Fooling the eye

July 04, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

The composition of an infrared photo can fool, and sometimes, even disturb people, Chris Dempsher said.

Dempsher, 54, who lives north of Hagerstown, is an amateur photographer who has really gotten into the intricacies of photography since taking up the hobby three years ago.

He recently had his Canon Rebel XTI converted, for $350, so it can take infrared images.

The infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum is outside visible light and therefore invisible to the human eye, Dempsher said. With an infrared lens, the photographer sees a scene's normal colors through the camera's viewfinder, but the camera captures the scene in infrared light. So blues, like the sky in the image of Fort Frederick, become a muddy red. Greens, like grass and leaves, become white.

In addition to taking more than 1,000 infrared photos recently as he experiments with his adapted camera, Dempsher also has been using a new fisheye lens on his Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera.


The fisheye lens allows the photographer to capture a 180-degree view. The lens also results in a curved effect on the right and left edges of the photo - notice the man's legs in the photo with the yellow plane.

Infrared imaging gives graveyards a ghostly look with stark shadows, Dempsher said. "We're not used to seeing images like this. It disturbs a lot of people."

The famous bridge at Antietam National Battlefield is often photographed from the other side, so many people are unaware of the planks atop the wall, Dempsher said. The infrared lets the monument on the other side of Antietam Creek "burst" out of the image, he said.

This photo is shot in visible light and shows natural color. With a fisheye lens, the photographer can stand very close to the photo subject and still capture a 180-degree view. Dempsher was so close to this plane when he was taking the photo that he could have touched the wing. The man beside the plane eyed him as if he was wondering why Dempsher was taking a close-up of the plane's paint job, Dempsher said.

Dempsher used a fisheye lens to capture the width of the C-119's cockpit at the Wings & Wheels event at Hagerstown Regional Airport in June. The photo is shot in visible light and shows natural color.

Infrared photography is not black and white photography as some colors can bleed through, Dempsher said. This photo of Four Locks along the C&O Canal south of Clear Spring has subtle colors showing in the sky and buildings.

Those aren't clouds peeking just over Fort Frederick's wall on the right, but tree tops. One of the effects of an infrared lens is that the green of foliage becomes white. With so much white in the image, he backed up to include the fence in the foreground. Merih O'Donoghue used PhotoShop to remove the roof and chimney of the barracks inside the fort from the scene.

Sometimes, the infrared image is too disturbing even for Dempsher, as was the case in this shot of the Potomac River. "The infrared effect made the river look like a sewer," he said. So, using Photoshop, Dempsher converted the original muddy red color in the river to blue.

"We're not used to seeing images like this. It disturbs a lot of people."

- Chris Dempsher,photographer

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