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How Converting My DSLR to Infrared Made Me Fall In Love with Trees

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My name is Luka Gorjup, and I’m a 29-year-old photographer who was born and raised in Ljubljana, Slovenia — you know, that tiny beautiful country in Central Europe that many mistake for Slovakia?

It is beautiful, indeed. We have the seaside,the Alps, the karst, lakes, vineyards and many many excellent athletes. And we have beautiful forests — lots of them. In fact forests cover approximately 66% of our land. In terms of relative forest cover, Slovenia ranks 3rd in the European Union, just after Finland and Sweden. This is probably the reason I have deep respect for trees and nature.

I really like trees. I cannot name all sorts and species, tell them apart by their leaves, branches, etc… but I have always been fascinated by their greatness and uniqueness. Although I always liked photography, I didn’t get the opportunity to dive into it until I was 22. I was saving up for my first DSLR for a really long time and my mother also helped me out a bit so I could finally buy a Pentax K200D in 2008.

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I remember thinking to myself that I just have to buy a camera with two kit lenses and this is all I would ever need. I was really happy, carrying my camera around everywhere I went and constantly shooting things I saw. I was really happy with my gear. Eventually I switched to a Nikon DSLR because it was more suitable for my work, but I kept the Pentax K200D and had it converted for infrared photography.

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It was in my second year of studies at the University of Ljubljana that I came across infrared photography. I did a research paper on it, found it to be appealing, and decided to try it out for myself. After spending quite some time researching and gathering data, I decided to buy an 830nm IR filter to replace my camera’s low pass filter.

Remember, I live in Slovenia, so sending a camera to a specialized shop to have a conversion done was out of the question. And since I don’t even know at which end to hold the soldering iron, I reached out to my great friend Tadej for help. He owns a custom car and oldtimer restoration shop in Ljubljana and I have shot many amazing project cars for him. His favorite tools are an angular grinder and a welding torch, but he is also one of the most precise people I know and I knew he would treat my camera with great care.

So, I bought an 830nm filter. I prefer black and white infrared photography and I wanted my camera to shoot monochrome only, so I didn’t opt for other wavelengths filters. Since IR filters are opaque, one cannot see through them. I wanted the convenience of handheld shooting and being able to see through the viewfinder, so I’ve had my filter cut into dimensions of my camera’s sensor.

Tadej and I finally got together one afternoon to make the conversion. A few hours of disassembling, soldering, cleaning dust and superglueing later, the camera was converted. It was already late in the evening so I could only try if it works by shooting a glowing lightbulb. The pictures showed something, so apparently we managed to make it work!

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The next day my dive into infrared photography began. I started discovering infrared and I have tried to shoot almost anything, from portraits of tattooed people, animals, fine art nude, architecture, to of course, nature. Nature is one of the most obvious choices in infrared photography as the foliage reflects a great portion of IR and the effect is more pronounced. I was curious what I am missing out by not being able to see past about 700 nm, so I observed the world around me with my eyes and compared the things I saw with the infrared photos I took.

From all the photos I have taken in cities and nature, the common denominator is always trees. I got fascinated by the shapes and patterns their branches make, by their greatness and also by the sense of loneliness they project to the observer. I fell in love in the infrared rendering of glowing foliage, radiant tree crowns and surreal scenes that remained hidden to my naked eye. I especially like how trees enrich the urban environment, therefore many of my photographs depict urban forests.

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We always hear that the best light is at sunrise or sunset but for infrared photography the best light is supposed to be when the sun is really strong. Well, there sure is lots of light then, but shooting infrared in harsh sun is much like shooting landscape in dull light. Everything is evenly lit and nothing stands out.

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I try to challenge myself with infrared photography and use light as it is, in every time of the day, in every weather and in every place. And that’s how I fell in love with infrared photography and trees.


About the author: Luka Gorjup is a Slovenian portrait, wedding and automotive photographer, now living in Germany, who likes discovering his surroundings with infrared photography. He has a bachelor degree in Graphic and Interactive Communication Studies and is currently working on his Masters thesis in the same field of studies. You can find more of his work on his website.


Image credits: All photographs and text in this article are created and owned by Luka Gorjup and are copyrighted

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