Nov 02 2011

Heart valve improves quality of life while looking good

Published by under healthcare,news,process,technique

Update: The FDA approved the Edwards valve – it is the first replacement for the aortic valve.

Patients that received a new heart valve and the manufacturer Edwards LifeSciences are both very happy today. New research announced at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting reported that many patients who received this transcatheter Sapien heart valve felt “like they were ten years younger.”

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The valve was ready for its close-up

I was able to see the new valve up close while I was taking photos for the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Fall 2008 research magazine Discoveries. There was a cover story about one of the clinical trials at the hospital that involved this experimental artificial heart valve. Instead of requiring open-heart surgery this valve is designed to be inserted up through the groin into the heart. It’s then expanded into place at the site of the current damaged heart valve by a balloon.

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The angiogram art approach to the valve

Editor Laura Grunberger, designer Diane Kuntz and I pondered the best way to create a cover photo for the valve story. There was the possibility of shooting a rare live surgery of a trial patient, or a still life of the valve itself. We decided to explore both options. Live surgery presents its own shooting challenges, but I had recently been shooting in an angiogram suite and was impressed by the video images that are captured during the procedure.

I thought the balloon and wire mesh had great design possibilities and there could be an angiogram art approach to the story. But I didn’t count on the heart monitor (dark instrument on the right) getting in the way. It was still a contender though and there was room for type and copy that would fit a cover design.

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Showing a similar procedure in the angiogram suite

The second version involved going down to Edwards Lifesciences in Irvine to pick up an experimental valve. There I received my training on inflating the balloon and how not to destroy the sample. Back in my studio I had to operate the controls like the real surgeon above while putting it into place and keeping it damp without looking wet.

I had seen the more scientific depiction of the valve on the Edwards site and wanted to take a more dramatic approach. This involved setting up my own still-life surgery where the macro lens was inches away from the valve that was surrounded by lights, stands and reflectors.

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The studio shot was selected over the OR version

I loved the balloon and mesh and created this detailed shot that had an abstract feel. I gave Diane some room to move in a little tighter, she inserted the masthead and some copy blocks you have a cover shot.

Older patients that couldn’t survive open-heart surgery can now live longer, happier lives and the technique could move to wider use as the clinical trials progress.

Mark Harmel

harmelphoto.com

On Twitter:

@HarmelPhoto

@MarkHarmel

Now on Facebook

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Mar 28 2011

Charlie Kimball’s Big Move to IndyCar

Published by under diabetes,healthcare,travel,worklife

Yesterday was the IndyCar series opener in St. Petersburg, Florida and the first race that Charlie KImball ran in the big league series.  I’ve written before about him developing type 1 diabetes while he was racing in Europe and how my wife worked with him to manage his diabetes in the race car well enough to combine with his talent to drive into the premier US open-wheel auto racing series. The race was won by Ganassi teammate Dario Franchitti.

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Charlie squeezing into his seat before the race

Having safely driven through a crash-fill start today Charlie worked up to 11th place before he had an unplanned connection with the turn three wall after a pit stop. The Indy Light series, where he raced the prior two years doesn’t have pit stops, and the high-speed action of changing tires and refueling was one of the many new challenges in this race. He learned the hard way today how much he can push the car with the mixture of cold tires, a full tank of fuel and racing adrenaline.

The race was run on a mix of city streets and an airport runway at a track familiar to Charlie from his Indy Lights experience. That series served as a great training ground for his move into IndyCars. There is a list of important changes that Charlie needs to master, but the race environment is very familiar.

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Pre-race fist bump with proud racing engineer father Gordon Kimball

One constant is the trackside presence of his father Gordon who serves as Charlie’s low-key manager while maintaining an active motorsport engineering and avocado-farming career. Charlie’s mother and girlfriend often join them at the track as well.

This was my first time at the St. Petersburg race, but the street course track felt familiar to the Long Beach race last year. Unlike the transition from minor league baseball to the pros where there are different stadium sizes and crowds, the Indy lights and IndyCars series are run on the same tracks on the same days.

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Charlie talking in his pit control center after qualifying

In many ways this felt like Charlie’s third year in the greater IndyCar series instead of being a rookie a new racing world.  The encouraging part about the day was how well he performed while on the racetrack. He stayed out of early trouble as other drivers took themselves out through crashes plus he made on-track passes.

The rookie mistakes, like the one he made today will pass and he will progress to finishing races and being a competitive force while being an ambassador for diabetes.

Mark Harmel

harmelphoto.com

On Twitter:

@HarmelPhoto

@MarkHarmel

Now on

Facebook

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Nov 19 2009

remembering jeanne-claude, collaborator with christo

The long time collaborator with environmental artist Christo died today in New York.

It was there back in 2005 that I saw their last project “The Gates” in Central Park. The beautiful saffron colored curtains of nylon brought the barren winter landscape to life. I was fortunate enough to be in New York the night that 6 inches of fresh snow fell. Seeing the snow start to fall at midnight I felt like a young boy on Christmas Eve looking forward to all the presents that would greet me in the morning.

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Woman with the perfect saffron parka taking a photo of "The Gates"

It seemed as though every other photographer in the city had the same idea and it was hard to keep out of each other’s pictures in the snow-covered park. I succeeded until I spotted this woman in a matching saffron parka. I stalked her until I captured this photo of her in front of a pond.

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Street lamp covered in snow

I had the pleasure of seeing two of their other installations, one here in Southern California and the other in Miami. When I was living in Florida I drove over to see “Surrounded Islands” where they created a pink ring around a number of islands in Biscayne Bay and in the Grapevine pass north of Los Angeles I was able to see “The Umbrellas”.  I both loved the visual impact of their projects and admired how they moved art out into public spaces. This created wonderful conversations about art from people in all walks of live, including those that rarely stepped into an art gallery or museum. To me this is their greatest contribution.

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Snow covered tree branch and a series of panels

I’m happy to report that a series of my photos of “The Gates” was selected to appear in the 2005 Communication Arts Photography Annual and the page was used to promote the 2006 competition.

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My Gates series was used to promote the CA 2006 competition

I look forward to seeing the completion of some of the team’s work in progress.

Postcript: As I was writing this post I wondered if my friend John Lizvey had any of his photos of the “The Umbrellas” project. He was ambitious enough to go out in the middle of the night, and shot the installation by moonlight when the umbrellas were free from most of the crowds and traffic – except for a Sheriff’s cruiser that roared up and caused a broken lens as John yanked his tripod from the middle of the road. The price we pay to make art.

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John Lizvey's moonlight photo of "The Umbrellas"

Mark Harmel

harmelphoto.com

@MarkHarmel

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Nov 09 2009

the best iPhone photography app

Much of the talk about using the iPhone camera surrounds additional apps that you can use to tint, crop, zoom or selectively focus your photos. There are titles that bounce around the internet like Must-have apps for iPhone photographersThe Five Best iPhone Apps For Travel Photography and The Best Camera “ecosystem”.

I find some of the apps useful for making it easier to crop, adjust the exposure and upload to a photo sharing site; but I find that most of the tinting and special effects features to be cheap tricks. Most of the time the app will simply transform a bad photo into a bad photo with a blue tint.

To me, the most most important app is the person taking the photo.

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Surfer on the Venice Beach boardwalk

The beauty of the iPhone is that it’s always with you. The camera function is both very easy to use and at the same time very hard because it’s such a simple camera. The camera works great for basic snapshots of friends, but I wanted to see how it would perform in the stress test of the Venice Beach boardwalk.

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Beach visiter taking a cool drink by the iconic wooden umbrella clusters

The boardwalk is both a target rich environment with a collection of colorful characters, and a very challenging place to shoot. The light is harsh and the action is quick.

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The palm reader's sign blocked the sun creating a perfect north light studio

You have to look for the places that either have good light already or find a simple way to control the light. There isn’t an app made yet that will help you identify ways to control light by shooting your subject in front of a backdrop, or moving them in front of the sun.

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I moved the stilt-walker in front of the sun and palm trees

Since we use the iPhone’s screen to preview the photo, shooting into the sun is even harder. Unlike looking through a camera viewfinder, on the iPhone you have the confusion of the reflection on the screen and the glare behind the phone. Half the time it seems like I’m guessing at the composition. The shooting is similar to using the cheap plastic Diana camera where the joy come from the surprises created by the lack of control.

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Catching action is an advanced skill

The other issue with the camera is the shutter lag. Venice Beach is full of action and all good street shooters pride themselves at being able to capture the “decisive moment“, but with the time delay you have to press the shutter button a half second before you think something may happen. (You can control this a bit by being aware that the shutter is actually activated by releasing, instead of pressing the shutter button.)

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Quick movements often produce a warped effect

There is also a odd warping effect that’s created by the iPhone using a rolling shutter. Instead of the exposure being created all at once by the aperture effect you see on the screen, the scene is being quickly scanned. In the shot above, the head section was scanned first and the legs moved to the right by the time the scan made it down to the bottom.

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The light weight of the iPhone makes it easy to shoot down

One of my big shooting surprises is that now I’m often holding the camera straight out and shooting down. Instead of having my face up to the view-finder, the iPhone already starts away from my face and it’s a quick movement to point the iPhone down. Instead of the normal Hail Mary Shot that photojournalists use in a crowd to get the camera higher. I’m finding that I do the same thing shooting down. I simply guess at the framing and swing with the action.

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There's a whole new world down below

For most people, I suspect the hardest part about doing iPhonetography is using the moderate wide-angle lens. The view is similar to what you would get on a full frame 35mm camera using a 35mm lens. Our minds are very good at zooming into a scene to examine the front wheel pattern above, but we’re less well trained to see the wider view while being aware of all the action that’s shown below.

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Learning to see all the elements in the wide view is an acquired skill

I’m constantly working at striking the balance between simplifying and getting something interesting in the frame. When I first arrived at the beach I noticed a large sailboat on the horizon. But it was too small in the frame by itself, so I chased it down the beach while searching for something to place in the foreground. First there was a volleyball game, then a life-guard stand and finally I spotted a surfer balancing a board on his head to change his shirt.

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A balance between a simple background and a foreground surfer to fill the frame

Years of experience and learning to see like the iPhone camera is the real secret app in iPhonetography.

None of these photos required any special app filters or effects. I did use my normal workflow of opening the photos in Photoshop CS4 Camera Raw (even jpgs from the iPhone can be processed this way) and making some simple exposure adjustments and clean-up.

I took these shots in preparation of teaching an iPhonetograpy class at the Julia Dean Photo Workshops. The class is scheduled for December 6th. I hope to see you there.

Mark Harmel

harmelphoto.com

@MarkHarmel

10 responses so far

Jul 01 2009

i love a parade

We have your stars and your stripes and a Holiday weekend to celebrate. Pull out those lawn chairs and cheer the band coming down your street…

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Flag bloused friends in Pacific Palisades, CA

…or show your patriotic spirit all the way down to the Pacific Ocean.

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Neighborhood celebration in Manhattan Beach, CA

I’m off to catch some fish…

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Real cowboys fish with their hat on

…and ride some horses near the Grand Tetons.

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Ranch horse stretching at the end of the day

Have a great Holiday weekend!

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