Why is this gallery labeled “False Color Infrared?”
The answer is simple, but not easily understood. There is no “color” in the infrared spectrum. Color is a matter of human perception. We cannot see into the infrared spectrum, which is a much broader portion of the electromagnetic spectrum than visible light, where color resides. False colors are inferred and manipulated from the way reflected infrared is captured. This is true whether the capture is on special film or using digital sensors.
Why Infrared photography?
Not to be glib: Because we can! But that is only a small part of the equation. First, the infrared spectrum was only really discovered and understood because of photographic advances in the early 20th Century that led to being able to “see” it. That is the stuff of scientific discovery.
Second, infrared photography enables us to see the world around us literally in a different light. People, places, and things familiar to us take on an otherworldly appearance and become the stuff of art.
Trees and grass, green vegetation, take on a different look, they turn white because they reflect around 85% of infrared away from themselves as a defense mechanism, protecting themselves from over-heating under a blazing sun. Green plants turn carbon dioxide into oxygen and sugars through the process of photosynthesis, which depends on the absorption of a certain amount of sunlight. But as any of us who have spent an afternoon on the beach knows, too much sunlight is brutally destructive of sensitive living cells. So plants have built-in sunscreen in the form of microscopic mirrors. Not to bore you with the science, the resulting otherworldly feel and what the artists can do with it makes it special.
The pinks and browns in some false-color infrared photos result from shadows, the limited amount of absorbed infrared, and color channel reversal in digital processing. Raw infrared photos have a magenta cast. To make the images more pleasing the blue and red channels are reversed. Among the results are a blue sky and reddish vegetation. Further processing results in pleasingly familiar pastels. I would recommend looking at Claude Monet’s “The Blue Row Boat” (1887) as a reference in this regard.
“On the Dam Road” is a bit of an exception to the usual false-color scheme. It was processed as a “black and white with blue sky effect” and partially composited with the raw IR image to produce the brownish road, which would normally, in the channel reversal process, appear dark blue.