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An infrared photograph of trees and palm scrubs against a brilliant blue sky. The trees all appear bright pink in color.

FROM THE ESTUARY: The Hidden World In Front Of Us

By Brenda R. Jones

How we look at the world affects how we value the world. Sometimes a new perspective can bestow a refreshed beauty and uniqueness on what’s familiar or what we take for granted. In the first of a series of guest posts we call “From the Estuary,” retired EPA ecologist Brenda R. Jones shares her thoughts on what infrared photography can teach us about nature, with two photos taken at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in North Florida. – SSBG Staff


Landscape photography, since its inception, is often about documenting beautiful scenery to share with others. Today, stunning landscape photographs are everywhere, on billboards, on granola boxes and all over our socials. These two infrared images  present a different, almost fairy-tale like vision of otherwise normal landscapes.

An infrared photograph of a pine forest against a brilliant blue sky. All the trees appear bright pink.

Infrared light has longer wavelengths than visible light and cannot be seen by humans. Infrared photographs put the viewer in a place with aqua skies and cotton-candy trees. This altered visage is much like how some insects (beetles or mosquitoes) and vertebrates (some snakes and even vampire bats), for example, see light. The man walking through the pink forest further demonstrates how those animals might see people through their eyes.


It is only through the use of specific technology that photography shows us how some species may experience their world. In this case, both images were made with Fujifilm X-T1 camera, whose sensor was converted to “see” infrared light at 590 nanometers. The images were processed in the digital darkroom to render their colorful appearance.


The really creative thing about infrared photography is that it is only limited by the eye and imagination of the photographer, who can process their images in many different ways.


So really, is this how some non-humans see their world? We don’t know and maybe never will. But it sure is fun to play around with light that we can’t see, isn’t it?

Brenda R. Jones, an ecologist retired from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, specialized in cleaning up contaminated sediments in the Great Lakes. Her passion for photography started when she received her first camera from her grandpa for her 5th birthday and she’s carried a camera with her ever since. Brenda focuses her camera primarily on landscapes, birds and macro photography. She added infrared photography recently and she looks forward to continuing her exploration of nature all over the world.

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