A fluorescent job

I just came out from a scientific photography session at university. Almost a year ago I took a series of pictures about the fluorescence exhibited by some chemical compounds and how it was affected by oxygen. This work resulted in many scientific pictures, which have been published on some posters at scientific congresses, but also in an artistic one: The Fluor Rainbow. Though the picture was taken on May, it was not publicly released until November, for a contest that required the pictures to be novel (didn’t won). Today, I did the same session, with a new compound, in order to complete that previous job for a future thesis (and perhaps a poster).

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Perhaps not the classiest scenario for a photography session, but it cannot be seen in the dark and the samples didn’t complain about it.

Working with ultraviolet light is not always easy, as you are working with a part of the light spectrum that is not visible to the eye. Adjusting power on the source and exposure on the camera requires some experience, patience and a bit of practice working in dark environments. The reason is that if there is visible light on the room (any “normal light”) the environmental light will easily exceed the illumination produced on the vial and the light that it emits will be unnoticed. But once you have shut off all visible lights the magic happens: a normal camera can’t capture UV light so you can flood all the room with it if you want, and the effect that causes on the sample is bold in the visible part of the spectrum: a very bright glow in yellow (today; other times in different colors) in the sample. The net effect is a tiny vial filled with a liquid, in the middle of the dark, glowing like a light bulb.

After more than 45 minutes of work I have reached a very pleasing sequence of pictures of the fluorescence decaying as the oxygen dissolves in the sample, in a very graphical way. A very satisfactory session, in my opinion. I celebrated it trying to “hunt” some blackbirds on my way home in a near park… Still don’t know if I got some decent picture (perhaps I can’t be lucky twice on the same day).

The final result of this work will be published in my gallery in a while, when the main use of the pictures is completed. But meanwhile, here is a gallery about some work I have previously done with ultraviolet light. Stay tuned for updates!

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