Contemplating an Infrared film run

I’ve shot infrared film off and on for several years. I’ve shot color Kodak EIR when I’ve had fresh stashes of it; I’ve worked with Kodak HIE black and white film, Aerochrome color infrared film, Efke 820 black and white stock, and a few other mixtures. Some examples are below.

Which, of course, gets me thinking. And when I start thinking … hoo boy.

I recently brought a pack of Rollei Infrared 400 B&W film to McGreevy Pro Lab, my pro lab of choice, for development. I should receive the images back later today. But during that time, I started thinking about … well … what if I did an entire run for a year with various stocks of infrared film?

Now here’s the problem. Color infrared film is, for the moment, off the books. There’s no more Aerochrome film out there, the last remaining stock has disappeared and I’m not paying $300 a roll to some online speculator for it. And even if I did get my mitts on color infrared like Kodak EIR, there’s no labs left out there that will touch it. McGreevy doesn’t do slide film any more; and Dwayne’s Photo doesn’t do infrared. And the labs that DO process film around the country are dwindling.

So if I do this, I’m going to stay with black and white film. McGreevy can still develop infrared B&W stock, so I’m good there.

My options for black and white infrared film right now would be:

  • Kodak HIE 35mm black and white infrared film
  • Efke 820 IR black and white infrared film, existing in both 35mm and 120mm formulae
  • Konica 750 IR film, which may exist in both formats
  • Rollei Infrared 400 film, which I know exists in 120
  • Some off-stock infrared mixture from the Film Photography Podcast and Lomography stores

Now to shoot infrared film, my camera needs to be fully mechanical and free of any light leaks. As of right now, that would give me three film cameras in my arsenal – my Nikon F2S (“Nikon Athena”), my Kodak Medalist II (“Kodak Red”) and my Rolleiflex Automat MX (which really never earned a nickname). To use infrared film in Kodak Red, I need to re-spool the 120 film onto thinner 620 spools. And yes, do that in total darkness.

All of these films will have some challenges upon them. The Rollei Infrared film, for example, may be the only one of the batch that can be exposed as both a traditional B&W film AND as an infrared stock. I’ll know if that worked when McGreevy returns my developed film stock later today.

Kodak HIE must be loaded and unloaded in complete darkness. That will mean prepping Nikon Athena in the pre-dawn morning before taking it out for a shoot. No unloading the camera on scene.

If I do this, I would need to gather enough images and enough subjects to really make this project stand out. And then assemble all of it into a limited-edition art book. Produce it either through Blurb or some other print-on-demand option.

Yeah, I’m not asking for much. Silly me.

Oh yeah, and before I shoot anything in those cameras, I have to acquire some R72 filters for both Nikon Athena and the Rollei. R72 filters block out light on the visible spectrum from up to 720 nanometers. Photos on infrared film with this filter in place turn the foliage wood-white, the skies become deep black, and the images look absolutely ethereal.

Something to definitely think about. It’s not like I can prepare for this tomorrow. Or next week.

But yeah … it’s not outside the realm of possibility for me. And I like challenging myself.

So let me ruminate on this for a while.

You never know.

This might actually work.

We shall see.