Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Infrared photography revisited.

I gave up using infrared film a long time ago because of the numerous problems associated with it. It's hard to get the film, harder still to get it developed, difficult to set up for a shot, you need a second camera to take a shot of the same scene for comparison, the film fogs if it gets too warm, infrared reflects from the camera back to produce halos around the images, you can shoot roll after roll of this expensive film and get no results, and many, many more. It's just damn difficult to use, and very expensive. Too much cost, not enough benefit.

I knew about the infrared capabilites of digital cameras but ignored these because of the infuriating proliferation of orbs (dust, in other words). No, I don't disbelieve in ghost lights. Such things have been frequently reported, but they are visible to the naked eye. They do not require a digital camera to see them. Orbs are dust.

However, since I heard about a modification someone made to a camcorder to make it a pure-infrared device (removal of the IR-blocking filter from the optics) I decided to look at the subject again. I am in the process of dismantling some second-hand camcorders to see if I can make the modification. I also bought a new infrared filter.

Since the camcorders aren't ready, I tried the filter with three cheap digital cameras. The first was a Vivitar 3625. The result was awful. It did produce an image, but with a deep purple cast and so dark it was impossible to see any detail.

Next up was a Nisis PocketDV H10. I carry this one everywhere. It's tiny and capable of taking reasonable photos and video. That's the one that took the photos I posted. Not bad, but every shot has a light circle in the middle.

Finally, a Vivitar 3105s. Pretty good images, no light circle. Darker than the Nisis, but workable. A slight purple cast but not as drastic as the 3625. It seems every digital camera produces different results, at least at the cheaper end of the range.

The filter is a square Cokin-style block, 3mm thick and opaque to visible light. None of the cameras listed have filter holders so I had to hold the filter in place over the lens.

The results have made me consider investing in a better digital camera. The Sony H2 looks like a good bet, from what I've read. It's not at the top of the range, but those at the top of the range are far too expensive for an experiment. The H2 can work to 1000 ASA, it can work in monochrome (so no danger of a colour cast) and Sony cameras have a reputation for being particularly useful in low light. I'll obtain one of those cameras and see how it works out.

The H2 has a filter ring. The Cokin filter fits in a holder attached to the ring, and can be slid out of the way to take a non-infrared shot.

With that arrangement, with the camera on a tripod, it's possible to take a 'standard' photo, slide the filter into place and take an infrared photo immediately afterwards. Both photos on the same camera, from exactly the same angle, taken seconds apart.

So far, I have had no success with this filter at night, but that might not be a problem after all.

It's very rare to see ghosts during the day. One possible reason most ghosts are reported at night is that it's much easier to see them with the sensitive rod-cells of the retina. The cone cells, those that give us colour vision, are no use in the dark. The rod cells see only in monochrome, but they are very sensitive to light. They are no use during the day. Sunlight overwhelms them, and also overwhelms the faint light of a manifestation.

What--did you think they all lay in their graves until nightfall? No, they're around, but we can't see them. Not unless they're feeling particularly strong.

I have argued against infrared detectors, and infrared cameras, because infrared equates to emitted heat. Ghost manifestations are associated with cold. They'll absorb infrared, not emit it. A detector looking for infrared emission or reflection can't find them.

In the daytime, something absorbing infrared should show as a dark patch on a photograph taken with a filter. A cold area in an otherwise warm scene. It's likely to be a small difference in temperature but it might be enough.

Therefore, a digital camera with an infrared filter might just be able to detect the infrared absorption caused by a manifestation, even though our eyes will see nothing. I'm not talking about orbs here. I'm talking about human-shaped images. Not dust. I don't expect to find a smiling group of ghosts posing for the camera, I expect to find shadows. Shadows that do not appear on the duplicate image, and which are demonstrably not the shadow of anyone present.

It's a long shot, I know, but it won't cost too much to get this equipment, it won't add a lot of weight to the equipment I carry, and it doesn't involve any difficult-to-find items. Even if it takes a thousand or more shots to find a good one, there's no further cost attached to those photos.

It also means working in daylight, which will make a nice change.

2 comments:

Southern Writer said...

You will, of course, show us anything interesting, won't you?

Romulus Crowe said...

It might take a lot of attempts, it might not work at all, but if it does it'll show up here.

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