Cameras help expand our global knowledge

     The earliest cameras were used to record the appearance of things — people, animals, landscapes, buildings.  The very first photograph showed a cluttered worktable.  At first there was the excitement of simply recording images; but then people realized that photography was a tool as well as a plaything. 

     Astronomers began using cameras with their telescopes almost as soon as photography was invented.  They saw that film exposed over periods of hours or even days can pick up the faintest glimmers of light, recording images of things too dim and far away for the human eye to register.  Even the very first pictures taken of the skies revealed more stars than were known before.  Now, our understanding of the universe beyond Earth owes much to photography.

     Along with looking at gigantic things, like stars, photography lets us see things too small for the naked eye to view.  Even an ordinary camera hooked up to an inexpensive microscope can photograph the individual cells of living creatures — tiny things about 1/1000 inch across.  More complex equipment can show the inner workings of a cell, and the molecules that form it.  Photography allows us to look at the smallest details of a flea’s face, or see vast worlds in a drop of water.

     Photographic equipment can travel where people can’t go.  A tiny camera can go inside a human body, photograph the objects in a sealed mummy case too delicate to open, or ride along with a bird to give a true “bird’s-eye view”.  Other cameras go to the bottom of the ocean, or ride small satellites to photograph the earth from space.  Specialists in all fields depend on photography to help them gather information.  Cameras record traffic conditions, photograph cloud formations, detect pollution, and count migrating animals.  Security cameras at businesses, factories, parking lots and homes help to keep people safe and often help to solve crimes.

     In the sports world, photography tells us which horse won the race and whether the basketball player was actually fouled or just faked out the referee.  Cameras can slow down and stop motion, then replay it so we can watch a football play over again and coaches can analyze the movements of individual players in a complicated situation.

     Some of the most beautiful and useful photographs manipulate time.  High-speed photography lets us see things that happen so rapidly that our eyes see only a blur — or miss the action entirely.   How do birds flap their wings?  How does a falling cat land on its feet?  What happens when a nuclear bomb is tested?  Photography can spread a millionth of a second over many pictures. On the other hand, slow-motion photography lets us watch things that happen so slowly we can’t perceive the movement, such as the opening of a flower or the growth of a plant. 

    Our eyes see only visible light.  Photography lets us take pictures with x-rays, ultraviolet light, infrared light, beams of neutrons and using these light spectrums, they give us invaluable knowledge, both for scientific purposes and as an art form.

By Kay Sluterbeck/AAPJ

Published by on November 2011. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Palette Journal, Bugle Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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