Wide angle living - Part 6: North sea island in infrared!

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Join me for another tour around the East Frisian island of Langeoog, but this time in full infrared mode!

After my last extensive blog post going on a long tour around the island of Langeoog, we now see this unique island from a different perspective: super wide angle on infrared film, Rollei Infrared 400 film to be precise! 

I can't think of a cooler combination than my Hasselblad Xpan wide angle camera loaded with some infrared film. I already tried this combination in Madrid a few weeks ago to great success, so I decided to give it a go again, albeit with quite different results!

Infrared film photography is quite a challenge, as you really do not know what you're going to get. It requires a special 'black' infrared filter and some experimenting with exposure, as well as the right conditions. From a composition perspective, you are looking for a good amount of green vegetation (that reflects infrared light) and ideally some bright skies to get that really dark black look. The reason the sky is so dark is because essentially the infrared film doesn't "see it", it is only sensitive to infrared light, of which there is none in the sky. It is a bit like closing your eyes, you see black because no light gets through. At least that is my simplistic way of thinking about infrared film.

Clouds however are a different story, and these usually come out as bright over exposed white. With all of this in mind, throw in a very changeable weather environment, such as what I encountered on the island, and the results are really mixed and interesting! I have found that when you really nail infrared shots, they are extremely clear and everything is tack sharp. When you have changing conditions and perhaps not a very bright sky, the shots start to look like aged black and white photographs, which is also a very curious look.

About the photos

My plan was quite simple, go out and find some wide open spaces with some interesting compositions. I had in mind at least a few shots of the beach, and then some others of the harbour, plus whatever came in-between. I went out one day around midday when there was a small break in the weather and could see enough blue sky to give it a go. Of course, things changed rapidly and I battled wind, rain, and even sleet during the few hours I was out. However, I was pleased with most of the shots, below are my favourite ones. 

As always, if looking at this on a mobile device turn your phone sideways to enjoy the full wide angle perspective of the Hasselblad Xpan photographs.

Solitary landscapes.Unfortunately not much "infrared effect" (IR) from the ground as it was mostly barren. I think infrared shooting is best in spring when everything is very green. Still, a very moody shot I think!
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'Strandhalle' restaurant and entertainment venue, with a great lookout onto the North Sea. You can start to see some of the IR effect here with the green vegetation turning white.
And what a view it was! I said before that clouds become bright white in infrared, obviously not those that are full of rain like the ones I was looking at (and that dropped that rain on me about 5 mins after this photo was taken!). Looking at the lack of white in the vegetation, I don't think I exposed this photo properly for infrared. Practically speaking, that means using a lower ISO which leads to longer exposure times.
The fun island train, usually a collection of bright colours, now rendered in different shades of grey.
And off it goes. I love this shot, it could easily be out of an archive showing photos of what the island used to look like. 
I really like how this shot came out, it could be something out of a scary movie! Really strong IR effect in this one.
"Calm before the storm", is what I think of when I see this shot. You can also see the ferry that takes you to the mainland. 
Despite being underexposed, I quite like how this shot came out. The mainland is on the horizon.
A better shutoff the mainland, if you look closely you can see a long row of wind farms.
An empty looking harbour. This place is packed in the summer with private boats.
A close-up shot of the ferry, with a bit of a reflection in the water. 
Looking over the sand dunes to the North Sea. I really like how this shot came out, with such a strong IR effect on the vegetation of the dunes. 
A view from the water tower vantage point. You can see Strandhalle on the far right of the photo, with the North Sea in the background.
My favourite shot of the roll. Really nice IR effect in the vegetation and clouds, with a clearly visible straight line of walkers along the beach.
I also really like this shot, although it has a lot of grain for some reason, usually IR is very sharp and grain-free. That being said, another shot that looks like it was taken in another time. 

Overall observations

I really enjoyed shooting infrared film on the island of Langeoog. It is nice to see these landscapes in a completely different perspective. Whilst the infrared did not come out exactly as I thought it would, it still produced some really interesting shots, some with strong IR effect (others not so much!).

As I said before, infrared is not easy to shoot, and I will probably try this film again on Langeoog in the spring or summer, when there is hopefully more consistency in weather conditions. If you look back to my shots of Madrid on infrared film, taken a week before these, you will see a big difference. 

I hope you enjoyed 'Part 6' of my Wide angle living series, see you next time!

Neil