2022 Retrospective: Infrared Art and Architecture #6

February 7, 2023  |  La Crosse, Wisconsin

German Garden Pergola at International Friendship Gardens in La Crosse, Wisconsin. October 2022

Category: Infrared Art and Architecture

German Garden Pergola at Riverside Park

German Garden Pergola at Riverside Park

The Subject

This view through the wooden pergola at the German Garden in the Riverside International Friendship Gardens in La Crosse, Wisconsin looks out onto the Gemeutlichkeitplatz, or friendship square, and the fountain at its far end. The pergola supports a dark green climbing hydrangea which appears white in this infrared image.

The whole garden complex has seven garden areas, each one representing a sister city relationship that La Crosse has with a community in another country. In this case that community is Friedberg, Germany. The plantings, sculptures, layout and structures are inspired by features in the countries of each sister city.

The Composition

I love the contrasting textures in this scene, and the way that they are rendered when shooting in infrared. The pergola and brickwork are crisp and well defined, while the foliage is soft and glowing. More about that in the processing notes below.

The interplay of light and shadow with the contrast in textures that are revealed by infrared capture really make this scene for me. In normal/visible light there is far less contrast between the wood of the pergola and the hydrangea leaves or the areas of the areas of the brickwork that lie in light and shadow. Here there is a nice separation of elements, and they all work well together.

Creating the Image

Infrared light cannot be seen by the naked eye, but the camera sensor registers it in shades of red that can then be processed as a monochromatic image. This does not necessarily mean that I would process it in black and white, but in most cases I lean in that direction. In order to get the view I had in mind I shot three series of three bracketed images (3x3) and combined them into one HDR panoramic image in Lightroom. (see above) I followed this up with some noise reduction and selective sharpening in Topaz AI tools. After conversion to black and white, I did some basic light and shadow adjustments as well as perspective correction in Lightroom.

It is not a hard and fast rule, but in my experience many infrared landscape images can initially have a bit of softness to them, while architectural infrared images are initially sharper. In processing this image I tried to use that contrast in texture in order to create the impression of a dreamy and sunny day.

Infrared Image Capture and Processing: Why Black and White?

I select a black and white conversion and processing for most of my infrared images, as it yields a high contrast scene with some interesting textures - especially in scenes that contain both man-made structures and natural elements. In this image the pergola has well-defined lines, yet there is a certain dreaminess that comes from the leaves which seem to be reaching into the passageway.