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.

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