Thursday, August 9, 2012

Intergalactic Snapshots — From Mars to Palm Springs

"I think photographs should be provocative and not tell you what you already know. It takes no great powers or magic to reproduce somebody's face in a photograph. The magic is in seeing people in new ways."

— Duane Michals, American photographer

Good photography, effective photography, is about seeing the world in new ways. Whether it's viewing a person in a different light, to Michals' point, or some faraway corner of the galaxy, photography connects us and enlightens us. Or like Ansel Adams once said, "A good photograph is knowing where to stand."

We received some photos this week from two vastly different sources that did just that: Opened a window from our Bay Area headquarters to a couple different parts of the universe. Two were from Bishop-Wisecarver Corporation President Pamela Kan, who's braving the triple-digit heat this week in the Palm Springs, Calif., desert. The others we got from Curiosity, the NASA rover that made a daredevil landing on Mars Sunday night and has since been transmitting photographic updates of its historic expedition.

[ CURIOSITY ] The nuclear-powered Mars rover sent its first colored photograph from the Gale Crater on Tuesday. Here's the snapshot (right), taken with the camera's dust cover still in place, so it's a bit fuzzy.

Credit: NASA
It may not look like much, but it gives us a first look at the north wall of the Gale Crater, the massive basin where Curiosity touched down on Aug. 5 after an eight-month journey through space. The pictures tells us that the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), a very important camera affixed to the six-wheeled rover, is in working condition, researchers pointed out.

Scientists created MAHLI to capture both close-ups and wide landscape shots of the martian terrain. Right now, it rests on the rover's deck. But once it's fully activated, researchers can use it to zoom in on tiny details with resolutions up to 13.9 microns per pixel — that's many times narrower than a strand of hair.

The second colored photo NASA released was a composite of a bunch of thumbnail shots that they puzzle-pieced into a jagged panorama view of the crater. Check it out:

Credit: NASA

Sometimes the desert looks just as alien to us. Palm Springs is no different from certain vantage points, like the photos below that Pamela shared with us of an aerial tram that spans a deep arid ravine (pictured right). Such great heights!

Pictured left is an interesting, almost alien-like texture on a tree, which she saw right after her tram ride, she told us.

"We then hiked through the state park at the top of the tram," she said. "Here is a picture of the bark from 'Jeff' — this type of pine tree has bark that smells like butterscotch! It is the original scratch-n-sniff tree!"

Pretty fascinating! We focus a lot on our expertise in linear and rotary motion, but we also have a great love for the world around us, and these pictures really capture our imaginations!