Amazing skydiving photography


Photographer Mike Burdon is also a skydiver. He was chosen for an invite-only 16-person jump at the end of May, and took the opportunity to get some astounding shots of humans in free-fall. I was curious about the coloring in these pictures and asked Burdon about it. He says...

I do not like discussing too much about my techniques but will say that there is no Photoshop involved.

That said, the Behance Gallery of all the shots in this series is tagged with the keyword, "Infrared". Speculate from that as you will.


  1. That photo has the characteristic look of a picture taken with a digital camera modified to detect infrared.

    All digital cameras have CCD or CMOS chips which are sensitive to invisible infrared energy as well as to visible light. This is a problem for ordinary use, so camera makers install IR-blocking filters in front of the chips.

    However, by removing the infrared-blocking filter that’s present in virtually all digital cameras sold today, you can make a camera detect energy in the near infrared spectrum which the human eye cannot see. This isn’t, contrary to popular misconception, thermal sensing – this is just detecting reflected IR.

    You can also do this on some cameras by putting a light-blocking IR-passing filter over the lens. But if you don’t remove the camera’s IR-block filter first, you’ll need really long exposure times to take pictures. And that wouldn’t be very useful for skydiving shots.

  2. IR film would not allow him to shoot at high speed, and neither would an IR filter mounted on the lens. The only way he could shoot these photos and maintain high shutter speeds is by stripping the filter from the front of an image sensor and replacing it with one that absorbed the visual spectrum but let IR pass through.

  3. Definitely digital near-infrared, around 800-1000nm in the spectrum, with white balance set to neutralize green foliage. Pure infrared is more monochrome than the images in this set; the variations between blue and red provide the false coloring that is distinctive of near-infrared.

    It’s weird that the photographer thinks it’s a secret; IR photography is pretty popular all over the world, because it’s so easy to accomplish with digital cameras. His technique may not involve photoshop, but there is still a *lot* of automated digital post-processing going on in the camera.

    The set is really good. It’s got to be hard to keep up your reaction times and compositional skill under that kind of stress.

  4. The image above was obviously faked by having them lie on a giant printout of an aerial photo and shooting from above.

  5. Some nice pics but the guy saying he has some “secret recipe” to take them..pfft.

    I don’t know if he’s saying it for marketing purposes or he really believes it’s something special and is afraid other people are going to copy it.

    IMO, if you’re a true artist, there are no secrets or big ego..You grow and evolve your eye and skills and are happy to share the knowledge because you are always evolving.

    1. Jeez, he didn’t say he had a secret recipe, he just said he doesn’t like to talk about it and he didn’t use Photoshop. Give the guy a break, inforapists.

  6. Aside from the obvious use of IR, there are plenty of processing possibilities that aren’t “Photoshop”, particularly if these are shot in RAW.

    1. Just in terms of processing, everything in his images can be done in-camera via white balance. If you use a converted digital camera, you don’t even need RAW. JPEG is easy enough.

      To be clear, though, I count in-camera processing to be “Photoshop,” especially when it comes to infrared.

  7. The EXIF tags show that the camera taking the pictures was a Canon 5D – a digital camera, and not a cheap one, but this guy doesn’t look like an amateur. I agree that it is probably a hardware infrared conversion. Most are shot at 1/640 second and are nice and crisp – good technique when in freefall. Interestingly enough, none show what lens was used, so either he’s stripped it out of the EXIF or (more likely) he’s using some third party lenses that don’t report that info.

  8. “I do not like discussing too much about my techniques but will say that there is no Photoshop involved.”

    Yeah, his work is clearly high quality, but this comes off as pretentious, and kinda silly. As if using a digital camera without photoshop is some badge of artistic merit.

    It’s like a film photographer saying “I don’t use ANY chemicals to develop my film”. Well, SOMEONE has to process your film or your data, and letting the photo developer or the camera do it all for you doesn’t give you bragging rights.

    I assume he is just wording it in a populist way, with “no photoshop” meant to convey “not fake”, but it’s still frustrating. Why is “in camera filter” less fake that “out of camera filter”?

  9. I just like the old world property lines…

    Nothing like the endless squares (or circles inside squares) I see while going to get a hundred dollar hamburger. Heck, they even cut down the timber in squares.

    1. Yeah, I like it too :) Laws about preserving hedgerows probably has a lot to do with it: so does the wiggliness of the roads.

      But the main difference, I think, is boundaries established before and after the regular availability of the compass. Sat photos of most areas of the US where there are boundaries shows a marked preference for north-south boundaries, absent in older areas.

  10. And to Mike Burdon, let me apologize if I for one was overly critical back there. The photos are fantastic, technically and aesthetically, and the “it’s not photoshop” thing is just a pet peeve of mine. I did not intend to criticize your work, just the tone of that one comment which, to be fair, I don’t have enough context to really judge.

    I would be curious to hear your response to the feedback here, should you care. :)

  11. Nice photos! The hallmark of infrared photography is dark sky and white trees.

    And yeah, there’s something overly precious about people getting all coy when asked about technique.

  12. Grew up in Brooklyn, lived in Manhattan for most of my life, and I am the first to get miffed at idling/silly tourists, but I agree completely with sdaris and others above: this is just corny and lame.

    Bad form Improv Everywhere.

  13. Thanks everyone for your feedback, interesting to see what people have to say.
    Maggie asked if I used photoshop, and to that question I responded ‘no’. I am not trying to be secretive only to allow the photos to speak for themselves.
    My favourite comment is:
    “The image above was obviously faked by having them lie on a giant printout of an aerial photo and shooting from above.”
    I would love for snakedart to come to Spain and we can go skydive above that Giant printout!!
    Thanks again

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