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Photo essay and interview with photographer Daniel Tobias

University Affairs web editor Tara Siebarth sat down with photographer Daniel Tobias to discuss his experience of taking the photos for the cover story for June-July issue.

By TARA SIEBARTH | JUN 13 2011

Read our cover story: A Space Legacy.

space_dome

How did you get that cover shot?

I went to the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) just as it was getting dark. By the time I took the shot that made it to the cover, it was around 9 or 10 p.m. I was surprised because there was a lot more blue sky than I thought there would be.

I knew the shot I wanted to get (with the dome in it), so I ended up climbing on top of this shipping container the research centre had in their yard. I was just trying to find a way to frame the shot. I ended up having to crouch down because there was a light behind me that was projecting the shadow of me and my tripod on to the dome. So I was trying to stay still to avoid shaking it while doing a 30 second exposure.

workbench_448

What was the tour of the inside of the facility like?

I visited the site twice and had an intensive tour. A group of four grad students were my guides. They showed me this prototype of a rover that they are designing to go to Mars. Currently, they are working on the software part of how it will navigate itself without any human contact. They took me inside that dome, which was set up to be like a Martian landscape, and drove the rover around.

flight_sim_448

What were your impressions of the facility?

Everyone there seems to be working really hard. I was pretty impressed with the people that I met. The grad students, despite being on a tight schedule, took me all around the facility and showed me the rover, as well as a flight simulator. The photo above is of the underside of the UTIAS Flight Research Simulator (FRS).

water_shed

Describe the above photo. What is it?

It’s called the Water Channel. It’s located in the Experimental Fluid Dynamics lab. As I understand it, it’s used to test fluid dynamics using dye visualization. The staff at UTIAS describes the technique as injecting diluted food colouring into the flow using tubes, then they can see the flow better. On the day that I was there, they put an aeronautical wing shape and a circular cylinder into the bin. Then they would pass water through it, in kind of a propulsion system, and they observe the turbulence that flows around it. Below is a photo of vortex shedding behind a circular cylinder.

vortex_448

What kind of camera do you use?

I used a Canon digital SLR system. The reason I chose the Canon is that my regular camera (medium format camera with a digital back) is really slow and cumbersome and it has really low sensitivity, so you need a ton of light. It also has no wide angle, which means you only get a narrow angle view with it.

Is this your first published cover?

Yes, this is my first real distributed magazine cover.

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