Infrared District: When Nature Confronts Urban Development

Financial districts are more known for their buildings than for their parks: from the Financial District of NYC to the City of London, these places are synonyms of concrete, steel, and glass, not parks or flowers.

However, for some years now, nature is considered in town planning and trees are planted between the towers. To show this evolution and evaluate its real impact in these types of urban places, I spent some time in the financial district of Paris, called La Defense, and used infrared photography to reveal how vegetation is coming back in specific forms to vegetate areas of high human density.

La Defense is a business district located in the metropolis of Grand Paris, the first in Europe by the extent of its office park, the second in Europe for the volume of financial activities after the City of London, and the fourth most attractive business district in the world.

New headquarters of the biggest companies of the world are found here, and new towers are built regularly (maybe one every two years).

This race for urban development now comes with environmental awareness, implying the growth of natural places around massive buildings. The scale of this confrontation of course gives the advantage to architecture, but these new vegetal oases must nevertheless be encouraged, if only for the benefit of the workers.

Infrared photography is very helpful to visualize the implementation of natural places: giving vegetal subjects a bright white aspect, this technique is a great tool to focus on trees and plants. It also creates an interesting contrast between the spontaneous spreading of nature and the very graphic and futuristic architecture of the buildings.

Mixing nature photography with architecture photography implies using specific equipment: in addition to my Canon RP modified in full-spectrum, I used the Laowa 15mm f/4.5 Shift. This lens offers very wide framing and useful shifting capabilities, in addition with a perfect ability for infrared photography. (For those who are interested, I did a complete test of the Shift line-up of Laowa.)

To use this lens with an infrared filter, I enjoyed the drop-in system of Canon with the EF-mount version. That way, I only had to insert a drop-in 720nm filter designed by Kolari Vision.

About the author: Pierre-Louis Ferrer is a professional infrared photographer who aims to reveal the world beyond the visible. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. To learn more about infrared photography, you can take his infrared workshop in Paris. You can find more of Ferrer’s work on his website, Behance, Facebook, and Instagram.