Ultraviolet photography is something that relatively few photographers explore, but it’s a fascinating realm to explore with less of an investment in equipment than most people think.
Much of my photography revolves around the world that we cannot see with our own eyes. This “unseen world” approach can make otherworldly beautiful images from everyday ordinary subjects. Using light beyond our own spectrum is a great way to start these explorations—enter the world of ultraviolet photography.
To clarify: There are two types of ultraviolet photography. UV reflectance and UV fluorescence. UV reflectance is using a light source that contains UV light (such as the sun or a full-spectrum light source) and collecting only the ultraviolet light that hits the camera sensor. This requires a camera modification similar to what you would do for infrared photography, but on the other end of the spectrum.
It can reveal hidden patterns in flowers that only insects can see, like a bulls-eye pattern in sunflowers and what effectively appears as a “landing strip” in many flowers to attract pollinators.
The bottom-right image above is made by collecting UV light. The bottom middle is visible light and the left is an infrared image of the same sunflower. While the dark pattern is certainly interesting, things become almost magical when you make the flower fluoresce (large image). UV fluorescence requires a regular unmodified camera, but careful attention to ensure only pure UV light hits the subject. If anything in the frame fluoresces, visible light bounces back to the camera.
Interestingly, just about everything in nature fluoresces to some degree. You may have heard about scorpions or certain millipedes glowing under UV light, but if you bring forward enough UV-only light, everything