Thursday, November 29, 2007

Robert Berdan: Photography, Art and Science

Caffeine CrystalRecently, I stumbled across Robert Berdan's collection of amazing photos on the websites Moods of Nature and Science and Art. The picture to the left shows a caffeine crystal under a polarized light microscope, which allows one to visualize the birefringent properties of the sample. Just looking at it helps me wake up :-)

The picture below shows an isolated nerve cell with glia attached (yellow) taken with a scanning electron microscope - from Robert's research on nerve regeneration and cell-cell contacts. (I think my nervecells currently need some more of these caffeine crystals to regenerate ...)

Nerve Cell

But he also has a lot of great nature photos:


Reading Robert's CV I saw he has an education in science, and I asked him to write a few lines about how he came to photography:

Grizzly"I entered science because I had an interest in taking pictures through the microscope which I started at the age of 13. I spent 15 years as a medical researcher but writing grant proposals and admin work started to take me away from doing the research so I left to start up my own business, Science & Art Multimedia in order to focus on web development, teaching and photography. Now I get to spend more time outdoors and travel. My focus is on Canadian Nature photography - right now I am concentrating on the Great Bear Rainforest and I am planning on visiting Yellowknife next year to photograph more of the Northern Lights.

What fascinates me about photography is that it uses a combination of Science and technology to capture the image but requires a sense of art to make the images compelling. I believe photography can enhance one's sensitivity to visual elements around us and increases our observational powers. All good science begins with the ability to observe things that others ignore or did not notice. The camera is also a tool to record moments in time and preserve these instances for the future. For me taking pictures provides a number of thrills, the thrill of being there and capturing an exciting moment, the thrill of re-living the experience when I view the picture again and finally the thrill of sharing that experience with others. Another thing I love about photography is that unlike other activities such as sports, with photography age is not a factor. Anyone can take beautiful pictures at any age and one can continue to improve with age. Autofocus and vibration reduction technologies certainly help make sharper pictures. Digital photography is particularly exciting because of the instant feedback. I am seeing folks improve their ability to take effective photographs significantly faster then they would if using film."

Robert Berdan is a photographer and photo guide, living in Calgary, AB. His background includes 35 years of photography experience, degrees in Zoology, Cell Biology and Neuroscience. He has been teaching for more then 25 years including at the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Calgary Science Centre and privately as part of his business "Science & Art". He is author of several scientific and photo-publications. You find more information on the websites and

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  1. Nice pictures!

    If my photography was half as good as that I would be happy.

  2. Impressive photos! The polarized-light micrographs are really beautiful.

    And I like the attitude that developments such as autofocus and vibration reduction technologies actually are a good thing, and that digital photography is exciting because of the instant feedback, which can help everyone to improve their photographer's skills.

    Best, Stefan

  3. Not caffeine, armodafinil/Nuvigil. The racemate modafinil requires twice the dosage. Military issue to keep soldiers in fighting spirit. Not altogether harmless.

  4. Thanks for the links! Pictures like this remind me of one of the main reasons I became interested in science in the first place.


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