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Hoya R72 Infrared Filter

Hoya R72 Infrared Filter

The Odd Fellows building in Bodie CA.

Paul Cloutier / JPG Magazine

We’ve teamed up with JPG Magazine to offer a unique Photo Competition: The following article will tell you exactly what infrared photography is and how to produce these amazing images. This photo challenge is technical in nature and is only for photos taken with infrared film or using an infrared filter. Please don’t add photos taken just in low light. If you can’t participate this week, use the photo challenge as a source for inspiration! Hurry, the competition is only open until July 23rd.

For details on how to enter click here. To enter the competition follow this link. On the right hand side of that page there is a widget that says “Click to Submit”. Submit your photo there.

JPG <> is a community-created, award-winning magazine for photographers and writers who want inspiration, camaraderie, and connection. The world’s vast array of distributed talent showcased in JPG Magazine provides unique insight and a fresh point of view.


My Infrared filter.


A color infrared shot of a cemetery in colma. this is what cemeteries must look like to ghosts.


When I first started shooting I was pretty amazed by the incredible range of tone available in photos by photographers like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. Their work captured the world in a way that they eye was never meant to see. After years of work, I learned to ape the style in the darkroom but it was never quite dramatic enough for what I had in my head.


Infrared shot of a mausoleum in Colma CA


The old hunting resort of Drawbridge in the san francisco bay near san jose.

Somewhere in the course of things I was introduced to Infrared photography. Most people are familiar with the idea of heat sensitive images where the hot things are red and the cold things are blue or green, but most Infrared photography is actually near-infrared. This is a part of the electromagnetic spectrum that can’t be seen by the human eye but can be seen by special film or digital sensors. Near-infrared is different from what you see in movies, it doesn’t actually show you what is hot or cold, it shows only reflected infrared light. With infrared photography things that have a lot of reflected IR show up as white while things with no reflected IR show up as black. One of the most striking instances is a fluffy sunlit tree in front of a clear blue sky, resulting in a black and white image with a glowing white tree and a pitch black sky.


An Infrared shot of the mysterious shoe tree on highway 50 in Nevada. There is nothing nearby to this tree and people have stopped by and tossed thousands of surplus shoes up into it.

I was drawn to this unique style of photography partly because of it’s incredibly graphic nature, and partly because it was an access to a hidden world. Suddenly I was able to capture not just a crazy image with weird colors but something that actually existed but average people just couldn’t see. Because I shoot a lot of ghost towns and abandoned places this secret light source really appealed to me, it seemed like there was all this stored up life hidden in plain sight.


An Infrared shot down highway 163 into monument valley.


Color infrared shot in Drawbridge California.

Infrared film has always been pretty annoying to work with, it is expensive, and incredibly sensitive to light. Most kinds have to be loaded into your camera in darkness to avoid fogging the film and the darkroom has to handle it the same way. None the less, It was the only way to get the job done and when I switched to digital I lamented not being able to work in Infrared any longer. But after a while I discovered several ways that people were making IR work with digital cameras.

Digital sensors are naturally sensitive to IR so most cameras come with an IR blocker to cut down on interference, making it pretty difficult to create IR images. However there are several ways to make this work. One is to remove the built in IR filter from the camera, which works great but it renders the camera nearly useless for average shooting and can be expensive. Another way is to to use a visible light filter which allows you to still use the camera for visible light shooting.


The Here it is Jackrabbit at jackrabbit trading post near winslow arizona on route 66. This photo was shot in infrared.


The old cafe at Twin Arrows Trading post in Arizona on Route 66

One such filter is the Hoya R72 filter. It is basically a standard screw on filter that you can get for nearly any lens that blocks all visible light, only allowing infrared light through. The catch to this approach is that because you still have the built in filter blocking most infrared light you have to utilize fairly long exposures on the order of 3-10 seconds. Some cameras are better for this than others but all of them will work. All you need is the filter, which can generally be had for between $50 and $100, and a tripod for the long exposure.

If you are looking for something new or a way to jump start your creativity, Google around for Infrared photography to learn a little more or check out the flickr group at An IR filter might just be the perfect addition to your camera bag.

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