Santa Fe, New Mexico
June 22-26, 2015

Meeting Highlights

A big thank you to everyone who contributed their time and effort to make BIOCOMM 2015, BCA's 85th Annual Meeting in Sante Fe, NM, June 22-26, 2015, a huge success!

The meeting offered four days of classroom and workshop sessions that brought together a variety of professionals in the fields of visual media in the life sciences to learn microscopy, macro photography, field techniques and location lighting strategies, medical privacy and technology best practices, infrared imaging, graphic design principles, and more.

  • "Pretty much everything was a highlight," said attendee Cynthia Brodoway, a medical photographer at Nemours/Al DuPont Hospital. "It was just wonderful to be with this group of people. I have a ton of notes from every workshop."

Long-time BCA member James Hayden, RBP, FBCA, Manager of the Imaging Core Facility at Wistar Institute, said: "I come to the BCA annual meetings as often as I can and I always seem to get the same thing out of every one: inspiration."

The meeting kicked off on Monday evening with the BioImages 2015 Opening & Awards Ceremony. BioImages is the BCA's annual visual media competition that showcases the finest still, graphics and motion media work in the life sciences and medicine. There were 195 entries this year, 113 of which were selected for the salon. A total of 40 awards were given in 18 different categories.


This year's Best of Show was "RCH Education Institute Year in Review 2013-2014" by Christine Goerner of The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne. It also received the Award of Excellence in the Graphics Media: Brochure Flyer category. Goerner also received an Award of Excellence for "The Royal Children's Hospital Sugar Glider In Room Guide".

This year's judges were Marie Craig, MS, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Fountain Street Fine Art; Charles "Chip" Hedgcock, RBP, FBCA, a photographer in the Entomology Department at the University of Arizona; Kathleen Wagner, MFA, CMI, Associate Director of the Medical Graphics & Photography Department at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas; and Will Willner, RBP, FBPA, an Adjunct Instructor in Photography in the Art Department at Wake Forest University.


On Tuesday morning, Joe McNally presented an excellent, entertaining and laugh-out-loud Maria Ikenberg Lindberg Keynote, "A Life on Assignment". Joe, an internationally acclaimed photographer whose career has spanned 30 years, shared some great advice for other photographers—especially freelance—including:

  • "Don't think of it as a camera, think of it as a Visa."
  • "A photography career is a marathon, not a sprint."
  • "Make the connection for the reader. Your viewer is the ultimate customer."
  • "Find something that to you is so beautiful that you can't help but shoot it."

Joe also presented a session on field techniques and location lighting strategies. Some of his comments included:

  • "The most important light is ambient light. It forms a solution for what you're going to do and how you're going to do it."
  • "Lighting illuminates the star of the show. Everything else is just context."
  • "There's a language to everything you do with a flash in your hand."


James Hayden, RBP, FBCA, Manager of the Imaging Core Facility at Wistar Institute, talked about modern methods in microscopy, outlining optical techniques (brightfield, darkfield, differential interference contrast, and phase contrast), basic staining techniques (H&E, special stains, and fluorescence) and how to quantitatively document live cells in the molecular realm.

Other sessions on Tuesday included an introduction to New Mexico by Kate Nelson and Linda Clarke from the New Mexico History Museum; a presentation by Adam Cooper, RBP, FBCA, Chief Medical Photographer
North Shore-LIJ Health System, on the power of photography; tips on photographing in historic houses by Norm Barker, MS, MA, RBP, FBCA, Director of Pathology Photography and Graphics Laboratory
at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; considerations for privacy and technology in the medical world, by Danielle Edwards, BA, FAIMBI, FIPT, FBCA,
Chief Medical Photographer at
Austin Health, Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital; and a presentation by Connie Johansen, RBP,
Multimedia Specialist Supervisor for the
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, on performance management for supervisors.


On Tuesday afternoon, attendees went on an outing to the Monroe Gallery of Photography, a Santa Fe gallery specializing in classic black and white photography with an emphasis on humanist and photojournalist imagery, hosted by Joe McNally (whose work is exhibited in the gallery) and gallery owners Sid and Michelle Monroe.

Wednesday's sessions kicked off with Gale Spring, FBPA, Adjunct Professor 
in the School of Applied Sciences at RMIT University, who spoke about forensic infrared imaging, shared applications for infrared, and offered recommendations for equipment. Clair Richards, a forensic photographer from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, spoke about using digital infrared techniques to identify tattoos difficult to see post mortem. She said that infrared photography will penetrate the skin to 4mm, the depth of tattoo inks, and will identify tattoos even on burned and decomposed bodies, as well as those that have been covered by a new tattoo.

Reid Callanan, Director of the Sante Fe Photography Workshops, shared 10 tips for better location photography, including:

  • "Cameras don't take pictures. The photographer is the creative force behind the camera."
  • "Skip breakfast and dinner or you'll miss the best light."
  • "Sharpness is overrated. Use slow shutter speeds to create blur and make interesting photographs."

Jim Fosse, RBP, FBCA, Visual Information Specialist at the National Centers for Animal Health, USDA, talked about his first experience submitting a training video to the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVe), where he said, "Some people learn better by seeing."

Scott Miles, who teaches photography at the Brooks Institute, talked about lighting choices for protecting live subjects in high-speed imaging. He shared the advantages of flash (small, portable, doesn't require much power), and detailed the equipment he uses. He showed some of his images, including high-speed imaging outtakes with frog subjects, one of which tripped over it's own tongue!

Adam Cooper, RBP, FBCA, Chief Medical Photographer
North Shore-LIJ Health System, walked attendees through how to do panoramic stitching in Adobe Photoshop, and shared some of his panoramic photos.

Gabriel Unda, FBCA, Bob Turner, RBP, FBPA, and Kyra Oellig, a self-employed photographer from Flagstaff, Arizona, participated in "InfoShare", where each had five minutes to demonstrate a tip, trick or gadget that they use. Gabriel shared information about the Sun Surveyor app and Stack Shot software, Bob shared how he uses a walking stick with standard thread on the end that can be attached to a tripod to make a monopod, and Kyra demonstrated how she uses a dental lens to shoot ‪macro images. ‬‬‬‬‬‬

Gale Spring, FBPA, Adjunct Professor
in the School of Applied Sciences at RMIT University, and Danielle Edwards, BA, FAIMBI, FIPT, FBCA, Chief Medical Photographer
 Austin Health, Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, participated in "Show Us Your Stuff", where they were given five minutes to show an image, describe the purpose and audience for the image, and the technique used to shoot it.


BIOCOMM 2015 attendees also participated in a hands-on Macro Madness Session, where macro photography experts set-up tables to demonstrate techniques and equipment, and participants rotated through five stations. At one of the stations, James Hayden, RBP, FBCA, Manager of the Imaging Core Facility at Wistar Institute, demonstrated solutions to specimen positioning, a three-light configuration with a raised platform made of Legos, and homemade mini studio sweeps made of wooden doll heads, napkins rings, white craft foam, paper clips and Velcro dots.

Wednesday's sessions also included a presentation by Karna McKinney, FBCA, about her trip to the Galapagos Islands, and BCA member Laurie Lizotte gave a moving photographic tribute to her long-time friend, "Johnny G".

Attendees gathered for a group photo around the fountain in the courtyard of the Drury Plaza Hotel, where the meeting was held. The photo was taken this year by Nathan Pallace, a Medical Photographer at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, who also photographed the entire meeting.

During BCA's Business Lunch and Town Hall Meeting, also held on Wednesday, attendees approved nominees for President, Vice President, and Secretary/Treasurer board positions and voted in candidates Connie Johanson (President), Sue Loomis (Vice President), and Jim Koepfler (Secretary Treasurer). Attendees also voted to change the BCA Constitution to reduce the number of voting members of the board to three and directors would be appointed by the board.


On Thursday, several attendees participated in a photography workshop from Sante Fe to Taos and Back, led by Chip Hedgcock, RBP, FBCA, and Karna McKinney, FBCA. On Friday, attendees participated in a review and critique of the images taken during the workshop.

Mary Hanrahan from the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos kicked off Friday's sessions with a presentation on designing for clear communication. She shared several writing tips for clear communication, including:

  • "Write for the reader, not for yourself."
  • "Write in an active voice."
  • "Use shorter sentences and avoid hyphenations."

Dennis Chamberlain, a photographer in New Mexico and also a Certified Expert in Adobe Lightroom and PhotoShop, presented a workshop on Adobe Lightroom. Dennis shared several tips including: essential keywording for quick searches and organizing folders.

During the Show Us Your Stuff sessions, Nathan Pallace shared how to dramatically improve gross specimen imaging with little or no expense, and Joe Kane described how he uses Cam Ranger on his iPad.

James Wetzel, Pulaski L. Bealy Smith Biology Professor at Presbyterian College, presented a session on the environmental photography course the college offers for undergraduates across many academic disciplines. The course develops awareness of one's environment through the photographic image.

Friday's sessions also included a presentation by Bob Turner on his trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone; a review and critique of the images from the Taos workshop on Thursday; and lastly, the Anne Shiras Pioneer Lecture was Scott Watson, R&D Scientist V, Los Alamos National Laboratory, "Capturing the Light: A Particle Panoply".


The Honors Banquet was held on Friday evening. Gabriel Unda, FBCA, Chip Hedgcock, RBP, FBCA, and Gale Spring, FBPA, were awarded Emeritus Memberships, and a BCA Fellowship was awarded to Danielle Edwards. James M. Fosse, RBP, FBCA, received the 2015 Louis Schmidt award for "outstanding contributions to the progress of biological communications."

Join us for BIOCOMM 2016, June 19-24, 2016 at the Drury Hotel in New Orleans.