on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

The Subtle World of Infra Red

Rediscovering an Old Flame

Paul Gallagher

Paul Gallagher is recognised as one of the most accomplished landscape photographers and workshop leaders in the UK today. He has been a writer and lecturer in photography for over thirty years and runs both field and printing workshop nationally and internationally.


I have always been passionate about black and white photography and printmaking, and the first time I experienced infrared photography was as a seventeen-year-old photography student. Back then it was a way of trying something new that gave startling results. Of course, the only way to explore infrared in the early eighties was to choose one of the different films that were available. The two main films were Kodak High-Speed Infrared or, for medium format photographers, Konika Infrared.

The difference with using this type of film was that the resulting prints showed a marked tonal shift making the greens of trees almost white and the blues in skies almost completely black. If you made your exposures with a polariser fitted to your lens, the results were even more extreme! As a very young photographer, I thought these extreme tones and high contrast photographs were fantastic, and it also felt like an adventure trying to load your film in complete darkness otherwise you could run the risk of fogging it.


This fascination soon wore off, as I was eagerly studying the work of Ansel Adams, Paul Strand and Edward Weston and their photographs oozed with smooth, subtle tones and overwhelming three-dimensionality. I remember looking at Edward Westerns classic photographs of peppers and thinking how much infrared would have ruined the tones. I left the world of infrared photography behind and set out to test my film speeds and practice fastidiously on my darkroom skills both at college and at home. 

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