John's Photography

Kite Aerial Photography Index

Photographic Techniques

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Inverted thermogram

Website visitors have often asked how we became interested in Kite Aerial Photography, so here's the tale...

John's earliest recollection of an interest in photography was from about the age of 6 when he used to run around pretending to take photos of people with a toy camera.  He would then scurry off and draw a picture of the people he had photographed and then dash back to give them their 'instant photo'! He also remembers attaching negatives to photographic paper and producing a short-lived image by exposing the negative side to sunlight, without the need for any chemical processing.

(After leaving junior school, one the the earliest experiments he remembers was unrelated to photography. He transmitted a modulated AC signal (music) through the soil of his parent's back garden in Seacroft, Leeds, using garden tools as electrodes and the pre-amplifier (stylus) input of his parents record player as a receiver. John's parents were supportively tolerant!)

In his early teens, in recognition of his obsession, a second-hand Zenit 3m SLR was bought for John by his dad. With this camera he would take photos at night, outside, during and after thunderstorms, also of anyone who would hold still for long enough, and anything of scientific interest, including Newton's rings, and electrostatic phenomena, like charged water droplets 'floating' on water. Cost limited what he could do, but he loaded his own 35mm film cassettes and did his own black and white processing to keep costs down.

Newton's rings c1966 Water droplet on water c1966
Friend's pet c1965 Looking into a crystal's atomic structure c1969

After leaving school, like many students of physics, John had projects where he 'photographed' the internal atomic structure of crystals using X-rays and he also produced diffraction patterns from foils with the aid of an electron beam from a Van de Graaff accelerator and autoradiographs from radioactive sources. He had a short undergraduate placement with the MRC Film Badge Service in Leeds.

After his physics degrees, John continued his studies in biomedical sciences, where he was introduced to photo-microscopy, which, later in life, led to the development of a simple technique for photographing cells on the surface of biological tissues.

Surface of a plucked hair follicle

Surface of a cut plant stem

Fluorescence backlight staining c1988

 It was during his student days that he first experimented with corona discharge photography (2), also known as Kirlian photography, a technique of contact, or near contact, photography using a continuous electrostatic discharge. He continued his interest in night photography (with a 14 second-hand Yashica 'baby' 4x4 twin lens reflex camera) leading to his images being published in camera magazines, the first in Amateur Photographer and the second one (see below) winning him his first auto/manual exposure SLR. 

Cropped scan from double page spread

(Camera User magazine NB the centre fold! 1974)

Later, he also found that light could be transmitted short distances down unpigmented, grey hairs!

Light shining out from the end of a cut human hair.

Nature, 338, 23, 2 March 1989.

Most of John's publications after 1973 were in scientific journals, but images often played a crucial part.

Along with other family members, John had an interest in aerial photography.

Bussage, Gloucestershire.

 (Helicopter c1991)

In the 1990s, John's interest in photography declined until we moved to Armadale in 2004. 

When we created the Armadale website in June 2006, we agreed that it should feature lots of photos of the town.  Many of the first ones taken were of the area in which we lived and of the proprietors and workers in local shops.  By 2007, we were trying to find new ways of capturing the town as it was changing fast and we wanted a photographic record of its development.

Fred and Ivy Apperley, two experienced kite flyers and makers, had presented us with kites in the past, and Rosie had made kites with children in summer playschemes and during end-of-term activities at schools where she had taught.  Therefore the answer to our search was obvious.  We attached a camera to a kite string...and there was no looking back......................just down !