Monday, 14 July 2014

Simon Weir infrared images of Yellowstone Park

I've occasionally dipped into the infrared work of Simon Weir, who self-published a book of infrared landscapes a couple of years ago and takes fine infrared landscapes. Besides his own web site he is working extensively with Fuji X System cameras and has a blog devoted to that work. I mention this because he's taken an IR-modified Fuji X-E1 to Yellowstone National Park and achieved some stunning images.

Of course you can't think Yellowstone and photography without considering Ansel Adams. He wrote, in 'The Negative', that the haze penetration and bright foliage in an infrared image "does not necessarily achieve more than a superficially startling effect". He did take some infrared photographs, but I don't recall any of Yellowstone. Adams's comment on infrared photography may seem dismissive but he went on to "freely acknowledge that, in imaginative hands, infrared film can produce magnificent images." I think Simon's shots from Yellowstone fit that bill.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Animals as thermal 'detectors'

Thermal imaging cameras being as expensive as they are, it's interesting to see how observation of animal behaviour can provide clues to some aspects of temperature distribution in the environment. The classic is how to detect that a car has only recently arrived at a property ... if you can't touch the bonnet (hood). A thermal camera will show a warm spot on the bonnet, or (in classic detective mode) you might see that a cat has decided to lie there. Pigeons can also be useful detectors. You will often see birds roosting on top of one building in a group and this is often simply because that roof is warmer; either because of a local heat source such as an air outlet or because that roof is less insulated than the others. Snow will fulfil the same function.

A similar, but inverse, phenomenon has been observed by researchers in Australia. They were using thermal imaging to study how koalas regulate their body temperature, given the hot climate. Hugging trees was one mechanism, the tree trunk being cooler than the surroundings. The animals were observed moving from the top leaves where they feed in winter down to cooler parts of the tree in summer. Conveniently this would provide a perch where the koala could either lie spread on top of a shady branch (as some big cats are seen to do) or wedge themselves in a junction between a large branch and the trunk. Thermal imaging revealed how the koala uses the tree trunk and/or branch as a heat sink.

The study is published (freely accessible) in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters [Biol. Lett. June 2014 vol. 10 no. 6 20140235] and you can read (and see) more on the BBC web site which also outlines other research into how animals can exploit microclimates in trees and other means to combat high temperatures.

Similar themes can be explored from an earlier blog post on toucans and trees.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


As I was in the West End last week I went over to the new Photographers Gallery just off Oxford Street to have a look at Richard Mosse's extraordinary infrared photographs from the Congo (see the previous post). The good news is they look stunning in the huge prints on show. I was very surprised by just how small the grain in the film is, so I have to assume the aerochrome was actually developed using the 'correct' aerochrome process rather than the E6 most of us used. The bad news is that there are only a handful of the prints on display and I had hoped to see more.

So, I went down to the bookshop in the basement and chatted with the very helpful sales assistant. I had hoped to get a copy of either of the books of Mosse's photos but that was not to be. They are completely sold out, not just at the Gallery but everywhere it seems, and are now selling for high prices.

Despite being disappointed by this (and kicking myself for not buying his Infra book online from Aperture when I could) I got to thinking that this took the book into the realm of photographic collectors items. They may well be the first books of infrared photography to truly get there, and prize-winning photography at that. I know there are a couple of other IR photo books that go for high prices but I think these are in a class of their own.

Changing wavelength, I am getting a little worried that FLIR's inexpensive iPhone add-on thermal camera may be having difficulties. The general consensus in the Apple rumour mill is that the iPhone 6 will be along soon and will have a larger form factor. This means that the FLIR One, as publicised, will be designed to use an obsolescent smart phone body. I still hope that the promise it showed when previewed at CES in January will be realised and it would definitely be a game changer for a wider use of thermal imaging.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Richard Mosse: Börse and London

Great to see that Richard Mosse won the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for 2014 for the Enclave, colour infrared photographs he took in the Congo and exhibited in the Irish Pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale.

His photos are now on show in London, which is close enough that I may at last get to see them. They're at the Photographers Gallery until June 22nd.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

All About Imaging: Transactions

All About Imaging: Transactions, according to its agenda, is an interdisciplinary symposium exploring new directions in contemporary imaging from the perspectives of art, science and technology. It takes place at the University of Westminster Harrow campus on May 22nd and 23rd.

I note it here mainly because of a session on day one which includes a presentation on 'Imaging the invisible in medicine' by Professor Francis Ring. Prof Ring is one of the pioneers of thermal imaging, with a special interest in medical applications.

That said, there is much of interest, including the opening of the RPS PRS International Images for Science 2103 exhibition on the 22nd. The full schedule and more information can be found on the university's web site. Members of the Royal Photographic Society are entitled to a discounted registration fee.