Posts tagged as science

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"Dude check out this rad metal tank of science"
The scene: Grad student Marvin Seibert makes some “adjustments” behind a stainless steel vacuum tank that houses a one-of-a-kind set of silicon mirrors used to focus a beam of X-ray laser light. The tank was installed by the manufacturer of the mirrors at SLAC’s LCLS X-ray laser facility in the summer of 2011 for its first ever test drive.
The shot: Canon 5D mk II, 17-35mm f/2.8L @ f/7.1. 160th sec exposure, ISO 800. My typical M-O in the research hutches at the lab: backlight. Used a Speedlite 580EX directly behind the tank (set to manual, 1/4 power) on a stand with a Gary Fong Lightsphere diffuser pointed at the ceiling, and a similar unit on the camera as an optical trigger. Typically I run the trigger as low as it will go (1/128 power) so as to have no influence on the shot, but this time around I bumped it up to 1/16th power and angled it at the tank for frontside fill.
I do get a fair amount of pushback from researchers who hate “making fake science” for a shot like this, but Marvin is always a good sport. You’ll see more of him in posts to come.

"Dude check out this rad metal tank of science"

The scene: Grad student Marvin Seibert makes some “adjustments” behind a stainless steel vacuum tank that houses a one-of-a-kind set of silicon mirrors used to focus a beam of X-ray laser light. The tank was installed by the manufacturer of the mirrors at SLAC’s LCLS X-ray laser facility in the summer of 2011 for its first ever test drive.

The shot: Canon 5D mk II, 17-35mm f/2.8L @ f/7.1. 160th sec exposure, ISO 800. My typical M-O in the research hutches at the lab: backlight. Used a Speedlite 580EX directly behind the tank (set to manual, 1/4 power) on a stand with a Gary Fong Lightsphere diffuser pointed at the ceiling, and a similar unit on the camera as an optical trigger. Typically I run the trigger as low as it will go (1/128 power) so as to have no influence on the shot, but this time around I bumped it up to 1/16th power and angled it at the tank for frontside fill.

I do get a fair amount of pushback from researchers who hate “making fake science” for a shot like this, but Marvin is always a good sport. You’ll see more of him in posts to come.

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Tangled Highways
The scene: SLAC’s IT “Network Architect” Antonio Ceseracciu, seen here in one of SLAC’s server rooms. Ceseracciu oversees the design work and much of the implementation associated with SLAC’s network hardware and software, making sure that different plaforms play well together. The racks pictured here contain the “core routers” that handle most of SLAC’s computer network traffic.
The shot: Canon 5D MkII, 17-35 f/2.8L @ 17mm f/6.3. 1/125th sec exposure, ISO 100. This shoot called for “people shots” of the SLAC Computing/Network group for a new website. Server rooms aren’t very photogenic, so when I saw this tangle of network cables I knew I had to take advantage. Antonio was very cooperative with my experimenting and trying to get just the right angle. In this case, following on the principle that a person seen “through” something or over something or behind something is always more eye-catching, I hunkered myself back into one of the open racks and used my widest lens to shoot through the mesh door. As for lights, I used a Pocket-Wizard-triggered Speedlite 580EX at camera left, pointed at the ceiling for some bounce/fill onto the cables; a 600 watt/sec monobloc light in slave mode with a green gel pointed at the floor just behind Antonio; and a Speedlite 580EX with a grid on a tall stand just behind Antonio’s left—you can see the light burst through his eyeglasses where the flash head is barely visible. The real trick was getting Antonio into a position so that his face can be seen within his shadow on the mesh door. 

Tangled Highways

The scene: SLAC’s IT “Network Architect” Antonio Ceseracciu, seen here in one of SLAC’s server rooms. Ceseracciu oversees the design work and much of the implementation associated with SLAC’s network hardware and software, making sure that different plaforms play well together. The racks pictured here contain the “core routers” that handle most of SLAC’s computer network traffic.

The shot: Canon 5D MkII, 17-35 f/2.8L @ 17mm f/6.3. 1/125th sec exposure, ISO 100. This shoot called for “people shots” of the SLAC Computing/Network group for a new website. Server rooms aren’t very photogenic, so when I saw this tangle of network cables I knew I had to take advantage. Antonio was very cooperative with my experimenting and trying to get just the right angle. In this case, following on the principle that a person seen “through” something or over something or behind something is always more eye-catching, I hunkered myself back into one of the open racks and used my widest lens to shoot through the mesh door. As for lights, I used a Pocket-Wizard-triggered Speedlite 580EX at camera left, pointed at the ceiling for some bounce/fill onto the cables; a 600 watt/sec monobloc light in slave mode with a green gel pointed at the floor just behind Antonio; and a Speedlite 580EX with a grid on a tall stand just behind Antonio’s left—you can see the light burst through his eyeglasses where the flash head is barely visible. The real trick was getting Antonio into a position so that his face can be seen within his shadow on the mesh door. 


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"Monochromate" is a verb—who knew!
The scene: Technicians assemble a monochromator at the  Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL). Monochromators are used by X-ray scientists to “tune” a high-intensity beam of X-ray light generated by a synchrotron to very specific energies, using principles akin to how a prism splits visible light into different colors. This model of monochromator uses liquid nitrogen to keep the precision crystal “prisms” inside cool—in this case, -192 C. The X-ray beam striking the prisms would otherwise heat the crystals sufficiently to cause them to warp.   This unit is being assembled for installation at the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
The shot: Canon 5D MkII, 50mm f/1.4 @ f/7.1; 1/125 sec exposure, ISO 400. The fun part about this shot was getting light sufficiently onto the components within the vacuum-chamber shell, which is split into halves (the technician on the right is “working” on the interior components). Since the unit would not slide open any farther, I used a Speedlite set on about 1/4 power with a snoot angled from above into one of the glass port holes at the top. The light bounces down and appears to come from inside the right half of the shell, spilling out and lighting the technician’s face in an interesting way. I have two other Speedlites, one behind me camera left for front-side fill, and one down low behind the technician on the left to provide the all-important backlighting.

"Monochromate" is a verb—who knew!

The scene: Technicians assemble a monochromator at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL). Monochromators are used by X-ray scientists to “tune” a high-intensity beam of X-ray light generated by a synchrotron to very specific energies, using principles akin to how a prism splits visible light into different colors. This model of monochromator uses liquid nitrogen to keep the precision crystal “prisms” inside cool—in this case, -192 C. The X-ray beam striking the prisms would otherwise heat the crystals sufficiently to cause them to warp. This unit is being assembled for installation at the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

The shot: Canon 5D MkII, 50mm f/1.4 @ f/7.1; 1/125 sec exposure, ISO 400. The fun part about this shot was getting light sufficiently onto the components within the vacuum-chamber shell, which is split into halves (the technician on the right is “working” on the interior components). Since the unit would not slide open any farther, I used a Speedlite set on about 1/4 power with a snoot angled from above into one of the glass port holes at the top. The light bounces down and appears to come from inside the right half of the shell, spilling out and lighting the technician’s face in an interesting way. I have two other Speedlites, one behind me camera left for front-side fill, and one down low behind the technician on the left to provide the all-important backlighting.

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The World’s Largest… Bug Eye Simulator?
The scene: Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource scientist Dimosthenis Sokaras tweaks one of the focus mirrors on what is currently the largest Raman spectrometer in the world. This new setup expands the lab’s capabilities in X-ray Raman and X-ray emission spectroscopy—two techniques used to analyze the organization of electrons in solids, liquids and gases.
The shot: Canon 5d MkII, 17-35 mm f/2.8L @ 17mm; 1/50th sec exposure, ISO 100. “Backlight, backlight, backlight” is the cliche in this kind of setting. Used a single gridded Speedlite at camera left to highlight Dimosthenes’ face; under the table I placed a 600 W/sec monobloc at camera left on about half power, pointed at the floor to splash up the wall to make the bug-eye mirrors really stand out. Used a similar light on the same setting at camera right, again pointed at the floor but with a green gel. Color selection is generally arbitrary—in this case I needed some reflection out of the array he’s working on to show their curved, lens-like surfaces, and the green light seemed to work best with the distorted image of the room. 

The World’s Largest… Bug Eye Simulator?

The scene: Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource scientist Dimosthenis Sokaras tweaks one of the focus mirrors on what is currently the largest Raman spectrometer in the world. This new setup expands the lab’s capabilities in X-ray Raman and X-ray emission spectroscopy—two techniques used to analyze the organization of electrons in solids, liquids and gases.

The shot: Canon 5d MkII, 17-35 mm f/2.8L @ 17mm; 1/50th sec exposure, ISO 100. “Backlight, backlight, backlight” is the cliche in this kind of setting. Used a single gridded Speedlite at camera left to highlight Dimosthenes’ face; under the table I placed a 600 W/sec monobloc at camera left on about half power, pointed at the floor to splash up the wall to make the bug-eye mirrors really stand out. Used a similar light on the same setting at camera right, again pointed at the floor but with a green gel. Color selection is generally arbitrary—in this case I needed some reflection out of the array he’s working on to show their curved, lens-like surfaces, and the green light seemed to work best with the distorted image of the room. 

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Making Chemical Maps
Staff scientist Sam Webb places a sample into an X-ray absorption experimental station at the  Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL). This endstation was used to take data for a NASA-funded experiment looking at bacteria found in Mono Lake, CA that substitute arsenic for phosphorous within their DNA.
This setup is also used by visiting researchers investigating environmental contamination and other studies that require high-resolution chemical mapping—for example, finding ways to clean up toxins in soil by first precisely identifying them, or understanding disease by pinpointing harmful compounds in samples of brain tissue.
The shot: Canon 5d MkII, 24 mm f/2.8L; 1/40 sec exposure, ISO 400. Oftentimes a scientist will wear the perfect clothes by complete coincidence… case in point here with Sam’s horizontal orange and brown stripes. The acrylic box on the right (filled with helium—air interferes with X-rays) I highlighted from below with a red gel on a 600 w/sec monobloc strobe (slave mode), positioned beneath the table and pointed at the floor. Sam is illuminated by a gridded Speedlite 550 on a Gorillapod, camera right, triggered by a Pocket Wizard II.
One of the first things I do when setting up a shot like this is turn off the overhead lights, and turn on any local point sources or indicator lights, which makes the shot more dimensional to my eye. Guides a viewer’s attention in a more interesting way. All of the light shining on the sample Sam’s holding comes from the twin fiber optic lights arcing like antennae from the black box in the background. Fiber optic lights are plentiful in the experimental hutches, and I always make sure to have them on. Same is true for a previous post, A Tale of Two Light Sources. 

Making Chemical Maps

Staff scientist Sam Webb places a sample into an X-ray absorption experimental station at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL). This endstation was used to take data for a NASA-funded experiment looking at bacteria found in Mono Lake, CA that substitute arsenic for phosphorous within their DNA.

This setup is also used by visiting researchers investigating environmental contamination and other studies that require high-resolution chemical mapping—for example, finding ways to clean up toxins in soil by first precisely identifying them, or understanding disease by pinpointing harmful compounds in samples of brain tissue.

The shot: Canon 5d MkII, 24 mm f/2.8L; 1/40 sec exposure, ISO 400. Oftentimes a scientist will wear the perfect clothes by complete coincidence… case in point here with Sam’s horizontal orange and brown stripes. The acrylic box on the right (filled with helium—air interferes with X-rays) I highlighted from below with a red gel on a 600 w/sec monobloc strobe (slave mode), positioned beneath the table and pointed at the floor. Sam is illuminated by a gridded Speedlite 550 on a Gorillapod, camera right, triggered by a Pocket Wizard II.

One of the first things I do when setting up a shot like this is turn off the overhead lights, and turn on any local point sources or indicator lights, which makes the shot more dimensional to my eye. Guides a viewer’s attention in a more interesting way. All of the light shining on the sample Sam’s holding comes from the twin fiber optic lights arcing like antennae from the black box in the background. Fiber optic lights are plentiful in the experimental hutches, and I always make sure to have them on. Same is true for a previous post, A Tale of Two Light Sources

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Chamber Physics
The scene: Scientists Mike Glownia (left) and James Cryan are showing off their workhorse experiment chamber at the joint SLAC/Stanford University PULSE Institute. Glownia’s group uses optical lasers housed in an adjoining room in conjunction with spectrometers contained inside the chamber to study the physical chemistry of gasses. Their goal is to observe and control the behavior of gas molecules on ultrafast time scales (femtoseconds), as well as to perform preliminary work on experiments that have the potential to be exported to the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). The team is currently working on ways to create 3D holographic movies of molecules in action.
The shot: Canon 5D Mk II, EF 17-35 f/2.8L lens @ 17 mm, f/7.1. ISO 800, 1/160 sec exposure. Off-camera Speedlite 580EX flash with optical slave trigger on the table directly behind the chamber at full power; triggered with an on-camera Speedlite 580EX bounced off the ceiling at about half power for fill.

Chamber Physics

The scene: Scientists Mike Glownia (left) and James Cryan are showing off their workhorse experiment chamber at the joint SLAC/Stanford University PULSE Institute. Glownia’s group uses optical lasers housed in an adjoining room in conjunction with spectrometers contained inside the chamber to study the physical chemistry of gasses. Their goal is to observe and control the behavior of gas molecules on ultrafast time scales (femtoseconds), as well as to perform preliminary work on experiments that have the potential to be exported to the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). The team is currently working on ways to create 3D holographic movies of molecules in action.

The shot: Canon 5D Mk II, EF 17-35 f/2.8L lens @ 17 mm, f/7.1. ISO 800, 1/160 sec exposure. Off-camera Speedlite 580EX flash with optical slave trigger on the table directly behind the chamber at full power; triggered with an on-camera Speedlite 580EX bounced off the ceiling at about half power for fill.

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A Precision Drag-Strip for Electrons
The scene: Looking downstream from about the halfway point in the “undulator hall” at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source X-ray laser facility. This 400-meter-long, temperature-controlled underground tunnel houses 33 end-to-end “undulators” (long cylindrical units pictured here), each containing sets of alternating magnetic poles. A 14-billion-volt beam of electrons from SLAC’s linear accelerator fires at close to the speed of light through the undulators, and the alternating magnetic fields cause the electrons to shimmy back and forth thousands of times. All this undulating shakes loose X-ray photons of incredible intensity, in pulses that are mind-bendingly fast: each pulse leaving the undulator hall lasts for about a quadrillionth of a second, with as much power as all the sunlight striking the earth compressed onto a square centimeter. 
The LCLS is the world’s first hard-X-ray “free electron” laser—i.e. the electrons used to generate light are unbound and traveling in a vacuum. Researchers are using this powerful new tool to look at how individual atoms and molecules move and behave on timescales at which they are actually doing interesting things.
The shot: I had my friend and colleague Greg Stewart (SLAC’s esteemed animator, pictured) accompany me for the shoot. We tried a number of poses of him silhouetted down the hall, and this one stood out to me because of the lightburst showing through. Canon 5D Mk II, EF 17-35 f/2.8L lens @ 22 mm, f/5.6. ISO 100, 0.8 sec exposure. Single monobloc strobe at full power (600 W/s), in frame; single hand-held, 600-watt hot light used to manually light-paint the undulator nearest the camera.

A Precision Drag-Strip for Electrons

The scene: Looking downstream from about the halfway point in the “undulator hall” at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source X-ray laser facility. This 400-meter-long, temperature-controlled underground tunnel houses 33 end-to-end “undulators” (long cylindrical units pictured here), each containing sets of alternating magnetic poles. A 14-billion-volt beam of electrons from SLAC’s linear accelerator fires at close to the speed of light through the undulators, and the alternating magnetic fields cause the electrons to shimmy back and forth thousands of times. All this undulating shakes loose X-ray photons of incredible intensity, in pulses that are mind-bendingly fast: each pulse leaving the undulator hall lasts for about a quadrillionth of a second, with as much power as all the sunlight striking the earth compressed onto a square centimeter. 

The LCLS is the world’s first hard-X-ray “free electron” laser—i.e. the electrons used to generate light are unbound and traveling in a vacuum. Researchers are using this powerful new tool to look at how individual atoms and molecules move and behave on timescales at which they are actually doing interesting things.

The shot: I had my friend and colleague Greg Stewart (SLAC’s esteemed animator, pictured) accompany me for the shoot. We tried a number of poses of him silhouetted down the hall, and this one stood out to me because of the lightburst showing through. Canon 5D Mk II, EF 17-35 f/2.8L lens @ 22 mm, f/5.6. ISO 100, 0.8 sec exposure. Single monobloc strobe at full power (600 W/s), in frame; single hand-held, 600-watt hot light used to manually light-paint the undulator nearest the camera.

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A Tale of Two Light Sources
The scene: Experimental endstation (one of two dozen or so) at the Stanford synchrotron “light source” lab SSRL. This hutch is used to examine samples of exotic materials using intense pulses of X-ray light generated by SSRL’s synchrotron particle accelerator. Here, scientist Tim Miller (pictured) and colleagues have set up a second light source—a bright green laser—that’s used to first excite the sample, followed by a zap from a pulse of X-rays just a fraction of a second later. The green light gives the sample’s molecules a kick, and the X-rays snap images of how they behave in response.  (The hair-thin beam from the laser, which is about 400 times more intense than a laser pointer, is just visible in the hi-resolution version.)
In this experiment, researchers are looking at “super-ionic nanomaterials”—compounds that can act like both a liquid and a solid on the atomic level, and which look promising for developing a new generation of battery technology.
The shot: Canon 5D Mk II, EF 17-35/f2.8 lens @ 17mm, f5.6. ISO 100, 1.6 second exposure. Three off-camera Speedlites: one wall splash behind the machine; one behind camera left, high with grid; and one directly under the plastic box on the right to make it glow. All of the visible green color is spill from the green laser.

A Tale of Two Light Sources

The scene: Experimental endstation (one of two dozen or so) at the Stanford synchrotron “light source” lab SSRL. This hutch is used to examine samples of exotic materials using intense pulses of X-ray light generated by SSRL’s synchrotron particle accelerator. Here, scientist Tim Miller (pictured) and colleagues have set up a second light source—a bright green laser—that’s used to first excite the sample, followed by a zap from a pulse of X-rays just a fraction of a second later. The green light gives the sample’s molecules a kick, and the X-rays snap images of how they behave in response.  (The hair-thin beam from the laser, which is about 400 times more intense than a laser pointer, is just visible in the hi-resolution version.)

In this experiment, researchers are looking at “super-ionic nanomaterials”—compounds that can act like both a liquid and a solid on the atomic level, and which look promising for developing a new generation of battery technology.

The shot: Canon 5D Mk II, EF 17-35/f2.8 lens @ 17mm, f5.6. ISO 100, 1.6 second exposure. Three off-camera Speedlites: one wall splash behind the machine; one behind camera left, high with grid; and one directly under the plastic box on the right to make it glow. All of the visible green color is spill from the green laser.

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Typical “Target of Opportunity”
The scene: Image of the SXR instrument at SLAC’s LCLS X-ray laser facility. Scientist Oleg Krupin (pictured) works for the European X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) group, and needed some photos of himself working on the SXR instrument for a presentation about international collaboration back home in Hamburg. I asked him to kindly stay behind for a few minutes so I could grab a few snaps of my own. “People shots” are always in demand. 
The shot: Canon 5D Mk II, 24 mm/f2.8L lens @ f3.5; 1/80 sec exposure, ISO 400. Single off-camera flash with radio trigger, behind the instrument, balanced with ambient for a dual color temperature effect.

Typical “Target of Opportunity”

The scene: Image of the SXR instrument at SLAC’s LCLS X-ray laser facility. Scientist Oleg Krupin (pictured) works for the European X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) group, and needed some photos of himself working on the SXR instrument for a presentation about international collaboration back home in Hamburg. I asked him to kindly stay behind for a few minutes so I could grab a few snaps of my own. “People shots” are always in demand. 

The shot: Canon 5D Mk II, 24 mm/f2.8L lens @ f3.5; 1/80 sec exposure, ISO 400. Single off-camera flash with radio trigger, behind the instrument, balanced with ambient for a dual color temperature effect.