Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Andreas Ritter von Ettingshausen

It has been a while since I made a post to my Blog, but life has gotten in the way. I am teaching this week at the Karolinska Institute. There are world renown scientists everywhere and I am teaching a course investigating Photomicrography. I always learn more than I teach. While teaching I was reminded how important images are to scientists and considered some historically important scientist/photographers. One of the earliest was Wm Fox Talbot but also Andreas Ritter von Ettingshausen and Austrian made some of the earliest known daguerreotypes using a solar microscope.

Here is a image made in 1840 of a clematis vine.

During some research I also came across this interesting Blog from Geneva Anderson discussing von Ettinger. Maybe you will also like it


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Making things visible under a microscope requires the creation of contrast

Making pictures using a light microscope has been such great fun for decades.  I had my first serious experiences with a microscope in a histology class at Bradley University in 1976.   I was always struck by the organization, structure and shape of the subjects I was examining. I still have some primitive drawings from that class that I used to help learn to discriminate muscle cells from connective tissue.

Photographing at a microscope can be interesting and every subject has unique and interesting challenges, no matter how mundane. Certainly more complicated samples are more difficult to image but someone once told me, "it is just as much work to make a bad picture as it is to make a good one. Truer words have never been spoken.

The first thing that happens when you sit down to use a microscope is a basic orientation problem. A microscope produces circular images and the field of view is limited. It is almost like using blinders. Most of the field of view will be out of focus and it may also have illumination problems. A user must by adjust the focus and other instrument controls to form an image. Once the image and its structure has been created, subtle controls can then be adjusted to increase the quality of the image. This is required before any level serious investigation can begin. Quality often is described as contrast, visibility, uniformity of illumination. It also might include composition and effective subject isolation.
To locate specific structures often requires careful scrutiny of a subject to differentiate the important structures from the sample as a whole. When a sample is magnified 1000x, a 1" dimension becomes nearly 85 feet. Imagine scouring an area nearly 85 feet in length and looking for a "thing" that is only 1 inch in size. It is time consuming and requires significant concentration.  When photographing for science, the goals of the photography are very clear. The picture needs to contain the required information.

The following photomicrographs contain a fiber in a debris field of liquid and chemicals. There is no real purpose for the photographs except the object seemed interesting to me when evaluated using magnification.

The first photograph immediately below is the fiber at x25. It has been formed using Kohler illumination. The aperture diaphragm or the microscope's steering wheel of radiated energy was established to maximize image resolution. The aperture diaphragm in a microscope control's four attributes of an image, contrast, resolution, range of focus and intensity. It should never be used for brightness control.   The remaining photographs will be described beneath each.

An image Fiber is revealed in a liquid using brightfield illumination with an almost wide open aperture. Structure, contrast and image visibility is low. The image resolution surprisingly is high. In summary, the image visibility is low due to low contrast.

In this photograph, the fiber's image is much more revealed in a liquid using brightfield illumination and with a closed aperture. Structure, contrast and image visibility is very pronounced however the image's resolution has now been reduced. In summary, this image's visibility is high due to high image contrast. Fine structural detail has been lost been so visibility could been gained. Maximizing image detail is a balance of contrast, resolution and range of focus. An operator often can have two of the three, but not all.

To make more contrast, the fiber was photographed in a polarized light system and anything that is not birefringent is not visible and its transmission has been eliminated. The fiber is now easily visible but environment has been subtracted.

Adding a quartz wedge to polarizing light microscope created this result. Amazing.....

Monday, July 15, 2013

Kodak and the Scientific Imaging Group

Kodak as a company is a mere shadow of itself. Time and the evolution to new technology has not been kind to this iconic company.

In its hey day, Kodak had a group dedicated to everything. The Pro market, the science market, the education market, the photofinishing group and so many others. During the course of the next few months, I will be researching and writing about my favorite Kodak products and inventions from the last 30 years.

One very special product was Photomicrography Color Film . Its spectral sensitivity was tuned specifically for increased red and blue response. It also had an increased resolution when compared to similar color E-4 emulsions

Cassini project creates a unique opportunity

I have reposted this because it is fascinating to me. Maybe you will think so, too.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
As you already know, in only a week's time, our cameras on Cassini will
be turning Earthward to take images of us and our planet alongside
Saturn and its rings.  I have been encouraging everyone to take
advantage of this special event and, at the appropriate time on July 19,
gather outside with friends and family, acknowledge the interplanetary
salute between robot and maker that this opportunity represents, and
consider the uniqueness of our planet and the life on it.  They are all
reasons for celebration, and I certainly hope you all do just that ...

This event has received considerable attention so far ....

     .  from the TED folks:
     . from Richard Branson:
     . from Robert Krulwich of NPR:

But I also want to remind you of two contests that Diamond Sky
Productions, LLC is running in association with the July 19 event.

We will be choosing the best original contributions submitted by members
of the pubic -- an image in one case and a musical composition in
another --  to a Message to the Milky Way that will be beamed in about a
year from the most powerful radio telescope on Earth, the Areceibo dish
in Puerto Rico, in a long-distance call to our fellow galactic citizens.

I hope you can help spread the word far and wide, in any way you can ...
email, Twitter, FaceBook, whatever ... that these contests are a
serious, exciting, and meaningful way to participate in the event, that
the winning submissions will be beamed to the galaxy, and that the first
contest begins next Friday when the image representative of Planet Earth
must be taken.

For more information such as contest rules and submission requirements,
and to check out the impressive list of individuals advising this
Project, you can start at ...

For the times on July 19 when the Earth images will be acquired and
instructions on how to convert to your local time, check out this page:

And come next Friday, don't forget to smile.

Best to all of you!
Carolyn Porco
CEO/President, Diamond Sky Productions, LLC
Boulder, CO

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Its all about the Lighting

Making interesting light is critical to making great photographs. Light and lighting can make or break an image's effectiveness. The illustration shared below is from my Applications of Science Photography class. It was made by one of the sophomores as part of an assignment we give at RIT. These 3 photographs are a classic example of how light and lighting can make something appear differently. I would ask which lighting is the best? and the answer of course is, "it depends."

That being shared, pictured below is an example of Sordoria fimicola photographed using brightfield illumination and dark field illumination at a camera capture magnification of x8. The spores appear very different using these 2 very different illuminations.

Snowflakes are transparent and have many internal facets. As such, when I light snowflakes I try to emphasize subtle features and use small illumination sources from various angles or directions. Just having a bright light will not be adequate to reveal, but rather the creation of good lighting takes time and critical observation of structure.

The precision of the science photograph

I am sure everyone who is a photographer can share the time they became serious about photography. I  can recall that time. I was 17 years old, bought a Minolta SRT 101 camera and I loved making pictures of people. I made the following photograph of the Jackson Twins,  Utica, New York in 1975.

I did not begin making science photographs until possibly 1976. When I was taking a histology class at Bradley University, I had to draw my observations from the class and - like most - my illustrative skills were somewhat primitive. But I managed.

Since that time I have become significantly better at my photography using a microscope. Below is a photograph made in Stockholm October 2012 of camel skin showing the hair follicles as well as sebaceous glands.

Recently I was exposed to Dr Ramon Cajal, a neurologist who practiced in the late 1880's. He was truly a gifted artist.

This next drawing is even more impressive.

Lens aperture, zone of focus and focal length relationships

Photography is some what unique in that it can be defined by its application, equipment or user. Film photography, wedding photography or photojournalist would be examples of this. Photography also has undergone an enormous transformation from Analog [film] technology to digital beginning in 1990 when the Apple QuickTake was released. In 1994 I began making serious photographs using digital cameras and the process was very cumbersome. RIT purchased a Kodak DCS 460 camera for $28,000 in 1997. It had 1600 pixels I seem to recall. It was very exciting and complicated with SCSI addresses and centronix ports, etc.

One thing that has not changed during this transitions is the physics and process for using optics and apertures effectively. Many practitioners of science photography are misinformed about the role of aperture and focal length in the creation of the zone of focus or depth of field. The following is an example I made reproducing the seminal work of Henry Lou Gibson in which the zone of focus using a 60mm, 100mm and 200mm lens does not change when compared other images produced with a similar aperture across the lenses. What does change is the working distance - the distance between the object and the lens.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Photograph Tiny Things, a TEDx event.

This morning I mentioned that I have been focused on photographing tiny things. In February, I was invited to a TEDx event. You can hear my 10 minute presentation by following this link


Re-discovering photography

During the past few months I have re-discovered photography. That seems odd for a photography professor but it is true. My job took me away from the picture making process for the better part of the last 3 years. As a direct consequence of my winter past time, snowflake photography, I have been motivated to again make new pictures. This has been exciting. I have also taken to promoting my work in the spirit of, "I take pictures of very tine things".

Below is a new photograph I made this week exploring how various pharmaceuticals look under magnification using polarized light. It is a slow process to coax crystals out from the various compounds and much like snowflakes, the outcome is very random. I hope you enjoy.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hidden Beauty Exploring the Aesthetics of Medical Science

It has been a long time since I posted to this BLOG but this week I wrote a book review and it seemed like a good time to get back on board with this activity.

Hidden Beauty
Exploring the Aesthetics of Medical Science

By Norman Barker and Christine Iacobuzio- Donahue
Foreword by Bert Vogelstein
Schiffer Publishing

ISBN 978-0-7643-4412-1

Size 8.5 x 11;  113 - color and b/w reproductions

232 pages;  hard cover

Hidden Beauty, written by Norman Barker and Christine Iacobuzio- Donahue is nothing short of spectacular.  Its release is timely and features medical as something different than the intentions of their original creation might have considered. It has been handsomely designed and focused to the general public in a non-medical way but still contains images that are absolute scientific medical facts. When scientific images are viewed outside the environment from which they were created, they often are viewed using different perspectives. No longer is the subject the subject, but rather the structure, design, contrast and other graphical elements become the focal point.  Because of their uniqueness, images from medicine when viewed by the general public who have no frame of reference become simply powerful colors, designs or abstract shapes.  If any of the images in this book included scales, they would immediately be defined as scientific but without scales, they become something else. Elegant, beautiful or compelling become part of the conversation rather than the diagnosis. The images included in this book play off the power of the human imagination and are very exciting to interact with on many levels for readers.  Many images in the book offer to surprise readers exploring the unknown. The duplicity of such images can be often hidden until brought out through projects such as this. Hidden Beauty includes a carefully considered range of images. The image selections by Barker and Iacobuzio- Donahue are complete and excellent examples of imaging technologies both prevalent and relevant today. There are also examples of those technologies that are evolving into the 21st century.  The image choices do not leave the viewer wishing there was more. It provided a complete satisfying and immersive viewing experience for me while perusing the 232 pages.
The book’s treatment of content and captions is excellent. Each image is accompanied by a text passage and is written so that you do not need to be a trained medical professional to understand the subject. The captions are thorough and complete enough to satisfy one’s curiosity but not too long. It is evident that great care was taken in how they were crafted. I particularly like the elegant layout and treatment of the images. The book is easy to relate to. Everyone knows someone who has been touched by many of the diseases contained within the book.
Hidden Beauty represents a powerful example of the interface of applied arts and science.  Each page-spread shares a fascinating image and relevant science facts in non-scientific ways. With the rise of the Internet and other electronic media tools, there is currently an insatiable appetite for electronic images worldwide.  People are very curious about "cool"  and not frequently observed things. This book sits firmly in that category. That being shared, there still remains no good substitute for beautiful four-color reproductions that feature extraordinary and unique images. Very few digital images displayed on contemporary tools can match the tonal scale and richness of well-managed ink on paper reproductions.  The book is an example of very high quality printing. Technically the book is perfect. The craft of the publisher is evident in the quality of the printing, paper and finishing. The book exhibits much attention to detail. This volume will not disappointment and would be a great addition to any library.