Photographer Tyrone Turner photographed the March 2009 coverage on energy efficiency and produced a striking set of images using a thermal camera. I had a chance to ask him about the challenges of the assignment.
David Griffin: Why did you decide to use a thermal camera for this story?
Tyrone Turner: In our discussions about how we could bring to life a story on energy efficiency and conservation, we initially hit upon the idea of using thermal imagery in order to produce one picture of a house—an iconic image that would get at the idea of energy usage and root the story in our everyday lives. It worked so well that we expanded from houses to shots of cars, appliances, electrical plugs, light bulbs and even a cityscape of New York. I was pointing the thermal camera at everything to see what kind of picture I could make.
TT: The challenge was that the thermal camera, even the best on the market, would only produce small jpegs (640 pixels). The cameras are made for commercial applications, for finding flaws in structural design and insulation, and not for making high resolution pictures for a magazine. So I decided that we would have to "build" pixels by shooting many images of the same scene and "stitching" them together into a final image. The cover image of the house was made of more than twenty separate images (see image above).
DG: Was the camera difficult to use?
TT: Not at all. It looks like a video camera and even has interchangeable lenses. I did need help from the technical support of the camera manufacturer, and a couple of days of practice, before I was making useable images. The only real drawback was that the camera is not built for speed, so sometimes it would take a couple of minutes to complete a series of pictures that would become one image. I never could find a traffic jam that would stand still long enough, so we ended up using a single image for the car shot.
DG: Were you ultimately happy with the results?
TT: I was. Energy efficiency is something so internal to structures and machines. The thermal imagery got straight to the point of our story about the challenges we face in reducing our energy usage. I also hoped that the different look of the thermal pictures would be eye-catching and bring readers into our story.
See a gallery of Tyrone’s image here.