Posts Tagged photography

More microscope pr0n winners announced aimee whitcroft Dec 18

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I’ve posted before about the Nikon Small World’s microscopy/photography competition. Today, however, focuses on another Maker of Excellent Photographic Equipment – Olympus.

Olympus BioScapes 2012 Winners Gallery

For the last 10 years (says the website), Olympus has been sponsoring an international microscopy (i.e.photographing things with a microscope) competition – The Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition – and this year’s winners have just been announced.Over 2,000 images were submitted this year, so the achievement is certainly an impressive one!

You can see this year’s extraordinary winning images, and the runners-up (Honourable Mentions, that is), here. Interestingly, the first place is a video – of rotifers, no less – rather than a simple photograph. I’d recommend this lovely article from MSNBC’s Cosmic Log, which interviews the chap responsible for the 1st place winner. An excerpt:

When Grimm got the slimeball under his microscope and cranked the magnification to 200x, he couldn’t believe his eyes. “I had never seen this species of rotifer before,” he said. Rotifers are tiny animals that live primarily in fresh water and gobble up gunk.

“Forget about lunch. Don’t worry about breakfast,” he said. “This is how I spent the entire day, just filming.”

That’s just how I used to feel back in the day, spending time in the quiet, dark, cool fluorescence microscope room back at university (and the darkroom in school!) :) I still wonder, to this day, whether I should have become a microscopist…

I found it difficult choosing my faovurite photos or videos (for there’s more than one video, huzzah!). Which is your favourite?


Related posts:

Nikon’s Small World photo competition winners 2012 now out!

Science snippets

Brilliant photos of small things




Selfies with Photosynth aimee whitcroft Sep 06


A few months ago, I downloaded Microsoft’s Photosynth app for my iPhone.


Now, before you all start shouting ‘Booooo!’, I’d like to point out that Photosynth has been around for a while, and is a pretty cool and clever piece of tech. Also, the app is a joy to use.

Another reason I’ve been playing with Photosynth, other than knowing about it for yonks and being overjoyed when I saw it as an app, is that I _like_ the idea that one can upload one’s synths into a global map containing other people’s too, as well as explore other synths.

However, today I discovered an interesting weakness.  It all started when I thought – ‘ooh, lemme try taking a selfie, as I almost never manage to take any decent ones!’. Next thought was then ‘oooh – what about a 3d synth selfie?!’. And then: the weirdness :P

While the app is awesome if the photo taker is at the centre of the panorama being taken, it handles things rather less well when the photo taker _is_ the panorama being taken.

Essentially, if one thinks of oneself as being the centre of a sphere, it’s very good at taking photos of the shell of the sphere, but not its core.

So, below, a couple of examples, just to show what I mean!

First, one that worked.  This is the view from Greta Point, looking out across the bays (Wellington harbour on your left, the airport on your right). Also, Wellington is gorgeous, yes.


Greta Point, Wellington. Click on the image to get to the full, interactive, 3D synth. Credit: aimee whitcroft


And now, one that worked less well, with me at the centre.  Yes, this is me.  Taken exactly the same way, I might add, just with the camera facing _into_ the sphere rather than _out_ of it.


aimee whitcroft, taken at Greta Point, Wellington. Click on the image to get to the full, interactive, 3D synth. Credit: aimee whitcroft


Also, I tried it a couple of times of the bus, and same thing!

For those who doubt that I don’t look like some sort of exploded Picasso-type thing, here’s the proof :P


aimee whitcroft selfie - credit aimee whitcroft

My head – normally in one piece.


So anyway, I’ll keep playing with PS, and see how I go.  There are some more of mine here, and I am KICKING myself for not taking a bunch in Mongolia. Sigh.

OMG! Earth photography pr0n aimee whitcroft Jan 26


Thank you, NASA, for once again providing really beautiful imagery.

Fresh off the boat off the orbiting device*, a gorgeous ‘blue marble’ photograph of the little planet upon the surface of which we sail through our ever-expanding universe**.

'Blue Marble'. Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

'Blue Marble'. Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

As NASA says:

This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed ‘Suomi NPP’ on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin.

The best bit? You can look at it in a bunch of different resolutions. My favourite being, of course, 8000 x 8000.


And yes, to those of you who point out that this is a puny 64 megapixel image – we do, indeed, have gigapixel images.  Being used, if nothing else, for crowd surveillance (oh, goody) as well as nature/landscape/cityscape photography.  But that doesn’t detract at all, in my opinion, from the beauty of _this_ image.

And, for those interested, here’s a 26 gigapixel image.  Enjoy :)


Related note: hooray to NASA for releasing work like this under a Creative Commons license! Well done, guys – you’re on the Light side of the Force :)


* The VIIRS instrument aboard Suomi NPP, which is NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite. The satellite’s purpose is to collect data for improving our understanding of both short-term weather and long-term climactic change, amongst other things, and the VIIRS (Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite) is the ‘biggest and most important’ of the five instruments aboard.

** Yup, it’s not, as some of you have already surmised, this.

Science snippets aimee whitcroft Oct 10

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As my ‘Read Later’ list in Diigo acquires not only its own gravity well, but, at this point, its own set of physics laws, a post pointing to a couple of fun snippet-based science thingummies.

The winners of this year's Nikon Small World competition

The winners of this year's Nikon Small World competition

The first is, of course, that this week’s TOSP is out.  It covers everything from nanotech to transhumanism, space skiing to forensic science, the Nobels to the, well, Ig Nobels (and some of the appalling scientific blunders made by people who are part of that first illustrious crowd).

And, as I noticed last week but then completely forgot to blog: this year’s Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition results are out.  W000000!

Every year, people around the world send in the images they taken, in which they point Magnificent Magnification Machines at objects (flora, fauna and mineral), and record the results. Photographically.  Not only are the images stunning, but truly educational, too, allowing us to see far beyond the limits of the rather average orbs with which we get through our day to day lives.

The official website’s here, and the Boston Globe’s excellent photography blog, The Big Picture, has the results here.  Of course, Wired got in there, too (it’s where I first saw the results) :)

An ant's head - one of the winners of this year's Nikon Small Worlds competition.  Credit: Jan Michels, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Germany

An ant's head - one of the winners of this year's Nikon Small Worlds competition. Credit: Jan Michels, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Germany

UPDATE:  Oh, yeah.  I also just got sent this wonderful map, showing metrication (by year) of the countries of the world.  Note which countries have yet to adopt it :)


Related posts

Brilliant photos of small things

Intermission: engineering photo contest

spacepr0n: the Discovery’s cockpit aimee whitcroft Aug 08

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A quickie, but a fantastic one nonetheless.



During its decomissioning, the Space Shuttle Discovery had one of those cool 360 degree virtual photos done, which means one can browse around the cockpit* and look at everything.  As if you were there, but minus the uncomfortable spacesuit.

Discovery was the third shuttle to join NASA’s fleet – it did so in 1983 – and had such awesome achievements as being the shuttle which lifted the Hubble Space Telescope into space.

After spending some 352 days in space over the course of its career, Discovery’s final flight – STS-131 – took  science racks to the International Space Station.  It was retired in March 2011, a few months before the shutdown of NASA’s space shuttle programme.

Click on the image above to go have fun.

Related posts:

Stunning video of STS-131 launch


* read: fantasise happily about pressing ALL the buttons.

And HT @rambling_matt for the link :)

Brilliant photos of small things aimee whitcroft Oct 21

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Being a large fan of all things small, particularly when one is able to take photos of them, I bring you this:

Credit: Jocelyn Chang. An image of a bryozoa, from the Nikon Small World competition (2010)

Credit: Jocelyn Chang. An image of a bryozoa, from the Nikon Small World competition (2010)

Yes, the results for this year’s Nikon Small World competition are in.  Each year, the competition takes in entries of the best microscopy on the web, and then hurls awards at the ones it likes the most.

Or something.

I remember spending hours happily closeted with a very large and expensive fluorescent  microscope, taking perdy pictures of the neural cells with which I was playing for my Honours degree.  At the time, my supervisor mentioned that microscopists were in increasing demand overseas, and whenever I see images like this, I wonder whether I should have become one of these.

After all, it’s photography with science.  Two of my bestest things.

So, what’s your favourite image?


I also came across this fabulous video of an octopus being very balletic…

YouTube Preview Image

Why science denial is so very dangerous aimee whitcroft Apr 14


I heart TED – something to which I’m sure I’ve confessed in past.


This morning, I got a fantastic email with some of the latest talks to be posted on TED.

michael specterWhile they’re all (of course) brilliant, I’ll make special mention of a talk, entitled ‘The danger of science denial‘, by New Yorker writer Michael Specter.  Not himself someone with a science background, he talks about how researching stories led him to be at first bemused, and then appalled, at the growing tide of anti-science feeling both in the US and beyond its borders.

He speaks movingly about the herbal, anti-vaccine and the anti-GM movements, amongst other things, and opines (I believe correctly) that believing in ‘magic’ – including unproven herbal remedies – rather than evidence can lead people down a path they don’t want to go.  The perfect example of this path is, perhaps, the behaviour shown by South Africa’s previous president Thabo Mbeki.

[Our dearly beloved president at the time decided to fly in the face of all evidence (sound familiar, anyone), and denied that HIV was the cause of AIDS.  Brilliant move.  He then, (in conjunction with the country's health minister) refused to promote the use of antiretrovirals, instead promoting the benefits of garlic, beetroot, and one or two other veggies.  I'm sure you can imagine the horror of my lecturer  at the time Ed Rybicki* and fellow students at this behaviour - it's estimated to have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of South Africans.]

Another example?  Not using GM to improve crops which the third world could use to feed itself.

Michael’s very much of the opinion that, if we’re not careful, not only could science denialism lead to problems such as a resurgence of diseases such as measles** and, terrifyingly, polio, but it could also prevent humanity carrying out some of the science we’ll need to in the future.  And, given the future we’re currently facing, I’m very much of the opinion that the more useful science we can do, the better.

I see hope for us, as does he, but it’s conditional hope…

Other brilliant talks out this week on TED:

Pollen grains are fascinating – many of us have seen extreme close-up photos of pollen grains, but Jonathan Drori expands on the topic, showing just how diverse they are under the lens of a microscope.

Robots are doing it for themselves – Dennis Hong tells us about seven very different all-terrain robots, all of whom however are unified by being award-winning.

Photographs which shaped history – photographs do more than just document history, as Jonathan Klein shows in a presentation demonstrating the effect a truly powerful image can have.

And, for the more artily-inclined – Natalie Merchant combines ‘near-forgotten 19th century poetry’ with, well, an almost old-fashioned voice, to do something quite melodic, and definitely worth listening to.


* Ed’s a well-known expert on HIV, and blogs at ViroBlogy and Retroid Raving.

** The anti-vaccine movement in New Zealand is already having an effect, with measles – a disease which is seldom fatal but can cause disfigurement and even blindness – on the rise.

Would you like something scanned with an electron microscope? aimee whitcroft Feb 22

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Of course you would!  Who wouldn’t?

SEM pollen

And have it you can.  As I came into the work this morning, blearily clearing emails as I attempted to mainline some caffeine, I came upon an email most arresting.

From an American company, ASPEX, it said that the company in question had a bit of an offer going at the moment: anyone who sent them a sample could have it photographed, for free, using a scanning electron microscope* (SEM).  The campaign, entitled Send Us Your Sample, takes your sample, makes stunning pictures using said sample, and posts them online for the whole world to see.  And marvel at.

And they’ll send you an email as well, just so you know it’s up.

Now, for those of us in New Zealand, I’d suggest being a little careful in choosing your sample – I have a sneaking suspicion that anything plant/animal-related might get stopped.  For obvious reasons. Luckily, biological stuff isn’t the only thing that looks brilliant under SEM: just about anything does.

Extra: boring anecdote about personal use of SEM

Sadly, I have lost the images I took during my degree’s third year.  Well, I haven’t lost them, but they’re in a book (probably) in Dubai.  Probably.  Anyway, it was great good fun to play with.  We were looking at actinomycetes, and in particular, were hoping to to find a novel antitubercular one.  We didn’t.

For the uninitiated, actinomycetes are found in soils, generally floating about, and on your bread when it goes a little postal.  That blue fluffy mould stuff?  That’s actually a type of bacteria:  the actinomyctes.  They come in a range of different flavours, though, and I had great fun watching the wars that broke out between competing groups on my petri dishes.  I think my favourites were the black fluffy colonies which hung out, alone, at the fringe of the petri dish.  Apparently, goth-like behaviour isn’t limited to human beings…

And as for the antitubercular bit?  Well, actinomycetes are most famous for their ability to produce antibiotics.  Like penicillin (that blue bread mould again).  And antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis is a major issue in Africa.  Hence looking for a new one.

Anyway, at the end of it all we needed to take pictures of our chosen actinomycete, with an SEM.  This was quite an interesting challenge, as we were trying to take nice clear pictures of the tiiiiiiiny filaments which make up the structure thereof.  The only problem being, that focusing too intently on a filament would destroy it – they’re actually fragile enough that a beam of electrons would destroy them!  Fun stuff.

* If you’d like to see what  cool machines look like in real life, have a look at some of ASPEX’s Scanning Electron Microscope range.

Stunning science imagery Pt I aimee whitcroft Feb 03


Presents for your visual systems today… And we’ll be presenting two different people who’re merging science and visuals in new, and quite effective, ways.

xkcd: Fourier

xkcd: Fourier

I know I have a previous post somewhere (probably on my old blog) about engineering photos as well, but I thought I’d start afresh.

So, first up (because I saw it first), is this fantastic imagery, generated by acoustics engineer Mark Fischer (article here).

Fourier Transform (FT) maths is normally used to analyse sound.  It has its limitations, however: it doesn’t handle more complex sounds very well, often turning elements into noise.

And a perfect example of these kind of complex sounds are the calls of whales and dolphins.  And birds.  So Fischer has begun using another method: wavelets.  This is great – not only does it give a far more accurate and detailed map of the sounds/elements in the calls, but the pictures are perdy.  Seriously.  So perdy, in fact, that he’s able to sell them as art.

Hooray for interdisciplinarianism.

Up next is this.  Again, one of those almost ‘duh’ moments, except you have to be a mathematician, a photograher, and a little bit on the artsy side to have the thought.

Still, it works.  Nikki Graziano overlays graphs and their corresponsing questions onto photographs she’s taken which illustrate the equation/graph in question.  Of course, the cool thing about being a mathematician is that she doesn’t need to draw the graph and then prowl the streets looking for an analogous image – instead, she’s able to take photos and then fit the maths to them.

Interesting stuff.  I continue to be unimpressed that I’m not one of Nature’s mathematicians…

Absolutely stunning: 100 days in Glacier National Park aimee whitcroft Dec 10

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I came across this stunning set of photos while trawling teh intertubes earlier today.
(Click on picture to go to website)

Western Tanager (Day 50)
Credit: Chris Peterson 2009

It’s a series of photos taken over 100 consecutive days in Glacier National Park (in the US). The photos were taken by Glacier Park Magazine editor Chris Peterson, and are quite something.

Says the blurb:

“When the project is complete, it will be a traveling show in 2010 to commemorate Glacier’s Centennial. I’m using a mix of film and digital cameras, including an 8 by 10 field camera, a Kodak Pocket Vest camera, circa 1909, and a Speed Graphic, among others. The idea is to use the cameras that would have been used over the course of the Park’s 100 years. Day-to-day work is done primarily with a Nikon digital camera, since I only process film about once a week due to time constraints (I have a regular job on top of this project).”

I guess I’m posting them up having been inspired by fellow Sciblogger (and ardent wildlife photographer) Brendan Moyle.

P.s. I reckon your photos are just as awesome, Brendan…

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