Thursday, December 17, 2015

Taking a Blogging Break

In recent weeks, I have struggled more than usual in creating interesting content. I feel it is time to take a break from blogging for a while.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Living the Trends

Acrylic Print
In December, in a photo gifting fulfillment plant, you don't just study trends in the photo industry. You live the trends. And you do whatever it takes to get great products to your customers in time to be given as Christmas gifts.

The two biggest long term trends that I see in our Black River Imaging plant are a shift toward increasingly premium products and a compression of the peak manufacturing season.

The products that are in demand include lay-flat photo books, ultra-thick greeting cards on richly textured paper, cards with die-cut shapes, metal prints and large format prints mounted to the back of acrylic. These are all items that require extensive finishing operations after the printing is completed.

While the products are more complex, they still need to be produced quickly. Every year, a higher percentage of the total orders for the entire year are produced in the month of December. We are always happy to see the peak season begin and relieved when it is over.

How is your December going so far?

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Perfection with 14 Sides

Truncated octahedron From made by user Cyp using POV-Ray
One of the primary advantages of additive manufacturing is the ability to build structures that would be impossible to create using traditional subtractive machining. This can be particularly important for aerospace and automotive applications where reducing weight while maintaining structural integrity can generate substantial fuel savings.

Weight reductions can be accomplished by using titanium and other lightweight materials which are easier to print than machine. It can also be accomplished by replacing solid structures with partially hollow structures.  The key is removing as much material as possible without compromising the strength of the part.

To create the internal shape of a strong, lightweight part, a truncated octahedron may be the world's most perfect shape. A fourteen sided polyhedron composed of six square faces and eight hexagonal faces, a truncated octahedron has edges which are all the same length. A truncated octahedron can be created by joining two square pyramids at their based then cutting off all six of the corners to remove one third of the edge length.

Truncated octahedra.jpg by AndrewKepert.
One remarkable feature of truncated octahedra is they stack together to completely fill a three dimensional space without any voids. An object constructed of hollow truncated octahedra is lightweight and strong enough to resist shearing and buckling. The strength and weight can be varied within a single part by varying the thickness of the walls or the size and quantity of the octahedra.

What is your favorite shape?

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful in 2015

The First Thanksgiving 1621, oil on canvas by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
The First Thanksgiving 1621, oil on canvas by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

As I ponder the year that is almost finished and the year ahead, I am thankful for many things.  Here are a few:

  • I am thankful to be spending today with my family who are loved and loving.
  • I am thankful to be living in a comfortable home and sharing a wonderful meal together.
  • I am thankful to work with thoughtful, talented and dedicated people.
  • I am thankful to be living in a country where freedom of expression and freedom of religion are such an important part of our legal and social framework.
  • I am thankful to be living in an age where so much knowledge is instantly available.

What are you thankful for today?

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hard Choices, Thoughtful Decisions

I was born in the final months of the Eisenhower administration and I have a great deal of respect for his accomplishments during the Second World War and afterward. However, that does not mean that I would like to see a return to the deportation policies or the tax rates of the Eisenhower era.

Politics often frustrate me.  When I hear politicians or elected officials support policies which are based on either bad economics, bad psychology or both, I worry about future of our country and planet. That future is important enough that I have decided to comment more on political issues than I have in the past.

I agree with those who claim that there is a bias in the media. There are examples of extremely biased news on both the left and the right. The most consistent bias is the preference for sensationalism. Every medium wants to enhance their ratings and the most unusual, most radical, most provocative statements are the ones that bring in viewers.

This bias is most unfortunate during the election cycle because it reduces the conversation to the lowest level and tends to boost the popularity of the most outrageous candidates. The bravado that sounds good in a debate or a news sound bite, does not serve us well in working through difficult social issues in our own country or with our neighbors.

One of the best ways to move beyond the hype cycle is to read the books that have been written by the candidates. These books, whether biographical or prescriptive, provide a much greater insight into the decision making process that will be used in forging future policies.

My reading for this week is Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices. Focusing on her years as Secretary of State, Hard Choices is great review of recent world history and a wonderful lesson in what you can accomplish when your goal is to tear down walls rather than build walls.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Every Image Possible - In Every Direction

When Lytro introduced their first light field camera in February of 2012, it was the first commercially available camera to capture images which could be focused after the image is captured is saved.

The original Lytro camera captured the light field by using an 8x optical zoom lens to focus the scene on a micro-lens array adhered to a standard digital image sensor. The micro lenses allow each area of the sensor to capture the image from one view with a total capture of 11 million rays. From these rays, a two dimensional or three dimensional representation can be computed for any view and these can be recalculated based upon input from the viewer.

Last week, Lytro introduced a very unusual looking spherical camera that captures the light field in 360 degrees.  By capturing all of the rays of light in a 360 degree circle, the Lytro Immerge is designed for creating virtual reality content that can be used with the upcoming Occulus Rift and other virtual reality headsets.

By capturing the entire spherical light field, the Immerge will allow software to calculate exactly what a viewer would see in the original scene as they move their head in the virtual reality headset. Even the light and shadows will be calculated correctly.

The Immerge platform, including a camera rig and custom server, is expected to ship in early 2016.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Learning Through Analogy

We have a remarkable ability to learn quickly through direct experience, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. We seem to be hardwired to understand that the results we experience from an event will be be similar the next time we see the same event. By itself, this learning method would be greatly limited by the fact that no two events are exactly the same.

We are also endowed with the power of analogy. Analogy gives us the capability to recognize when situations are similar and extend the conclusions we make from our direct experience to other experiences which appear similar.

Our ability to learn through analogy grows as our experience grows and we have a greater knowledge base to mine for similarities. One of the best ways to stimulate creativity is to actively cultivate analogical thinking.

Here are some questions that can develop analogical problem solving:

  • How does this situation resemble anything I have experienced before
  • What worked and didn't work then?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • Who else has experienced a similar situation?
  • How did they handle it?
  • How did that turn out?
  • What if they had done something differently?
  • Is this part of a long term trend?
  • When in history have similar patterns occurred?
  • Who were the winners and losers that time?
  • Is this part of a cyclical pattern?
  • How does the rest of the cycle typically play out?

Like most creative skills, the ability to see useful analogies is strengthened by a rich pool of knowledge and a strong sense of history.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Teaching Through Testing

"Cito Eindtoets Basisonderwijs" by Onderwijsgek at nl.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 nl via Commons -
Last weekend, President Obama declared that students take too many standardized tests and noted that "our kids should only take tests that are worth taking, tests that are high quality, aimed at good instruction and make sure everybody's on track."

While many educational experts have decried the practice of "teaching to the test" as counter productive and creatively stifling, I feel that there isn't enough discussion of the positive value of teaching through testing.

Our brains are designed to learn the things we encounter frequently.  Each time our neurons fire to retrieve a piece of information, that neural pathway is strengthened making it easier to remember the next time that data is needed. Learning happens most effectively when we are triggered to retrieve the information at regular intervals.

Tests provide a valuable service by determining the areas where our knowledge has gaps and identifying where to focus our study efforts.  They also provide an even more valuable role in providing opportunities to retrieve information frequently enough to enhance the learning process.

Test for enhancing learning should occur often and have low stakes. A variety of different types of tests should be used to nurture multiple learning methods. According to the educational author and blogger Annie Murphy Paul, "testing should inculcate a growth mindset in students by demonstrating that ability grows through exerting effort and making mistakes."

Paul has labeled the type of testing that she encourages as Affirmative Testing and has developed a course to teach educators how to do it well. I encourage you to read her Affirmative Testing Manifesto

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Learning by Observation

Sir Issac Newton
Long before any of us understand language, learn to read, or attend school, we have learned a great deal about the world by drawing conclusions from our direct observations. No matter how much knowledge we absorb, we continue to draw new conclusions from our direct experience.

In 1686, Sir Issac Newton published four rules of scientific reasoning in his Principia Mathematica. These rules are essentially how we interpret and generalize from experience whether or not we are conscious of the process. Rather than use Newton's terminology, I am going to interpret these in my own words.

Find the Simplest Explanation

We don't like complexity.  As soon as we find an explanation that appears true and a reasonable explanation, we are content with that answer and stop looking for another explanation.

The Causes are Always the Same

Once we decide that a result is caused by an event, we assume that every time we see that result, it was caused by the same event.

If it is True in our Experience, it is a Universal Truth

Each situation we encounter is new, but we need to decide how to approach it based on our previous experience. If we have seen an event trigger a result in the past, we expect it to trigger the same result this time and every subsequent time.

We are Right Until Proven Otherwise

Once we believe we understand how something works, we are confident that understanding is correct until we see an incident that directly contradicts our conclusions.

These four rules of reasoning are an essential part of our human nature and the reason we are able to learn so much, so quickly. They are also the fundamental underpinning of science. But they also explain why we are so prone to jumping to incorrect conclusions and why it can be so difficult to change our minds once we make a conclusion.

As a child, our understanding of the world is simple and naive. As we have greater experience, our understanding gains nuance as we try to understand the increasing complex interactions we have with others. Our ability to learn from conversation with others, reading, and watching video allows us to expand our understanding beyond our own personal experiences.

At each step, we need to fit the new knowledge into our existing model of how the world works. And at every stage of life, we think we understand things better than we actually do.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cameras of the Future

Light L16 Camera
Historically, there has been a direct relationship between the size of a camera and the quality of the images that it can capture. Sharper, brighter images were the result of larger lenses to collect light and larger sensors to convert that light to a digital image. Computational imaging ends that relationship.

The L16 is a new camera from Light that packs 16 individual 13 megapixel sensors with three different focal lengths into a size slightly larger than a smartphone. Five of the sensors have a 35mm lens, five have a 70mm lens and six have a 150mm lens. By capturing ten images, simultaneously, at the different focal lengths and different locations on the camera, the device collects data that can be computed into a 52 megapixel image.

While the L16 provides the resolution of a high quality DLSR in a much smaller package, at $1699 the price seems a bit steep to cause many people to rush out and replace their existing DLSR.  However, as the technology progresses and comes down in price, I believe this will be the way most new cameras will be designed.

Light is also working with phone manufacturers to bring the technology into smartphones by late next year.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Revelation of Sonmi 451

Cloud Atlas Poster
This weekend I saw the movie Cloud Atlas for the first time. And the second time.

As I watched the complex interplay of six stories linked across time, I was entranced by the strength of the cast, the power of the story and the beautiful cinematography. When it was over, I felt enchanted, but more confused than enlightened. I certainly wanted to see it again soon.

Watching the movie a second time the following evening, the relationships between the stories were easier to see and I realized how much the cuts between the stories clarified the overall message. The directors, Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer have created a film that will become a science fiction classic even though it did not do well at the box office.

Perhaps the best summary of the interplay between the stories is voiced by one of the main characters in the Revelation of Sonmi 451:

"To be is to be perceived, and so to know thyself is only possible through the eyes of the other. The nature of our immortal lives is in the consequences of our words and deeds, that go on and are pushing themselves throughout all time. Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future."

If you are a science fiction fan and haven't seen Cloud Atlas yet, you should watch it soon. At least once.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Facebook is Preparing us for Virtual Reality

Capture from Star Wars 360 Video
Last week's announcement by Facebook that they are adding support for 360 degree video and the release of the 360 degree Star Wars video are certainly intended to help prepare us for the upcoming release of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

I watched the video on my desktop computer which is a different experience than a fully immersive headset. You can look in any direction and see what is happening by dragging the screen with the mouse, but I am sure it would feel more natural if the direction of view happened automatically when I turned my head.

However, I question whether video can ever be a fully immersive experience. While it is interesting to be able to look in different directions, in the real world you could also change the speed and direction of travel. Changing the direction of view only leaves me with the feeling of being an observer rather than a participant.

What are your feelings about the 360 degree video capability?

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Michigan Panoramic

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Panoramic
We are regenerating in the woods of Michigan this week.  This is a panoramic we captured at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Capturing the Faces of War

Afgan Girl by Steve McCurry
Afgan Girl by Steve McCurry
The "most recognized photograph" in the history of National Geographic magazine was a young Afgan girl whose face appeared on the cover of the June, 1985 issue. American Editorial Photographer Steve McCurry captured the image in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan.

After becoming interested in photography at Penn State University, McCurry started taking pictures for the Penn State News Paper then worked at Today's Post in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania before leaving for India as a freelance photographer. Just before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he crossed from Pakistan into Afganistan disguised in native garb. He has continued to cover armed conflicts around the world for more than thirty years.

McCurry records the consequences of war as reflected in the human face. “Most of my images are grounded in people. I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face. I try to convey what it is like to be that person, a person caught in a broader landscape, that you could call the human condition.”

Kodak Kodachrome was McCurry's favorite film for capturing portraits and in 2010 Kodak asked him to expose the last roll manufactured. That roll was processed by Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas and the 36 slides will be housed at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York.

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thinking Your Way to Happiness

Cognitive Triangle via Ellen's OCD Blog
Cognitive Triangle via Ellen's OCD Blog
During my weekly drive from Columbia to Springfield for the last few weeks I have been listening to one of the Great Courses by Professor Jason Satterfield on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. While the practices described in the course were originally developed as a treatment for depression and other mental illnesses, they can be useful for anyone interested in improvement and change.

Most people would like to feel happy and avoid unpleasant emotions like fear and doubt. But it is almost impossible to control emotions directly. Instead, our feelings and emotions result from our thoughts and actions. Cognitive Behavior Therapy teaches that the best way to change our feelings is to change the way we think about situations.

In his course, Satterfield outlines a number of tools and techniques that can directly affect our thought processes therefore indirectly influencing how we feel. He teaches that it isn't important whether our thoughts are true or false or good or bad. What matters is whether or not they are helpful in moving us toward the change we want to make and the way we want to feel.

How do you want to feel today?

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Household Inventory Control

I don't want one of these!
Terri and I have just completed a move from a fairly large home several miles from town to a much smaller place near the city of Columbia, Missouri. We decided that we would prefer to be nearer to the District where the festivals, galleries and restaurants are located.

We are excited about our new home and even though it is smaller, it has plenty of space for everything that we enjoy doing on a regular basis. Over the last few months, we have been aggressive at selling, donating and throwing away furniture and other large things that obviously would not fit into the smaller house.  Our challenge has been parting with the smaller things: books, musical instruments, tools and heirlooms that were stored away. A smaller house means less storage.

In business, excessive inventory is expensive. In addition to the capital tied up in the inventory, it costs money to warehouse the items, insure them, maintain them and keep track of them. That is why most successful businesses have standardized parts across models and implemented just-in-time inventory systems.

Excessive personal inventory is expensive too. To handle the storage overflow we could rent a storage unit, build a storage shed in the back yard, or continue to reduce the items being stored. In the long run, the least expensive option is to reduce and simplify.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

On the Cover of the Rolling Stone

John Lennon and Yoko Ono by Annie Leibovitz
John Lennon and Yoko Ono by Annie Leibovitz
In the 1970s, the best way to wind up on the cover of Rolling Stone was to be photographed by Annie Leibovitz. Strongly influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Richard Avedon, Leibovitz developed her unique portrait style as the chief photographer for Rolling Stone for 10 years followed by a position at Vanity Fair and numerous personal and commercial projects.

In a body of work filled with famous iconic images, one of the most iconic was the last picture ever captured of John Lennon with Yoko Ono only hours before his assassination in New York.

Self portrait by Annie Leibovitz The Blues Brothers as captured by Annie Leibovitz
Self portrait by Annie Leibovitz
The Blues Brothers as captured by Annie Leibovitz
The Blues Brothers as captured by Annie Leibovitz
Leibovitz is a master at finding unique poses, sets or situations than bring out the individual character of her subjects. She usually meets with her subjects a day or more before the photography session to find out first hand what makes them who they are and what they care about. That insight gives her work an feeling of intimacy that sets her apart from other portrait photographers.

Some of her most interesting recent work includes celebrity portraits as characters from Disney classics, Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz.

Which Wizard of Oz character would you like to be?

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Leibovitz captures Keira Knightley as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Like 1992 Without the Supercomputers

Oculus Rift headset image by Rebke Klokke
Oculus Rift headset image by Rebke Klokke
Last week I attended the SIGGRAPH conference at the LA Convention Center. The name is an acronym for the Special Interest Group for Graphics, one of the largest special interest groups in the Association of Computer Machinery. 

For me, the SIGGRAPH conference is one of the most educational and inspirational experiences of the year. It is the best place to learn what is technically possible in the field of imaging as well as how the technology works.

Every SIGGRAPH seems to have one overwhelming theme and this year the focus was on Virtual Reality. It  was like 1992 all over again, but without the supercomputers. I remember being awed 23 years ago by the demonstrations with ten pound headsets tethered to computers that were larger than my office. Despite the hype at the time, there were few applications that could justify the expense of the hardware and the content development.

This time, the headsets are smaller, lighter and driven by the GPU board in a desktop computer or by a smartphone. In a session titled The Renaissance of VR, Ron Azuma of Intel Labs gave three reasons why virtual reality will be successful this time:

  • Performance - The graphic performance of the new generation of devices is high enough to provide compelling immersive experiences.
  • Price - The new hardware is cheap enough that many people will be able to afford and experience virtual reality first hand.
  • Investment - The huge investments being made by several large companies will lead to high quality hardware and content.

Interestingly, Azuma concluded that augmented reality might have an even bigger future than virtual reality.

In what reality would you like to be immersed?

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Fashion in Motion

Veruschka by Richard Avedon, US Vogue, 1967
Veruschka by Richard Avedon, US Vogue, 1967
When most of us think of fashion photography, we picture the elegant style pioneered by Richard Avedon, staff photographer, then lead photographer, for Vogue from 1962 to 1988. Many of the most iconic celebrity images of the late 20th century were his creations.

When Avedon opened his first studio in New York in 1946, he didn't conform to the usual technique of capturing models who stood without emotion and appearing indifferent to the camera. Avedon's models were full of energy and emotion and were often smiling or laughing. He also liked outdoor settings with the models in action.

Avedon with his twin lens reflex camera.
Avedon with his twin lens reflex camera.
After leaving Vogue, Avedon continued as a portrait photographer and joined The New Yorker as a staff photographer in 1992. Interested in the emotions of his subjects, he would lead them into discussions of difficult topics or ask them psychologically probing questions. This allowed him to reveal aspects of the subject's character and personality that were typically missed by other photographers.

Twiggy by Richard Avedon
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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Toeing the Filament

3D printed shoes from Naim Josefi's Collection Melonia
3D printed shoes from Naim Josefi's Collection Melonia

For several years, fashion designers have been experiment with 3D printed clothing. Generally, their fanciful creations have been unique, but unlikely to be worn beyond the runway. The thermoplastics that work great in the typical 3D printer are not conducive to creating comfortable, flexible garments.

Shoes are another story. They are perfect candidates for 3D printing. Every foot is slightly different than every other, and a shoe that is perfectly matched with the foot may be more comfortable than a mass produced shoe. A shoe needs to be strong and lightweight which are characteristics well suited for 3D printing. Finally, people are willing to spend significant resources on finding and buying shoes which justify the extra design and manufacturing costs required for a personalized product.

Image from Feetz press kit
Image from Feetz press kit
Feetz, which has just completed round one of beta testing, bills itself as the digital cobbler. Using three pictures of each foot, the Feetz app allows you to design a pair of custom made shoes that they will build and ship to you. Their marketing claim is "We offer 7 billion sizes: 1 for everyone in the world."

 For a more traditional look, People Footwear have combined 3D printing and digital knitting to create a line of shoes that look remarkably normal. These, however, are produced in a standard set of colors and standard sizes which leads me to wonder how much they differ from non-3D printed shoes.

Nike Vapor Laser Talon
Nike Vapor Laser Talon
Nike is using Selective Laser Sintering to print the cleats on the Nike Vapor Laser Talon which is designed to improve traction and acceleration on football turf. The process shortened the prototyping time and enabled the manufacturing of a unique mesh that weighs only 159 grams.

What type of shoes would you to print?

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

19th Century Wallets

Four Lens Disdéri Camera
Four Lens Disdéri Camera
In the professional portrait industry, an 8 up wallet unit is a 7x10 inch sheet of photographic paper containing 8 identical portraits. These are intended to be cut apart and shared with friends and family members. During the later half of the 20th century, wallet prints became one of the most popular items in school portrait and family portrait packages. All eight wallet prints were exposed from a single negative simultaneously using an array of eight lenses between the negative and the photo sensitive paper.

Clara Silvois, Andre Disdéri. 1862. Metropolitan Museum of Art
Clara Silvois, Andre Disdéri. 1862. Metropolitan Museum of Art
While multi-lens printers were a late 20th century creation, multi-lens cameras date to the earliest days of photography. In 1854, André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri patented a system for creating
cartes de visite , which translates into English as visiting cards. These were 2.5x3.5 cards, the same size as modern wallets, which were intended to be shared with family and friends. Within a few years the calling cards became extremely popular and turned Disdéri into the most famous photographer in Paris for a time. 

The Back of the Disdéri Camera
The Back of the Disdéri Camera
The Disdéri patent called for mounting eight Petzval portrait lenses in an array on the front of the camera, but his actual implementation used four lenses.  There was a separate slide on the back of the camera for each lens which allowed the photographer to capture four images in a single exposure or make four separate exposures for each card. To create eight cards, the photographer would expose the first four, then slide the film into position to expose the remaining four.

The cartes de visit photos remained popular until the early 20th century when George Eastman introduced the Brownie camera and everyone started taking their own photos.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

The First Portrait Lens

Petzval Lens
Petzval Lens
In the earliest days of photography, sitting for a portrait was a long and uncomfortable process. The low sensitivity of the glass plates combined with the small aperture lenses to require an exposure time of 15 to 30 minutes.  Any movement during the exposure resulted in a blurred image. It is little wonder that everyone looked unhappy in those early portraits.

The situation was improved dramatically by the development of the Petsval lens by Joseph Petzval in 1840. With an aperture of f/3.7, the exposure times were able to drop to 15 to 30 seconds.  The 160 mm focal length made it a perfect portrait lens for the large glass negatives sizes of the period.

The Petzval lens consisted of two doublet lenses with an aperture stop mounted in the middle. The front lens is designed to correct for spherical abberration, but it introduces coma.  The second doublet corrects the coma and the aperture stop corrects most of the astigmatism. The lens suffers from field curvature and vignetting which limits its field of view to about 30 degrees.

The Petzval lens was one of many photographic innovations that would simplify photography and eventually lead the the smartphone cameras we use every now.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

State of the Arts in State College

Meteoric - Photography by Jana Scott
Photography by Jana Scott
Last weekend I visited State College, Pennsylvania for the Central PA Festival of the Arts. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences I remember.

For me, the environment and atmosphere of a festival are almost as important as the art itself. It is much easier to catch the nuances of the work and talk with the artists when everyone is excited, comfortable and in a good mood.  

The cool mountain breezes and the shade of the magnificent American elms of the University campus and  downtown streets make State College the perfect setting for a festival. Although it is a large show with 300 jury-selected artists and an expected attendance over 125,000, the booths were spaced along one edge of the streets and mall which allowed plenty of room for everyone without feeling crowded. 

This was my first show outside the Midwest which exposed me to a wide body of work that I hadn't seen before as well as some favorites that I have seen at several shows.  I only have room to mention a few favorites.

The Final View by Walter Arnold
The Final View by Walter Arnold
Walter Arnold is one of my favorite photographic artists and the person who recommended that I come to State College for the festival. While I have written about Arnold and his unique Art of Abandonment before, this is the first time I have seen his work at a festival. It was fun to stand across from his booth and listen to the comments and expressions of awe as people first saw The Final View.

Jana Scott's photography captures the beauty and bold color of rusting metals. She accomplishes this through close ups that show us the detail we would normally overlook. The tight cropping on the organic shapes of the rust patterns create a hauntingly beautiful abstraction.

Ceramic shelf and horse by Paula Brown-Steedly
Ceramic shelf and horse by Paula Brown-Steedly
Paula Brown-Steedly of Virginia Clay Studio also focuses on organic shapes in her ceramic sculpture and shelves.  She explained to me that nature is not symmetrical so she doesn't make her art that way. Her pieces "reveal the force of wind, the rhythm of falling rain, the warmth of the sun, and the fluidity of time, as I see them in nature."

The natural shapes of the earth were also an inspiration to Ursula Perry and her husband Bud Scheffel of Earth Saver Wind Sculpture. Their amazing kinetic sculptures are held together through shape and gravity without welds or solder joints to mar the form. The perfectly balanced pieces ranged in size to grace a table, a room or a garden.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

It has Always been a Small World

George Eastman and Thomas Edison
George Eastman and Thomas Edison
The Internet is often credited with bringing people with common interests together and making the world a small place. But in many ways, the world has always been a small place.

I remember my first visit to the George Eastman house in Rochester, New York and how impressed I was that George Eastman met frequently with Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. These must have been sessions of extreme creative collaboration.

Any deep exploration of history reveals a number of times and places where inventive people clustered together and came into frequent contact with each other. Think of Athens and ancient philosophy, Vienna and classical music, London and the Royal Society, New York and the development of railroads, and Silicon Valley and the Internet age.

In every age, there are places that draw the best and the brightest and inspire them once they arrive.

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

When You Don't Feel Like It

Sleeping Dog
There are days when I don't feel like working.

As jobs go, mine is pretty nice. I work with talented and pleasant colleagues and serve talented, interesting and nice customers. The work is diverse and interesting. Even so, there are days when I don't feel like working.

There are days when the link between activity and results seems so remote that work seems senseless. There are days when some other issue is creating so much mental distraction that work feels unimportant. There are days when staring out the window, reading a good book, or going for a walk seems far more appealing than talking on the phone or typing an email.

Like many in the modern economy, these feelings are particularly dangerous because I work frequently from home and my work is mostly self directed. I could probably get away with not working very hard for quite some time. But, I do the work anyway.

The most reliable key to success in any endeavor is consistency.  You can't learn to play the clarinet or hit a golf ball straight without frequent practice. You can't grow your sales base without constantly reaching out to contact new people. You can't satisfy your existing customers without consistently following through to provide the products they want and resolving their concerns. You can't build a strong investment portfolio if you sell every time an analyst lowers a rating.

It takes discipline to stick to a plan even when you don't feel like it, but over time it becomes a habit that gets easier. If you force yourself to get started, you soon get into the flow and get some things done. And eventually, the efforts begin to produce results.

Sometimes plans really don't work and need to be revised. But those types of changes need to be the result of patient evaluation of results over a reasonable period of time.  Not based upon the feeling of the day.

What do you feel like doing today?

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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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