Winter has arrived early in these parts of northwest New Jersey. This week we had an Arctic cold front that kept me inside as much as possible and this morning it is snowing. In preparation for an upcoming juried exhibit, I was working hard at birthing new work: a still-life, non-infrared technique that I’ve been wanting to find time to bring to fruition. With the mission accomplished and the image emailed to be considered for a February photography exhibit, I still had fresh flowers in the house.

Last February, I had a fitful start in exploration of infrared floral still life and the results were disappointing to me. For almost a full year, I’ve been analyzing what I could do to improve or change how I approached the project, from capture to processing.

In the midst of my usual chaotic life, being pulled in all sorts of directions (boredom is not something I know much about), I got a phone call this week from Steve Ellis at Singh-Ray Filters, asking if I would be interested in writing a blog post about my experiences with the new 690nm IR circular lens filter. The only filters in my bag (many neutral density filters both circular and grads) are made by Singh-Ray. They are truly neutral (unlike other brands that produce a pink cast). Hands down, Singh-Ray filters are the best. I have had the 690nm circular in my bag since August, and honestly have not played with it all that much. Shame on me!

With his foot up my butt encouragement, I blocked out time to sit on the floor with tripod, visible light (color) Nikon D810, Nikkor 105mm macro lens, and the 690nm IR filter to have a go at the assignment.

It also seemed like an opportunity to incorporate the Zerene System software (hurry: 20% discount on all products before 12/31/16) into my workflow. This software takes a focus-stack sets of images and seemlessly aligns and blends them together. I’ve been wanting to try this technique not only for landscape but floral photography.

The first plan of action was to take the “before” set of images to get the hang of the software (which was very intuitive and easy). Below is a five-image Zerene Pmax composite output. I will admit that there were some blurry parts very close to the left and bottom edge that I cropped out but, all in all, I was very pleased.


Nikon D810, Nikkor 105mm f2.8 macro

The “color” images (geek info: ISO 200, 1.3 sec, f18) were taken in natural light through the sliding glass door over my left shoulder.

To create the lead infrared image, the next step was to then take a series of images (geek info: ISO 800, 30 sec, f18), each manually focused on different parts of the foreground, center, and top tips of the subject flower petals with the 690nm IR circular filter. I am so happy that I have fully embraced the Xume filter/lens magnetic adapter system on all my lenses and circular filters. This allowed me to easily pop off the filter, manually focus, then pop the filter on the end of the lens, and shoot. No worries about having to screw the filter onto the lens and risk buggering up the focus.

When I made the set of images with the IR filter on the end of the 105 macro lens, I will admit that I did need to add one other piece of gear to the set-up: a continuous and dimmable LED 6″ x 8″ light on a tiny light stand to the right of the subject flower. There just wasn’t enough light.

In hindsight, I probably should have gone to an even longer exposure and lower ISO, but I admit to being incredibly lazy about dragging out my interval shutter release. The 690nm IR filter cuts the amount of light quite a bit (note the exposure and ISO differences between the images).

So the bottom line is that you can get terrific infrared results using the Singh-Ray 690nm IR circular lens filter, especially when you can control your environment. Granted your exposure time lengthens over using a converted camera body but it sure is a lot more convenient and cost-effective to carry a circular filter than an entire DSLR body, especially if you are hiking or have carry-on luggage weight restrictions for an international flight.

For still-life in a controlled environment (for example, no wind) or architecture, the Singh-Ray 690nm infrared filter is an economical and high-quality filter option. Also a great idea for those who don’t want to sacrifice an out-of-date camera body for infrared use only. Shameless plug: Use the code taylor10 to get 10% off any filter in the Singh-Ray line up.