Kaihoka Lake in Infra Red, Golden Bay

Kaihoka Lake in Infra Red, Golden Bay. 20 February 1975

Back in the day I loved the surrealism of this film (Infra-red Ektachrome), and used it quite often when I had an extra Pentax on the go. This trip was my first proper visit to the far corner of Golden Bay, and I was very taken with the graceful landscapes we found there, despite having to drive on the awful gravel roads of the time (not that much has been sealed since,  over 40 years later).

As I recall, only one of the film’s three emulsion layers was actually sensitive to infra red; the other two simply displaced their colours. Infra Red Ektachrome was a high contrast film for its time, designed as it was for aerial reconnaissance (rather than LP record covers!). Exposure requirements for high contrast film were always precise (meaning: unforgiving), and here the sheep are overexposed. My enthusiastic attempts to burn them in post-scan are sadly visible, on inspection.

A scenic reserve since 1895, the Kaihoka Lakes are a delightful resort, especially when the wind is not blowing. This is the second lake, a short and pleasant walk from the first, through lush bush. Lake no. 1 is prettier, being more bush-fringed; both lakes sit in the bowl of old sand dunes. They are accessed on a side road which branches off at Westhaven Inlet, soon after the end of the tarseal.

85. Midnight girls, Auckland

Midnight girls, Auckland.

3 December 1979.

I was wandering up Queen Street, the main business street, feeling slightly nervous to be out so late on my own with my gear. The models were quite obliging however, and so brightly lit that I could do some quick hand-held photos with the Pentax Spotmatic and move on. Another surprise was the lack of reflection in the window glass. Photographing shopfront displays is usually problematic by day with unwanted reflections, and with street lighting it can still be bothersome. The standard lens was pressed against the glass for this one.

The film was Kodak’s Infra red Ektachrome, unfiltered on account of the tungsten lighting. This enabled an extra stop for the exposure, which was unrecorded but at an ISO of 200 I believe it was f1.4 at around 1/60th second. Holding the camera against the glass helped reduce camera shake. Infra red Ektachrome was a high contrast film, but the exposure has not suffered by it. The film’s infra red sensitivity was restricted to one layer of the emulsion; the other layers simply displaced colours for a surreal effect. The wig was golden as I recall, and her lips and neckline were actually red. My own hair was a similar length at this time but, alas, without any similar sense of style.

Composition and focus were easily established through the viewfinder. While there is some tension from the close cropping at left and the diagonal arm placement on the right, I suspect the frame avoids an intrusive retail placard. The minimal depth of focus which accompanies a wide open aperture has not been a problem here.

I call this photo the near side of night photography, relying as it does on a hand-held camera, instantaneous exposure and completely artificial lighting. It would not be possible to replicate the image by daylight, as the background mannequin would then be better lit.

49. Infra red church and moon, Baylys Beach

Infra red church and moon, Baylys Beach. 29 April 1980

Of course it’s the film that’s infra red, not the church on Sea View Rd (near Dargaville, in Northland). Kodak’s Infrared Ektachrome was a popular film in the 1970s, and illustrated the front cover of a few rock albums. It was also the first slide film I ever used, back in 1974. I took this when visiting a friend at the beach: a moonlight stroll suggested itself, and with a feeble torch we wandered the quiet streets nearby.

The cloud movement is gratifying but there are some puzzling aspects for me now: it must be wide angle but the star trail is uncharacteristically long for 28mm, and the moon looks like a large, stationary lightbulb. I usually avoid shooting straight at the moon (but see 3. Waitakere nikau and the rising moon), however with some haze or cloud around it seems workable – even if the frame has had to be slightly cropped to remove lunar flare.

Some torchlight is evident on the right hand side of the building, where Caron is just visible, shining her torch into a hydrangea bush. Torchlight being so much stronger than moonlight, I soon asked her to turn the beam off. Exposing this sort of scene is like a play in two acts: the torch paints some part or somebody with light for the short first act – the time depends on torch brightness and distance to subject – and then the exposure continues in a longer second act, gathering in more light for the dimmer backdrop.

Infrared Ektachrome was a high contrast film, so fairly unforgiving in exposure terms. It worked best with a deep yellow or red filter, at 100 ISO, but under tungsten lighting the filter could be discarded, and an f-stop thereby gained. The infra red part was only a wee slice of spectrum beyond the visible, while the other emulsion layers simply displaced the colours. The full effect is not displayed here.