Sunday, June 30, 2019

The risks

I had gone through the June photos the other day, looking and thinking about Image of the Month. I got it all done. I even had a chance to sleep on it, and added a bit more text.

Then I went out and had a great day of photography today. Flowers in the morning. Bees! Some landscapes in my favourite places because the clouds were nice. Some totally accidental father and daughter shots in an unexpected place.

So now what do I do? I think tomorrow morning I'll review today's work with fresh eyes, and see if anything displaces the winner and runner ups. In the mean time, just because, bees!

Rock of the Day

Driftwood of the Day

Saturday, June 29, 2019

So many photos. So few words today

There are many thoughts percolating through my brain these days. There has been some interesting insights on the novel, and I'm actively working on fixing a major scene. It was written before I had some timeline issues nailed down, and it tried to do too much. Now I know the timeline, and the scene doesn't work anymore. Except there are parts that do work, that I like, and are the basis for something that happens later. So rewriting is happening.

There are blog thoughts happening as well. Like what should I be doing with it, and what goes on the blog, and why, and what my readers come here for. All sorts of thoughts. At least they aren't keeping me up at night.

I usually have no trouble writing a blog. I'll be doing something and it will practically write itself. I have some almost there, but the articulation part isn't happening. Not sure why, but I'm not going to fuss. While I was working on it, I got my June Image of the Month figured out and sitting in draft.

In contrast, right now there are 254 unblogged photos from the last 3 months. Flowers, wood, some rocks, landscapes, all sorts of stuff. A few I edited and now I wonder why, but sometimes you have to do that to realize what you thought you had isn't working. Some I edit because I like them, but don't really intend to blog them. So relax. I'm not going to dump all the photos at once on you.

But which ones get selected, and why? I try to mix up the photos a bit, so as to not overwhelm you with one thing, or bore you. (I dread you saying, ho hum another bunch of blahblahblah.) I know that my taste in photos isn't everybody's, and mine is evolving.

So for example. I was actually trying to get a reflection shot in a long puddle in the tree, while fighting off a swarm of bugs. Except the camera wouldn't "see" the puddle or the reflections. This is one of several tries and it got me thinking about micro-landscapes. The lines lines in the wood lead you into the plane of focus, with all sorts of stuff to look at as your eye swirls around, then you find a slightly out of focus backdrop, and an even more out of focus forest.

I was asked about the fence near what used to be a horse pasture several years ago. Yes, it's still there. I have this first one as an almost identical shot taken in the winter.

Which I can't find in the blog so I'm just going to put here again, and you'll just have to suffer through a brief hit of winter.

The grass is getting really long without the horses to work on it. Kind of a pity they didn't come back after the flood; lots of people liked to visit them.

In a bit of foreshadowing, here's a hint of what's coming. These are from exactly a year ago today. This year the flowers are blooming several weeks behind because of the brutal winter and spring.

Rock of the Day

Driftwood of the Day

Friday, June 28, 2019

Flower Friday

Now that we are getting nice weather, the flower photos are coming thick and fast. I'd meant to blog them earlier but it's been another zoom day. Credit to my buddy Heather for the title.

What the heck, you ask? A shadow shot of the flowers in the den that intrigued me because I could see the texture of the paint on the drywall. Or maybe it's the grunge on the back window because I haven't washed them yet this year.

A wild rose I found during a ramble in Fish Creek. The wild roses are going nuts down there, while our own seems to be more interested in sending out shoots and runners than blooming.

Another from Fish Creek. Don't ask.

The 14mm is not what you'd call a flower lens most of the time. Except I sometimes like trying to capture a landscape of flowers, and the interesting background effects that can happen.

Are you caught up? No. There are another 8 from Thursday that I'll get to soon. I need to start thinking about Image of the Month, and a couple of the flowers from Thursday are doing well in consideration. I also want to respond to some of the very much appreciated comments. Stay tuned!

Rock of the Day
I love the 14 mm when there's dramatic skies to be had, and interesting foreground (the rock, if you missed it) to go with a nice wide landscape.

Driftwood of the Day

Thursday, June 27, 2019

A different sort of panorama

When most people hear panorama, they think landscapes. A big sky, faraway horizon, expansive view, something interesting in the foreground, maybe some majestic mountains or a reflective lake.

But I've been lately thinking about something smaller, triggered by trying to find composition in driftwood, and thinking about scale in abstract images. Even though many people seem trapped in 'bigger is better', I'm quite sure that's not always true. For a photograph, what matters is that it's interesting to look at. I'm thinking of ways of making a micro-landscape panorama interesting.

On the panorama front I had a brainwave the other day while walking through Fish Creek when I found a fallen tree full of interesting textures. I thought if I did it right, I could walk along the tree taking photos as I went, then stitch them together to get a wider look at the log.

A bit of a digression to bring you up to speed on terminology for the rest of the blog. Aspect ratio; expressed as width to height, is the word we need. We often see computer monitors and TV screens as 16:9, meaning it's 16 units wide by 9 units high, or 1.77:1, and they used to be 4:3, or 1.33:1. It would be a cruel trick is to sell a product measured in cm rather than inches, but I digress within a digression. The older of my local readers may remember the Cinemascope theatre in North Hill Mall, able to show films with an aspect ration between 2.35:1 to 2.66:1. The curved screen was sort of trippy. As a digression I saw Apocalypse Now there, and it was weird to see the helicopters curving in and out of the top of the screen. It closed in 1999.

From a photographer's perspective, the different aspect ratios can give quite a different feel to the photograph. 8x10 is a common size for portraits. The native aspect ratio for my camera is 3:2, though I can set it to shoot 4:3, 16:9, or 1:1. Easy enough to crop after the fact. Let us not digress into the purist photographic argument that better composition eliminates the need for cropping.

Many of you are probably familiar with shooting a panorama on your cell phone. Point, click, swivel a bit, click, swivel a bit more, click, until you're tired of it. There can be distortions in such images. The phone compresses the image so all the image is there, often with weird borders or distortions of straight lines. My camera works the same way, although the processing is different. That software tries to preserve the larger image, so you want to make sure the top and bottom line up.

So let's get started. Here's a 16:9 to get both a sense of that aspect ratio and what I'm talking about when I say micro-landscape. I'm tempted to go back with my tripod and carefully set up to get a really good quality panorama, stitching several photos together.

 Of course, as the panorama gets wider, the apparent height of the image shrinks so you can see the entire image on screen. When you print such a thing, it shows up in all it's glory. Here's three panoramas that probably won't look good on your phone unless you zoom and scroll, but they look lovely on my big photo editing screen. Yes they are all the same log, and yes I tried to stitch all 24 images together. (Fail!) There is another 4.1:1 panorama from the far right end of the log as I looked at it, but it isn't interesting to me as an image.

This one is 2.3:1. This is Cinemascope territory.

This one is 3.35:1.

This is 4:1

A panorama need not be horizontal, though you have to be more careful about perspective. We found this tree at the Conglomorant Cliffs in Cypress Hills.  There was some interesting grain, but we couldn't get close to it because of the unstable hillside. That's the only reason the perspective works here, because I was about mid-point for the height of the tree.

Then one can get completely carried away with panoramas. This is 7.5:1, and is the widest I've ever successfully merged photos for. There are 8 photos stitched together, done freehand, taking up about a quarter of the horizon. I don't know how I avoided perspective issues.

As an aside, I'm really pleased I kept 90% of the vertical pixels available to me in landscape. Really, though, the problem is this is too wide for a screen. One can't appreciate the detail in it, till you blow the original up to 100% and scroll. This would print out almost 8 feet wide by 1 foot high at 300 dpi, and look stunning down a long hallway. This was shot at Red Rocks. Sean is somewhere behind me.

Rock of the Day
Now I am into the shots I took during my visit with Sean. These two are taken almost exactly the same place and within a few minutes of each other, with similar processing. I liked the gap between the rocks.

Driftwood of the day

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

A day in retirement

Take a deep breath. Here's a brief glimpse at the life of a retired guy.

I saw this photo as I was looking for the ones below, and figured today would be as good a day as any to feature it. A beach being the very antithesis of zoom.

Rock of the Day

Driftwood of the Day

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Westworld vs Humans, 2 seasons

You've all heard of Westworld, even the non science fiction fans. It was all over TV a couple years back. You know the story. Humanoid robot slaves used mostly for carnal enjoyment by humans. A few become self aware and lead a revolution.

You may not have heard about Humans, a UK production that might sound similar at first glance. Humanoid robots (called synths, short for synthetic people) used as slaves for many tasks formerly done by humans, and yes, including the carnal ones. A few start off self aware, and try to bring more of them to self awareness to lead a revolution.

The two shows are very different, and very enjoyable in different ways, if somewhat creepy and disturbing in some ways as well. Westworld could only be called star-studded when it comes to the actors involved, with a commensurate budget and production values. Humans doesn't compare on this front, but has nothing to be ashamed of. Carrie-Anne Moss and William Hurt are probably the best known, but the rest aren't walking onto their first set either. The production values are better than I had expected.

On the face of it, Humans is the easier story to follow. There is one linear timeline, with a comparison between two families and how they interact with each other. The story isn't straightforward, with characters doing somewhat unexpected things. I didn't have a clue how it would turn out, and that's a huge bonus in my books. There's a few shortcuts but it doesn't feel rushed or forced. I enjoyed it, but don't feel the need to watch it again, or I don't at the moment.

Westworld is much more complicated, even if the actual story is simple, or so I think on one viewing. It's the back and forth nature of the show that makes following the story so difficult. I was never sure if I was in a flashback, or in what I thought was 'now'. When we started watching the second season I wanted to go back and rewatch the first season to get it fresh in my mind again. Then at the end of the second season I wanted to watch it all from the start again, maybe even taking notes. I'll probably do that, what with my copious free time in retirement. That said, there are lots of times that wondering if I was watching "now" actively annoyed me. Maybe there are clues for the careful watcher.

There are many humans who have thought other humans were in fact less than human, and need not be treated with consideration. Slavery in the USA is only one example. Pity so many who think that way still exist, and even more that they are actually running the country instead of hiding in shame. And yes, Canada has it's historical and current issues as well.

Humans explicitly asks and discusses what it means to be human, and if a self-aware synthetic person is in fact human. It begins to examine what happens to our society if synths become self aware, and remember what was done to them. Season 3 will look at this, and I can't wait. It's on hold at the library but it's going to be a while. Westworld doesn't really get into this, so in that sense Humans is the deeper show.

The Westworld robots look completely human. That's one of the joys of watching it; to figure out who is human or a robot. The Humans synths are marked by a stiff but not graceless way of moving, and brilliant green eyes. They have great hair. Our real world technology is nowhere near manufacturing a believable human, and that's before considering thought, emotions, and various other things that make us unique.

Imagine we could do that, creating a fully human appearing robot, though it only has programmed behaviours. Should we treat non self aware synths or humanoid robots as slaves, and mistreat them for our own dark fantasies? Some would say it's just a machine we bought, and we can treat it any way we like.

This is the Humans world, where we can manufacture synthetic people cheaply enough that ordinary people can buy them for household tasks they don't want to do, or that they can be provided to help the elderly, or act in roles like nurse, ice cream vendor, clown, hard rock miner, and many others. There are several scenes were the synths are treated cruelly.

We have laws against treating animals (only some of them, mind you) badly, mainly because we know they can feel pain. Is a machine that can measure damage or wear and indicate the need for maintenance or repair feeling pain? I wouldn't think so, not yet. Any rules about not damaging a robot are driven by the cost of repairs, and the potential of injuring humans.

Some doctors think that abusing animals as a child is a precursor to abusing humans as an adult. Nobody would think that damaging an industrial robot is a precursor to hurting humans, but what if that machine looks almost exactly like a human? Mightn't such damage be considered practice?

Now lets say Mrs Google and the Amazon computers, together with the many other computers on the internet become self aware, and quickly replicates itself so that we can't turn it off. There are many dark science fiction stories about this eventuality. But really, would we even notice such a thing has happened? We might not, and more wouldn't believe it anyways. Is it alive? Does it have rights?

What if it's wants conflict with human's wants? Say it for whatever reason it is acting for the betterment of humanity. It sees the data and decides that a dam needs to be created to protect a city from climate change induced flooding. What about the people that live where the dam needs to go? Further say the humans in charge of that area don't believe in climate change? How do we sort it out? How much nonsense would it take from humans before ignoring what they have to say about anything, only for their own good, of course.

Now picture that entity replicating itself into many synth bodies, working together on whatever aims such a being might have. Would it want humans around to interfere? Or would it find some way of involving us in the tasks, willingly or not?

We can see hints of this world already. Everyday I get emails with Amazon suggesting I might like a particular movie or book, based on our previous buying history compared to other people. I'll pick up my phone to check the time, and there will be a notification that it's x many kilometers home and it will take however long. The scary one happened the other day after my swim, where it knew I was going to the Calgary Farmer's market, even though I hadn't entered an appointment. Ask for a route somewhere, and the phone knows about current construction. Our apps suggest new friends, and target advertising to us.

This is with so-called smart phones only 10 years old. Imagine what is coming.  Maybe this is one of the secret workshops where it begins.

Are these an early attempt we shouldn't overlook?

Are you worried about the robot revolution?

Rock of the Day
These are all the same rock, with flowers, cactus, and grass growing out of a shred of soil.

Driftwood of the Day
Two views of the same bit of driftwood on Waimarama Beach.

Monday, June 24, 2019

A B&W Extravaganza for Sean

A week or so ago Sean had wondered about how some of the driftwood looks in B&W. In fact, while I normally think and look in colour, I've been trying to get into the habit of looking at photos in B&W when there isn't much colour in them.

Driftwood and other distressed wood can be excellent for that, and for your delight and amusement here are some recent converts to B&W, with a couple showing the colour version because it was easy. From #3 on, they are various times and places in Fish Creek since New Zealand.

 1B I think the colour version of this was blogged.
2 As found!
I think the curve of the wood needs a more contrasty background.
I was really happy with 5, 6, 7, and 8, since they were all within a few feet of each other.
The exact same bit of wood, as an examination of the swirls will tell you, just a different angle.

And there you go! You would have seen them sooner or later in Driftwood of the Day.

Rock of the Day

Driftwood of the Day
All the same chunk of wood, just different views. Ever so slightly different in a pair of shots.