Monday, August 30, 2010

Photographing Art
Washed out colour,
curving depth of field,
poor image quality.
 Photo from 2004 with
Vivitar 3MB digital.
It's been my recurring nightmare (or mission?) to figure out a way to photograph my artwork so that I get relatively true colours, good flat depth of field so that the sharpness goes all the way out to the edges, and no glare on the piece itself...

You'd think this wouldn't be too hard!  But it's taken me years of fiddling around with this that and the other to get closer and closer to what I wanted to achieve here...

I figured I was the perfect person to do this...  I'd started in photography in my teens and I'd worked in a photography store when I was seventeen, and I had gotten my first SLR camera for my sixteenth birthday!  I wasn't an expert, but I had a lot of background, I was a good problem solver and smart enough to have completed a degree in Electrical Engineering, so why not? (Famous last words!)
Image shot in 1996 and printed,
then scanned.

I started out on this particular project in 1996 with a regular SLR (single lens reflex) because that gave the best quality.  Unfortunately, you didn't get to see the final result until you got your film developed, so there was a time lag and the mistakes could get expensive.  In those days, you couldn't get a digital copy of your photos when you went in to get them developed. so you ended up scanning the finished prints, which introduced a bit of degradation in itself!

The image on the right is something I don't have anymore, so basically, that poor image is all I have left.  Sad, sad, sad!

I was one of the people that waited impatiently for digital cameras to come down in price so I could afford one.  The time lag was something I really hated!  I'd forget the settings for each shot and end up wasting a lot of time and effort on images that I would have deleted if I'd seen right away how they had turned out.

My first digital camera in 2004 was a Vivitar 3Megapixel, which I paid over three hundred bucks for!  You can get something much better now for under a hundred...  Sigh.
Same pieces shot in 2010
with DSLR.
Artwork shot in 2004 with Vivitar
3MB Digital.
Mind you, at that point in time, Digital SLR's were way out of my price range...  So it was better than where I was in some ways, (but it wasn't an SLR so the image quality definitely suffered.) but I still wasn't getting anywhere near what I wanted.
As you can see by the shot on the left, the colour was hard to get close to the real colour quality, it was affected by ambient light in a major way, and whatever compensation it was doing on it's own wasn't helping.
I mean, am I alone in this, but are camera manuals actually written to be confusing?  Often, I would find it would take a long time to get an answer to a simple question out a manual, and the internet was even worse!

I mean, eventually, I had gotten the hang of the basics, for anyone that is interested, here are the basic steps to taking digital images of art with a digital SLR (recommended, but you can do this with regular digital cameras as well.

a) Choose the highest Megapixel setting,
b) turn off the flash,
c) set the ISO to 100 and
d) the aperture to at least F8, setting the camera on aperture priority,
e) choose a fast shutter speed,
f) white balance the camera,
g) and shoot outside with a tripod.
Shot outside, with DSLR.
White balance is off.
Little fiddly details:
The artwork has to be straight, with the camera planes and the artwork planes equal to each other, or you will get fuzziness at the edges of your image. You also need to make sure you give border around the piece so that your focal plane can be cropped out. What I mean by that, is that unless you use a macro lens, which gives a flat focal plane, your image will slightly curve at the outer edges, which will blur the artwork image if you extend the piece right the edge of the picture frame.

But for me, that wasn't enough, I wanted to take my pictures inside, which meant lights!
Now lights,  that's a whole other problem...  My artwork is varnished, so you always get glare when you use a flash. 
And it really doesn't matter if you photograph the paintings unvarnished, you still get glare!  This was an issue I had been dealing with right back to my days with my old SLR, and it wasn't getting resolved to my satisfaction.
DSLR with window backlight
from morning sun
and Macro lens.
After I got the DSLR, I could get good enough shots, but not really as I wanted to get closer, and control the lighting more closely.  I tried a number of solutions: flash diffusers, those little puffers, and hot, stand alone lights... I even made a makeshift diffuser for in front of the studio lights I used to have out west, and it sort of did the job.  But it wasn't perfect.

Then I added in the issue of photographing glass paintings, just to make it more interesting, and that just got me back into the old problem of finding the perfect photography solution to the regular artwork...  Which I had started to ignore, actually...

Once I bought a secondhand macro lens for my DSLR, the glass painting issue was solved (finally!) as the flat plane of focus and extra sharp detail certainly satisfied me.

Since I didn't want to take photos of the glass paintings at night (I needed the backlighting from the sun to catch them properly), I was back to my initial quest of photographing my regular paintings indoors with artificial light.  I'm not an outdoors person or a morning person, so this was important to me!

It's the little things that count though, and I finally got some help on this, a photo store clerk named Scotty (I kid you not Star Trek fans!), helped me for two hours today figuring out a solution for my problem.  What I am trying to do is called 'copy image' photography, and it's usually done by professional photographers.  But not all of them know how to do it.

You need to put two light sources pointed at your piece at 45 degree angles and the two light sources and your camera need to be in the same plane.  IE: on the same level, same height. Or else your light with be concentrated higher or lower depending on where you are taking the picture from.

You can get this effect with regular lights with umbrellas, strobe lights with umbrellas, or slaved flashes.  You can umbrella the flashes as well if you just really like umbrellas!

If you use flashes, you don't have to worry about the ambient light from other sources, just adjusting for the light introduced by the flashes.  Synchronization is important as well... It's not an easy problem, but we resolved it by going with the wireless functionality on my Pentax KX which allows me to use two specific flashes on the same channel so that they go at once and all the focussing and the rest of the digital handshaking works properly.  I'm putting the flashes on tripods so that I can get them at the same height as my camera and fixes to the best height for the piece I'm photographing.

If I was using fixed floods with diffusers or umbrellas, I'd have to adjust to ambient light and it would also get hot.  The flashes give off enough light when they go that the ambient light is flooded out by the sheer intensity of the light from the flashes.  Not the case with the fixed lights.  Otherwise, they'd really be hot!  Ambient light could introduce blues (daylight), ambers (tungsten lights), other blues (fluorescents), and if it hits at the wrong angle, you can cause uneven lighting on the artwork or even glare.
Anyway, I think I've finally gotten close enough to satisfy myself on image colour reproduction, sharpness, (right to the edges!), depth of colour and no glare.  I guess I can go back to painting!

Images by Teresa Young:
1. Dragon Feed - Jun.2010,  2. Untitled Surreal - 1996,  3.and 4. Alien Rotations - Apr.2010,  5. Jubilee - Jan.2002,  6. Frozen Frame - Aug.2010,  7. Exposing Your Inner Child - Aug.2010.
Exposing Your Inner Child

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Colour and How It Can Be Used

I'm constantly amazed at the beauty of nature and how transitory it can be.  Take a sunrise or a sunset, often these transition phases in the day are the most beautiful, and the most fleeting in time duration.
Artists and photographers are attracted to these times of day due to the vivid colours and deepness of the hues.

It seems that every sunset (I tend to see more of these, morning is not my best time!) is unique...  And depending upon atmospheric conditions, can have more colours sprayed across the horizon than one would ever believe possible. beauty is something that appeals strongly to the human psyche...  It's more precious because it passes so quickly.  It all about appreciating something that can't be held or pinned down... With artists though, it's more about color scheme and dramatic contrast.  Artwork is much more visually exciting if colours play off against each other and don't fade into the background.  Complementary colours are great but rarely occur in nature.  An artist will change colours to create colour harmonies that are more pleasing to the eye and jump out at the viewer. In fact, when complementary colours are placed side by side in a piece, they will both seem brighter and more vivid.
You also extensively use complementary colours to tone down an overly bright colour in a painting.  I tend to tone down most of my colours because I like my colours to give a realistic tone to forms within a painting, this makes the piece seem more real, even if it is an abstract landscape.

Think about those paintings all did in elementary school.  We used tempera watercolour paints and we pretty well all painted in unmixed colours.  The colours jumped out at us and they were vivid and atttractive.  But they never looked like a real place no matter how beautifully painted they were... The thing is, because there was no shadows to make the forms in the paintings look like they were floating in space, 3D, they didn't look like they had substance.  And shadows are great, as long as they are present and a thing appears to be 3D it's much, much easier to suspend our disbelief and allow ourselves to pretend this fantasy place exists!

And isn't that part of the point to art sometimes?  To allow us to journey somewhere else?  Someplace exotic that we couldn't see any other way?

Images By Teresa Young:
1. Sunset at Peggy's Cove, NS,  2. Sunrise out  my window,  3. The Ripple Effect - May 2004,  4. Velvet Dreams - Apr.2002,  5. Constrained - Mar.2004,  6. The Tree Grows - Mar.2009.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Tour Around Peggy's Cove

Closeup of the lighthouse.
Undersea Eyes by Teresa Young.
On Saturday, after working on a number of glass paintings and reaching the point where I was watching paint dry, I decided I'd procrastinate in a new and unique way,  so I went and took a boat tour around Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.

Peggy's Cove is gorgeous location and seeing it from the deck of a boat is a great way of getting a different perspective on a premier tourist spot...

Peggy's Cove Tour Boat.
Cove Jewels - glass painting inspired by the cove.
If you want go ahead and take a look at the website run by the boat tour company, it contains quite a lot of information, some beautiful photographs and loads of facts about Peggy's Cove and the wildlife of the surrounding area.
View from the boat.
We were made to feel very welcome at the outset by the crew of the boat and were given the initial safety information prior to leaving the dock... 

At least it wasn't as bad as the airplane lectures on safety I've sat through as it was delivered with a sense of humour by our tour guide Emily. tour includes an hour long ride around the area with great water views of the lighthouse.  The underwater camera portion of the tour is where the boat is stopped to drop a camera so the passengers can get a good look at the ocean floor

Nice day for a cruise...
And there's also a chance to get a photo of yourself with the olympic torch that was used to start the run across Canada for the leadup to the Olympics. 
I found this quite ironic as I'd moved away from British Columbia prior to the Olympics, and here I had a chance to hold one of the torches, which I never would have if I hadn't left...

I think Emily is admiring Bill's legs!
Surreal colours!
While anchored in a little cove not far from the lighthouse, we were watching video of a local lobster and the camera decided it really wanted to be free and somehow slipped the line holding it to the boat...
Peter helps Bill into his new clothes...
Apparently, this isn't a common occurence so we just happened to luck out on this tour.  I wasn't about to complain about the extra time on the water as it was a beautiful day with a clear blue sky overhead... 
As we watched the captain of the boat (Bill Johnston) get helped into a dive suit by Peter Richardson, (his first mate) we were able to get a great look at the surrounding landscape. 
One small island we passed had been bought by a local woman for 240 thousand dollars and she built a house on it. 
Fishing village near Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.
The power would have to be brought out to the island via underwater cable and the fresh water would have to be brought in or captured via a cistern. 
But I bet the lady has great privacy! 
There was a nice little boat dock there and it looked like a beautiful place to swim...  Just imagine owning your own island though!  That amount of money would buy half a house in Vancouver, BC area at best...
Emily (our guide) pointed out the comorants sunning themselves on the nearby rocks.  She explained that these fishing birds are wonderful weather predictors. 
If the birds are there, you can count on decent weather, but if foul weather is coming in, then the birds will be mysteriously absent...
Emilio Giancola and
Joe Persicone hold the torch.
It's never been explained how wildlife knows in advance about things like earthquakes and tornadoes, but I guess you can extend that little mystery to thunderstorms and hurricaines as well!
After Bill retrieved the camera, we pulled anchor and started back towards the cove. 
As we neared the lighthouse, Emily pulled out the Olympic torch and also brought out some Olympic clothing that we could put on if we were interested... 
A couple of young lads down from Halifax and Ontario decided to go the whole route and suited up...

Of course no photo op is complete without the captain's willing participation...
Sunset at Peggy's Cove.
Once everyone got a turn to try out the torch (although for a while there I thought I'd dropped in on a Star Wars convention, they were using the torch as a light saber for a bit...) we started the boat back up and headed back to the dock...
As far as I was concerned, it certainly was a wonderful trip that I'd recommend to anyone visiting the area.  And it was a great way to take a break and see more of the province!
Next month I think I'll check out the Cabot Trail!

Images by Teresa Young:
1. Undersea Eyes - Aug.2010,  2. Peggy's Cove lighthouse,  3. Tour Boat,  4. Cove Jewels - Aug.2010,  5. The lighthouse as seen from the water,  6. Unnamed glass abstract - Aug.2010,  7. Wake of the boat,  8. Photo of Bill in scuba gear,  9. My surreal lighthouse shot,  10. Bill and Peter preparing to retrieve the camera,  11. Fishing village near the cove,  12. Emilio, Joe and Bill with the Olympic torch,  13. View from the boat,  14. Sunset at Peggy's Cove.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Gameplaying and It's Role In Our Culture just read an article online about how some people are now saying that playing video games can help people learn how to be more effective at work.  That's pretty well an opposite position on the end result of gameplaying than what I've seen in the media over the past twenty years...
Just as thought provoking are the comments at the end of the article... The last comment in the stream particularly caught my eye, the author of the comment was discussing how his skills in strategy acquired through gaming directly translated into his business skills... 
Now, I know that when playing games you learn through trial and error and eventually become comfortable with that game and it's environment in order to achieve your goals and ultimately (hopefully) win the game... 
 But you also learn how to employ strategy, you just have to learn it, or else you literally get nowhere!  Gamers that embrace strategy, discuss it with others and actively refine it progress a lot faster. 
So, incrementally, through playing games, the gamer learns to think in terms of strategy. learning process is greatly enhanced by traditions that have appeared in games over time that are common to most games...  I'm sure the traditions grew out of convenience and a desire to make the user comfortable and acceptable thereby increasing the chances of the game's success on the market.  (In some cases, similar interfaces for inventory, battles, and quest logs... But there are more to the similarities than just that, it's more in that you have to work as a team and deliver on your tasks in order to be effective.
Of course this led me to search for definitions on Internet regarding what exactly this is called... After following a red herring called 'Game Theory' that looked pretty relevant to me, I found out through Wikipedia that what I'm discussing here is actually called 'Game Studies'.

Here is the Wikipedia definition:
'Game studies is the discipline of studying games, their design, their players and the role they play in society and culture more broadly. Game studies is largely a multi- and inter-disciplinary field with researchers and academics from a multitude of other areas such as computer science, psychology, sociology, anthropology, arts & literature, media studies, communication, and more.' fact, when I searched further on this topic, I found an article from Nintendo about the present social acceptance level of videogames and how acceptance is on the rise, but response is still quite mixed. And of course, the game companies constantly seek to make gameplaying mainstream, because they want to increase their market size. 
Personally, I believe that this is a type of evolution in our modern culture.  A logical offshoot of computers becoming commonplace and the Internet becoming an integral part of industrialized culture.
A question even more enthralling is where is this all going?  Can gameplaying make the jump from entertainment over to a tool for industry and education?  I mean if the connection is made in popular media that gameplayers have better capabilities with regards to cooperation within teams and improved learning skills within their job environment, how far behind can software be that is developed primarily to help the employees learn better strategies for these very things?

Think about it.  How far in the future will it be that you go in for an interview and your aptitude test is a mini game that tests your teamwork, problem solving skills, aptitudes and capability to learn using computer simulation?

It really wouldn't be out the current realm of possibility, even now most games have some sort of elementary learning engines in place.  The trick would be finding a market for the software and translating that type of programming over to industrial and consumer applications.

At the risk of sounding like a science fiction author, what about software that helps you in the following possible ways:
Identify your interview weak spots and helps you learn to correct (adjust) them?

Identify your aptitudes and possible career choices, and fill in the blanks on what is weak in your current profile in order to pursue the job of your choice?

Learn how to problem solve and make decisions.

 Then again, like any tool, this would only be as good as the software programming behind it, and it could be used in very negative ways.  Discrimination based on aptitudes or current skill sets would definitely be an extreme repercussion to identification based on software tests.  Kind of reminds me of a movie I saw recently where your blood is tested at birth and the whole futuristic society is based around the end results of that blood test.  Gattica?  It's an older movie, but that theme has been used in science fiction in many forms for decades. guess you can't fight human nature, but like anything else, it's a two edged sword...  I'm thinking that the development of this type of software is inevitable.  It's a good thing there have been so many stories speculating about the social pitfalls of such tools.  Forewarned is forearmed!

Images by Teresa Young:
1. Fantastic Frogman - Aug.2010,  2. Floating In The Dark - Jul.2010, 3. Tribal Tribute - Aug.2010,  4. Blind Oracle - Jul.2010,  5. Searching For Camelot - May 2010. 
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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Painting Outside the Box... think I mentioned in a previous post that sometimes I have a tendency to paint anything that doesn't move too fast!
I don't know, maybe it's the three dimensionality that gets my motor running, but it seems to have a much different feel than painting in 2D.
And you get in the mood for a change, so it's all very interesting to explore... think it might have started with my
ex husband's motorcycle back in eighties, I had painted a nice surreal on his jean jacket that he was really attached to, it had a floating face above a marshy scene based on landscapes in photos I had taken around Nova Scotia, Canada somewhere. It was supposed to catch the feeling of the Maritimes, and it really did, in a very dreamy, bluish, sort of floaty way... After he decided his Yamaha 750 Virago had finally reached the point of needing a paint job, he really wanted that image on his bike! mind that I had no experience whatsoever painting a motorcycle, had never used an airbrush and didn't even own one! Talk about being forced out of your comfort zone... But on some level, I think he did me a favour, I muddled through, did my research and it all turned out quite lovely. And I learned it's much better to step out and experiment than to get complacent and stop learning!  I wouldn't mind painting a few bikes sometime too if it ever came up, and I learned a lot about airbrushing, metal paints and so on in the process. So it was all good. back to the blog subject at hand... That was probably my first serious experience with painting on 3D objects. And it's got different design challenges, you have to keep looking at it as you do your design to see what the audience will see and try to balance it as much as possible to keep the composition working. It's a lot of fun, but you have to keep on top of things.
After that, periodically, I'd just paint something that caught my fancy, just for the sheer enjoyment of it!
When I was first separated and had no money, everyone on my Christmas list got homemade shortbread cookies and hand painted dough ornaments from me that year. The funny part of that was that when I eventually got more money together and things got better over time, my friends and family still wanted the cookies and ornaments instead! Hilarious;-) Thankfully, they finally got tired of them and I got tired of baking, so it all worked out. in the mid 2000's, I found a lamp in a thrift shop that looked like a clove of garlic to me. It was kind of attractive in shape, but was very, very ugly in colour and texture. So I decided, well, why not, I'll paint over it with acrylic and varnish it, it's plastic based anyway! The lamp turned out beautiful, and I've still got it. It got me to thinking about other objects... as boxes.  Jewelry boxes, knick knack boxes, boxes for keeping keys, rings or pins in.  Why not make them more decorative and something people can enjoy putting on their shelf or mantle?  So after that, as a small hobby, I've always painted boxes, it's just something that satisfies that urge to create that doesn't seem to be quite as serious as a full blown painting.'ve noticed boxes have come back into style more in the last decade, maybe I was just getting ahead of the curve a bit... And of course, I've been experimenting with glass painting as well, maybe next I need to paint a glass box!

Images by Teresa Young:
1. Candlestick - Jul.2010,  2. Paper mache ring box - Jan.2010,  3. Small Jewelry box- Jan.2010,  4. Octagonal box - Dec.2009,  5. Circular box - Jan.2010,  6. 7. 8. Lecture Stand - 2009,  9. Painted Lamp - circa 2001,  10. Book shaped box - Jul.2010, 11. Eye box - Jul.2010.
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