This is a
of “incidental photography” posted on
Each photo in this graphical index is linked to a full-scale
enlargement, and images from Fourmilog have captions which link to the
I seem to have a kind of animal magnetism: I attract unusual animals
(flies too, but I'm so not going there). Over the years I've managed
to capture some of the curious critters which crossed my path on film
and silicon, and here are some of their photos. These are all accidental
encounters with wildlife around the house, office, and garden.
Please don't use the creepy giant spider photo to scare
We decided to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary by going
South for the winter in January 2013. This being Fourmilab, no half
measures would suffice short of going all the way—to
the South Pole. We'd already
been to the North Pole so, hey,
we could become officially bipolar! This photo essay chronicles
Images of Comet C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp), the Great Comet of 1997.
Images of Comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake) from its 1996 close encounter with Earth.
Images and movies of the total solar eclipse of August 11th, 1999, which
I observed from Esfahan, in central Iran.
Images of the total solar eclipse of June 21st, 2001, observed near
Lusaka, Zambia, plus wildlife and scenery from Zambia, Zimbabwe,
Botswana, and South Africa.
Between July 19th and August 6th, 2008 I was off to the North
Pole—no, really—and thereafter to observe the
total eclipse of the Sun on August 1st. So how do you get to the
North Pole? Well, there's always the tedious dogsled method, but if
you're in a hurry, nothing beats a Russian nuclear powered
icebreaker. Here is a collection of images from the expedition,
including the ship, landscapes, wildlife, and the eclipse.
The total solar eclipse of July 11th, 2010 made a landfall in Easter
Island, one of the most remote inhabited places on the Earth, and
Fourmilab was there to observe and photograph the eclipse and
explore the enigmatic artefacts of the island. This photo gallery
chronicles the expedition and includes telephoto imagery of the
In April 2013 I had the privilege of visiting CERN: the premier
particle physics laboratory in the world. This
photo essay shows some of the
underground wonders of the largest and most complicated
machine ever built by our species.
Fractal, or self-similar, structures are commonplace in nature,
extending from the fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background
radiation to the blood vessels in the human lung, but rarely do you
encounter such perfection in structure as in Romanesco, a member of
the plant species which includes broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
This document is a photo gallery of the amazing hierarchical
structure of Romanesco, along with a discussion of how such patterns
can arise from the very simplest of computer programs, suggesting
that nature is, in some sense, performing a computation.
I've been a fan of alien flora even before I read Parallel Botany back in 1977, so
I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit an exhibition of Dale
Chihuly's glass sculptures at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis in
May 2006. Glass in the Garden is a collection of
photographs of the exhibition along with a few obligatory shots of the
Inconstant Moon explores
a universally seen but seldom observed phenomenon: the different
appearance of the Moon at perigee and apogee.
A twenty-four megapixel digitally assembled panorama shows
Fourmilab's home village with the majestic Alps in the
background. Images with and without legends identifying
Alpine peaks are available, as well as a one-third scale
reduction which can either be scrolled or browsed in
panels. A complete description of the process by which
the panorama was produced is included, with links to the
(exclusively) free software tools used to create it.
Comparing images, some taken more than a century ago,
of Fourmilab's home in Switzerland with contemporary
photos from the same viewpoints provides a transtemporal
perspective of the evolution of a rural village in Western
Switzerland. You can start with
introduction to the project, embark upon a
of the village, or pick a viewpoint from the
based on a map of the village. Those interested in embarking
upon such a project themselves may wish to read the tips on
the craft of
“then and now” photography gleaned during the
production of these pages.
In November 2003 an unusually bright total lunar eclipse
was visible from all continents except Australia. At my
observing site in western Switzerland, the Moon was high in the
sky throughout the eclipse and, astonishingly for November,
the sky was clear for the entire immersion phase and almost
all of totality. This page describes the eclipse and presents
images captured with a telescope and digital camera, including an
animation which shows the Moon's encounter with the Earth's
Only fourteen times in the twenty-first century will
astronomers be treated to the spectacle of Mercury's silhouette
majestically traversing the Sun. This century's first transit
of Mercury occurred on May 7th, 2003, and was the first I ever
managed to observe and photograph. Information and
images of 2003's transit are presented, along with previews of
coming attractions including the spectacular and
extraordinarily rare transits of Venus in 2004 and 2012.
On June 8th, 2004, for the first time since 1882, the planet Venus
passed in front of the Sun as seen from Earth. This spectacle is not
only rare, it's about the only opportunity one ever gets to see
another planet with the unaided eye as a spot, not a
dot. Fourmilab was blessed with almost equally rare
cloudless skies for this event, which permitted capturing the images
presented on this page.
In the first few days of July 2004, three unrelated celestial
phenomena happened to coincide: full Moon, lunar perigee, and Earth's
passage through aphelion. This permitted photographing the full Moon
and Sun within one day, showing the difference in their apparent
size. The effect of the Sun and Moon's orbits on the appearance and
duration of solar eclipses is discussed, and an estimate is made of
when the last-ever total solar eclipse will be visible from Earth.
New: January 26th, 2005 update adds photos of the
apogean full Moon of January 2005 compared to the Sun with
the Earth near perihelion.
This time-lapse movie shows a year in the life of a Swiss
village at the rate of one day every second. A hay-mow to
the east of Fourmilab, agricultural land since the time of
the Roman Empire, sprouts three houses as the year elapses.
Complete photographic and movie production details are included,
as well as an interactive frame-by-frame image browser.
New November 2008 update includes an embedded
Flash video edition, directly viewable from most
It never snows in San Francisco. Well,
almost never. After moving to Marin County,
north of San Francisco in the mid-1970's, imagine
my surprise to wake up one fine February morning
and find 10 cm of snow on the ground. A photo
dating from twenty-plus years ago and a little
embellishment with a modern day paint program
results in a curious poster.
Space Shuttle imagery and interactive Web navigation
combine to allow you to explore Switzerland, home of
www.fourmilab.ch, from orbit.
On rare occasions around peaks in the 11 year solar
activity cycle, a sunspot group may appear which is
sufficiently large to be observed without any optical
aid other than a filter for safely viewing the Sun. If
observing this phenomenon interests you, don't count on
quick success; it took me thirty-five years
from the time I started looking until I observed my
first naked-eye sunspot on September 23rd, 2000. This
document contains photos of that enormous sunspot, both
my own and high resolution images from spacecraft and a
solar observatory, and provides tips and resources to
assist in your own quest to view the next "big one".
Have you ever seen Mercury? A portrait of the three inner planets of our
solar system serves as the point of departure for a discussion
of when and how you can best observe this bright but elusive planet.
The companion Mercury
custom predictions for viewing Mercury, including finder charts
for your observing site and Orrery views of the inner solar system
at maximum elongations of Mercury.
UNIVAC Memories returns
to the 1960s and early '70s to explore the room-sized UNIVAC
mainframe computers I programmed in those days. Discover million-dollar
memory, two and a quarter ton 100 megabyte hard drives, minus zero,
and other curiosities from the brash adolescence of the second generation of
Did you know that when the planet Venus is bright and far from
the Sun it can be glimpsed with the unaided eye in broad
daylight? This page provides tips for viewing Venus in the
daytime, plus a calculator which shows the best opportunities
for any year and produces finder charts for your observing site.
Here's an opportunity to see something that's up in the sky for
anybody to spot but which few ever do: a planet shining in the
blue sky at midday.
The combination of an
and a late snowstorm brought a White Easter
to Lignières in March 2008. It started snowing on Good Friday,
and continued to snow through the following Wednesday. If you didn't
dye the Easter eggs, they were exceptionally easy to hide in the
snowdrifts! Maybe we'll eventually find them when spring arrives.
I put it down to ManBearPig.
for Unix systems which uses
utilities to create a ready to print page of passport
(or other) photos of a specified size, adjusted for the
page size and resolution of a printer, with as many copies
of the original photo as will fit on the page.
Wide angle lenses for large- and medium-format cameras
often vignette the image--the film is not uniformly
exposed, but instead illumination falls off away from the
optical axis of the lens, underexposing the edges and
corners. Traditionally, optical "centre filters"
have been used to compensate for vignetting, but they require
additional exposure time which may be impractical. Pnmctrfilt
is an addition to the Netpbm image processing toolkit which
simulates the effect of a centre filter in an image exposed
without one. Options allow emulating a wide variety of optical
All right, I'll admit it: this document is a little specialised.
A recessed lensboard allows a large format camera to use short
focal length lenses which would otherwise not be able to focus
at infinity due to the minimum extension of the bellows. The
Linhof Technika recessed lensboard is supplied with a mechanism
to permit a cable release to operate the shutter, whose own
cable socket is buried within the recess, but with
no instructions on how to install it. This
document walks you step by step through the installation of
a Schneider Super Angulon 47mm lens on the recessed
lensboard, and explains how the curious collection of
parts supplied with the lensboard are assembled to
operate the shutter.
The Slide Show Screen
Saver shows images (in JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP
format) and plays sound files (MP3, WAV, and MIDI) from a
designated directory, either in random order or alphabetically
by file name. A variety of options allow scripting slide shows
and an accompanying sound track. Both a ready-to-install
32-bit screen saver for Windows 95/98/Me and NT/2000/XP and
source code are available.
New release 2.0 allows Internet shortcuts (.url files)
to be included in slide directories, permitting the inclusion of
dynamic images and sounds from the Web in slide shows, improves
randomisation when in “shuffle play” mode, and saves
preferences in the registry individually for each user.