The High Speed Camera

This ran in the Summer of 2012 in National Geographic

Apparently there was a camera that could capture lightening at its very inception, and not only was it a technological marvel, it was also in the basement at National Geographic. Not only do I love visiting my friends at National Geographic, I also love visiting D.C. , so the second I got the assignment I flew up to D.C. to learn more about this camera before it left the building.

The camera

I got to spend the day with the scientist who built it, and he explained to me how the camera functioned. My job was to explain it to the rest of the world. It is normally housed inside a small enclosed trailer, the back opens and they hope they find a storm at the right time. Then a helium-powered turbine spins a prism at a crazy-fast RPM and a splitter sends the image to 120 CCD cells, like the one in your digital camera. Each one has it’s own processor, which sends the image to a bank of routers, which then goes to a laptop where all the frames are recorded. Very cool.

I photographed the camera, made notes on the process and then went to Ollie’s Trolly for a burger and fries. I hit Ollie’s every time I’m in D.C. Love them. I was in Ollie’s when I got a page (yes, that  long ago) that my wife was in labor. I ran to the metro and made it home in time for her birth. She was almost named Ollie.

This piece ran in the summer of 2012, many thanks to the sharp art direction of Juan Velasco.


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