Kirk Sylvester, a security training coordinator with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL’s) Global Security Computing Applications Division, is a self-proclaimed “tech geek.” Whether he is helping to secure Department of Energy (DOE) facilities in his day job or pursuing photography as a passion, Sylvester enjoys exploring new technology.
Sylvester grew up in Santa Rosa, California, and enlisted in the Air Force at age 21, first maintaining weapons systems in F-16 and A-10 aircraft and later working in intelligence. “IT systems administration has been a common theme throughout my career,” he states. After eight years in the service, he joined LLNL’s Global Security Directorate to develop web and IT systems in support of counterproliferation planning activities.
With benefits from the GI Bill about to expire, Sylvester left LLNL in 2012 to enroll at Las Positas College in Livermore. He earned a business degree and a certificate in photography. In 2016, Sylvester brought all these skills to bear on a new position in LLNL’s Computing Directorate.
Today, Sylvester oversees training resources for users of Argus, a security system that protects DOE facilities including LLNL. The system consists of software and hardware for secure entry (such as turnstiles, doors, and remote access panels), encoded personnel identification (such as badges), alarm stations, camera and sensor technologies, and more.
Sylvester’s duties include managing a team of six training and documentation professionals, administering the training website, producing training videos, and deploying online training materials. He explains, “We’re building online training for any type of user who encounters an Argus system at a DOE site—from the people who swipe their badges to those who install and manage the system.”
Inside or outside the office, Sylvester often has a camera close by. “I’ve always had an interest in photography,” he says. “It’s an art that lets me combine a couple of my biggest passions—gadgets and travel.” His first camera, bought at a garage sale when he was a child, used cartridge film. He took photography classes in high school and, later, acquired a 35-millimeter camera while stationed in Germany. Inevitably, Sylvester has since upgraded to a digital single-lens reflex Canon 6D camera.
At Las Positas College, Sylvester studied videography and learned how to develop film, mount and frame prints, and install gallery pieces. Inspired by pictures from NASA’s Mars rover, he began experimenting with 3D photography. He takes multiple images of the same scene, repositioning the camera slightly to the left and right. Using Photoshop, he applies red and cyan to the images before combining them. The result is a stereoscopic image that appears in 3D when viewed with anaglyph glasses.
Sylvester staged a multimedia exhibit as his final college project. The show combined 3D prints with audio recordings—for example, a time-lapse print of the International Space Station streaking across a star-filled sky accompanied by a soundbite of a NASA flight operator describing a spacewalk. True to his tech-geek nature, Sylvester titled his show “Into the Night” in homage to a computer bulletin board system he ran with a friend during the dial-up era.
Sylvester’s show caught the attention of the art director of downtown Livermore’s Bankhead Theater. In 2018, he was invited to display 16 of his photos in a special gallery at the theater in conjunction with a recurring exhibit called “The Art of Science.” For his next photo project, he plans to combine time-lapse imagery with 3D effects. “I learn a lot from every photo I take,” he says.