Monday, 7 November 2016

Two years to James Webb ... and counting

Once upon a time infrared was regarded as being the new astronomy. There was even a book of that title, published in 1975 and written by David A Allen. By 2014, and David L Clements' book Infrared Astronomy - Seeing the Heat, infrared was dominating the field. No longer the new astronomy, now it is astronomy.


As the BBC news web site pointed out, last week marked two years until the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). This is the replacement for Hubble, and is a much more powerful/sensitive device. The mirrors and optical components are now assembled and ready to be tested. It's a reflector. Radiation hits the main mirror, 6.5 metres across, is then reflected and focussed onto a much smaller secondary mirror in front of the main one and then reflected onto sensors at the centre of the main mirror. You can see this in the photo above.

The JWST will be sensitive to wavelengths long enough to see back to the early days of the universe. It's basic doppler effect: as the sources of light move away from us at increasing speed, the light we see from them lengthens in wavelength towards red and beyond (hence red-shift). Because the universe is expanding, the further away from us an object is, the faster it is moving away from us. [Good pub question: where is the centre of the observable universe? Answer: where you are.]


This is one of its sensors, for NIRCam - 2048 by 2048 pixels for near infrared wavelengths between 0.6 and 5 microns (600 and 5000 µm).

NIRCam is one of four instruments: NIRCam, NIRSpec, NIRSS and MIRI. MIRI images wavelengths between 5 and 28.5 microns with a resolution of 1024 by 1024 pixels. This is a gross oversimplification, and sections 20 to 23 of Nasa'a scientific FAQ give much more information about the cameras.

If you're interested in more fine detail about the NIR system, then try this NIRCam Instrument Overview paper from the University of Arizona. Nasa has a set of web pages, Explore the James Webb Space Telescope, with copious resources.

[Photos courtesy of Nasa]

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Ron Rosenstock

Just a quick post to draw your attention to the work of Ron Rosenstock. He's an American photographer who is a follower of Ansel Adams (which really shows in his photos) and was a student of Minor White. A solid provenance.

He does take other kinds of image but he does have a significant body of work in infrared, which I'm just starting to explore. He has produced a book called The Invisible Light, which reminds me I still have to do some work on my site of that name.

Ron's web site is www.ronrosenstock.com.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Unseen book launch in London on Thursday

Ed Thompson's fascinating book, The Unseen, which I recently wrote up, is being launched this week. Unusually, the do is an open house and might provide an opportunity for an infrared get-together ... I certainly plan to go.

The place is the Photographers Gallery Bookshop, 16-18 Ramillies St, London W1F 7LW. You might know this as that street with steps at the end leading down from Oxford Street. Timing is between 1800 and 2000 on Thursday 27th October. Ed says ...
"I will be holding a free raffle and giving away prints, original spreads from the book when it was printed and other cool rare stuff to do with the project."
Coincidentally, last time I went to the Photographers Gallery was to see some of Richard Mosse's infrareds from the Congo ... but in that case the book was unobtainable.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Simon Marsden exhibition in Chelsea (London)

If you are heading down the Kings Road between October 28th and November 4th, I recommend you drop in at number 259. That's the shop and gallery of Green and Stone and they are hosting an exhibition of Simon Marsden's infrared photographs.

Being a Kings Road gallery it's also an opportunity to buy a print from the ever diminishing stock of prints made by Sir Simon himself ... or books (some signed), the 2017 calendar, or cards. (I will admit, sadly, that my wallet tends more towards the latter.) I have to admit that besides the print of Moydrum Castle he kindly loaned to the RPS for inclusion in our Infrared 100 exhibition, I have not seen any of his prints 'in the flesh', and he always saw the printing as a key part of his work. Both composer and player, as Ansel Adams might have said.

Opening hours are 0900 to 1800 weekdays, 0930 to 1800 on Saturday and even 1200 to 1800 on the Sunday. There is also a late night opening on November 2nd until 1930 (maybe see you there?). The Green and Stone shop has been in Chelsea for almost 90 years and started life within the Chenil Gallery (apparently situated between Chelsea Town Hall and the Six Bells pub), whose directors were Augustus John and Bernard Shaw, before moving to the present site opposite Carlyle Square in 1934.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

World’s first near-infrared feature film

I've known for a while that the Red digital cinema camera could take great monochrome infrared moving images. For the past few years film makers Glen Ryan and James van der Moezel of silver dory productions in Australia have been working on a tour de force movie to exploit this, called BRINDABELLAS | edge of light .


It's probably best I let the film makers describe what they set out to achieve ...
BRINDABELLAS | edge of light is an immersive cinematic journey through the sky and landscapes of the Canberra region of Australia – in particular the Brindabella Ranges. The film focuses on the interplay of mountain light, air and water as these elements are transformed across the seasons – from clouds to mist, rain and snow – then frost and ice – and onto creeks and rivers. It explores both the wider montane vistas of the Brindabellas and the more intimate details of the natural flows that are created by these mountains and, in turn, shape the very landscapes they arise from.
The video, shot at 4K resolution, looks superb, exhibiting all the characteristics of near-infrared photography but with the added dimension of movement. The landscapes will look familiar to anyone used to taking such images, with clouds sailing majestically across ink-dark skies above Wood-effect forests, accompanied by minimalist music and effects. There used to be a common phrase in the early days of interactive video ... Every frame a Rembrandt ... and it really applies here.


But there are more than landscapes. The area's wildlife is included. Here's where something extraordinary appears, an unusual feature of an unusual movie. Insect chitin, the substance of which much of their bodies is made, has long been known to be transparent at near infrared wavelengths. You can see this demonstrated clearly, and in minute macroscopic detail, in parts of this movie. Not just chitin either, I wasn't aware that caterpillars might become transparent (or at least translucent).

The film is in 22 chapters, covering five seasons (two summers bookend the production) and you can watch it in up to 4K quality via the production website, YouTube or Vimeo. My 5K iMac can display the 4K movies, given a following broadband wind, and they look superb (although I haven't gone all the way through as yet). Another Koyaanisqatsi perhaps?

PS: Silver Dory have also produced a book/monograph of the project. Selling out fast, apparently.