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Ultraviolet Maverick | by Don Komarechka
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Ultraviolet Maverick

So, this happened. It’s probably the geekiest and nerdiest self-portrait I could have come up with. Shot in Ultraviolet reflectance with a wide-angle lens, I’ve been told I resemble a 1980’s David Hasselhoff on a mission for justice.


This image was inspired by a suggestions from The Two Hosers Photo Show for an episode released today: - the photo challenge was a wide-angle portrait and the topic was ultraviolet photography, so this was the natural progression of the idea. Later that day I was interviewed for the “Geek Questioner” podcast, and when asked “what’s the geekiest thing I’ve done?”… I had to mention this image. It became the title of the podcast: - if you want a glimpse at my inner geek, this is also a great podcast to listen to!


Essentially, this shot evolved from the protective eyewear that blocks ultraviolet light. I know the eyewear would appear opaque in the image, like some deeply tinted sunglasses. This needed to be coupled with a leather jacket (naturally), and something vaguely weapon-like. This ended up being a Canon Auto Bellows and a 20mm macro lens from 1978, fitted to my modern DSLR. A few test shots to get the pose and the focus right, and we had the shot!


This was taken with a custom-modified 28mm F/2.8 lens with excellent ultraviolet transmission properties. The mod was done by eBay seller “igoriginal” who also has a great 35mm lens for macro work. This 28mm lens offers infinity focus which is a nice touch, and required for images like this. Normal lenses, especially the expensive high-end ones, are usually the worst choices for UV reflectance work because of the advanced coatings, higher number of elements, and the “glue” that holds some of these elements together all block the transmission of ultraviolet light. Purpose-build UV lenses are often made with quartz elements and cost over $8000, but these 28mm and 35mm lenses work in a pinch and cost a very small fraction of that (roughly $100).


While these lenses come with filters, I use my favourite combo for UV reflectance. They’re not cheap, but it’s the best available: The XNite 330C coupled with the XNite BP1 to remove all traces of the visible and infrared spectrum from entering the lens. Even a 1% contamination of infrared light can equal the same intensity of the ultraviolet light, so getting good filters is very important for this kind of photography.


Ultraviolet portraits can be a lot of fun, but also medically valuable. Dermatologists use this kind of imaging to reveal problems with your skin, and anyone with freckles or blemishes will see them drastically enhanced with this kind of imagery. On a smaller scale it can reveal hidden patterns in flowers that are designed to attract insects, and many other scientific uses I have yet to explore.


Wide-angle portraits, especially at a close distance, often suffer from some level of distortion. My arm was noticeably larger than the proper proportion, so a little adjustment with the Liquify tool in Photoshop was needed to adjust the thickness to match the rest of me. This tool is often used to make models look skinnier than they actually are, but it’s a great distortion correction tool as well!


I don’t do many self-portraits, and they all tend to be geeky… but I think this one will be hard to beat. :)

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Taken on April 22, 2013