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Invisible radiation photography
The electromagnetic spectrum is comprised of a series of waves arranged in order of wavelength. The various types of radiation forming this spectrum differ widely, and only a very minute part of this spectrum has any relevance to photography. Usually photography is confined to the visible part of the spectrum, those waves that the eyes see as "light'. This part of the spectrum is comprised of wavelengths from approximately 400 - 700 nanometers (nm), that can be seen by the eye as a change of colour. The shorter wavelengths are blue, the longer ones red. At either end of the visible spectrum lie two "invisible" spectra: the ultraviolet that extends from x-rays to the blue end of the visible spectrum, and the infrared that extends beyond the red and into heat (Figure 1). One important function of photography is to extend the range of spectral visualization of the human eye and record these "invisible" spectra. Infrared and ultraviolet photography therefore act as investigative tools which are capable of discovering new facts about the subject. In some fields of investigation, extensive work has been reported on the use of invisible radiation photography. Other areas of application, however, remain unexplored and await the attention of the research oriented photographer.
Figure 1. At either end of the visible spectrum lie two "invisible" spectra: the ultraviolet that extends from x-rays to the blue end of the visible spectrum, and the infrared that extends beyond the red and into heat.
Both infrared and ultraviolet photography offer a visible interpretation of an invisible state - no one has ever seen what the subject looks like under these radiations because the retina is insensitive to them. There is, therefore, no "correct" density to print to. It is also sometimes very difficult to interpret the infrared or ultraviolet record. It is for these reasons that one should always include a control photograph taken with visible light to provide an exact comparison of the subject. It is also worth pointing out that clinicians and scientists will often have an incomplete understanding of the value of invisible radiation techniques. The competent photographer, however, will always be alert to the possible application of these techniques, and may indeed need to correct misunderstandings about their use.
|© 2002 Prof. Robin Williams and Gigi Williams - Disclaimer
Last modified: 3 May 2002