Guest Post: Miguel Palaviccini


Photography in Education – by Miguel Palaviccini

First of all, let me say that it’s an honor to be a guest blogger for  Jason  – when he asked me to write a guest blog post, it was a no brainer, “I’d do it!” Then it sunk in that I’m going to be writing a post that actual people will be reading, as opposed to my usual audience: research scientists. I guess this means I better make it interesting. Well, here goes:

I’m not a professional photographer, far from that! I’m a professional student. To be more specific, I’m a PhD student/researcher studying Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida. In the most general sense, I focus on enhancing the performance of aerodynamic bodies (airplanes, cars, submarines) by modifying the way that the flow (air or water) moves around the specific body.

When I started conducting experiments five years ago, I knew that in order to efficiently control any flow, it was first in my best interest to understand the natural flow around the aerodynamic body of interest. This is when I decided that the lab needed a digital camera. After a couple of months of reading books and internet articles, I started getting the hang of what it took to digitally capture what my eyes were seeing.

Below are some images that I have taken since I started my journey into photography over the past three years. Some of them were taken for my own research, while others were taken to benefit the research of my colleagues.

This was one of my first successful images that I took with a dSLR. It’s a three second exposure capturing the phenomena of flow separation over an airfoil at a high angle of attack. Using a fog machine I was able to inject micron sized particles into the flow. Then, to illuminate the particles, I created a light sheet passing a laser beam through a spherical and then a cylindrical lens. To me, the beauty of this photo is that it captures a phenomenon we all experience daily, but never get to see.


A colleague of mine asked me if it was possible to take an image of the alignment of six laser beams intersecting at a single location in space. Once aligned, they moved the set-up into a wind tunnel and used it to measure the velocity behind an aircraft landing gear. To capture this image, I used a flashlight during a three second exposure to illuminate the laser sources while keeping the contrast between the lasers and the background.

Using a mixture of highly viscous motor oil and fluorescent dye, I highlighted some of the flow features around a submerged sphere. I captured images at 15 second intervals and created a time lapse movie of the event. This image alone shows some of the complications that arise when trying to control a three-dimensional flow. I hope to also use this flow visualization technique to understand flow around the tips of wings (where highly three dimensional effects are prominent) in an effort to make wing-tip designs more efficient.

Sometimes my colleagues ask me to take images that will be used in conference presentations. For these, I usually have a little more leeway and can clean the image up in post, something that I cannot do with any image that will be published in a journal paper. In a nutshell, their research objective is to create low cost micro sensors to measure shear stress, something that can’t be directly measured at the time. To show the size of the sensor, I decided to place one sensor next to the tip of a pencil and another one on top of a popular snack around the lab.

Using photography in the lab setting has allowed me to get comfortable with a camera. In the last few years my passion for photography has spread from a work-related necessity to a hobby I do in my spare time. Many thanks to Jason for letting me share with you a slightly different perspective on photography.


Editor Note: 

One thing I always keep saying to myself is that Canon Blogger really needs more guest writers.  There are so many knowledgeable people out there that likely can run circles around me mentally, from whom I could learn a thing or two.  To that end, when I can learn, everyone can, so I am hopefully going to make this a more common practice.  To that end, if you are interested in writing any guest posts here on the blog, I am happy to entertain the idea, provided that you can:

a) make it photographic in nature
b) make it educational, and
c)have some images to share!

If you can do that (or know someone who can – please feel free to contact me and we can get the ball rolling.  As for the guest post today, I’d like to thank Miguel for sharing his insights, experiences and photography here on the blog – I was riveted!  Please do stop by his own website for more of the same at:  He is now a good friend, having met originally through the Monthly Contest Series!  His was the winning image a few months back and in exchanging information, I learned that he was using photography and photographs during his studies!  Being a devotee of education, I was intrigued.  One thing led to another and here we are today, so please be sure you offer thanks to him both here and on his website!