Infrared Photos Capture the Quirkiness of the Rural Australia

A surreal image in infrared colors shows two scenes: on the left, an Egyptian-style pyramid surrounded by trees and a fence; on the right, a giant watermelon slice sculpture with seeds, positioned near a road, set against a bright sky.

Photographer Sean Paris tells PetaPixel that people have complimented him on his “Photoshopped pink series” not understanding that his camera actually captures infrared light.

Using a modified Nikon D800 DSLR, Paris set about documenting rural Australia with his camera that sees both visible and infrared light.

“I wanted to shoot this project in infrared as this photographic technique helps pinpoint objects that are often overlooked,” he explains. “This technique is unique as the plant matter reflects the infrared light that naturally occurs; you cannot see this with the human eye, but most man-made things will not reflect infrared light.”

Paris chose the unusual infrared format for his project Koala Country which saw him travel the vast Australian outback in search of interesting pictures of which there are plenty thanks to the country’s “big things” and unique establishments.

A surreal infrared image depicts a mid-century modern motel with a large "MOTEL" sign on its roof. The surrounding trees and bushes are vividly pink, creating a dreamlike contrast against the bright blue sky with scattered clouds.

Two large, colorful fish statues stand vertically amidst pink foliage. One fish has a speckled pattern, while the other has a ribbed appearance. The surreal, vibrant scenery creates an otherworldly atmosphere. Trees in the background also appear in shades of pink.

A small building labeled "Men's Shed" is surrounded by vibrant pink trees and shrubs under a partly cloudy sky. The shed has various signs on it, with a bench and a small table on the right side, and a narrow road in front.

A large, gray koala statue stands with trees and a clear sky in the background. The statue features detailed textures resembling fur, prominent round ears, and a black nose. At its base, there's a sign reading "Giant Koala." The scene has a dreamy, pinkish filter.

“I often look for quirky things like Australia’s “big things,” which can range from giant koalas to giant bushrangers. These are created to draw in tourism to small towns or old historic signs and buildings that often have incredible stories behind them, but sometimes it doesn’t always work the way you want it,” he explains.

“Certain signs or buildings can reflect the light in different ways, and sometimes you might see an incredible old sign, but the text is barely visible in infrared light. The worst situation with this technique is cloud cover, with which you can’t create consistency with the images as this makes everything murky, so I shoot as much as I can when traveling along highways and through small towns when the sun is shining to make the most of my time.”

A sign with "MOTEL" in large letters and "Drive In" with an arrow, displayed outside a brick building surrounded by pink-hued foliage. The image appears to be taken with infrared photography, giving the scene a surreal pink and blue appearance.

A highly stylized image of two large cylindrical grain silos with a central tower, set against a vivid pink and blue landscape. The grassy area in the foreground is pink, while the sky is a bright blue with scattered clouds.

A small, historic building with a "Town Hall" sign atop, dated 1880, stands under a blue sky. The scene is stylized with a pink infrared effect, highlighting trees and vegetation in pink hues. The building features a central door, two windows, and a sidewalk in front.

Infrared photo of a building labeled "Harcourt Bowling Club" surrounded by trees and vegetation in shades of pink. The rectangular green lawn is in front, with benches and a flagpole. The building has a flat roof with solar panels and overhead lights hang above.

Seeing Invisible Light

The human eye can see light within the visible spectrum, which ranges approximately from 380 nanometers to 700 nanometers (nm). This range includes all the colors that humans perceive in a rainbow.

A hand holds a Kolari Vision K590 Infrared filter against a black background. The filter is 82mm in diameter and has a red tint. The text "Kolari Vision K590 Infrared 82mm" is visible on the edge of the filter.
The Kolaris Vision filter used by Paris.

A highly stylized image of two large cylindrical grain silos with a central tower, set against a vivid pink and blue landscape. The grassy area in the foreground is pink, while the sky is a bright blue with scattered clouds.

A pyramid-shaped building stands behind a wire fence surrounded by palm trees and other vegetation. The scene features a surreal color effect, with pink foliage and a bright blue sky streaked with light clouds. The building's facade appears weathered and aged.

A house with a corrugated metal roof is surrounded by lush overgrown vegetation, all appearing in vivid pink hues due to infrared photography. The sky is blue with scattered clouds, contrasting the vibrant surreal landscape.

However, infrared light has wavelengths longer than visible light; from about 700 nm to 1 micrometer (mm). Paris sent his D800 to a company in Melbourne called Imaging by Design so it could have a full-spectrum conversion meaning it can see UV light (which has a shorter wavelength than visible light) as well as infrared.

“To achieve the type of light you want to work with, you have to use specific lens filters. For this project, I have used the Kolari Vision 590 nanometer filter. This filter is a combination of visible light and infrared light, which creates an image that is more relatable to the human eye compared to higher-spectrum filters.”

A Different World

Paris, who grew up in rural Australia, says he wanted to capture the area’s “quirkiness, history, and culture” for future generations to enjoy.

“Depending on the towns, infrastructure, and remoteness, these places represent a unique time capsule in their histories. Some are thriving, some are not. As the modern world moves forward, I believe a lot of these places should be preserved and nurtured, and I hope one day this project will help with that.”

A surreal landscape featuring a large watermelon sculpture, with pink-tinted grass and trees under a cyan sky. The watermelon is positioned upright, showcasing its seeds and texture, next to a wooden post and a small sign.

A person walks through a nearly empty parking lot towards the entrance of the Lakeview Motel, which features a large white brick facade with red signage. The photo has a surreal color scheme with pink and blue tones, including trees and shrubs in vivid pink.

More of Paris’ work can be found on his website and Instagram.

Image credits: Photographs by Sean Paris.