Colours Fly Away: Life in 720NM Infrared with an X-E2

· 23.June.2023

Six months on with my full spectrum X-E2 and I’m seeing the world in a whole new light, in many ways.

The past three years have been a tad traumatic for many of us, to say the least, and the predictable knock-on economic effect and the ‘under the veil’ restrictions that came during that time have changed the world forever, however you may choose to view that. For me personally, it’s completely flipped life on its head; my expectations, pre-conceptions and plans have all changed hugely, including photographically.

Things here in Asia were a little behind the Western world when it came to re-opening, or at least opening without bewildering restrictions and risk. Late last year, the mist was starting to clear, the world was once again open for travel and I couldn’t wait to get back out there. At exactly the same time, I bought an old X-E2 and had it converted to full spectrum, in order to shoot different NM ranges of infrared (something I’d played with through filters and apps for years), and I was really looking forward to inducting this little twisted vision of a beast into my impending travels by bike and to take a fresh perspective life and photography.

Then, just a week before Christmas, a niggling knee suddenly ‘exploded’ whilst out for a bike ride, and what was anticipated to be a week or two of recovery turned into six months (and ongoing) of pain and strife, which has gone way beyond the original knee issue. This curveball has effectively grounded me and floored those hopes that I’d been riding on for the past three years. All of those great intentions, all the dreams…they just went up in pain and smoke, there was no way I could see through that haze or find any answers to solutions and that black hole just continued to get deeper with time.

Light at the end of the tunnel…kind of

Being floored, as someone who has been active on a bike or on foot in the mountains for their entire life and having no light or hope in sight, well, that has been tough. What does this have to do with photography, Fujifilm and the converted X-E2? Not only were my travel and other work plans stalled without resolution in sight, but I was still in the exact same place I’d been stranded in throughout the pandemic – a place where I’d already shot everything over and over again.

This is where the X-E2 came to my aid, but not my rescue; it simply gave me a new focus and outlook on the familiar, something which had become somewhat staid due to the time I’d been here. Initially, it was colour IR that had appealed to me and yet spending more time hunched over a computer editing images was making my physical problems all the worse, so I decided to switch my photographic focus to 720NM black and white JPEG-only photography and use just the XF35mmF2 lens.

This is not to say I’ve not also shot my other X Series cameras and in regular RAF colour – I have, just less so. During this time, the X-E2 has become my main carry-around camera, and envisioning and shooting the same old world around me has given me a whole new appreciation for my surroundings, and yes, it has also gone a long way to helping me deal with the mental and physical pain and turmoil of the past six months. Had I not had this new ‘thing’ to drag me out and make me focus and try new things, this would have been a much tougher time.

It’s personal

Sure, there are those who have no taste for IR photography and I’m fine with that; I’m not doing it for them – it’s a personal thing. It’s something that may not particularly be commercially practical but for me, it’s been a game changer or perhaps personal game saver would be a better term. This has been one of the best things I could have done with the personal side of my photography, even though this was not the original intention.

Shooting IR has really opened up the whole day for shooting. In fact, it’s largely when the sun is at its most bold that black and white IR comes into its own, and I have been shooting it in all but after dark conditions. Why not just shoot regular black and white? Well, I do also do that with my other cameras (or convert in post), but IR just adds a whole new and contrasting dimension to some things, although for portraits and certain situations, it’s best used sparingly.

Although I do go and shoot the classic fluffy clouds and ‘white greenery’ that is associated with 720NM IR, that does or can get a little clichéd at times, as well as boring to do, so I generally just ride around looking for regular travel/street style images that suit the IR approach and look. This does mean that I shoot a lot less than I did with a regular camera and I also take on very differently lit scenes, often ones I wouldn’t consider capturing with a regular colour camera, which makes it all the more satisfying.

App-less or hapless

As many Fuji users transition to the new mobile app, I, for one, can’t help but feel a little disillusioned by the fact that it app only works with cameras from the X-T3 onwards. This leaves those of us with older cameras stuck with the appalling and archaic original Fujifilm app, an app that seems to pick and choose when and what cameras it wants to hook up with. For a while, I did get it working with the X-E2 on occasion, but since then it’s decided that it no longer wishes to connect to any of the other X Series cameras I have to hand, apart from my X-T2 that is, and yes, I have tied every trick in the book – they just don’t work!

The reason this is such a gripe for me, and especially so with this camera, is that with this being something of a personal IR journey and with avoiding sitting and computer time, I do like to be able to transfer images to my iPhone, then edit and process wherever I wish there and then, something which is no longer possible with this combo. So much for kaizen, a word that seems to have been deleted from the Fujifilm mantra, or perhaps it only applies in certain scenarios.

Even if this post is about an X-E2 and 720NM IR imagery, the subtext is far more so about what this journey into a colourless world and through a colourless time in life has meant to me personally. It could just as well of been applied to an old Holga and film journey, which I guess is what photography is or what it can mean to many of us.

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