One of the things I enjoy most is showing people things they don’t normally get to see. The infrared camera is another way to do that.
We all know what horses look like, and most of us in Central Kentucky have a good idea what Keeneland race track looks like. But I’m pretty sure none of us have ever thought about what Keeneland might look like in the infrared light spectrum.
About a year ago, I converted an old Canon 10D digital SLR camera so that it shoot only infrared photos. Infrared film used to be the only way to do this and it was always so finicky and expensive. But with a camera dedicated only for infrared, I’m able to check what I’m doing on the spot and I can use any of my lenses.
I spent $100 on a filter that had to be installed in the inner guts of a camera I didn’t use much. I decided to try the installation myself, using instructions provided by Lifepixel. When completed, the camera only records infrared light, which is at the end of the visible light spectrum.
Now, Lifepixel will offer to convert your camera for you for a fee, but since I’m cheap and a relatively bold DIYer, I thought I’d follow their free online instructions on how to install their filter.
Not for the faint of heart. I’ve never opened up a digital camera before, and I certainly wouldn’t do this with one of my better cameras – I considered my 10D an acceptable risk. Their instructions are quite good and the conversion went well with only one rather large hitch. I went to Radio Shack to get my supplies and was sold some black lubricant instead of the black epoxy/glue. I apparently didn’t notice the difference and ended up with a major mess on my new filter that was nearly impossible to clean off.
Take good care to keep things clean and organized. Don’t be in a hurry. I printed out the instructions, which came with nice photos, and placed the screws that I removed on the photos as I took them out. That way I could put them back in the correct places when reassembling the camera.
And then on to the fun part! Shooting infrared photos has the most impact outdoors where there is plenty of foliage and partly cloudy skies. Infrared light reflects off of leaves and grass and such intensity that it makes them appear white. And blue skies turn dark and the contrast between the clouds and sky is enhanced. This gives images a very dreamy, other-world look.
The photos above show what the paddock looks like in the normal light spectrum and in infrared.
I did not have my camera/lens focus calibrated which made things a bit more difficult for me, especially on an overcast day. I had the best luck in strong light so I could shoot at f/8 and higher. Exposure was critical, so bracketing is a good idea when possible.
Overall I really like the 10D infrared conversion, but I’m not a big fan of the 10D anymore. After using the 30D, 5D, MKII and MKIII, the 10D powers up slowly and reviewing the photos is painful. There is also quite a bit of noise in the images relative to what today’s cameras are doing. Having said that, I think a 20D or a 30D would make a great converted camera if you have one to spare.