Every time I pick up the infrared camera rig I use to photograph New York City at night, I can’t resist quoting Tony Montana’s iconic words from the movie, Scarface: “Say hello to my little friend!” The reason for this is that the Sunpak 622 Super Pro Flash, when combined with an infrared head, Wein Safe-Sync Hot Shoe to Hot Shoe with PC, Nikon D800, and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens is just so beautiful to behold. We’re talking serious eye candy. For added wow factor, I dressed the camera in a camouflage easyCover Silicone Protection Cover and Lens Rim. Looks aside, my infrared rig also takes fantastic photos. No wonder it’s one of those things any photographer would love.
My goal in assembling “the perfect” infrared rig was to spice up the humdrum world of regular photography. The first step was sending my Nikon camera for infrared conversion to a company such as Kolari Vision. During the conversion process, the camera’s built-in IR blocking filter is removed. A filter that instead blocks visible light, but allows IR light to pass through is then carefully fitted over the camera sensor. For night photography, it’s best to use a DSLR instead of a mirrorless camera. The reason for this is that, unlike with a mirrorless camera, placing a dark infrared filter over a DSLR sensor won’t affect low-light focusing ability.
The second step was pairing the camera with an infrared flash. It took some searching, but eventually I found a Sunpak flash with a matching IR head. Had this option not been available, I would have searched for filter material to tape over a standard flash that would block visible light while being transparent to IR light. What I love about my Sunpak is that the infrared flash output is adjustable, powerful, and invisible to the human eye. To protect my camera’s electronic circuitry from potentially high flash-trigger voltage, I use a Wein Safe-Sync Hot Shoe to Hot Shoe with PC. I figure it’s better being safe than sorry.
Once I had my infrared rig assembled, I bought a Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home Bag to carry it, and hit the streets for some shooting. Most of the time I found myself shooting between IS0 1200-3200, f/8-16, 1/30-1/125, and low flash power. Being able to instantly assess my exposures made shooting easy. In the field, I used the flash power selector to balance subject exposure with background and ambient light. The final step was to process the raw files creatively in Photoshop. Generally, I put clarity at 100, and then play with the other adjustment sliders until I get the results I’m after. It’s a lot of fun.
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The “Things We Love” series articles are written by B&H Photo Video Pro Audio staff to talk about products and items that we love. Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the writers and do not represent product endorsements from B&H Photo Video Pro Audio.