My first steps into the infrared world

It’s a chilly Wednesday night.  I’m supposed to meet this person at the Schenectady Photographic Society.  She has a gift for me.

I arrive early.  The Photo Society members are setting up the room.

And there she is.  And she’s carrying a shopping bag.  “You made it,” she said.

“Yep,” I replied.  “Here’s your money.  Looking forward to trying this out.”

She opened the bag.

Inside was a Minolta X-370S 35mm film camera.  The lens had a big red filter attached.  And on the back of the camera, in the tiny window that shows the description of the film cartridge inside, I saw the words that confirmed my next great photographic adventure.

KODAK HIE

And I now take my first steps into the world of infrared photography.

Infrared photography is an amazing, dreamlike experience.  You can make your cameras capture images from beyond our visual spectrum.  Trees turn white, skies turn black, it’s as if you’ve woken from slumber and you still have fragments of your dream cascading around your cerebellum.

However, you need a dedicated film camera to shoot infrared; and most of my film cameras are, by their very nature, unable to shoot infrared film.  You need a red lens filter, which immediately eliminates my cameras that DON’T take filters (sorry, Krasnogorsk FT-2).  It has to be either a 120 or 35mm shooter (I suppose when I get better at this, I can respool infrared film into a 620 Kodak Medalist camera).  It has to be a fully mechanical camera, I can’t shoot with a camera that has any interior LED’s or film cartridge ISO readers (so that eliminates my Nikon F100).

And as much as I would love to shoot infrared film in 120 size, rolls of infrared film can approach $20 for B&W and $75-$150 for color, I’ll practice on the 35mm stuff before loading a pack of the expensive 120 film into my Rolleiflex Automat MX, or respooling the film into my Medalist.

Or even better… I’ll practice with the half-a-roll that’s already in the Minolta.

Over the span of a couple of weeks, I took several pictures with the film roll that was inside the Minolta.  But when I had the roll developed – urgh.  None of my shots were useable.

Thankfully, my mistakes were limited to the roll of film that was already in the camera.  A quick scan of eBay found someone who was selling an unopened package of Kodak HIE – still in canister and still in the box – for $30.

Kodak HIE 35mmAll right.  Let’s do this.  I bought the package, and within days a box of Kodak HIE arrived at my mailbox.  It’s the box you see here.  The film package had an expiration date of September 2002; however, the eBay seller told me that the film had been stored in a freezer for all that time; and that he had tested other rolls of Kodak HIE from that batch and they turned out well.

Okay.  So I’ll just load this into the Minolta and –

Oh, do you see that little notice on the top of the package?  The one that says “See Warning”?

Kodak HIE 35mm 2Yeah, there’s a warning about this little package o’ film.  “DO NOT OPEN CAN, LOAD OR UNLOAD CAMERA EXCEPT IN ABSOLUTE DARKNESS. FILM MUST BE HANDLED AND KEPT IN ABSOLUTE DARKNESS UNTIL DEVELOPED.”

And if I didn’t get the message with the package…

Kodak HIE 35mm 3There was a second warning on the lid of the black plastic canister itself.  “OPEN CAN, LOAD AND UNLOAD CAMERA, HANDLE AND PROCESS IN TOTAL DARKNESS.

Now I’m sure there’s another notice inside the canister that would have read, “HEY, MILLER, YOU OPEN THIS FILM CANISTER RIGHT NOW AND YOU’LL TURN A $30 ROLL OF UNDEVELOPED FILM INTO A $30 WASTE OF MONEY!  TURN BACK… TURN BACK….”

Good thing I didn’t get that far; I followed the directions and loaded the film into the Minolta in my pitch-black dark room at 3:00 in the morning.

And the plan is this.  I would affix the Minolta to my tripod, set the aperture at f/16 and bracket my exposures.  This way I would capture at least four or five good images and still learn about how to use this film properly.  Plus, the expiration date on this film is 2002; certainly this will be a challenge.

Sunday.  Easter.  Adirondacks.  Perfect opportunity to test this bad boy out.

So let’s start with shots in South Corinth…

Standing tree, Corinth, N.Y.
Standing Tree. Minolta x370s camera, Kodak HIE infrared film (expiry 2002), standard red filter. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And after that, let’s travel to the Hadley Bow Bridge for a shot or two…

Hadley Bow Bridge, Hadley, N.Y.
Hadley Parabolic “Bow Bridge”, Hadley, N.Y. Minolta x370s camera, Kodak HIE infrared film (expiry 2002), standard red filter. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And then a trip along the Great Sacandaga Lake to Edinburg, for my favorite covered bridge in New York…

Copeland Bridge, Edinburg, N.Y.
Arad Copeland Bridge, Edinburg, N.Y. Minolta x370s camera, Kodak HIE infrared film (expiry 2002), standard red filter. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And the waterfalls next to it…

Creekway, Edinburg, N.Y.
Edinburg Creek, Edinburg, N.Y. Minolta x370s camera, Kodak HIE infrared film (expiry 2002), standard red filter. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Wow.

Now granted, I didn’t take these pictures at prime infrared times – my shots don’t have many leaves on the trees, or much sunshine in the sky – but I am very encouraged with the results of my first true excursion into infrared photography.

So much so, in fact…

That I went back on eBay and purchased a couple more “freezer rolls” of Kodak HIE.  And one “freezer roll” of Kodak EIR.  Those will stay in my freezer until summertime… when I plan on shooting with them.  And I’m also going to purchase a 55mm Hoya R72 infrared filter for the Minolta – heck, if I’m going to start shooting infrared, I’d better do it right.

Oh boy this is going to be so much fun.

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