December 2008

14 Dec 2008 [link to here]
moral compass bearing down

Today is cold and rainy, and after being rudely awakened before dawn by my alarm clock, I spent the day outdoors, teaching navigation skills to search and rescue trainees (today, rainees). As cold and rainy as it was, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and I found it quite pleasant. Apparently, half the battle is having the right expectations. The other half is made of fleece and Gore-Tex, in large quantities. Also helpful: a thermos of coffee, still hot five hours in.

16 Dec 2008 [link to here]
advancing the art

A friend and I went to SF MOMA yesterday and spent most of our time looking at early scientific photography from the 1800s. Not exactly modern art, but all the more fascinating. I had no idea people back then had made such high quality photos of the moon, solar eclipses, Saturn, Jupiter, and also microscopic things like bacteria and plant cells.

In many cases, the pioneering photographers of the day were personally engineering better equipment: chemical treatments to increase the sensitivity of the photographic plates, lenses designed to focus the high frequency light the plates responded to, and shutter mechanisms that facilitated making multiple exposures on different regions of a single plate (since changing plates took a while).

Most of my photography is of circus acrobats, who tend to move fast on dimly lit stages, which means my photos are often too dark, motion-blurry, or grainy. A couple days ago, I had an idea for how to get more value from the meager light in my photos: apply a simple convolution filter to add to each pixel some of the light from neighboring pixels. This comes at a cost of image sharpness, but for some photos it's a huge win, especially when I'm just putting low resolution copies online.

I'm advancing my own art, which is nice, but I'm several decades behind the actual frontier for these kinds of tricks. Perhaps it's time to catch up a bit.