Soaking up the Sun

This image represents the beginning of a fun adventure I’ll be on through the summer months: photographing flowers in ultraviolet. While it doesn’t look like much at first glance, there’s a lot of interesting things going on here, both in terms of subject and technology. If you’re curious, read on!

First, taking pictures in exclusively ultraviolet light is difficult at best. Filtering out all visible light and especially all infrared light can be tricky, and the camera sensor needs to be modified for full-spectrum or UV-only photography to make this work. In either scenario, you’ll still need a combination of two filters in front of the lens: an X-Nite 330C and an X-Nite BP1. The combination of these two filters work to remove all traces of visible and IR light from the image, and with a modified camera you can capture the remaining UV light that the sensor is able to detect.

In natural setting the exposures are long. In direct sunlight, my exposure settings were F/10, ISO 2000, 2 seconds. This is partly due to the fact that there is less UV light than visible light, standard lenses don’t transmit all UV light, and the sensor isn’t very sensitive to UV light unless the colour filter array is removed. This makes the subject less approachable to most photographers, and it’s hard to find distinctive subjects in UV compared to infrared photography.

These are vibrantly purple crocuses growing in my lawn, surrounded by snow after our last (and final!) snowfall. This means the flowers reflect a lot of purple and violet light, but when you step just a short distance down the spectrum into ultraviolet, they absorb it all and appear black in the process. Many flowers absorb all UV light, but some reflect it in specific patterns to attract insects. Daisies, for example, reflect all visible light and appear white, but absorb all ultraviolet light to appear black in an ultraviolet image. Why? I’m not entirely sure yet, but I know that knowledge will cross my path as I explore ultraviolet flower photography through the warmer months.

Snow was the perfect backdrop for this image to show the amount of UV light naturally reflecting in the scene, and I’m in the process of obtaining a backdrop that can function the same way in all scenarios. The series of images will be somewhat documentary, but the exploration into this “unknown” area of photography is exciting. What wonders will the ultraviolet world bring? You’ll soon find out! I just need more flowers in bloom to continue the exploration!

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