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My very own Aerochrome filter

You want an Aerochrome filter? Forget IR Chrome (link), forget all the well-known and overpriced filters and buy a Hoya Green X1 instead and a dark yellow or light orange filter, ideally Orange 16 from Tiffen. They create the look I most associate with Aerochrome. And believe me, I’ve tried just about everything.

I was out in the west of Thun today with a converted Nikon D700. Actually I wanted to go to Kiental again, one of my recent discoveries. A visit a few days ago was marred by stubbornly piled-up clouds on the nearby mountain flanks.

But today, my glance towards the Alps told me that the situation would be the same. So I photographed nearby to see how the Nikon D700 with the Aerochrome filter (link) would perform in the field. I went to Gurzelen and snapped photos of the rolling hills and small ponds – remnants from the Ice Age.

I think the result is captivating.

This deep, spectacular blue of the sky, the strong cloud contrasts, the color spectrum in the vegetation from violet (in the shade) to pink, orange and deep red as well as the soft cyan color cast of the photos are exactly the elements that make a perfect Aerochrome filter for me.

 
Aerochrome Filter

Aerochrome Filter

Aerochrome Filter

Aerochrome Filter

Aerochrome Filter

Aerochrome Filter

Nikon D700 Infrared

 
After a lot of work, my Nikon D700 Infrared is ready for action!

After several Nikon D70 as well as a Nikon D80, I have now converted a full frame camera to full spectrum for the first time: My old Nikon D700.

It already has a few years under its belt, the rubber pads it has in several places came loose from the substrate. But overall it is still in tip-top condition.

Removing the IR cut filter is much more involved than the other models. Many more screws, many more cables. Much more concentration is required.

According to instructions online (link), you have to desolder cables. But it can be done without. Just make sure that you can support the different layers of the camera somewhere without tearing out cables.

Important: To get a Nikon D700 Infrared, it is not enough to remove the cyan hot mirror. You also have to remove the glass plate to which the internal cleaning mechanism is attached. Because this also blocks out infrared (and also UV) light. However, this is not a problem. Just cut the cable, remove the glass completely, and good. Who needs that anyway.

Finally, a full-frame infrared camera!

 
Nikon D700 Infrared

 
As with other cameras, the Nikon D700 Infrared has problems with focusing, since glass layers have been removed (and thus distances are no longer calibrated) and IR has different focal planes anyway.

Fortunately, it has Liveview. That simplifies the whole thing a lot. And so I was able to shoot wonderful 720nm photos with the 50mm AF lens – from aperture 8, even objects further away are always sharp.

With the Aerochrome variant with green and orange filters, it’s a bit more difficult. Here, you need at least aperture 16 to get distant mountains or trees in focus. But thanks to the excellent ISO properties of the Nikon D700, this is no problem either.

I am very happy with the result. The Nikon D700 Infrared produces wonderful IR photos. Below are the post-processing settings in Adobe Photoshop, for those who want to do the same with a Nikon D700.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D, green and orange filters (“Aerochrome”):

Profile: Adobe Landscape
Temperature: 3100
Tint: 75

Color Mixer
Greens: -10
Blues: -30

How to build your own IR Chrome filter

IR Chrome Filter

 
Yes, I made a mistake. I have unfairly praised and promoted the IR Chrome filter in the past. For example, here (link).

Kolari Vision’s filter, designed by a French IR fan named Yann Philippe, is meant to mimic the Aerochrome style. And yes, if one is satisfied with red-orange trees, it is quite sufficient. But Aerochrome is more, much more.

And so it is a bit presumptuous to advertise the IR Chrome filter as Aerochrome for the digital age, as Kolari does (link). And moreover to sell it at exorbitant prices. Especially since it can be built relatively cheaply by yourself.

Today, I don’t use the IR Chrome at all – it sits in a box gathering dust.

Why the IR Chrome filter actually has nothing to do with Aerochrome:

– Trees/vegetation are not red, they’re orange-reddish. You can make them red in post-processing, but I can do that with other filters.
– The colors are too uniform. Typical Aerochrome colors like pink or a rich deep red are missing.
– The sky is too bright, even with polarizing filter.
– The color changes typical for Aerochrome (for example car taillights) are missing.
– The look seems kind of dirty, it’s hard to describe. Those studio-like light and shadow effects typical for Aerochrome are missing.

The reason is simple. Unlike Aerochrome, IR Chrome lets through large amounts of the blue spectrum and only a small amount of infrared. The infrared is blocked somewhere between 700nm and 750nm. Actually it is a blue filter and a bad hot mirror filter in one.

Aerochrome, on the other hand, works by blocking out blue. In RGB composition, this means that blue contains only IR. The blue channel is shifted to the red channel. Red becomes green and green becomes blue. This is the only way to get the typical color changes, the typical red tones and the typical illumination.

This color/light distribution is valid for the analog original as well as for the digital version, which can be done in several ways. I find the use of green and orange filters the best. I have written many articles about this. For example here (link).

So how can IR Chrome be imitated? Relatively simple.

Buy a Swatchbook from Lee Filters (link) and pick out number 115, Peacock Blue. You also need a cheap hot mirror – for example this Chinese one (link).

 
IR Chrome Filter

 
Combine both (link) and you get the following look. Straight out of the camera it looks even a bit better than IR Chrome in my eyes. Above always IR Chrome, below Peacock Blue plus Hot Mirror. Only White Balance on asphalt and “Landscape” preset. Almost the same, right?

 
IR Chrome Filter

IR Chrome Filter

IR Chrome Filter

IR Chrome Filter

 
I’m not a fan of devaluing the work of others. And that’s not what this post is intended to be. It’s simply to demonstrate that IR Chrome has little to do with Aerochrome and is easy to create yourself.

However, the numerous photos on the web made with this filter show that the IR Chrome filter is relatively popular and pleases many people, even those who had nothing to do with infrared photography before. And getting more people interested in IR photography – no matter how – is certainly a good thing.

An evening walk

There is almost nothing better than an evening walk on a beautiful summer day. The heat of the day has subsided, most people are at home, and the gentle veil of calm hangs over everything. Once again, my photographic tour took me to the outskirts of Thun, where housing, industry and leisure meet. And of course the highway, whose asphalt still radiated the heat.

My choice was again the Nikon D70 with the Aerochrome combo.

I try to further optimize the parameters for processing in Photoshop’s Raw Converter. Of course, it also depends on the time of day. I now came up with the following values (for early evening, when the sun is already low):

Profile: Landscape

White Balance
Temperature: 2500
Tint: 22

Contrast and brightness a little up.

Color Mixer
Greens: -10
Blues: -30

Then swap the color channels and set a vintage filter (06).

 
Aerochrome Thun

Aerochrome Thun

Aerochrome Thun

Aerochrome Thun

Aerochrome Thun

Aerochrome Thun

Aerochrome Thun

Aerochrome Thun

Aerochrome Thun

Aerochrome Thun

How to emulate Aerochrome

The Aare is still high, but the rain has subsided, at the moment the weather is really summery again. I took advantage of the sun today to try out my converted and painted Nikon D70. To emulate Aerochrome, you need the right camera, the right lens and the right filter combo. Older lenses are definitely better. In this case I used a Nikon zoom lens, 28-80mm as well as the Orange + X1 filter combo. Post-processing was a bit extensive on this one to really tease out the red color palette. Extensive by my standards. I set the values in Photoshop Raw Converter as follows:

White Balance
Temperature: 2500
Tint: 23

Contrast and brightness a little up.

Color Mixer
Greens: -30
Blues: -30

Then swap the color channels and set a vintage filter.

 
Emulate Aerochrome

Emulate Aerochrome

Emulate Aerochrome

Emulate Aerochrome

Painted Nikon

Painted Nikon