Picture of ALBA wins the contest

Photographer Sergio Ruiz wins the Technology and Science Prize of the #IDL2019 Photo Contest with a picture at ALBA in Barcelona (Spain).

“I’ve always been interested in science and I do respect very much the job of scientists, so when I was asked to take pictures at the ALBA Synchrotron for a magazine cover, I felt so honoured to visit the facility”. Sergio Ruiz (1976, Barcelona) noted, remembering the excitement he felt when entering for the first time at the experimental hall of ALBA, the synchrotron light source facility of Spain. “I could not stop looking at the different instruments and laboratories; I was like a child in Disneyland!”

Sergio Ruiz has been a professional photographer for more than 20 years, and works as a freelancer in the Barcelona region for magazines, publishers and companies. He also teaches photography in different institutions of his home town Mataró. He has been awarded the Technology and Science Prize for the International Day of Light Photo Contest 2019. The prize was supported and sponsored by Lightsources.org, an international collaboration of science communicators working in light source science facilities.

Catching the atmosphere at a beamline

The winning picture shows the scientist Carlos Escudero working at the CIRCE beamline, a laboratory that uses synchrotron light to perform studies in the field of nanotechnology, materials science and chemistry.

“[Sergio] was very agile in capturing the complexity and beauty of our job. Performing an experiment can be very hard – preparing samples, working on night shifts, etc. – but also very rewarding. Furthermore, before the scientists can do an experiment, there is a huge effort that involves a lot of people. Thanks to all ALBA staff we are able to make our small contribution to the progress of the society,” describes Carlos.

“What I wanted to communicate with this picture is that science is nothing without scientists. The human presence is always necessary for having good scientific results. It’s my modest way to highlight the excellent role that scientists have in our life”, says photographer Sergio Ruiz (picture left). “I consider myself an unfulfilled scientist with the luck of dedicating myself to photograph these wonderful machines and these incredible scientists,” he continues.

The picture was taken, during a shutdown week a few summers ago. “When we have experiments we are not very available for this type of activity, as we need to take maximum profit of the beamtime. On this occasion, we were able to spend around one hour working to find the right image,” says Carlos.

“Obtaining this picture implied facing three challenges. First of all, defining the frame. In a large scientific facility, all of the equipment, cables and objects can generate a certain visual chaos. Defining carefully what to include and what to dismiss from the picture is not an easy task. The second problem was finding the appropriate lighting conditions. Many of the instruments are shiny and flashy, so you need to control light in order to get the right proportion between the elements appearing in the picture. And finally the last difficulty was time, as I had a limited amount of time with the scientist,” says Sergio Ruiz.

The result is a stunning picture which effectively summarises the perfect communion between the scientist and the machine/instrumentation. The selection panel at SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics and also organiser of the photo contest were delighted about the amount of science and technology related images in this year edition. All in all more than 1300 images were submitted in the three months following the 16th May (International Day of Light). Sergio Ruiz is very pleased with the award and assures that, “it will encourage him to specialize in taking pictures of scientific facilities”.


Technical details about the picture: Reflex camera, wide-angle lens, 1 source of light placed rear-lit to generate the texture appearing in the picture.

CIRCE Beamline: scientists work here with soft X-rays that can be used in two different end-stations. One is devoted to photoemission electron microscopy and we study thin films, surfaces, interfaces and magnetic properties of nanomaterials. The other end-station is for near ambient pressure photoemission spectroscopy, a technique that allows studying the chemical composition and oxidation state of the elements present at the materials surface under different gas environments. This technique is especially interesting for catalysis and other energy-related applications.

The SPIE International Day of Light Photo Contest is an annual event that provides imagery to support the celebration of IDL. The contest kicks off each year on IDL, 16 May, and runs for three months, giving professional and amateur photographers alike the opportunity to show how light impacts cultural, economic, and political aspects of our global society. In 2019, for the first time, Lightsources.org sponsored a new category: technology and science, with a prize worth USD 750.

Want to know more about the next photo competition, the International Day of Light or #LightSourceScience in general?  Check out http://www.lightsources.org one platform for news, events and careers, also on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.