Infrared Adirondacks, a photography exhibit by Phil Gallos, opens Feb. 2 in Saranac Lake

Jan. 25—SARANAC LAKE — Viewers may feel they've wandered into a dream when contemplating "Infrared Adirondacks," a collection of photographs by Phil Gallos, which will be the featured show at the Adirondack Artists Guild located at 52 Main St., Saranac Lake.

The exhibit opens on Friday, Feb. 2 with a reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and will run through Sunday, March 3.

Gallos, a Saranac Lake resident, used to see infrared photos in various magazines back in the '70s and when he was in college in the '60s.

"Scientific types of photos that showed different forests types and that kind of thing," he said.

"The color ones were just off-the-wall weird looking. There was really not much in the way of color to them that was any kind of true color. There was a lot of magenta and that kind of thing. But the black-and-white, they had black-and-white infrared, that's what really captured my attention because, again, there's a lot of work that's still done with infrared photography in forestry to determine the health of the trees and that sort of thing and the different species."

Many of these images were aerial photographs, but there were others that were ground level.

"I just thought that the contrast in them was really appealing," Gallos said.

"It was so very different, very high contrast. As I say in my statement, there is living deciduous foliage and also things like grasses and herbaceous plants and those kind of things that are very highly reflective of the infrared spectrum.

"So 80 % or more of the infrared light that hits those things bounces off and is reflected back to the viewer if there is viewer, a photographer, whatever."

Water and sky absorb infrared rays and come out very, very dark, and in some instances, just black.

"Whereas the trees and grasses are just gleaming white," he said.

"That is at the extreme end. A lot of my photos are sort of in between because the intensity of that contrast varies from by time of day, the time of year, the intensity of the sunlight. There are lot of factors, so you don't have that stark black-and-white effect in every photo. But, you do get it. Other trees, like the evergreen for instance, they are not as reflective of infrared so they tend to be more mid-range."

Gallos started playing around with infrared film around 1975. He found it awkward and expensive to send away to get developed and printed. He didn't stick with it, and he revisited it in the '90s with large-format film and that was even more expensive.

"I just couldn't afford it at the time," he said.

Gallos crossed the digital divide, and when he owned his second digital camera, he had a conversation with Henry Kopf, who ran a photo shop in Saranac Lake.

"Henry had mentioned to me something about you could get filters for the camera that can filter out the visible light spectrum and the ultraviolet light spectrum and let the infrared in," he said.


Gallos was eager to try the process free of film, developing and chemicals.

"You screw up one roll of film, and you lose 36 pictures," he said.

"Now with the digital stuff, it's much easier. There are two ways to approach altering a digital camera so that you can do infrared photos.

"One is most digital cameras the sensor that's in the camera has several coatings on it or filters they call them. They filter out different things so that the colors that the camera eventually provides to make an image are more true."

These filters filter out infrared, but they don't succeed in filtering it all out.

"They filter out a large percentage of it," he said.

"Some will get through, but it won't be enough to make a visible difference in the visible light spectrum image that results. So, you can have that removed from the sensor in your camera at which point you've got a camera that's going have to be solely dedicated to that kind of photography, infrared photography."

Gallos uses the second technique and uses screw-on glass filters.

"Which will do the same job, but because you still have that filter on the center that's filtering out infrared, you have to let a lot more infrared into the camera."

Gallos finds the filters very dark, hard to see through. He sets his aperture at F-9, the sweet spot for him. He also uses long exposures 12 to 20 seconds, and the camera is on a tripod.

Anything moving gets blurred.

There is a contrast between objects that are stationary and objects moving.

"It provides as almost surrealistic dynamism to the image," he said.

Gallos kept doing it and has built a body of work over the last decade and a half. He's entered the images in many shows and posts on Facebook to share with friends.

He's never put together a group of images together, 18 for this show, that are printed on 13-by-19 inch paper and are framed.

"They have a real impact," he said.

"I got hooked on this. I do other kinds of photography also, but this has become one of my favorites. You don't do much in the winter, but I have done a few. They're nice, but because of the lack of the kind of vegetation that summer provides, they lack that impact of spring, summer and fall. Interestingly, some people think it is the chlorophyll in the leaves and grass and that kind of thing that causes objects to reflect so much infrared."

But vegetation photographed with autumnal colors exhibits the same amount of reflectivity, even though they are not green anymore.

Gallos gets three seasons. He's done some studies of human subjects, but it's hard a person to stay motionless for a long time.

"Something moves," he said.

"Whereas with the wind moving something or water flowing and that being moving or those kinds of things, when a person moves it tends not to be as attractive. It doesn't look good. It can, but on the whole it's a lot more challenging, and I just haven't spent that much time doing it. I have done a few, but they are not going to be in the show. One of them was in my nude show back in 2014."


The point of focus for infrared light spectrum is different from what it is for the visible light spectrum.

"You can re-calibrate your lenses and things like that so that they are more accurate in finding that point, but another problem is that point of focus shifts with the angle of the sun, time of day, and that kind of stuff," Gallos said.

"So because your filter is so dark, if you have your camera stopped down, you can't see anything. So you have to have it wide open as far open as it will go to let in maximum amount of light.

"You still can't see real well but you can see well enough that you can sort of focus. But a lot of times you get it wrong."

Gallos checks his image after every exposure to see what he's got. That is something he couldn't do with film.

"You can go back and you can look at what you just photographed in the camera and magnify it and do all that kind of stuff," he said.

"To see, did I get this? What I do, I try to focus with the lens wide open and to take a picture I stop it down.

"The reason why I use a smaller aperture is because you get greater depth of field, which makes you get a longer focusing range. You're more likely to have things the way you want to see them more properly in focused."

Landscapes require a long range of focus. For close-ups, a blurry background is fine.

"But if you're taking a scene and you've got a stream or lake in the foreground and a mountain in the background, at least for me, my aesthetic is I want them both to be in focus," he said.

"So, I have to use that smaller aperture for the actual photo, which gives me a better chance of hitting that focus, but the thing is I still might not because I don't really know where the focus point is."

What Gallos sees with the lens wide open is still the minuscule of physical light getting through the filter.

"What I am focusing on is really as much as the visible spectrum as it is the infrared. It's a real trial-and-error thing," he said.

"Sometimes you it it right on the first time, and sometimes it's four, five, six different attempts before you get it right. It takes a lot of patience. But the interesting thing is you kind of get a feel for the type of conditions that will give you an easier task with that."

Late mornings and mid-afternoon is much easier than early morning or late afternoon.

"The funny thing about that is late afternoon and early morning are the sweet spots for visible light photography because your shadows are longer.

"The light has more red tones in it, especially in the afternoon they call it the 'golden hour' when you get closer to sunset for photographing.

"But it's the opposite for infrared. You don't just go out there, take a picture and go home. You have to try, try and try again. A lot of time you're spending quite a bit of time getting bug-bit."


His infrared images convey at their best, a sense of enigma.

"That is something that's always appealed to me since I was old enough to start appreciating art that was more than just stick figures," Gallos said.

"I was always attracted to the surrealists and symbolists and those folks."

Georgio de Chirricio, an Italian painter noted for his metaphysical works, predated the surrealist movement and was inspirational to them.

"One of his guiding lights had been to convey a sense of enigma in his images," Gallos said.

"I find that rich ground. I really when you look at a picture and you are intrigued but you're not really sure what's going on but it's cool. Some things aren't quite right. When you look at one of these pictures, this is raw. If you look at it with the same criteria that you would judge a standard black-and-white image, this doesn't look the way it should. That's good."