National Geographic : 2018 Oct
THE BACKSTORY A DARKROOM AND ULTRAVIOLET LIGHTS CAN MAKE ORDINARY FLOWERS GLOW WITH UNEARTHLY COLORS. STEP ONE for photographer Craig Burrows is to select a flower. He does this carefully, foraging in parks and cracks in the pavement. Once he finds a worthy candidate—full in body and complex in texture—he brings it home. If he can’t find a specimen he likes, he’ll go to his garden and grow it himself. Burrows lives near Los Angeles, a prime place for diverse plants. He has photographed flowers since 2014 with a technique known as ultraviolet- induced visible fluorescence (UVIVF) photography. The method allows a flower to reveal the spectacular colors it emits when exposed to UV light. Ordi- nary pigments come to life in strange new ways, showing colors you’d expect on another planet. Daisies and sun- flowers often have the most striking fluorescence, their pigments glowing in vibrant colors. Many flowers reveal something different from what’s seen under conventional light. The UVIVF process requires near- perfect darkness and that the plants remain almost perfectly still. Flowers can’t run from the camera, but during a 20-second exposure they might shift, droop, or turn. Burrows holds his breath during each exposure, mindful that an errant exhalation or distur- bance of dust can cause motion blur or introduce distracting particles. The result is a series of luminous botan- ical portraits spangled with glowing embellishments. “It’s not that I’m creating something special,” says Burrows. “I’m finding something that’s right in front of us and sharing it in a way that other people haven’t seen yet.” The most interesting things, he says, are often hidden in plain sight. —DANIEL STONE PROOF The white flower of Kalanchoe marmorata (left) becomes pink in Burrows’s studio.