Photographing the invisible: methane gas, by Jonah M. Kessel and Hiroko Tabushi

New York Times photographer Jonah M. Kessel and climate investigative reporter Hiroko Tabushi traveled to America’s largest oil field in Texas in roder to show us the invisible but dramatic extent of methane leaks.

Read the full article and see the original infrared videos here.

EagleClaw Midstream Pecos Plant​ Nov. 8, 2019,
Jonah M. Kessel for The New York Times

Here is Jonah M. Kessel’s article on how this was technically achieved.

The FLIR converts infrared energy into an electronic signal to create moving pictures. It relies on an external computer backup battery and is controlled by a laptop.
The FLIR converts infrared energy into an electronic signal to create moving pictures. It relies on an external computer backup battery and is controlled by a laptop.Credit…Jonah M. Kessel/The New York Times

“We used a custom-built FLIR A8389sc infrared camera to capture these images. The camera converts infrared energy into an electronic signal to create moving pictures. Its filter allows infrared wavelengths between 3.2 and 3.4 micrometers on the electromagnetic spectrum to pass through to the sensor. For reference, humans only see between 0.4 and 0.7 micrometers. In order to visualize the gas, the camera uses helium to cool the sensor to the temperature of liquid nitrogen, around minus 200 degrees Celsius. This requires a lot of power. So we had to lug around an external computer backup battery as well as a laptop that controls the camera. Our setup was not exactly nimble or discreet.

Instead of using traditional photography lenses, which are of course made of glass, the infrared images were created using lenses made from germanium, a metal that is transparent at infrared wavelengths.”