Neil Gehrels 2011 (2002 photo)

This entire image story is odd. In December 2002, I was asked to shoot the Swift-BAT Team at NASA/GSFC. (That's the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) instrument team for the NASA Swift spacecraft.) This session was shortly before the BAT instrument was shipped from Goddard in preparation for integration into the spacecraft. This photo is of Neil Gehrels, the Principal Investigator of the Swift spacecraft.

The shoot was done with a 35mm film SLR (Fuji 400 film). Having had some bad recent experiences with (probably) Ritz Camera printing my negatives and then chopping them in the middle of frames (rather than the blank space between them), I requested that the two rolls of film be left uncut. I guess the prints were given to the BAT team, although I held onto a 3x5" "contact sheet" as well as the negatives, all rolled up in long protective plastic sleeves and put in a small plastic box.

A few days ago (April 2012), I was doing a Google Image search for "NASA astrophysics Goddard" when I ran across the NASA blogs image below (the second web snapshot). Other than the tiny smaller-than-contact-sheet positive image (maybe 1/2"x 3/4") of which I also had a scan on my computer, I had not seen this image in nearly a decade, but somehow I had the vague feeling it might be mine. Today I found the negatives in a drawer in my GSFC office and confirmed that it was indeed my image!

It is certainly strange that this image found daylight in the spring of 2011, more than 8 years after I took it (and I do not believe it was used elsewhere in the intervening time).

I figured that was the end of the mystery. But no! I found two very similar adjacent frames of Neil, frames #3 and 4 on one of the rolls of film. There appears to have been (very careful!) Photoshop work done to trade heads, and not by me! Neil's expression is clearly #4, but the composition is equally clearly #3. If one looks at the bottom of the photos, there are a variety of clues:

All of these elements are in the versions of the photo used on the NASA web pages and in image #3, but the last two are not in #4. Furthermore, #4 was shot crooked. Applying a 5.4 degree counter-clockwise shift in Photoshop, one would then have to crop significantly to end up with an image with no white non-image background showing. As you can see from the last image, below, doing so would either crop out the sleeve logo or else require "painting in" the missing sections of the image (depending on which way one did it).

The simplest explanation for all this is that someone rotated #4 and carefully put his head into image #3!

[By the way, the color balance is certainly drastically different between what must have been a scanned print done a long time ago and the scanned negative done now. I don't know whether his shirt was really green or blue.] [bottom of this JPL web page says: "Last Updated: 24 May 2011"]
Neil Gehrels - JPL web site ["Posted 31 March 2011"]
Neil Gehrels - NASA blog site
frame 3:
Neil Gehrels #3
frame 4:
Neil Gehrels #4
5.4 degree counter-clockwise rotation to correct for crooked shot:
Neil Gehrels #4 rotated