Monday, August 30, 2010

more wacky niche photography

I'm in the middle of a completely ridiculous project. I'm modifying an old digital camera to shoot infrared. The first step was to fix it - the lens cover was stuck, so the camera wouldn't turn on. I'm proud to say that I FIXED THAT SH*T. I fixed it hardcore! A little plastic gear had broken and a tiny piece of it was blocking the rest of it from turning. So my husband dropping it into water that was deeper than it was rated for isn't what broke it after all. (Which I already kind of suspected, since it mostly worked after that, although the memory card was corrupted.) What broke it was...my son. Yep, when DH got a new camera, he gave the old one to our 4-year-old son, and within a couple of hours, it was broken. A shock-proof, drop-proof camera. Broken. Almost immediately.

I've been doing a lot of research into infrared photography so that I can take pictures in the dark when we climb Mount Fuji next year. (If you do most of the climb at night, you can watch the sunrise from the summit.) I've determined that what I need is an IR-sensitive camera and an IR floodlight. (Figuring out how to attach a flash shoe to the top of a point & shoot camera so I can mount the floodlight to it is a whole different project.) Some people have speculated as to whether it would be possible to convert a flash to IR, but I don't think they've really thought that through, for two reasons. 1. If there's no IR light until the instant you take the picture, how are you going to compose the shot? (If you have an IR light source, you can compose using the LCD.) And 2. How is the autofocus supposed to function if no light is reaching the sensor until the flash fires? So like I said, IR floodlight.

As for the camera, all digital image sensors are sensitive to infrared light. So much so, that they put infrared-blocking filters in front of them so that visibile-light pictures aren't ruined. Plenty of video cameras have a "night shot" feature, where this filter is moved aside from the sensor, but still cameras....well, don't have this feature. There is one Sony Cybershot that can do it, the top-of-the-line bridge model from 2007. It still costs $1000. So the solution is to remove that IR-blocking sensor and replace it with a filter that allows infrared light through.

My Dad is sending me some scraps of developed, unexposed slide film that I'm going to use as a filter over the image sensor. (Unexposed, developed slide film is totally black, so it doesn't let any visible light through, but it does let IR light through.) First, though, I have to figure out how to access the processor. But you know what? I'm pretty confident that I can figure it out, and if I can't, then no big deal. After all, the freaking thing wouldn't turn on at all an hour ago. So if I completely fry it, it's no big loss.

The thing that really makes me laugh are all of the legal disclaimers on the websites that sell IR-Pass filters for DSLR's. They'll modify your camera for you, or they'll sell you the filter so you can do it yourself, but they warn you that not only will you void your camera's warranty (duh), but you'll be putting yourself at risk of electrocution. "Because of the high voltage present". In a camera. Apparently it can kill you. (So they say.) A battery. In a camera. I'm sorry, but what? Who would open up a camera and start taking it apart without taking the battery out first, anyway?

PS, if anyone knows where I can get a tiny vinyl decal (about 1" square) of an owl, and/or a raccoon, and/or any other nocturnal animal, please let me know. :)