The Polonium and Radium Connection


The picture of Maria Sklodowska Curie's statue in the old town of Warsaw is probably the picture I'm the most proud of for many reasons. For those who don't know, Maria Sklodowka Curie is one of the most respected figure in the history of science. She discovered two elements: polonium and radium, and is the only person in history to have been awarded two Nobel prizes, and she is Polish. Her statue shows her holding a polonium molecule. 

When I first saw the statue, I thought : "I want to take a picture of that statue with the sun somewhere. She is holding a polonium molecule but where is the radium molecule? Bam! The sun is radiating light so it will be the radium molecule! "  Now that I had the idea nailed down, I had to figure out how I was going to do that. I knew that the sun rises East and the statue is facing East so the biggest problem of the puzzle was solved. The next problem was to align the sun with the statue. Landscape photographers use this fantastic tool called The photographer's Ephemeris to know exactly when and where the sun the moon rise and set. After my calculations, I had to wait around 4 months for the sun to be at the right position. When the time came, I only had a window of 1-week or so to take that picture right. 

When the day was nearing, I was nervously checking the weather forecast. It always help to have a little luck on your side ;) I was lucky enough to have almost no cloud on that particular day. 

On a technical standpoint, I had to figure out where to stand and what focal length to use in order to have the sun the same size as the polonium molecule. After a few tries, I got everything right and away I went shooting like crazy. 

My first idea was to put the sun right behind the polonium molecule to create like an explosion. Here is the shot of my initial idea.

Marie_Curie-Sun behind.jpg

Although it's really cool, I wanted to show the radium molecule so it meant showing the sun. That's why that shot didn't make the cut.

I had other technical challenges in shooting the statue but those challenges are part of the behind-the-scene unrevealed secrets ;) If you go on site, you'll quickly see why this isn't an easy picture to take. There you have it.