Far Side:
Taking Nature Photography Into New Realms

By Bjørn Rørslett

This page is devoted to the truly far-out approaches in nature photography. Here, all orphaned approaches such as pinhole photography, afocal methods, multi-band imaging, strip-film and moving-target photography, just to name a few techniques, will be brought together in a mutual home. They convey information about Nature that is easily lost in the traditional branches of Photography. You are encouraged to delve into the inner circle of Nature, the way Nature expresses herself. We can listen to the murmur of the ocean and enjoy the trains of moving patterns across the ocean floor - or try to capture its essence by making the waves themselves the optics to record an image. Every fluctuation, every departure from the steady state of Nature, will yield an imaginary photograph which is yours to capture. By using the well-proven capability of the photographic medium as a means of integrating time and space, Nature's expressions can be turned into wonderful images we may relate to, showing patterns that largely are unperceived by our narrow-minded senses.

These peripheral aspects of Photography appeal a great deal to me and are but a logical extension of my commitment into Ultraviolet (UV) and Infrared (IR) photography. In those areas, we use traditional photography and invisible bands of radiation to record images that we might perceive, were our eyes sensitive to energy outside the visible 400-700 nm band. So these approaches basically remain traditional photography, using lenses to focus a positive image onto film.

Pinhole photography has been know for a very long time although it has fallen into oblivion over and over again. This is a case of lensless photography. The pinhole lacks all usual properties of a lens-based system: there is no finite focal length, no plane of focus and therefore, the depth of field is virtually infinite. Although the pinhole all by itself cannot be assigned a focal length, it isn't truly afocal, because the distance from the pinhole stop to the recording medium will in the traditional sense be its "focal length". Accordingly, we can for any pinhole setup compute the actual f-number, whenever the size of the pinhole aperture and the distance to the image plane are known.

Afocal photography, another lensless approach, doesn't use an aperture at all and the imaging rays are recorded directly onto the medium. If all rays striking the medium are randomly orientated there will be no perceptible density variation in the image and no meaningful photograph can result. On the other hand, if the rays are not random at least within a sector of space, variations of image density occur to give rise to a photographic image. If all this sound a bit like black magic you may be right - however, it indeed is possible to record images without using either a stop in front of the medium (the pinhole case), or a lens (traditional photography).

Examples of these alternate methods are shown below. More images are to follow. Just click on thumbnails to view an image, which will open in a new browser window. You can adjust window size by dragging the margins if necessary. If the window is covered by others, clicking the thumbnail will bring it forward again. There is no need to close the picture window before another image is opened.

I get a lot of requests on how these images were obtained, so have written up the essentials of Afocal approaches. For the remainder of the methods, no details are published at present. There is however a pointer as to the method applied in each case. The rest is up to you and your imagination ...


Image Title Technique & Comments
Underwater UV Light Flash Underwater UV Light Flash Afocal. Underwater.
UV band only using sunlight, shows high-intensity light areas on lake floor ("Light flashes").
UV Light Ripples and Snell's Window Snell's Window Afocal. Underwater.
UV band only. Tiny speckles on image are UV-B excitations of film grain !
UV Rendition of Snell's Window UV Rendition of Snell's Window Afocal. Underwater.
UV band only. Showing Snell's Window and surface wave-refracted UV patterns.
Backwater Ripples (B/W)

Pool Ripples

Afocal. In-air image.
Visible Daylight (black-and-white image).
Riverdance Riverdance Afocal. River in spate
Visible Light by Night and Flash (black-and-white image)
Dance of the Fairies Dance Of The Fairies Afocal. River surface
Breaking Coastal Waves Breaking Coastal Waves Multi-band (Simulated Colours)
Using Red, Green, and UV bands for a composite image. Done in-camera on a single frame, no colour correction.
UV Flower (Potentilla erecta) Multiband UV Potentilla Multi-band (False-Colour)
Using Red, Green, and UV bands from individual frames on b/w (Ilford XP2) film. False-colour composite in PhotoShop.
Breakers at Dusk Breakers at Dusk Dual-Band (Invisible Radiation Only)
Using UV and IR bands from individual frames shot on EIR film. True-colour composite in Photoshop.
Sunlit Forest Sunlit Forest Pinhole
35 mm camera, handheld. Interference gives rise to the colour patterns.
Wind Waves In Grassland Wind Waves Strip-Film.
Using intermittent flashlight to freeze movements.



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Last Update 1 October, 2002