". So this is something of which Dr Prata and his team have long experience. Incidentally, the associated advance detection of clear air turbulence from aircraft using infrared goes back even further, to at least the 1960s.

To go back even further, we find bolometers used on ships back towards the start of the 20th Century to try to detect icebergs; at a time when the Titanic was a recent memory.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

BBC Sky at Night on Herschel images

Next Sunday's edition (June 6) of the Sky at Night is an infrared special, looking at images of star formation from the Herschel space observatory. The BBC web site describes it thus:
The many star-forming areas of our galaxy are obscured by interstellar dust, but Herschel, a new space telescope, can see these areas in infrared light. Sir Patrick Moore is joined by Professor Derek Ward-Thompson and Dr Chris North to examine the latest stunning images from Herschel.
I phoned Patrick last week to appraise him of the centenary - he knew of Prof Wood of course - and I hope he will be able to mention Infrared 100 on the programme. Whatever happens it will be worth a view. Transmission is on BBC One on the 6th and on BBC Four on the 8th and 9th ... and it'll be on the iPlayer.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Pilot IR/Thermal imaging scheme in Scotland

The single thing most people get confused about, as far as infrared is concerned, is the difference between near infrared photography and far infrared thermal imaging. This is especially apparent from the occasional emails I get, and forum postings I see, asking how to use infrared photography to study heat-loss from a building.

So I was interested to read on the BBC web site about a pilot project in Scotland, involving ten thousand homes, to use thermal imaging to 'scan' their external heat pattern and pinpoint areas where heat is being lost from the building. It's a 15 month pilot being carried out by IRT Surveys of Dundee and rather than aiming to help individual home owners the scheme wants to provide an overview of how effective various methods of insulation are.

It strikes me that one cause of the confusion is terminology. We call everything from 700 nm (just beyond red) down to the edge of microwaves by the term infrared, even though the sources of the radiation and the ways we can render it visible change significantly as we move from the photographic infrared to the thermal infrared. I found this terminological inexactitude particularly confusing while going through wartime papers to research my paper on the history of infrared photography for the RPS. One of the best sources of information on this is RV Jones, who was a senior scientist in British scientific intelligence: senior enough to have regular contact with Churchill. Jones's papers are in Churchill College in Cambridge and he also wrote a fascinating book called Most Secret War, which is still in print. Like many others, Jones refers to both ends of the infrared spectrum as simply infra-red. I had to read between the lines to try to see whether he was referring to thermal or near infrared technology ... and possibly got it wrong sometimes.

Jones told a nice story about a meeting sometime after the war with the American military where they began to tell him about a new missile they had started work on called the Sidewinder. 'So this is a heat-seeking missile then?' says Jones, somewhat startling the Americans who immediately think that their security is compromised. Jones explains that the sidewinder rattlesnake detects prey using rudimentary thermal sensors in its head, so he has surmised that this missile does likewise. Sighs of relief from the military, who have named the missile after the rattlesnake because of its striking prowess and are unaware that it uses infrared. So it goes.

Saturday 22 May 2010

Stefan Birghan and Jörg Weindl : ir2

Another addition to our web associates, this time from Germany. Stefan and Jörg have some infrared images taken in Germany (at Chiemsee, a freshwater lake in Bavaria) and in Ireland and Vienna.

Their web site is and on Stefan's own web site he explains (in German) how he got interested in infrared photography after seeing a calendar by Simon Marsden on an office wall.

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Herschel first anniversary

It's a year since the Herschel infrared space telescope was launched and it is now sending back some extraordinary images of the cooler cosmos. No doubt these are immensely valuable to the astronomers who recognise all the ramifications of this new window on the universe but the rest of us can still just enjoy the view. There is an enthralling A/V slide show on the BBC web site.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Simon Marsden

You have probably seen Simon Marsden's infrared photographs of Irish ruins or other ghostly-looking buildings and artefacts, often with striking and distinctive backlighting. You may even have a copy of one or more of his books of photos, such as In Ruins or The Haunted Realm. Simon is one of the most significant infrared specialists at work today. He uses Kodak HIE 35mm film, from a carefully refrigerated supply, and has a special love for the printing process. I plan to include one of his images in the history of infrared photography I have researched for the RPS and in the centenary exhibition.

Simon has told his email list about Infrared 100, so a warm welcome to you if you found this blog as a result. The other piece of news is that Christies is auctioning one of his prints next Friday in South Kensington. It's a specialist sale of photographs with works by Cartier-Bresson, Brandt, Fenton and even Andy Warhol (a photo of Mick Jagger biting someone's hand) in the items. Simon's is lot #111, a 2009 image Beech Hedge, Levens Hall and has an estimate of £700 to £1000.

A print of Ansel Adams' Moonrise, Hernandez, Northern New Mexico is lot #71. This is the one where he worked out the exposure by calculating the luminosity of the moon as he did not have a light meter with him. More pocket money needed though as its estimate is £20-30 thousand.

Simon Marsden's web site is the Marsden Archive.

Friday 14 May 2010

BBC NHU @ Infrared 100 @ IBC

The BBC Natural History Unit have agreed to join in our infrared session in Amsterdam at the IBC conference in September. This will be a 'virtual' appearance because our guest, producer Colin Jackson, will be on the plains of Africa at the time, shooting more footage of lions including thermal and near-infrared.

The session, Broadcasting with Invisible Light, is in the afternoon on Monday September 13th at the RAI. It will be open to anyone attending either the IBC conference or the exhibition, and there is no charge to attend the latter if you book your ticket early. is the web site.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

October Symposium

The programmes for both days of the October Infrared 100 Symposium are almost completed and I'll be posting information here soon. The first day is organised by Professor Francis Ring of (amongst other things) the Royal Photographic Society Imaging Science Group and the Herschel Society ... and the second day is organised by Dr Helen Walker of the Royal Astronomical Society.

A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Logie Baird to appear at IBC

Iain, that is.

As I put together the session on Infrared in Broadcasting for the September IBC event in Amsterdam, Iain is my first confirmed speaker. As you may know he is curator of television at the National Media Museum in Bradford (UK) but what you may not know is that his grandfather, the legendary John Logie Baird, developed infrared television in the 1920s. He even managed to produce images in total darkness using infrared over three years before Babcock at Mount Wilson Observatory achieved the same thing on film.

Baird's system was called Noctovision, and there is more about it on my web site.

Friday 9 April 2010

From invisible rays to the surveillance society

Just a reminder that John Smith of the University of Westminster will be giving an infrared centenary lecture at the Fingerprint Society annual conference tomorrow (Saturday 10th April).

The session is called From invisible rays to the surveillance society: a centenary of infrared photography and is from 12 to 1pm. Info on the whole event, which started today, is on the Fingerprint Society web site.

John is an extremely knowledgeable infrared practitioner in the forensic field and if you are going to the conference you should go along to his lecture.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Infrared 100 at IBC 2010

The prestigious IBC conference will be taking a look at infrared in broadcast and electronic media this September 13th. The planned session will be available free to anyone who attends the enormous IBC exhibition at the RAI in Amsterdam as well as those people attending the IBC conference ... and the session is being produced by yours truly. I'll let you know more as I firm up the speakers but the plan is for some fascinating demos including, with luck, a couple of ground-breaking applications. If you'd like to find out more about IBC then you should go to the IBC web site.

Wednesday 31 March 2010

Welcome Jarek Majcher

Jarek Majcher is an infrared photographer from Poland and a member of the Association of Polish Art Photographers (ZPAF). His online gallery joins our growing list but you can also see his infrared images from April 8 at the ANEKS art gallery in Opole, Poland. Jarek's URL is ... this link is to the English version but the site is multi-lingual.

Thursday 25 March 2010

Infrared word cloud so far

Using Wordle's great online tool for generating word clouds, here is the current overview of this blog. The more the word appears the bigger it is.

Friday 19 March 2010

1910-1930 ... filling the gap

You may recall I was concerned to have a big hole between Wood's infrared photos published in the Illustrated London News (ILN) in June 1911 and the first infrared photo published in the Times in March 1932. As my research continues I am plugging that gap.

A few key items:
  • Kenneth Mees, then at Wratten and Wainwright, took some infrared landscapes in Portugal, also in 1910 (when Wood took his first published infrared images). Mees acknowledges Wood's images from 1910 as earlier and I have not, as yet, seen the Mees photos but they are in the Kodak archive at the University of Rochester in New York state. Unlike the Wood images we have, which come to us only as printed versions in the Photographic Journal and ILN, Mees's images still exist as both negatives and large prints. Very exciting! (Mees was taken to America by Eastman and founded Kodak research. In the UK he was an active member of the Croydon Camera Club, which is still going strong.)
  • We know the military on both sides of the Atlantic were investigating infrared for long distance photography during the first world war. Now I have tracked down an image from almost that period. The Kodak archive includes an aerial infrared image from 1919 taken (probably) by the Fairchild Corporation.
  • Chappell, Wright and the two Shanes were exploring infrared photography at Lick Observatory in the 1920s. These included panoramic views of the Sierras and Yosemite Valley taken from over 100 miles away. Wright was interested in comparing terrestrial photos in both IR and UV in order to apply the same kinds of clarity (or lack of it) to photographs of Mars (at its 1924 conjunction) so that he could work out the possible consistency of the martian atmosphere.
The most fascinating piece of information concerns a photograph of a plaster figurine (bust) illuminated only by the near-infrared from two flat-irons. This image was taken at the Kodak labs and is included in the first two editions of Clark's book (and in the Kodak archive). It turns out that the image is a fake! The photographer admitted, much later, that he grew tired of waiting for the exposure to work and helped the process along with a blow-torch. That bust now becomes almost as apochryphal as Abney's kettle.

I have to report that the people at Rochester (both the University and George Eastman House) and at Lick Observatory have been amazingly helpful as I pursue this trans-Atlantic quest remotely. What did researchers do before the internet?

Sunday 14 March 2010

Candid Creativity ...

... is the gallery of Ingrid Abraham from London and she has joined our list of associated galleries:

[Later] Check out her superb fish-eye shot of Canary Wharf.

Friday 12 March 2010

It's not only rock 'n' roll ...

... but infrared as well.

There seems to be an implicit association between rock music and infrared, especially colour infrared. I have been meaning to mention three photographers with whom I have recently communicated over the centenary because they have connections with infrared and album covers for my kind of music. Here is an invitation for you to check out their web sites.

Elliott Landy

I knew Elliott for the cover photo of Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline album (which is not IR) but he has kindly sent me his superb colour infrared photo of Dylan for the RPS historic piece I am writing. He has some more colour infrared portraits on his site, including John Lee Hooker and Ornette Coleman, plus a whole host of 60s reportage and rock photos in glorious mono. His latest book is Woodstock Vision. Check out Landyvision.

Andee Nathanson

I had a fascinating conversation with Andee last week; a break-neck sprint through her memories of photographing Venice with Lord Snowden and of her 1960s colour infrared photography. The most famous of her images is the cover of Frank Zappa's Hot Rats album; a famously freaky shot of Miss Christine of the GTOs. There are more photos of the GTOs and other rock personalities, some in infrared, on Andee's web site.

Karl Ferris

While some may think of colour infrared as being psychedelic, one photographer in our little set openly labels his work as such. Karl Ferris Psychedelic Experience includes colour IR shots he took for album covers by Jimi Hendrix (the US version of Are You Experienced shot at Kew Gardens using a fish-eye lens) and Donovan (various versions of Gift from a Flower to a Garden) plus some stunningly weird infrared fashion shots. There is a Canadian documentary video about Karl and his photography on the site as well.

Another gallery

I received an email from Norbert Boeren from the Netherlands. His web site is added to our small but growing online gallery list. Norbert also has a current exhibition of infrared photos of animals at the Blijdorp zoo in Rotterdam, which runs until June. He tells me ...
On 4 large canvas prints each 1-2 meter I show several different zoo animals taken with a digital infrared camera. In cooperation with Blijdorp I had the opportunity to get very close to the animals.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

Associated Online Galleries

At the risk of this becoming so large as to be difficult to manage I have started a list of web site galleries of infrared images that are linked to us and hence to the project. They are not so much events as they will probably be available all the time but I appreciate the linking.

First up, besides my own, is casework from Andrew Casey. This is a work in progress and not everything is infrared, but the captions will tell you which are.

The deal is simple, if you have an online gallery of infrared images and would like to appear in this list then include the project logo on your front page, include a link to us (use the logo on your home page if possible), and let me know by emailing me at: .

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Four Visions on the road

You will no doubt recall in a previous blog entry I told you about an exhibition in New York by four infrared photographers: Jill Enfield, Elizabeth Opalenik, Theresa Airey and Susan Ruddick Bloom.

I'm delighted to welcome them to Infrared 100 as the first exhibition to join the celebrations. You can find out more on their web site: and see some great infrared images as well.

Here is the itinerary for the rest of their tour of the USA:
  • March 24 - April 29, 2010
    Center for the Arts, Manassas, VA
    Opening March 27th 6-8 pm
  • June 13 - 27, 2010
    C. William Gilchrist Museum, Cumberland, MD
    Opening Sunday June 13th 1-4:00 pm
  • July 5 - 25, 2010
    Maine Media Gallery, Rockport, Maine
    Closing event July 20th 6:30-8:00 pm
  • September 16 - October 15, 2010
    Creative Center for Photography - Freestyle Gallery, Hollywood, CA
  • November 5 - December 18, 2010
    Tilt Gallery, Phoenix, AZ
If you're in the neighbourhood (or is it neighborhood?) then please go along and support them. My New York spies tell me their NY show was great (if a little cramped). Note that the Hollywood show will be taking place across the centenary of Professor Wood's paper.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Infrared history and the big gap

I am researching into the history of infrared imaging for a paper in the RPS Portfolio TWO book. It's fascinating to realise just how big a craze there was for infrared (or infra-red) photography in the early 1930s. Ilford and Kodak had just produced stable infrared film that was reasonably fast and it could be easily bought by professionals and hobbyists alike.

The Times (of London) ran a occasional series of large infrared landscape and aerial photos between May 1932 and October 1938. It started with a view of the French coast as seen from Old Park in Dover and visited several parts of the UK before heading off, by air, to Burma and India. A key inclusion was an aerial photo of the Everest range taken by the Houston-Everest flight expedition. The distance visible in infrared photos was even more exciting to this audience than the dramatic foliage effects. The Times art critic waxed lyrical about the landscape photographs, saying that objects such as trees are "more full of detail than than they are in the ordinary photography". He likens them to the work of a draughtsman and in February 1933 referred to the photographer as an artist in the context of infrared.

A selection of photographs from the newspaper went on tour around the world, starting in Folkestone in December 1932, under the title Britain Illustrated and several of the infrared photos were included. Infrared photography was a wonder of the age in the 1930s.

The Times exhibition could have been the first major exhibition of infrared photos, except that it wasn't dedicated to them. That distinction probably goes to Invisible Light, organised by Robert Cartmell for the Smithsonian in 1980, which also travelled. Robert is noted for his photographs of roller-coasters and he took up infrared photography sometime in the 1970s and persuaded the Smithsonian to share his enthusiasm. Invisible Light was solely a contemporaneous collection whereas the RPS exhibition in October will have an historic element as well into which, recursively, Robert's exhibition now belongs.

However, what happened to infrared photography between Robert Williams Wood's photographs published in the Illustrated London News in June 1911 and those photographs from the 1930s? So far I have found no references to any. Was this really an infrared dark age? Ironically it wasn't dark for infrared television as John Logie Baird developed his Noctovision in 1926 and he, and others, were actively working on coupling an infrared searchlight to an infrared scope of some sort in order to detect ships and planes at a distance.

But my unanswered question is whether there are any infrared photographs existing from those years.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Clark, 'Photography by Infrared' available online

I have found that the second edition of Walter Clark's 'Photography by Infrared' is available online through

This is the only academic-style book on the subject. It was first published in 1939 with a second edition in 1946 and a third (revised by Henry Louis Gibson) in 1978. This last edition went out of print in 1984. Clark and Gibson both worked for Kodak, with Gibson having a particular interest in medical photography.

The electronic copy has very clear text and line diagrams but rather poor reproduction of photographs. However, this is the best source of background on the technique, with copious references for further study, and the second edition is IMHO the best of the three. Text is searchable.

Link to the various versions is:

[Update June 30 2011: the version now seems to be rights-protected]

Friday 29 January 2010

Infrared 100 on the BBC

The Viewfinder blog on the BBC web site features infrared photography today, with a copious quote from me. This, coupled with a recent press release from FLIR, should help raise awareness of the centenary and the technique. (It was even featured on the front page of the BBC News web site for a short while.)

The top of the page shows the double-page spread from the Illustrated London News in 1911 that was published to coincide with Wood's lecture at the Royal Institution and his appearance in the RPS 1911 exhibition. Besides a Kodak HIE shot of mine there is a great colour infrared image of Bob Dylan, taken in 1968 by Elliott Landy.

One interesting thing: Phil Coomes, who authors the blog, also includes an infrared photo of a space shuttle taking off. When you look closely you can see what appears to be the notorious infrared hot-spot right in the centre. This hot-spot is something that appears in digital infrared photographs, not film, and is 'best' seen with the lens stopped down and with something bright towards the centre of the shot. Not all lens/sensor combinations suffer from it, but most do. I have not seen any scientific analysis of the cause of this but it is a bane of digital infrared photography. 2010 must be the year that the hot spot is vanquished!

Thursday 28 January 2010

A Brace of Exhibitions

I've been sent info on two exhibitions featuring infrared photography, one on either side of the Atlantic.

To New York first ...
In a Different Light, with work by Theresa Airey, Susan Ruddick Bloom, Jill Enfield and Elizabeth Opalenik runs from today (Jan 28th) to Feb 27th at Umbrella Arts, 317 East 9th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. (I make that the East Village.) After today's launch the show is open Thursday to Saturday 1 to 6. Details on the Umbrella Arts web site. I am trying to persuade the ladies to make this exhibition an Infrared 100 event. How about it? [Later: see the first comment]

And thence to the UK ...
Simon Marsden will be showing some of his infrared photos of English gardens at Blenheim Palace from Feb 15th to March 28th. This is part of a group show with 10 photographers and only Simon uses infrared film. (Simon's web site.)

Friday 22 January 2010

Fingerprinting and Infrared

John Smith from the University of Westminster will be presenting an Infrared 100 paper to the Fingerprint Society's annual conference, which will be held at University College London in April. The paper is called Infrared Photography’s 100th Birthday and, as John says ...
This presentation celebrates the pioneers of IR photography, whilst demonstrating some of the latest developments in this ever-more accessible area of fingerprint imaging.
More info (eventually) on the conference web site.