When the call came in from our editors at Wired UK, we knew we were in for a good shoot. Fly out to the west coast and photograph three of the most important scientists researching ways to challenge and expand your brain – how could we say no? Although this shoot literally flew by – traveling from home base in Philadelphia to San Fransisico, San Diego, back to San Fran, and all back to Philly in just over 72 hours – we met incredible subjects working on the cutting edge of technology and worked with them to make amazing photos.
For our first shoot, we spent the day in San Fransisco working with Adam Gazzaley, in his cognitive neuroscience lab in the University of California, San Francisco. When we first met Adam, he was unlike any scientist we’d previously photographed – not only a technical genius, he was a creative and artistic individual as well. We knew we could work with him to make some really stunning images.
The electroencephalogram cap and Oculus Rift made for some wild photos, but we suspect the view from inside the Oculus would be more impressive. Designed to work in conjunction with your brain activity measured via the cap and respond in real-time virtual reality, we could only image what Adam was seeing – too bad he didn’t let us try it on!
And with any day of shooting comes countless light tests of yours truly – always very necessary. As soon as we were wrapping our shoot in San Fransisco, Chris and I loaded our gear onto a plane and hopped down to San Diego, headed to our second of three shoots for this assignment.
After a few hours sleep (who needs it?) we traveled to the historic and inspiring Salk Institute. Designed by architect Louis Kahn, the Salk is a non-profit science research institute which serves as home to a handful of the top biological researchers in the country. Aside from incredible architecture, this was also the perfect spot to photograph our second subject, Paula Tallal.
A pioneer in her field, Tallal pursued groundbreaking research in the field of dyslexia and cognitive processing and is now regarded as a world-class authority on language-learning disabilities. We spent the day shooting with Paula, exploring the Salk Institute and making beautiful photos.
After shooting in San Diego, our travels were far from over. Chris and I got back on the road headed towards San Fransisco again. We caught the late flight, landed in SF, promptly went to sleep and woke up ready for our third and final shoot.
The last of our three subjects, Michael Merzenich has contributed countless finds to the field of neuroscience for decades. A pioneering researcher of brain plasticity, his research has helped to discover that the power of our brains is not a fixed concept and can be shaped, changed, and even grown. For our photo of Merzenich, we truly wanted to highlight the power of the brain and his direct connection to discovering that power.
How did we make that shot happen? Perhaps the easiest way to explain is to show this test shot of yours truly. When you’re in a pinch and in need of a white seamless but didn’t fly cross-country with one, the easiest thing to do is simply blow out your background; a large octabank certainly helps to do that. Add-in a heavily gridded snoot and you create some pretty interesting and unique light.
It may have been a jam packed 72 hours with lots of time in transit and very little sleep, but we made a handful of incredible portraits and had the equally incredible opportunity to work with some of today’s brightest minds.