Flowers Bloom Anew in Fluorescent Photos

A blanket flower shines using a technique called ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence. (Photo: Craig P. Burrows)

The flowers that Craig Burrows photographs have an otherworldly quality. They shimmer and glow with tints of hot pink, bright yellow and iridescent green. The images are a combination of cool photography and science know-how. Burrows records the fluorescence of plants, when they emit light that is normally invisible to the naked eye. Burrows uses ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence (UVIVF) photography to capture the ethereal glow.

The centers of this purple alyssum look like tiny glowing lights. (Photo: Craig P. Burrows)

Burrows discovered the photographic technique online several years ago.

"I saw UVIVF photos done by Alex Holovachov and thought they were spectacular," he tells MNN. "I wanted to try it myself, so between the post he did explaining it, and actually talking to him, I figured out what it would take to get started."

Since then he's shot dozens of plants including calla lilies, hollyhocks, hawthorns, Mexican sunflowers and the purple alyssum shown above.

It's as if this plains coreopsis has been sprinkled with fairy dust. (Photo: Craig P. Burrows)

Burrows collects samples while he's out on walks in his Los Angeles-area neighborhood and brings them back to his home studio to shoot them.

"Outdoors there's a lot of light from street lights, moon, stars, etc. which would overwhelm the fluorescent glow," he says. "It requires either a near-total-dark setting, or very powerful UV source to ensure that the fluorescence is much brighter than any ambient light."

The fluorescence is stunning in this white hollyhock. (Photo: Craig P. Burrows)

A controlled environment is important because the slightest movement can have a huge impact.

"The long exposures mean that any tiny movement is captured, so a controlled environment with minimal airflow is best," he says. "Some of the photos are at greater than 1:1 reproduction which means even a 0.1mm movement in the flower may span a couple dozen pixels."

This kangaroo paw flower seems to be dusted with sparkling glitter. (Photo: Craig P. Burrows)

Burrows relied on knowledge he picked up in school to better understand the properties of fluorescence.

"I have some science background," he says. "I was in school for engineering so I've got some accompanying chemistry/physics knowledge which pertains to the UVIVF photography and photography in general."

Burrows makes a hot pink daisy look ethereal. (Photo: Craig P. Burrows)

Although Burrows likes creating the images of flowers and fluorescence, his portfolio goes far beyond plants. It includes haunting landscapes and abandoned urban scenes.

"I'm drawn to imagery of natural processes, whether strictly that of nature (plants, animals, landscapes), or those of human nature (urban decay, abandonment, vandalism)," he says. "In the former, I like the lack of human presence, even if humanity's constructs have some presence. With the latter, while the subject is created by man, its existence or state of being implies again, a lack of humanity. It's what's abandoned or unseen. Even graffitied edifices imply that it could only have happened if there was nobody there to stop it, whether because it went unseen, or because nobody cared. I think my ideal of something to shoot would be where nature is reclaiming something man-made, or pristine nature like the Bolivian salt flats."

Below you'll find more of Burrows' UVIVF photography. You can also check out his portfolio and his flickr and Facebook page.

A hawthorn flower glows. (Photo: Craig P. Burrows)
Narcissus flowers glow with UVIVF. (Photo: Craig P. Burrows)
Particularly the center of this Mexican sunflower is highlighted by Burrows' technique. (Photo: Craig P. Burrows)
Privet flowers show off their photo sheen. (Photo: Craig P. Burrows)
An angel's trumpet seems to have an otherworldly glow. (Photo: Craig P. Burrows)