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SPIE and Poster Presentations

Posted by Tom Benedict on 15/05/2010

I work at an astronomical observatory on Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Hawaii is also where I have done the bulk of my KAP work.  For the most part the two, work and hobby, rarely mix.  I sometimes do photography at work, sometimes even high-angle photography.  But rarely do I get to do KAP.  I can count those occasions on one hand without using all my fingers.  Still, I keep looking for opportunities and have fun every time I find one.

At the end of June a bunch of us are heading off to San Diego to go to the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation 2010 conference.  I’m presenting a paper on the cryogenic cooling system for one of our instruments.  We made some fundamental changes in the system over the last two years, and the paper presents our results.  At a conference there are two ways papers are presented: oral presentation and poster presentation.  Oral presentations mean getting up on stage in front of an audience and taking your time slot to present your findings.  Poster presentations mean hanging up your poster, and during the time slot allocated for that group of posters it means standing in front of your poster and answering any questions people might have.

Oh yeah, I went for the poster presentation.  I’m not completely comfortable with public speaking, though I’m getting better at it.  But the real draw was the poster.  A poster!

The SPIE conference rules call for posters no larger than 45″x45″.  We have a large format photo plotter at work that can do 36″ wide prints.  I’m figuring on making a poster 36″x45″.  Most of the posters I’ve seen have been informative, most are easy to read, but very few of them have much in the way of pizazz.  Since my presentation is about a cryogenic cooling system and the instrumentation we put into place to monitor the cooling system, I don’t have much in the way of graphs but I have a lot in the way of diagrams and photographs.

And I also have every bit of that 36″x45″ that isn’t covered by words, graphs, diagrams, and photos to cover with whatever I want.  Yup, whatever I want.

Most of the posters I’ve seen use a color gradient wash as the background, or maybe a pastelized picture that’s related to the subject of the poster.  Not me.  I’m running with the whole “cold” theme, and I figured out how to work KAP into it.

Back in 2009 we had a particularly icy winter.  During one of our mid-winter instrument exchanges, things appeared to be working well, so at lunch I grabbed my KAP gear and headed outside.  The wind really was too tossy for good KAP, but I still came back with 1.3GB of photos to work with.  One set of images was good enough to make a nice wide panorama of the snow covered summit.  Sapphire blue skies above, white white snow below, snow covered cinder cones in-between, and the telescope where I work off to one side.  Perfect.

The rest of the background is going to be a snow texture extracted from the remaining photos in the set.  Hints of texture, but nothing too overpowering.  I still haven’t decided how much I’m going to carry the theme into the boxes that will enclose the various text blocks, diagrams, graphs, and photos.  I think going so far as to hang icicles around the text boxes is probably just a little too much.  But it’ll be fun.

It’s fun to mix work and KAP.  And any chance I get to make a print as large as 36″x45″ is just too good to pass up!

– Tom

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