"The Ghost in man, the ghost that once was man But cannot wholly free itself from Man, Are calling to each other thro' a dawn Stranger than earth has ever seen; the veil Is rending, and the voices of the day Are heard across the Voices of the dark".ALFRED LORD TENNYSON (1809-1892)This post marks a bit of a change in the direction I’m taking this blog. My GFAnna suggested I should make this blog more personal. Sharing my experiences and feelings I have when visiting these places alongside the history would make for a more interesting blog. I felt she was right. I felt the postings where a bit stale. I decided from here on out I will add a bit more personal touch to my haunted blog. I’ve had a few experiences while at these haunted places and I would love to tell what has happened.
The whole idea of describing some of the things I’ve experienced and taking photographs at haunted places using the medium of black and white Infrared film was a project I’ve wanted to accomplish since 1995.
During my work as a newspaper photographer in Illinois I wanted to use my idea to do a yearly photo page around Halloween about haunted places in the area. Hearing nothing in the way of stories, I posted a small ad asking readers if they knew of any places that were haunted. I got no response. I tried to keep the page alive for about another year, then gave up. I eventually revived the page when I moved to another paper in the state when I heard about a local ghost hunter that was ready to publish a book. I contacted her and we went to a few places that she said were haunted. The page was not exactly what I originally envisioned but was an interesting story nevertheless.
Shooting with Infrared film back in those days was a very difficult process. The camera had to be completely light tight; only a manual controlled camera could be used. Since the new auto-focus cameras used IR itself as a mechanism to focus and keep track of the film moving inside, the camera would fog the infrared film. The ultra sensitive film had to be handled in a special way and the developing was equally as challenging. Thinking back, what really kept me from shooting with IR film was the price, which ran about $15 per roll for 36 exposures and had to be special ordered. Not very practical for a photographer on a mere reporters’ wage. Just to buy 4 rolls would have cost me about $60.
In 2007 I read an article in a photo magazine about shooting IR with a digital camera and how easy it was to accomplish using just a filter. While reading the article I also discovered photographers where sending their cameras in to a company to get switched over to infrared. The company removes the glass filter that covers the sensor and replaces it with dark filter that blocks all visible light except infrared. This makes shooting IR much easier and is necessary for serious IR work. This renewed my interest in that long abandoned idea. Coincidently I discovered the work of Simon Marsden, http://www.simonmarsden.co.uk/ a British photographer doing the very thing I wanted to do except he still uses IR film. I began searching Amazon for his books and I ended up buying about four books of his and studying each of them cover to cover.
Last year I decided I wanted to make this project a reality. To begin I first bought a Canon 30D, for the sole propose of getting it IR converted. I would later purchase another camera, the Canon 50D to be used as a normal picture-taking camera. Then I began the process of compiling information on places I would like to visit. The state where I live first, then surrounding states, and so on. Last year I purchased an IR filter to learn how that type of light works. I took the camera along with the filter to various spots and was mostly pleased with the results. But since the filter covers the front of the lens and blocks out all visible light I had to compose and focus with the filter off, then once I has everything set the way I wanted it I had to attach the filter and make the exposure. The exposures where very long consisting of about 30 seconds or more. So a tripod was needed for every shot. Having such a long set up time I had to think about every picture which made for a long process and often times frustrating. During that experience I gained more respect for the Civil War photographers that had to do the same sort of process every time.
I purchased a Canon 50D when I got my taxes back this year and sent the Canon 30D in to Life Pixel http://www.lifepixel.com/ for IR conversion. After a month long wait I finally got it back last Friday. I took a few photos of some Victorian homes in town.
So far I’m pleased but the real test will come next weekend when I head to my home state IL to shoot a few haunted houses and cemeteries. I will post as many photos as I feel necessary along with a bit of history, the experiences of others and my own. During my travels I will try to post daily updates on my progress at these places. Over the course of this mysterious journey I hope to take readers through sinister mansions, decrepit cemeteries, and forsaken roads. When I return and have chosen the right photos and used my notes to create a story, I will post the full details of the experience. I hope you find what I have to say will keep you up at night.