Working for the science

This week has been really crazy. Ciudad Real’s Chemistry Faculty (Spanish) has organized a symposium about young science. During three days 36 young researchers have been given the opportunity to tell what they do, how they do it and, most importantly, explaining why what they do is important. The fact that the registration was free implied the assistance of more than 125 people, which supposes a very high acceptance for a scientific local event. These events suppose a very positive effort for allowing people to get close to real science, to the real fields where people are now developing new solutions for tomorrow. Some of the topics included research against cancer, developing of new methods for the production of green and biodegradable polymers and plastics, management of industrial residues, recycling of industrial residues in order to produce new valuable products, new advances in the determination of many substances, and many other topics that will yield better solutions to actual problems.

I have been designated as the main photographer of the event by the organization staff, which means a lot of work. Non photographers usually think that after the pictures are taken, the work is done. But the real thing is that once you reach home, you have to download all material (this year have been almost 33 GB in pictures), classify them, correct their color, sharpness and framing, and finally distribute them to the interested people. The point that the illumination is not constant and the flash has some variations along time makes the processing more laborious, as batch processing is impossible. It is necessary to process all pictures on their own in order to get the best possible values for each one of them.

This kind of events doesn’t provide very artistic pictures, as usually a direct and explanatory approach is desired. The main target is their use for internal promotion (as advertising the next year event or promoting the faculty for new students) and to be used in the report published in the faculty’s magazine (Spanish. Usually month of May, this year will be in June). Illumination conditions are usually poor and the use of hard light is a necessity more than an option. Still, I think I might have a couple of pictures enough artistic to be published, if I get the permission for it. I will work on this topic a little bit.

If you have the opportunity to participate in an event of this style in your city, I highly recommend it. It’s an easy and fun way to know the efforts that many young people are doing every day to increase our life quality, and it is also a good way of learning a little bit of science. Also, for those researchers exposing, knowing that you are interested in their work can be a real confidence boost and might increase their motivation to keep working on such hard fields.

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!