Roma Rosa: A Surreal Infrared View of Rome

Roma Rosa: A Surreal Infrared View of Rome

During a two-day trip to the magnificent city that is Rome, photographer Milán Rácmolnár came up with the brilliant idea of photographing Rome in infrared. The result is a different and pink perspective on the cityscapes.

If you are familiar with The Infra Series by conceptual documentary photographer, Richard Mosse, you will know that the man was known for the use of Kodak Aerochrome, a now discontinued reconnaissance infrared film, in rendering some captivating images of the ongoing war in Eastern Congo.

Milán Rácmolnár is no Richard Mosse, but he certainly accomplished a rare feat in shining a new light on a city that has been photographed countless times over the years. It was during a short visit to Rome, that the photographer decided he would seek sights and visuals that are not visible to the naked eye. 

“I like to concentrate on the human perception. For instance, the perception of the digital world or the perception of things that we can't sense visually, like sound waves.”

Therefore, it seems logical that he chose infrared as a means to see what the naked eye cannot see. Nowadays, most people who want to create some dramatic infrared photos, will make use of infrared filters to achieve the desired results, or infrared film if they can find them. But Milán Rácmolnár found another way, an irreversible one!

The Nikon D3200 of Milán Rácmolnár disassembled for the removal of the IR filter

Milán Rácmolnár explains that he decided to convert his Nikon D3200 to a full spectrum camera. The photographer disassembled his camera body to remove the IR filter and then reassembled everything. All cameras come with an internal IR filter, and the latter filters the biggest part of the visible light. So you can say you end up with a mostly monochrome picture. The photographer adds that some of the visible light will pass through the filter and will therefore affect the various alpha layers.

“Of course, as we cannot see this wavelength, it is always just pure fiction, but the colour of the infrared can only be interpreted as a ratio to the visible light. As I photographed in full spectrum, the infrared light becomes, if I may say so, an added colour to the existing colour palette. As a result, the white balance of the picture has to figure out into what colour range it belongs.”

There was always a reddish tone to the pictures but Milán Rácmolnár said he wanted to preserve it as he got used to this look while he was experimenting. According to him, most IR photographers usually post process their photos to look vivid by mixing some of the colour channels and adding contrast to them. He went to such lengths because he liked the look of how the infrared light mixes with the visible light. However, the process was not without its drawbacks.  

“With this method, all the pictures turned a little hazy because the lens does not refract the normal and the infrared light equally as far as I know. It is an effect similar to chromatic aberration,” says Milán Rácmolnár.

Despite this, the result is “Roma Rosa” – a stunning project that depicts Rome in pink. Milán Rácmolnár shows some of the famous landmarks and sights of the city in pink and cyan hues. The colours obtained with the removal of the IR filter lend the landscapes a poetic and surreal feel. It almost looks like all the trees turned to cherry blossoms in the summer. Even the Colosseum appears different surrounded by pink cypress trees.

The Colosseum in infrared

And if you've ever wondered why trees and plants were the most affected in infrared photography, click here.

Have a look at the Roma Rosa series by Milán Rácmolnár on his website.

All images used with the permission of Milán Rácmolnár.

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Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Beautfiul images! I love infrared photography

Stephen Fretz's picture

I love these shots. The infrared+visible light rendering gives you an unearthly feeling without getting TOO weird - the old Kodak Ektachrome Infrared usually rendered skin tones as green.

Stephen Fretz's picture

One more comment: if you want your infrared pictures sharp, you'll need vintage lenses with an infrared focusing scale. (Except then the visible light will be out of focus)

TImothy Tichy's picture

Or you can just focus using LiveView. ;) I use a hoodloupe over the rear LCD of my IR camera and rely on the focus peaking. The AF will work too but is a bit slow. No need for guesswork.

Stephen Fretz's picture

Er, yeah. Sometimes I feel like a living fossil ;-)