Thursday, March 15, 2007

'Round and 'round

I guess I'm just an easily excitable guy. Doesn't take much to fire my imagination and get me spinning and dreaming and bobbling ideas about in my head like a pinball in a loose machine. It keeps me entertained, but I find myself on constant watch for the specters in the shadows. Those ideas and thoughts whose basis is fundamentally flawed before the spinning even starts. Chasing these can lead to some pretty ugly stuff.

To combat this tendency I have tried to make note of this fact (over and over again) so that I might better learn to check myself before the fall. Then, perhaps, I might have a fighting chance to get a hand-up or turn away before I wind up face down in the pavement. Sometimes it works, othertimes, well... I end up spitting blood and licking broken teeth, knowing full well that it was probably my own damn fault.

To be honest, most of the time my twisted ideas never get so far, I'll toss them up long before they have a chance to fester. But every once in a while, I seem to average about one a year, an idea will come along that keeps me spinning until I have either had enough, or understand the process clearly enough to file it away into my "gee, that's a neat thingy... wonder what better use could be made of it" closet.

Which brings me to "Howstuffworks." It's not a site I visit everyday, but it's always there to shine a bit of light into the darkness of how our physical world works. If I get a wacky notion, or want to get the skinny on how something works, I'll check here first. Their authors usually present the material with a no nonsense approach that is just what I'm looking for.

Now, four paragraphs deep, we finally come to today's starting point, Refrigeration. It all started like this: The local electric company announced a rather severe rate hike in our area, and with summer coming on strong I'm thinking it's high time to get that extra insulation into the attic that I have been putting off for years. This led me to how our aging air conditioner system is overdue for a checkup, and then to how a good friend of mine recently finished building a house with a geothermal heating/cooling system built into the design from the ground up.

Basic refrigeration is interesting stuff, as I had never really understood quite what was taking place. I knew there gasses and pumps and all that, but I had never considered how the system as a whole worked. All in all, it wasn't too hard get a handle on. Then I came across the bit about the Peltier/Thomson/Seebeck effects, which are basically different spins on the same electrically charged principle that describes the heating and cooling properties induced when electricity is applied to various metals and combinations of metals. Now that's cool!

The math is way over my head, but the basic principles are simple enough. I'm still absorbing all this new information and hopefully I'll go ahead and get the insulation in the attic before trying to take out loan for a whole new heating/cooling system.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Abducting Color

My work with B&W over the past year has led me to new revelations about the subtleties of color and tone and how these can play any number of complementary or even destructive roles within an image. Today's image, for example, was not working for me in B&W in the way I intended it too. The color version worked better, but I didn't like it either. Neither conveyed the sense of reaching into the forest that I felt was essential for this image.

I tried various desaturation techniques and in the end I decided to try switching to lab mode and abducting the a channel with a fill of 50% grey. This gave me a range of color that was much more in keeping with what I was looking for in the final image. Specifically, it altered the role of the tufted green grasses and converted them to shades of yellow and gold, which more closely matches the leaf litter present on the forest floor. This makes the forest floor more homogeneous, and I believe it helps lead the viewer through the image with less distraction. Also, it preserved much of the blue that I enjoyed in the full color version.

This image was shot with the mini-view setup, of course, and it represents to a "T" the kinds of focal plane voodoo I plan to explore in the future. I know it's gimmicky, and I know it will not be everyones cup of tea. That's ok. I like the effect and am hoping to capture some unique images.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Love over Gold

I have been reading a little book titled "Art and Fear" by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I'm only about halfway through at this point but it has provided some interesting insight into the process of making (or not making) art.

Much of it is nothing new. If you have been involved with creating art on any level, for any amount of time, their dissemination of the process will come as no surprise. Seems the modern road map to art is the same for everyone, and it makes for a most introspective read. Thanks for the suggestion, Ted.

Today's piece is brand new. I shot it less than an hour ago. It's one of about 30-40 frames that played around with using the mini-view setup. I wasn't very concerned about the settings I put the lens, I just knew I wanted to bend it around a bit. So I did, and pointed it at an old copper pitcher that I keep laying around. Like my previous image, its nothing special, but I like it. (I decided to keep the tilted framing when it just "came out that way" as I was trying to find the angle I liked in PS. Now, I know both Ted and Andreas have used this kind of framing, and I don't mean to copy, so I'm stealing :)

When my mini shoot was over I was surprised to find that there were a half-dozen or more images that I rather liked. (highly unusual for such a small number of frames) This is no doubt due to my ongoing fascination with this new toy and it may well dwindle in time. Until then, I'm enjoying it as I can.