An Infrared Halloween in South Jersey

During the centuries that has passed since the original Celtic festival evolved into modern Halloween, the color black has played a major role in its celebration. Back in the old pagan days, the event occurred around huge bonfires and celebrants arrived for the festivities wearing black. The Celtic bash was a day for honoring clan ancestors and black was the color of mourning that everyone wore to do this.

Today, black is everywhere across the Halloween front lawn landscapes in the fabrics that make up the costumes of the witches, spiders, bats, zombies and other rubber and plastic creatures that suddenly take over the front grass every October. Target Stores even have a category of “Black Halloween Decorations.” Party City sells tons of its “Black Halloween Creepy Coth” for draping across so many home horror scenes. Black, black, black, everywhere. But what if we turned it all white?

Inverting Halloween black and white
I had that thought a couple years ago when I was shooting halloween street scenes but was not really satisfied with what I was getting. Over the last two decades as Halloween blossomed into a major commercial home decoration event to rival Christmas, it has focused on lavish lawn displays that frequently look boringly the same up and down every street. I was trying to find a different approach to photographing this stuff and I finally did with black and white infrared photography.

Infrared photography is curious in how it turns many black fabrics and living grass and foliage pure white. It similarly turns the sky very dark. The overall result can be very other-worldly images. These are some of the Halloween infrared images I captured around Camden County, NJ during my 2020 wanderings.

Giant halloween spider on house lawn
Two years ago, this house in Audubon, NJ, put out a couple of custom made spiders made of blobby insulating foam bodies with a skull face glued to the front, and PVC pipe bodies forming the legs. This year, there’s a whole platoon of these things that looks like The Attack of the Skull Head Spiders. The color shifts and increased contrast of infrared enhances the ominous look.
Skulls and ghouls in a Halloween garden
This is actually the carefully manicured lawn and gardens of an elegantly landscaped house in Haddonfield, NJ, that has hung a home-made ghost creature in one of the garden gates and a skull in a distant tree. Using a medium telephoto to bring these together resulted in this somewhat eerie looking scene that doesn’t look like suburbia.
Three white witches for Halloween
These witches in a Halloween lawn display are completely dressed in black but infrared photography turns their fabrics completely white, creating a very different sense of scene.
Front lawn Halloween witches
Store-bought Halloween creatures like these black-dressed witches can be given a fresh look by using infrared photography to turn their garb and surrounding foliage white.
Monster babies crawl in the grass
These monster babies are store-bought tems plopped down in Haddon Township, NJ, front lawn as part of a jumble of rubber severed legs and plastic skeletal parts of humans, dogs, and other animals. But they can be isolated and photographed in their own rite in whitened grass and foliage. They are a starker, creepier subject views through infrared photography.
A Halloween graveyard
This was another display that initially looked like a clutter of store-bought graveyard items but careful framing, a patient wait for the sun to poke just right through the tree limbs above, and the infrared inversions gave this scene an almost cinematic look.
Dog skeleton and grave stones
A major asset in black and white infrared photography is having an interesting subject surrounded by foliage that will go white. Here, the skeletal dog and faux grave stones take on a very different look.
12-foot skeleton tramps across front yard
When I first saw these 12-foot skeletons in the Home Depot Halloween section, I wondered if any one would actually buy them. They turned out to be wildly popular. Here’s one of them towering over the front door and roofline of a house in Haddon Township, NJ.
Animal skeleton crawling on gravestone
Store-bought plastic animal skeletons are a hot item at Halloween now. Here is a corner of a front yard that has taken on the look of a creepy graveyard.
Ghouls hang from trees
There’s something very Normal Rockwell about this traditional home in Haddonfield, NJ, until you notice the graveyard in the front yard and the monster things hanging from the trees. White foliage gives the whole thing an other-worldly look.