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Starting with infrared wildlife photography

I’ve always wanted to dive into the world of infrared wildlife photography. Like vegetation and landscapes, animals do look differently in the IR realm.

A black lizard, for example, turns out blue in a false color IR image, and a brown-greyish ibex will come out with a fantastic white coat. Both examples are shown in my gallery (link). So it has huge potential for amazing and surreal pictures!

On my trips into the Swiss highlands I’ve regularly seen wildlife, especially fox, ibex, deer and all sorts of birds. Sometimes I could photograph them with my IR camera and my Nikon 16-85mm lens, but most of the time, it didn’t work out well, because they were too far away. 

Well, I do have a 300mm lens that works with IR light: the Nikon 70-300mm VR, but it’s not a good lens for wildlife, unfortunately. The smallest aperture number is around 6 at 300mm so you can’t shoot fast enough for most animals. And the quality of the image drops drastically when you zoom in to the maximum.

So I needed another lens, and I’ve found one. It’s a Tokina lens. I had been surprised in the past by this Japanese manufacturer as you can read in this post (link). 

So I bought the very powerful Tokina 300mm f/2.8 AF AT-X (link to review) on Ebay for around 600 dollars and tested it yesterday with my Nikon D70 full-spectrum. I’m using this camera because my other Nikon, the D3200, won’t focus automatically with this lens. 

I haven’t used it with an IR filter yet. The reason is simple: I don’t have a filter that fits with this lens because it’s so big. So I’ll have to buy another IR-converted camera (ideally 720nm) in the coming days.

So for now, I can only show you full-spectrum images that contain mostly visible light. They show IR effects (for example in the trees that are yellow instead of green) so I think this lens will work with strong IR filters as well.

My first impression is: This is a fantastic lens, the images come out crystal-clear and even far away mountains are represented well.

The images were shot at Lake Thun in the area of Gwatt on a sunny but also quite stormy day.

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