Monday, April 27, 2015

Oklahoma Festival of the Arts 2015

Double-fired raku pot by Barry Bernstein Raku
Last Friday, Terri and I attended the Oklahoma Festival of the Arts in downtown Oklahoma City. This is an outdoor festival in a beautiful setting at the city's Festival Plaza and in the Myriad Gardens. 

It is fun to visit an art show in another community because you see different art than you do at the shows in your hometown. The 144 visual artists were selected from more than 540 applicants and the level of creativity and craftsmanship was extremely high.

There were twelve photographic artists exhibiting and I was able to talk with most of them. In addition to beautiful landscapes, many of the photographers focused on a a specialized type of subject which made each booth unique. Beyond the content, the printing quality was outstanding including film images hand enlarged to silver halide photo paper, canvas gallery wraps and prints on aluminum. Some of the metal prints on aluminum had been printed by Black River Imaging.

Our only acquisition at the show was a beautiful double-fired Raku pot with a dragon's tail cutout from Barry Bernstein Raku. Barry showed us a  fascinating video on his phone on how he achieves such intense color saturation on his pieces.

Are you planning to visit an art festival this Spring?

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

iPhoneography in Near Darkness?

LinX Imaging Sensors
LinX Imaging Sensors
Last week's purchase of LinX Imaging by Apple hints strongly that the capabilities of the camera in the iPhone are going to increase dramatically. The use of multiple sensors can allow the capture of images in low light situations with a small device without blurring.

There are several ways to enable a camera to capture an image in near darkness:

  • Longer Exposure - Even the simplest camera can capture an image in near darkness be extending the exposure time. However, this requires a tripod to prevent camera shake and anything that moves in the subject will be blurred.
  • Larger Lens - Professional sports photographers and event photographers invest in large lenses with a wide aperture to allow the collection of more light by the image sensor. This adds weight and bulk to the camera as well as a narrow depth of field when shooting at the full open aperture.
  • Multiple Exposures - Many of the current models of consumer cameras can work in very low light conditions by capturing multiple exposures and combining them to compute the final image. The images are digitally aligned which eliminates blur caused by camera shake, but this technique still blurs anything that moves in the subject.
  • Multiple Sensors - The multiple sensor approach used by LinX Imaging captures multiple exposures simultaneously which collects far more light than a single small sensor could. Because all of the captures happen at the same time, there are no problems with camera shake or subject blur. The distance between the sensors mean that each capture is at a slightly different angle which provides information required to create a stereoscopic image or a depth map for separating the main subject from the background.

How would you use an iPhone that can take pictures by candlelight?

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mathew Brady and the Beginnings of Photojournalism

Mathew Brady after the Battle of Bull Run
Mathew Brady after the Battle of Bull Run
This month marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the United States Civil War.  The Civil War was the first major conflict to be captured photographically and one of the most famous photographers of the era was Mathew Brady.

Brady, who was a portrait photographer in New York City before the war, wanted to document the war with photographs and financed the project himself. He and his assistants captured thousands of images of civil war battlefields and soldiers and contributed greatly to our understanding of the conflict.

After the war, there were few people who wanted to purchase the war images and Brady's studio was forced into bankruptcy. Despite the lack of commercial success, Brady is generally recognized as the founder of photojournalism and is now one of the best known photographers of the 19th century.

General Ulysses S. Grant by Mathew Brady
General Ulysses S. Grant by Mathew Brady

The Franklin Paper Mill and the Petersburg Railroad Bridge in Richmand, VA in 1865 by Mathew Brady
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Sunday, April 5, 2015

The First Photographer

View from the Window at Le Gras
View from the Window at Le Gras
Joseph Nicéphore Niépce is credited with the invention of photography and capturing the first photographic image. View from the Window at Le Gras was captured in 1826 or 1827 with a camera obscura on a pewter plate that had been coated with a photosensitive emulsion of bitumen of Judea dissolved in lavender oil.

Niépce developed his process to simplify the creation of lithographic printing plates. Lithographic plates of images were often created by using a camera obscura to project the image and manually tracing the image onto the plate. His lack of skill in drawing and tracing inspired him to find a better method.

The fact that the buildings are lit by the sun from both directions indicate that the exposure must have been eight to nine hours.  However, modern researchers experimenting with similar materials have suggested that the exposure might have taken several days.

Niépce named his process Heliography and was not able to successfully commercialize it during his lifetime.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

From the Specific to the General and Back Again

Fractal Flame via Pixabay
Generalization is the primary natural learning method for humans. When we experience an event followed by another event, we assume the second event was caused by the first.  When we observe a series of similar events with similar patterns, we can generalize a rule that guides our behavior. This process is the basis behind the maxim "experience is the best teacher."

There are serious flaws with the process of generalization.  Because we are designed to look for patterns of correlation and causality, we often see them where they don't exist. An inability to sort out the signal from the noise leads to strange superstitions and false expectations.

We also value recent experience and personally observed experience more highly than historical perspective.  This is the cause of most financial bubbles.  In 2007, when housing values were soaring and everyone had a neighbor who had sold their house at a great profit, it was easy to overlook that the prices would eventually collapse back to the historical trend line.

Even with these tendencies to overgeneralize, the method generally works at the macro level. It is pretty easy to view the time savings and weight reductions from additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry and predict that additive manufacturing will continue to be a growth industry.  The necessity of reducing the cost of sensors and communications as more and more consumer products become connected to the internet predicts that the printed electronics industry will experience explosive growth.

Bringing the general back to the specific is the gigantic challenge. Additive manufacturing may boom, but which companies have the right technology and management team to lead the charge? Bioprinting will transform medicine, but will Organovo stay in the lead or be eclipsed by some other upstart organization? Will Thin Film Electonics ASA tranform their technical lead in printed electronics into a profitable future?

The difficulty in answering these types of questions is what keeps tech investing interesting. The roller coaster changes in valuations are also both thrilling and frightening.

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