Sunday, August 3, 2014

Move over, Moose Tracks - an infrared interlude and a new summertime note card

      ...from a photographer's notebook

Detail from "A Stroller in the Park" Infrared Black and White ©2014 Steve Ember

OK, I know when I refer to film sharing space with microwave mostaccioli in my freezer, it’s usually the Haagen Dazs that has to "move over," as I root around for those baggies of  film alongside the frozen  dinners.  

Ah, but this time it was the Turkey Hill Moose Tracks I’d been enjoying the night before my recent New York trip.

Good stuff!

Like, umm, infra-red black and white film. Love ‘em both, as they do great things for the senses. But, unlike the ice cream, I’d sure been guilty of neglecting the IR in my shooting over the past bunch of years.

I like shooting all kinds of black and white film. It forces me to be deliberate and selective in terms of motifs best captured in this medium. And if “regular” black and white has that effect on my shooting choices, it’s all the more the case when it comes to planning an infra-red shoot.

Which is why my IR film tends to be stuffed way in the back of the ol’ Hotpoint’s frosty attic.

What's so special about infrared?

In case you’re wondering, IR black and white film is that magical stuff that can paint trees those ethereal shades of white, often against deep black skies setting off the white clouds.

It can be a temperamental medium, sometimes less than 100% predictable, but when you get it all right, it’s well, as I said, magical.

I prefer motifs featuring lots of trees and/or luxuriant foliage in the warm sun. But, it can’t be just any trees. They’ve got to be leafy trees that radiate infra-red light for IR film to do its magic. Evergreens – fuhgettaboutit – they’ll look just about as they would on regular B/W film.

I’ve found that spring and summer are the best times for finding the kinds of trees, doing the kind of thing, with which that infra-red film can really shine.

Then, there’s the logistics of working with IR film…

Some of it, like Kodak’s former benchmark HIE film, is r-e-a-l-l-y temperamental. As in, one must load and unload the stuff in total darkness and hope the inside of your camera is pristine and that the lab is next to godliness, as it can scratch so-o-o easily.

But, once upon a time, Japanese manufacturer Konica made an IR film with different sensitivity to the infra-red spectrum that did not require its users to exercise quite the same obsessive caution in using – for example, you didn’t have to lock yourself in a pitch black bathroom to load the film; it could be loaded (and unloaded) outdoors in subdued light. And I knew there was a long-neglected (but certainly not forgotten) roll of Konica 750 keeping frost-free company with those last few rolls of HIE.

So, I figured the New York trip might just allow for some appropriate motifs for IR. Well, no harm in putting that last roll of Konica IR in my pack, just in case…

 The right place, at the right time...

On the last day of the visit to the Apple, I found myself exploring Nelson A. Rockefeller Park on a hot, sunny afternoon. The park is one of those urban gems of serenity New York provides amidst all the soaring buildings and fast pace of life.

It lies between the Hudson River and the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan, and provides the leafy canopy and benches that can be such a welcome respite when shooting on a hot summer afternoon.

As I sought such respite after shooting along the broad Hudson River promenade, I was attracted by the dappled sunshine’s patterns in the walkways. And the aforementioned leafy canopy warmed by the strong sun of that afternoon in early summer struck me as a conducive motif for letting that Konica 750 IR do its thing. So I aimed my trusty Canon EOS-620...and hoped those infrared wavelengths would make magic therein.

When I received the developed film back from the lab, I was elated that I’d packed that (sadly, last) roll of this very special film.

“A Stroller in the Park” is available in archival gallery prints in many sizes and as a custom printed Photo Note Card. The image at the top is cropped to fit the layout of the wee bloggie, but you can see the photograph in its full scope here.

I should mention, the card design does not have the copyright notation on the front. It may also be ordered without the title. 

©2014 Steve Ember

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