Category Archives: Photography

Escherian puns

Five years ago (February 2009), I took a photo of two geese on a frozen pond, standing in identical poses. They were both balanced on only one leg, with their heads turned back over their left shoulders. The one-leg thing was presumably to keep the other, uplifted foot off the ice. Their heads may also have been turned in a heat-conserving tuck, but I suspect that it was synchronized preening. After all, the Vancouver Winter Olympics were only a year away, and the Geese were Canadian.

En Escherlon

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Infrared and in visible

A week ago today, one of the people I follow on Twitter — Tom McLaughlan (@daruma) — caught my eye with these 76 characters, quoting someone else to be mentioned below: “I wonder how many writers get together to compare the pencils they use…?”

I should say, as only a bit of an aside, that the aforementioned Mr. McLaughlan is a superb photographer. You can see his “ministracts,” a concatenation of “minimalism” and “abstraction” of his own coinage, on his his website of that name and as daruma* on Flickr, which is where I first found his work several years ago. If you have glanced at the first two bullets on my About page, you will understand why his user name and his “wallgazing” set, respectively, got my attention.

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The Mind’s Compound Eye

[This was originally posted on September 8, 2011, but had to be “reconstructed” following the crash of a MySQL server at my Web hosting service.]

About a decade ago, Canadian artist Angela Bulloch, now based in London and Berlin, created the “pixel box,” a 0.5-meter-on-a-side programmable light device capable of displaying any of the 16.7 million RGB colors. Aggregated in various two- and three-dimensional arrays, she used these not to show a tiny, highly-magnified portion of some photo or video; instead she repeatedly “averaged” adjacent areas (by rules that were not revealed) to create a small number of super-pixels. The end result was a “digital reduction” of the original work in which resolution was drastically decreased and information was discarded. This is best seen with an example, here from Parkett (print issue no. 66, pp. 20-21, 2002):

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Storm watching

It all began, simply enough, with this photo. In January 2006, I had newly joined flickr and found Vida Morkunas’ photos. This one, which she had just uploaded, captivated me because of other things going on in my life, things at the not-so-nice end of one of those “versus” dualities. I just wanted to sit on that bench, sink into it, even be that bench — and stare at the waves. The “restful” part sounded good, but “wild pacific trail” sounded remote, and the description below the photo confirmed it: “Ucluelet BC, on the Left Coast of Vancouver Island.” sigh. Not right now.

Then I found this one that she had uploaded the day before the one of the bench. I knew instantly that I had to see this. On the rare occasions when I experience something like this, I pay attention because of the wonderful essay by Lewis Thomas, ‘The Tucson Zoo’, in The Medusa and the Snail. He describes watching otters and beavers at play in a walk-through tank at the Sonora Desert Museum: “I was transfixed. As I now recall it, there was only one sensation in my head: pure elation mixed with amazement at such perfection.” And: “I came away from the zoo with something, a piece of news about myself: I am coded,… I have receptors for this display.”

In like manner, Vida’s display of the storm on the coast of Vancouver Island triggered a deep sensation, one that I have felt a few times previously on the west coast of California, in Hawaii, in Japan. Like Lewis Thomas, I fancy that it is in my lower brain stem, primal and not especially rational. I am coded for that ocean, oddly not just any ocean, but the Pacific. And in that moment, from that photo, I realized that the less it fits its putative self-attribution, “pacific,” the better. Bring on the storms.

Over the next year-plus, I learned several things:

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