Lonely Planet Writer

You won't recognize LA in this dreamy, infra-red series

Ryan Berg is among an exciting new wave of innovative travel photographers experimenting with different techniques. His latest passion is capturing well-loved American cities and sites – like Yosemite Park in California – using infra-red photography. The results are eerie, almost futuristic versions of once-familiar landmarks. Now, he’s just completed a series of Los Angeles images, captured using that same haunting technique.

LA locals shooting hoops
Ryan decided to include LA locals in this series. Photo by Ryan Berg

Why LA? “After moving there this past June, I knew it would be a perfect location for my third infra-red series,” Ryan explains. “The last two (NYCxIR and YosemitexIR) really focused on street and landscape photography. For this series, I wanted to explore more genres, and the diverse set of locations in the city really allows for any type of photography. So, this series is a mix of landscape, street, minimalist, and abstract.”

Ryan's image give the city a ghostly hue
Once-familiar sites now look otherworldly. Photo by Ryan Berg

This time around, Ryan decided to include local people in the shots, something he hadn’t tried before. “I love the way people look in infra-red photography,” he says. “The eerie quality that the images give off can completely transform a scene, and make you question what’s truly in front of the camera. The basketball court and Highland Avenue shots are ones that focus more on the activity and movement that exist within the city. There’s always so much going on, and these two shots are just a little snapshot of that.”

Ryan's shot of an LA pedestrian crossing
Highland Avenue: this shot highlights the activity and movement that exist within the city. Photo by Ryan Berg

Elsewhere, iconic images like the Hollywood sign appear completely otherworldly when viewed in infra-red, the surrounding hills transformed into bright pink. For Ryan, this is an appropriate reflection of what the place represents. “Hollywood can be a pretty bizarre place at times’” he says. “There’s really nowhere else like it. This city is built on dreams, and the color treatment aims to showcase it in a dream-like quality.

The iconic Hollywood sign
Iconic LA images like this are given a dreamy makeover. Photo by Ryan Berg

While he’s now largely used to the unusual images produced through infra-red, one image came as a surprise. “El Ray Theater was the first nighttime infra-red shot I’d taken, and I really had no idea what to expect. The colors are really different from the rest of the series, so it was definitely a shock to see it for the first time.”