Testing IR Camera Mod / by Brenda Hartshorn

With the help of UPS, my cameras found their way home from LifePixel.  Like most children who leave the nest, they came back different... but I'm still hopeful that it will be a good thing.  I now have a camera that is a dedicated to Near-infrared and the other one for the Ultra Violet spectrum.

UV Testing on Hold

Due to the cloudy weather in San Francisco, I was unable to test my UV camera this weekend. The ozone does a pretty good job of cutting down the UV light, and clouds make it even worse... well, worse for exposure times in UV photos- it's a great thing for all things living.  I was able to do a bit of testing with the UV mod earlier this week, but I'm finding that I'll need to get some additional lights.  There is really just not enough UV light bouncing around here on the ground for reasonable exposure times.

IR Test Run

As expected, the in-camera images look very red and yellow. The images are  nearly impossible to see any variations in properties and characteristics.  Thus, to enhance the look of Color Infrared, I have altered the white balance of the images.  The temperature is at 2000 and Tint is shifted towards green at varying levels to remove or reduce the red/pink look in the plants which reflect a lot of IR.

Alternative Processing

The more you shift the Tint towards green, the vegetation will look white.  However, if you sift the Tint so that the vegetation is bluish while also keeping the sky in the yellow-orange range, you can achieve the above look by using the Channel Mixer in Photoshop by switching the Red and Blue Channels.  This is not a method that I came up with, I read about how to do this on LifePixel's website.  

It's not all about looks

Other than looking cool, alternative processing actually has useful purposes for being able to pull more detail out of the information that the camera sensor is collecting.  Sometimes you need to look at the different channels individually or enhance them to stand out against the others to actually see everything.  The example that comes to mind right now is how we are able to use near-infrared to see underneath the surface of the skin to see if people are having a problem with blood circulation.  This can reveal serious health problems with the circulatory system.  It can also show evidence of repeated physical abuse that may not have left visible bruising.  Alternative processing with UV photography is also useful for being able to clearly see skin cancer.  

Test Findings

Ultimately, I plan to do different studies using people with IR and UV, but for now I'm going to bench test the equipment in different environments.  First major thing that I'm noticing is that the camera is now hyper sensitive to flare in the IR spectrum.  I enjoy a little flare in my photos from time to time, but I was not looking to go all J.J. Abrams with everything.  Normally, I just flag my lens with my hand in the rare times that I need to, but these photos reveal that it's going to be a whole lot more often with this mod.

Locations of the photos featured in this post:

  • Shoreline Lake in Mountain View, CA
  • Metson Lake in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
  • California Academy of Science in San Francisco, CA