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  • Finding hidden gems inside everyday images

Photonics Spectra
Dec 2010
Lynn Savage, lynn.savage@photonics.com

From manufacturers’ production lines to cell biology labs to astronomical observatories and everywhere in between, imaging technology allows us to deeply explore the universe around us. But no matter what equipment you use or what target you point at, the images you acquire certainly will offer more than you might ever expect. The photos on this page offer further proof.

The top image was taken by Louis J.M. Daguerre, creator of the photographic process now known as daguerreotype. Because each photographic exposure required minutes to accomplish, the street scenes captured by Daguerre seemed devoid of people and carriages – they simply smeared themselves out of history. Nonetheless, in this 1838 scene from slightly above Boulevard du Temple in Paris, one gentleman paused long enough to get his shoes polished, making him and the shoeshine boy likely the first people ever recorded thusly.

The bottom image came 10 years later and is part of a set of eight daguerreotypes comprising a panoramic view of Cincinnati as seen from Kentucky across the Ohio River. Produced by William S. Porter, possibly assisted by Charles Fontayne, the photos have earned warm regard as an early example of how the art of photography could reveal the specialness of a place. It currently is held by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, which permitted researchers at the University of Rochester and the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography Conservation Laboratory in New York to examine the images under the microscope.

Although their investigations have advanced how early photographs can be analyzed, the researchers also found the images of two men buried more discreetly than Waldo. The figures would not have known they were being photographed, but neither could they be recognized until the high-powered microscope revealed them.

So, whether you take aim at a tiny cell or a giant star, be sure to take note of everything else your camera captures!


GLOSSARY
camera
A light-tight box that receives light from an object or scene and focuses it to form an image on a light-sensitive material or a detector. The camera generally contains a lens of variable aperture and a shutter of variable speed to precisely control the exposure. In an electronic imaging system, the camera does not use chemical means to store the image, but takes advantage of the sensitivity of various detectors to different bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. These sensors are transducers...
microscope
An instrument consisting essentially of a tube 160 mm long, with an objective lens at the distant end and an eyepiece at the near end. The objective forms a real aerial image of the object in the focal plane of the eyepiece where it is observed by the eye. The overall magnifying power is equal to the linear magnification of the objective multiplied by the magnifying power of the eyepiece. The eyepiece can be replaced by a film to photograph the primary image, or a positive or negative relay...
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