I’m James King-Holmes and, for longer than I wish to think, I am a photographer by profession.

Although many people regard me as a scientific or medical photographer I am a photojournalist and like nothing better than to see my editorial images in print so most of my work is sourced and approached with the intention of looking for a feature story – whether it is a new scientific development or medical training, an interesting scientist or a newsworthy technology . Publishers are less willing than previously to supply cuttings and tear-sheets but when I receive any I will add them to the blog as appropriate.

However, just to make things quite clear, PLEASE NOTE, ALL IMAGES ARE COPYRIGHT AND ANY COPYING OR UNLICENSED PUBLISHING (in print or electronically) WILL BE TREATED AS THEFT and I will have no hesitation in pursuing legal means to extract suitable compensation.

What you will find in the here will be a selection of my recent images from the science, medical and healthcare fields (marketed by me under the SciTech Image brand) together with other images from my more general work, and some personal pictures. I hope you will find something interesting about the techniques or the subjects and if you wish to purchase a Licence to reproduce them either in print or electronically, just contact me for details…. James

A most-perfect mathematician (2)

A few days after her 100th birthday, Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw travelled the 200 miles to Oxford, where her alma mater, Somerville College, had arranged a lunch party in her honour. Dame Kathleen, spry,lively & engaged gave a good-humoured speech of thanks, drawing on her memories of a long life. A most remarkable woman.


Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw speaking at her Centenary lunch

100 years young. A most-perfect mathematician

Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw was born on October 1st 1912 and, coming up to her 100th birthday, she is still working. Her mathematical speciality is most-perfect pandiagonal magic squares (I’m no mathematician, so don’t expect me to explain it beyond this: each row, column and diagonal of numbers adds to the same number as does each 2×2 square  and this applies to opposite partial diagonals, so pretty cool, yes?) She has also been active in politics in her city of Manchester, achieving the post of Lord Mayor in 1975, and received her award of the DBE (for non-Brits, this is why she has the title of ‘Dame’ – the female equivalent of ‘Sir’).

I met Dame Kathleen in 1999, when I photographed her on publication of her first book (when she was ‘only’ 86!). We seemed to hit it off and made each other laugh a lot in that photo session She was quite happy to go along with my idea of photographing her painting one of her magic squares on a sheet of glass (that’s why the numbers are reversed). We have kept in touch ever since and during these past few years her remarkable energies have kept her working constantly on her mathematics papers, on her astronomy (when travelling the world with her big motorised telescope to catch transits of Venus, solar eclipses, etc became too much for her she donated her telescope to a local university) and on her music (she was a founder of the Royal Northern College of Music). In between all that, she found time to write her autobiography.

I feel privileged to have known her and wish her a Very Happy 100th Birthday for the 1st October.

Nice pics, Mike Berg

I was returning to my car from shooting some commercial images early one morning in Abingdon-on-Thames, a local market town, and the only other people on the street, coming towards me, was a couple notable because, like me, the man was carrying a big Nikon, a camera case and a light but professional-size tripod. Naturally – as you do in such circumstances – we stopped for a few words and he turned out to be a visiting American with links to the town from his early life.  I later took a look at his website, from the business card he gave me, and I’m happy to pass on his details as his images show his love for photography – a true amateur in the classical sense of the word – who makes his images with care, skill and an excellent photographic ‘eye’.

Worth looking at.


In the (scientific) news – Tomato genome

Conceptual image of tomato DNA

I read that the complete genome of the tomato has now been sequenced and published. The above is my interpretation of the subject and is based on an image I developed many years ago when the tomato news was concerned with genetic engineering and the possibility of genetically modified tomatoes and tomato paste coming onto the supermarket shelves.

For those not intimately acquainted with genetics the image shows a tomato overlaid with the banding typical of analysis using gel electrophoresis which separates the DNA fragments to provide information on an X-ray film (or, in this conceptual image, the tomato itself) to enable the sequence to be read.

When I made the original image everything was shot on film, which had to be scanned if any post-production work was to be done on it. That and the relatively primitive software meant that I just couldn’t get the image as I wanted it, so the files were stored. When I read the news about this development a quick trip to my local market for some nice-looking tomatoes and resuscitating some of the original work on the image resulted in a much better quality image than was possible for me all those years ago.

In the (scientific) news – Bird flu

Work has just been published on the possibility of the H5N1 avian influenza virus mutating into a form which would be transmissible by humans, to whom it is deadly. Should this mutation, or set of mutations, occur the current World Health Authority statistics, which show 332 people have died of the virus since 2003, could expect to increase many times.

A team of researchers in the Netherlands have identified the five genetic changes which could allow such a pandemic to start, and a team at Cambridge (UK) led by Prof Derek Smith studied the genetic structure of 3,000 bird viruses and 400 that occur in humans to calculate the likelihood that these mutations could occur naturally. Whilst is seems that the possibility of this is remote, Prof Smith has indicated that out of the five mutations necessary for the change to the virus to allow transmission through human contact, two of the mutations have already been observed in the bird population, leaving just three, which is on the borderline of the possible, may happen in the future.

Muy Interesante double page on Prof Derek Smith. Picture © James King-Holmes

The picture is one of a set of my portrait images of Prof Smith, used as a double-page spread in a Spanish magazine. It shows the virologist looking ‘through’ the computer screen at an antigenic cartographic ‘map’ of one of the human influenza sub-types. Such data is used by the World Health Authority to select strains for manufacturing vaccines.



A few family days off in Rome with an expectation of blue May skies and sunshine but, in fact, getting rain, rain,more rain and a glimmer of blue sky as the taxi drew into Fiumicino airport for the return flight. That may be an exaggeration – it did show itself for a few minutes when I did the tourist trail around the Colosseum (above) but apart from a hint of blue, the cloud cover was almost 100%.

When I’m just going away with family like this and I do not expect to be allowed to wander off to spend time photographing potential stock images,  I always give thought to the equipment I take away. My Nikon D3 kit is heavy and cumbersome if I take the big zoom lenses which, with the various macro lenses, make up my basic working camera gear so I have a lightweight set of fixed focal-length lenses which will deal with most situations.

Although a smaller 4/3 camera is always a consideration for these occasions one thing which keeps the D3 as still the first choice is the excellent range of PC lenses available for the ‘proper’ camera. The above picture of the Colosseum was produced by setting the shift all the way to the left, then all the way to the right, from the same viewpoint, and stitching the images together.

In the (scientific) news – Frances Ashcroft UNESCO Award

I was delighted to read that Professor Frances Ashcroft of the University of Oxford has been given the top award in the L’Oreal-Unesco Women in Science Awards this year . These prizes recognise the groundbreaking achievements of leading female scientists and Prof Ashcroft received the award for her work on the mechanisms of insulin production in neo-natal diabetes.

SQUIDs Scan the Magnetic Brain

Did you know that your brain produced magnetic fields? Neither did I until I found myself at the Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity (OHBA). There a large magnetoencephalograph (MEG) scanner detects the position and strength of these very weak magnetic fields to help investigate neurological disorders such as epilepsy. Research into ADHD and other childhood disorders as well as Alzheimer’s and other memory-related disorders of ageing are also be studied using this technique.

Scanning for these magnetic fields, which are generated by the minute electric currents in the active neurones of the brain, only became possible by using superconductor technology cooled to a temperature of -269°C  and most of the high superstructure of the scanner is taken up with a large internal tank of liquid helium . The MEG scanner uses an array of 306 highly sensitive SQUIDs (Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices) which detect the extremely weak fields and associated gradients generated by neural activity in different parts of the brain.

In practice, once the subject has been fitted with some electrodes to detect any eye or body movement during the scan, they sit or lie with part of the scanner, containing the detectors, forming a ‘helmet’ and they are then presented with sound  through earphones and/or  visual images on a screen. This stimulates electrical activity in different areas of the brain and the SQUIDs detect and map the resulting magnetic fields.

A feature of a MEG scanner is that as no radiation is produced  subjects can be accompanied for the entire scan – children can have parents present and older people can have researchers or carers with them.

Although the scanner is non-invasive and does not emit radiation its sensitivity makes interference from external magnetic fields a major factor so it is housed in a small heavily shielded room which doesn’t allow a lot of space for photographic lights and cameras. On my pictures most of the lighting is by studio and portable flash balanced, where necessary, to the much lower brightness of the visual stimulus screen images and the images of the full height of the scanner use an ultra-wide angle lens

You can see the Gallery with more images of this fascinating bit of kit here.

I must thank OHBA for kindly arranging the excellent models who helped with this shoot, and whose patience I feel I must have tested!

Musical MoCap

I spent a very pleasant couple of hours this week with distinguished pianist David Owen Norris, who is a noted pianist and accompanist, having appeared at the London Proms and at concerts around the world. He is Professor of Music at the Royal College of Music and at Southampton University. He and a scientist, Dr Cheryl Metcalf have  developed a technique of motion capture of the hands & wrists of musicians, with the emphasis at present on the piano. Whilst it would be normal for Prof Owen Norris to play a very superior Grand Piano, for the purposes of the experimental work he is limited to a small electric keyboard, as the motion capture lab is on the third floor of one of the University buildings with access only by a small lift. This didn’t stop him playing almost without pause – a medley of classical & light classical music mixed with scales and improvisations.

All the playing was recorded by light reflecting back from retroreflective markers to special cameras and the digital information processed by computers to triangulate the markers’ position in space. The equipment used is the same marque as used in many Hollywood blockbusters, but for the analytical use displays the captured finger and wrist positions as ball-and-stick models.

It is hoped that the technique will be useful not only for musical analysis and teaching but also clinically, in the treatment of problems such as Repetitive Strain Injury which is an occupational hazard of some musicians.

This composite I developed, from some computer images I shot of Prof Owen Norris’s hands, is an imagined plot of the final crescendo of a piano piece, ending with a flourish and a single chord.