Sciencelens Ltd is a newly established photographic company based in Palmerston North, New Zealand. The focus of Sciencelens is exclusively on photography in the domains of science, industry and technology.
Gerry le Roux, owner and main photographer of the company, has been operating as a science photographer for the past five years.
Before pursuing photography on a professional basis, Gerry worked as a scientist and researcher in the ICT domain at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), a leading R&D institution in southern Africa. Working closely with scientists from a wide range of disciplines including bioscience, materials technology, ICT, environmental science, defence, and building & transport technology, led to an understanding and appreciation for the visual side of science.
When deciding to trade his science career for a career in photography, photographing scientists and science phenomena was therefore a logical focus domain.
Gerry is passionate about the use of photography as a visual aid in communicating science, and through Sciencelens he hopes to make a meaningful contribution in this field. This involves working closely with scientists and researchers as well as technical writers and communication specialists.
The photography done through Sciencelens broadly encompasses three fields, namely:
- technical photography of science experiments, laboratory tools and equipment, and science phenomena,
- photographic profiling of people in science, including coverage of scientists at work and portraiture in a science environment, and
- coverage of science and technology related events such as corporate visits, conferences, demonstrations and launches.
Technical science photography
At a technical level, the main challenge of science photography is to accurately capture the scientific subject matter in a striking and visually arresting way without ‘misleading’ the viewer.
Creating a good science photograph comes back to the basics of good photography in general – composition, lighting and contrast management. At times the photography of scientific subject matter can be burdened by excessive use of special effects such as the use of coloured strobes to create a blue or green glow emanating from behind the subject. While subtle use of lighting remain one of the most effective and important ‘tools’ in photography, the trend has moved towards accuracy and correctness instead of special effects, with the focus rather being placed on how the subject can be represented in a striking, novel way using different angles, focal lengths and good composition.
Photographing experiments and science phenomena present wonderful opportunities to the science photographer to enhance the impact of his subject through good composition and visual design, and it is in this context that photography can become an invaluable science communication tool.
Photographic profiling of people in science
Profiling scientists at work is an area of photography that Gerry is particularly fond of, and therefore represents a large component of the Sciencelens offering. Coming to grips with the technicalities of the scientist or researcher’s work and figuring out how to capture this visually can be quite complex. Add to this the human factor – staging the scientist in the image to form part of the composition, while at the same time making him or her feel at ease in front of the camera, and you have a photographic challenge that is tough, but at the same time very rewarding.
In terms of people profiling shoots, Sciencelens prides itself in the quality of its comprehensive portfolio, having created images for numerous client newsletters and reports.
Covering science and technology events
The third offering from Sciencelens, namely the photographic coverage of science and technology events, differs from the first two in the sense that it is less directly scientific, but it is still a critical link in the visual science communication chain.
While the focus in this case falls on the discipline of events photography, having a scientific background still helps in identifying key photographic moments. And being able to understand and enjoy the presentation of the speaker being photographed, is definitely an added bonus for the photographer!
Years of covering launches, conferences and other events have helped Gerry develop the intuition to identify and photograph key moments, and to capture the character of the speaker. Technically, a key challenge in event photography lies in being able to use lighting and composition to capture not only the action of the speaker, but also the context that supports and defines the action. Another important factor is that the photographer is seldom in control of the environment (indoor/outdoor, size of the venue, position of the speaker, etc), and as such has to be flexible enough to make the most of any situation.