Monday, June 29, 2015

Lots of Pots

My wife and I enjoy functional art. Years ago, we began to replace the machine manufactured items in our kitchen with handmade pottery. We enjoy the individual personality that each pot is given by its maker.

Currently, we are in the process of trying to sell our home and invited interior designer Anne Tuckley to help us stage the home for potential buyers.  In addition to removing some antique furniture from the dining room and most of the books from my library, she took our handmade serving dishes out of the kitchen cabinets and used them to decorate.

Here are pictures of Anne's placement of our pots:

The serving bowls are from Fox Pass Pottery in Fox Pass, Arkansas. The pitcher was made by Always Azul Pottery in Villa Grove, Colorado.

This shot shows the plates from Always Azul that go with the water pitcher. We are afraid to move the angled dining room chair for fear of breaking Anne's feng shui.

My morning coffee routine has changed now that our mugs and cream pitcher from Fox Pass are decorating this shelf above the fireplace in the kitchen. The larger pitcher and the tumbler were made by our daughter Jennifer.

This book case features two of Jennifer's bowls on the middle shelf. The large raku platter is from Enchanted Circle Pottery in Taos Canyon, New Mexico. The small piece sitting on the book is our salt shaker so cooking now involves gathering items from all over the house.

We picked this up at Columbia's Art in the Park several years ago. I believe the name of the maker was the Wichita Mudslinger, but I have not been able to locate them online.

Our newest acquisition, that we purchased from Barry Bernstein Raku at the Oklahoma Festival of the Arts a few weeks ago, has been assigned to hold this orchid to "give a splash of color" to the hearth in the family room.

Overall, we really like the way Anne redecorated our home. But we are looking forward to selling it and moving into our new place closer to the center of Columbia.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

In the Zone

 "Ansel Adams and camera" by photo by J. Malcolm Greany

"Ansel Adams and camera" by photo by J. Malcolm Greany
Ansel Adams is probably the world's best known landscape photographer. Working mostly with black and white film and a medium format camera, his landscapes of the Western United States, particularly the Yosemite area, have become iconic for photographic perfection.

Adams first visited Yosemite in 1916 with his family and captured his first photographs of the area on a Kodak Brownie that was a gift from his Father. He returned to the park the following year with a better camera and a tripod.

While in Yosemite, Adams met Virginia Best, whose family owned Best's Studio in the park. The couple married in 1928 and inherited the studio upon her Father's death in 1935. They operated the studio until 1971. The studio is now the Ansel Adams Gallery.

El Capitan and Merced River by Ansel Adams
To ensure the best possible exposure for each photograph, Adams and his colleague Fred Sharp codified the Zone System which applies sensitometric methods to calculate a camera's aperture and shutter settings. To use the system, a photographer meters the light reflected from different elements in the scene and adjusts the exposure based upon the photographers knowledge of the desired brightness of the object being metered. The Zone System assigns numbers from 0 through 10 to different brightness values, with 0 representing black, 5 middle gray, and 10 pure white. The difference between the zones represent one stop of exposure on a camera's aperture or shutter speed settings.

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Half Dome and the Merced River by Ansel Adams

Friday, June 5, 2015

Photograph like a Painter!

Henri Cartier-Bresson with his famous Leica Camera
Henri Cartier-Bresson with his famous Leica Camera
The 20th Century French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson is generally recognized as the first master of candid photography. Shooting exclusively with a 35mm Leica and a 50mm lens, his images often have a informal, almost casual feeling that doesn't seem like the work of a professional photographer.

At the same time, his best work shows an understanding of story-telling and balanced composition that many professional photographers would benefit from studying. Cartier-Bresson studied oil painting and classical literature at the Lhote Academy in Paris and Cambridge University before deciding to work primarily in photography. The influences of the classics as well as the cubists and surrealists can often be seen in his images.

Image by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Image by Henri Cartier-Bresson
He described his approach in these terms, "For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression."

In addition to his body of images, Cartier-Bresson also developed the concept of "The Decisive Moment" to describe the instant when the photographer recognizes when it is time to click the shutter. In the introduction to his book, which carries The Decisive Moment title, he explains it this way: “Photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”

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The Decisive Moment by Henri Cartier-Bresson


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Apple's Push Into Augmented Reality

Apple Augmented Reality Display
Image from Patently Apple
There have been several news items recently that indicate the Apple has decided to play a leading role in the new medium of augmented reality. Augmented reality applications provide digital information that is synchronized in time and location with the real world. Since smartphones are the one digital device that people have with them constantly in the real world, they are an obvious platform for augmenting that world.

In February, the US Patent and Trademark office published 45 new Apple patents that had been granted including an invention relating to flexible displays that have openings designed in the display. One or more openings in the display may form a window through which a user of the device may view an external object. Display pixels in the portion of the display in which the window in formed may be used in forming a heads-up display.

This type of display would be ideal for building an augment reality headset or creating the dashboard and windshield of an automobile.

On May 17th, Apple announced the acquisition of Coherent Navigation, a Bay Area global positioning company that has developed a commercial navigation system that is more accurate than consumer grade GPS systems. Positioning is critical to synchronizing the augmented reality experience with the actual location in the real world.

On May 29th, Apple purchased Metaio, one of the leading companies developing augmented reality authoring tools and customized applications of the technology for advertising and training. Metaio also created the popular Junaio augmented reality browser which pulls data from multiple sources and overlays it on the view from your phone or tablet camera.

These technology additions in the fields of display, mapping and content development put Apple firmly in the race with Microsoft's Hololens, and Google's Glass, Cardboard and Magic Leap investments.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Are You Divergent?

Divergent Trilogy
In Veronica Roth's dystopian Divergent trilogy, set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, the people are sorted and separated into factions based upon their primary modes of thinking and acting. The objective is allow each group to use their strengths to maximize their contribution to the community as a whole.

The system ultimately degenerates into war between the factions due to mistrust and lack of respect for the values and skill of the members of other factions. The focus on communal thought and behavior is also a mental straitjacket for some of the more creative thinkers in each faction.

The heroine and hero of the books are Tris and Four whose methods of thought don't fit neatly into the factional categories. Labeled as "Divergents" by the factional leaders, they are feared and considered threats to society. Their ability to approach situations using a broader skill set makes them unpredictable, uncontrollable and disruptive.

I believe that Tris and Four are good role models for business leaders. The market respects and rewards those who can create disruptive business models. The probability of building a disruptive business is much higher if you can look at situations differently than others.

How divergent are you?

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What is augmented reality?

Augmented Reality in Mini Cooper.
Image from Car and Driver
Last December, when I predicted the top technological stories of 2015, I overlooked augmented reality. In the last few weeks however, there has been an explosion of news stories featuring this futuristic medium.

Augmented reality is a media experience that adds digital information to the world that you can interact with in the same manner that you interact with the physical world.  According to Dr. Alan Craig in his book Understanding Augmented Reality Concepts and Applications, there are four key aspects of an augmented reality experience:

  • The physical world is augmented by digital information superimposed on a view of the physical world.
  • The information is displayed in registration with the physical world.
  • The information displayed is dependent on the location of the real world and the physical perspective of the person in the physical world.
  • The information displayed is interactive in a way that allows the user to sense the information and make changes to the information if desired.

While there are many mobile applications that provide supplemental information about the real world based upon the location of the user, most do not meet the definition of augmented reality because they do not display that information in registration with the physical world.

At the Shanghai Auto Festival a few weeks ago, the Mini Cooper division of BMW demonstrated in an interesting application of augmented reality where a driver wearing a special pair of glasses can "see through" the blind spots caused by the car's roof and sides.  When the driver looks in the direction of the blind spots, the system replaces the roof and sides with views from cameras located at the exterior of the car.

Many of the early augmented reality applications were designed to add information to printed material. When the user aimed a device's camera at selected content on the printed piece, the content was replaced with a video or a three dimensional representation that added information to the printed content. This is an interesting use case because the "reality" being augmented is itself a two dimensional representation of a different reality. In my opinion, most of the print applications of augmented reality have been mostly gimmicks and not very useful.

Beyond print enhancement, digital augmentation of the real world has tremendous value in entertainment, transportation and many other fields. Some of the most useful applications will be in automotive safety where the systems can highlight potential dangers before the driver might see them without the augmentation.

What part of your reality would you like to augment?

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Monday, May 4, 2015

The Price is Wright

The Price Tower
Before Terri and I left Bartlesville, Oklahoma, we stopped to see the Price Tower which is the only realized skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. We found it to be an unusual and uniquely beautiful structure.

In designing the Price Tower, Wright was inspired by the shape and structure of a tree. Like a tree trunk, the central elevator shaft supports the entire structure. The 19 floors of the building branch out from the central core and the outer walls are clad in patinated copper which creates an effect similar to leaves.

The tower currently houses the Price Tower Arts Center which focuses on art architecture and design. It is was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior in March of 2007.

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