Human perception is based upon a continuous stream of sensory impulses that are never exactly the same - when the first photograph captured a single moment permanently the way we perceived the world changed in the same way that when we saw the first picture of the Earth from space. It was a defining moment that forced us to examine the preservation of a single view of a captured reality. Since that moment photography has been extended by new scientific discoveries and approaches to push forward our understanding of the world around us in ways that our 'normal' vision does not permit.
There are incalculable benefits of scientific photography in industry, medicine, forensics and defense. In the natural science every branch of it has been fundamentally enhanced by images that allow us to extend our limited vision by the use of specialized techniques. The most obvious of these include high speed photography to capture an instant such as the falling of a droplet of milk, the passing of a bullet through an apple or the spinning of a rotor blade. At the opposite end slow motion demonstrates trends in movement such as the swinging of an arm or the movement of a horses' leg.
Still other techniques extend the range of the visible light spectrum by the use of x-rays
, infrared and ultraviolet light and improved night vision cameras allow us to examine the nocturnal habits of species in ways that were not previously possible.
The use of photo microscopy allows us to go into the structure of objects, down the blood vessels and nervous systems of animals and using higher powered techniques into the atoms themselves. The advances in medical photography
and imaging, a vast topic that is not covered yet on this website, have through the works of Lennart Nilsson
and Alexander Tsiaris
revealed how the body functions with lyrical beauty.
At the macro level of astronomy
we see universes in a single image and study the inter-relationships of gravitational forces between objects. Using data visualization techniques we can create images that appear to be photographs but are in fact representations of data - the patterns revealing understanding of weather patterns or fluid dynamics in fascinating and novel ways.
Putting these points together we can see:
- The normal world
- The microscopic world
- The macroscopic world (Aerial photography and Astronomy)
- The unseeable world of medicine (inside the body - X-ray images and medical imaging systems)
- The capturing of Movement
- Patterns in data (data visualization)
We have come to accept the fantastic as normal and ask for images from inside our bodies as if we always could. Scientific photography continues to amaze me with the same sense of awe I had when I first saw those milk droplets of Harold Edgerton