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Matinee: Ted Kinsman's Science Photography Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

11 October 2014

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the fifty-fourth in our series of Saturday matinees today: Ted Kinsman's Science Photography.

In this eight-minute segment from an unindentified science show, photographer Ted Kinsman discusses his time-lapse and high-speed science photography.

When this piece was produced in 2003, Kinsman taught high school physics at Brighton High School in Rochester, N.Y. Today you can find him at Kinsman Physics Productions, where he has published a Time Lapse Photography FAQ explaining some of the techniques he developed. In 2003, not much of this was done digitally, but in 2011, which was the the 14th year of updating his FAQ, he wrote:

With all the advances in digital cameras there is more to write about than ever. I will attempt to get across the fundamentals of working with digital cameras in the new chapter completely devoted to digital time-lapse.

Kinsman got into science photography when his study of optics at Monroe Community College led to writing for science publications. But he quickly discovered that science photography paid as much if not more than the writing, so he changed hats.

To capture his time-lapse and high-speed images, he built his own computer-controlled camera and lighting system to do his science photography. Don't smirk at the clouds flying overhead behind him early in the video. That's not 2003-era video kitsch. It's a Kinsman's time-lapse.

Some of the challenges he discusses include:

  • Soap film sequences of fluid and intense color
  • Thermal imaging (of an elephant) with previously restricted military technology
  • Floral time-lapse imaging using the computer to control the climate and lighting. A stem of lilies turns out to be the perfect time-lapse shot when all the flowers bloomed at the same time one morning.
  • A water drip series showing high-speed photography combined with time-lapse imaging which shows a series of drips captured in exactly the same mid-air position against a blooming flower
  • How do you capture blood going through veins? Kinsman goes through some gruesome microscopy options before pointing out the easy way: photographing a goldfish's tail.
  • Microscopy snowflake imaging, which took years to develop a system he was happy with.

Kinsman uses his fascinating images to bring people to science. "It's a neat way of educating people," he says. And he isn't shy about telling you how the magic is done either.

"Are they art? I'll leave that up to the artists," he defers. "To me, it's just cool science."

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