Wide angle living - Part 4: Madrid in Infrared!


My aim was to provide a different view to some of the famous landmarks across Madrid, by shooting with Infrared film. Taking advantage of the winter bright sunny days, here are my favourite shots.

I have shot infrared film before, notably Rollei Infrared and Ilford SFX 200 film, as part of my 52 rolls of film project, and I really enjoyed the challenge and the results. Shooting black & white is hard enough, as you need to view a world without colours and focus on textures and contrasts, so infrared is a step further. 

I have already explained what is infrared film as part of my previous posts, but as a reminder, it is a film that is sensitive to infrared light. I use an infrared filter (that is completely black), which blocks out all visible light (light we can see, as we cannot see infrared light) and lets infrared light pass through to the film. 

This was the first time I was using the Hasselblad Xpan for infrared shots, as previously I have done them with my medium format camera. As the Xpan is a rangefinder, you do not look directly through the lens, so composition is much easier, you just need to remember to put the infrared filter on! Rollei Infrared film is an ISO 400 rated film, so with the IR filter on I set my light meter to ISO 6, accounting for the 5 stops of light you lose with the black IR filter on. It is a bit hit-and-miss in my experience, and also depends where the sun is in the photo. 

All photos were shot in the middle of the day with a bright sun, but it was also not that high in the sky as it is winter. Even so, the shots came out quite well and make for a different perspective of Madrid's landmarks.

As I have said before, if looking at this post on a mobile device, don't forget to turn your phone sideways for the full wide angle perspective. 

Here is a shot of the actual negatives. Infrared negatives are razor sharp, really quite incredible. Santa Claus was kind enough to give me a lightbox (think IPAD size tablet with a bright LED light to look at negatives on) for Christmas, so I put it to good use. 
Plaza de Colón, Madrid. You can just about make out the statue of Christopher Columbus right in the middle of the shot. The sky shows up as black due to the infrared filter. 
Setting up the Xpan for a shot of the beautiful Plaza de Toros de las Ventas bullring. Despite objections to what goes on inside this building, you cannot deny its wonderful architecture. 
A tripod and cable release are a must for Infrared photography, as shutter speeds are likely to be very low when shooting at f11 of f16 aperture and metering at ISO 6. 
The final shot. Talk about moody. I really think clouds are a great addition to infrared photography as it gives the shot lots of character. Slightly overexposed building I think, but incredibly sharp overall. 
The leaning towers at Plaza de Castilla. Not sure what happened in this shot as the sky has varying degrees of darkness. It might have to do with where the sun was, which I think was behind me. Regardless, I really like the result!
One of my favourite shots. Shot with the 90mm lens of the Xpan, a closeup of the building on the left of the shot above. 
The former 'communications palace', built in 1909, it used to be the HQ for the Postal service, and in 2007 it became Madrid's city hall. 
This one was really hard to expose for given where the sun was (obviously on the right of the shot) although the final shot looks like a really aged photograph. 
Looking up from Cibeles fountain, the famous 'Metropolis' building, with Gran Vía leading to the right and Puerta del Sol a bit further down on the lefthand side. This famous landmark was inaugurated in 1911 for an insurance company. 
Inside the Retiro Park looking down towards Calle de Alfonso XII. Not the best infrared shot I have seen, but still provides for an interesting perspective. In spring this same shot would be very white as the green foliage would all show up as bright white. 
Another shot of Plaza Castilla, with the new Madrid skyscrapers in the background. 
A side shot of the Metropolis building, I really like how this one came out.
The Congress of Deputies building. Famous for being the location where the attempted coup occurred in 1981, which had important consequences for the future of Spain. Also recently has housed numerous meetings dealing with Spain's current constitutional crisis. 
Moving away from politics, I really like the composition of this shot with the tress framing part of the shot. Slightly overexposed building, but the sky shows some good IR effects.
Looking down from the Congress building towards Plaza Neptuno, with the Palace hotel on the immediate right of the shot and the Ritz Hotel towards the bottom of the image with the 'San Jeronimo el Real' church right next to it.
Shot of the 'ME Madrid Reina Victoria' hotel (once known as the Reina Victoria hotel), a wonderful landmark in the Plaza Santa Ana area of Madrid. This hotel, opened in 1923, is also known as the Hotel of the Bullfighters, with famous bullfighters staying there, including 'Manolete', the most famous bullfighter ever. Other famous visitors include Ernest Hemingway and Ava Gardner.
I really like the angle of this shot, as usually other photographs of this building show a more traditional straight on view, as can be seen here.

Overall observations

I enjoy the challenge of shooting infrared film, and it also means I am out shooting in the middle of the day, which is usually something I avoid due to very harsh and bright light. I prefer early morning or mid afternoon where there is softer light. That being said, I found shooting infrared with the Xpan quite tiresome as you have 20 shots to get through, it is quite laborious setting up the tripod for each shot. I found shooting the 12 shots of a 120mm medium format infrared film much quicker. 

However, I really enjoyed the results of the wide angle Xpan perspective, which has produced some really stunning results. 

So there you have it, my last post for 2017! I have quite a few more coming in the next few days, so plenty to look forward to!

See you next time!