The Transfiguration

everything is sacred

Posts Tagged ‘photography

Delirium of the Day #692

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Cameras can suffer from fever, and the surreal dreams associated with them, just like humans. The main difference is that, while feverish humans can only babble about their visions, cameras can share theirs with no loss of fantastical detail. My old Kodak experienced these digital delusions way back in issue 39, though they weren’t nearly as vivid and bizarre as the dreams of Leo’s Sony CyberShot. For no comprehensible reason, his camera would render the world in very different ways: in thick, painterly strokes of the colors you find in bubbles; in silver sheets of snow overlaying everything; in strange neon tracings that captured only subtle inflections of people, ignoring their colors and textures entirely, and in minute strands of light that give you the impression that you are staring through a prism.

I fiddled with the camera for several minutes and made no progress in trying to understand its strange, delirious maladies. Something inside its little hull must have clicked as I worked, though, for gradually the miasma faded and the CyberShot began to show me the real world again. Perhaps it was like a toxin that can only be removed by cycling the blood, and all that it needed was to get its electronic heart pumping again.

(To clarify: there was no post-processing done on this photo; what you see here is exactly what the camera presented. In its little hazy fever, Leo’s camera must have thought him a saint)

the earth is not a cold dead place
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Written by Umbrella Man

August 15, 2010 at 3:58 am

Fleet of the Day #678

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That’s my kite at the very top of the photo, its pale cord arcing upwards to vanish into the blue. My older and more experienced camera is hanging from its wings, spying on the impressive fleet of octopuses perpetually swimming into the wind; you can see what it saw in the video.

Our flight this time was a little stabler, a little more carefully directed, and had a lot more to see – there were hundreds of kites there, with enough strings to supply an army of harpists, and while the people below were loud and the wind was blustery, all those dragons and hawks and ships and sea creatures in the air seemed imbued with a deep and immortal calm.

That illusion is broken a little, unfortunately, when you hear the incredibly loud video; these octopuses don’t have such a silent habitat as their aquatic cousins. Listen carefully and you can hear a high-pitched hum – that sound carries down the string, all the way to the ground, and as you reel the kite in you can hear the wind whistling at you with one of its rarer voices.

We still need to do some work on our flying techniques. We built the camera a cage of sorts and hung it from the bridle, and so even when the kite was steady the camera whirled and quivered in the wind. If we could attach the camera directly to the body of the kite that might improve things a great deal, but that would involve performing some surgery on the kite, which is a worrisome prospect.

I also can’t take photos easily from the air, as my camera has only a 30 second timer and no remote control. With a bit of electronic trickery I might persuade it to take photos indefinitely, every ten seconds, which would capture the story of the entire flight in a much less dizzying way.

In the meantime, click here to take a look at image stills taken from the flight videos, and try to imagine what it’s like to fly up there.

(Many thanks to Emily, who piloted the kite as I worked the camera)

sonik special – analoq

Written by Umbrella Man

August 1, 2010 at 1:29 am

Posted in events, places, skies

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Tentacles of the Day #665

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Today Kate and Emily decided to have a birthday party, and so, as per tradition, we convened at the Marina for sugar, sociality and blustery wind currents flowing from the bay. The friends were sweet and the cakes were charming, and above us swam a menagerie of aquatic kites – grinning fish, a SCUBA diver perpetually fleeing a shark, and a colossal octopus, all surrounded by buzzing geometric figures swirling in the wind. On the grass crawled a quintet of air-filled crabs, creeping back and forth as the wind flowed through them.

With all these sights and all these smiles, it was difficult to decide on any single image to share with you. Here, then, is a moving photo of the octopus’s impression upon the grass below, as by nature it’s rather different from any of the pictures I took today.

This is a sort of photography, if you can call it that, which I would like to practice a little more. There are certain things that you can’t capture with a still photo, and no matter how masterfully you command your camera, something will still be lost from the image. I don’t mean events, like someone singing happy birthday or doing a triple backflip on trampoline. Films work well to convey those, but the meaning can still be captured symbolically with a photo. What I want are phenomena, naturally occurring, cyclic processes whose meaning lies in motion. Things like tiny peaks of water bobbing and diving as the sea attacks the beach; smoke curling and dissipating from a glowing ember; the rippling leaves and pine needles in a forest, swaying in the breeze. Flowing substances, waves, that hypnotize when you cast your attention on them. I would like to take the moving ocean and put it on my wall, and visitors could come and get lost in it while they wait for tea.

So here is the motion of the wind, manifested through octopus tentacles and filtered by sunlight. It’s soft and gentle enough that you can watch the shadows melt into each other, and if you look closely you can see the wind acting on the tall grass in the distance.

I hope you like it. It’s one of those images I’d like to keep forever.

the wind still rings in my ear

Written by Umbrella Man

July 18, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Bumbler of the Day #604

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Bumblebees are dutiful creatures, and they do their jobs well, but they are certainly not the most elegant of the pollinators. A somewhat confused scientist once proved that it was aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly; their bodies were simply too heavy, and their wings too small, to provide enough lift to get them off the ground via traditional, birdlike flapping. In order for a bumblebee to fly, it would have to flap its wings about 200 times per second, while neurons can only tell a wing to flap 10 to 20 times per second.

The solution is a clever mechanism in the bumblebee’s thorax – instead of a simple muscle that moves the wings up and down, there is an elastic sort of complex that snaps back and forth when tugged, like a doorstop spring or a guitar string. This lets the bee move its wings much faster than it can think – a remarkable feat, I’d say.

Though they have figured out how to fly despite their bulk, bumblebees are still quite awkward when they navigate the grasses in search of food. They seem a little bit lazy at times, and prefer to walk from one flower to another rather than fly. They are not at all coordinated when they do this, though; watch how it tries to squeeze between bud and leaf blade, waggling its legs like a kitten trying to climb onto your lap. The honeybees must laugh at them when they get back to their own hive. It’s rather like a bear living in the forest, who, seeing the monkeys leap and scamper up the higher branches, tries to climb to the canopy himself. His paws slip and scratch at the bark, and with a Herculean effort he may be able to lift himself into the lower branches, but he would be no match for the monkeys in any sort of race.

I almost got the perfect photo today. I want to be able to look up at the bumblebees, and see them as a great beast lumbering through the woods…

bee mario

Written by Umbrella Man

May 19, 2010 at 1:25 am

Glow of the Day #585

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Today I am tired. It is almost exhilarating the way your muscles twinge when you force yourself to get up in the morning, as though your limbs are made of wood and the act of waking stretches them along the grain. I got through the day splendidly, anyway, and absorbed my biology lecture and barreled through a physics lab that went on for over three hours. It began with our TA showing us wave motion illuminated by black light, and that is where this glow comes from.

I don’t understand how black lights work. I’m sure I’ll learn sometime soon, but they have such an ethereal glow, a sort of blue I have never seen anywhere else. This is a blue which extends its palms from the afterlife, wraps your eyes in crystal linen and makes you feel, with full conviction, that you could step between the cracks of your classmate’s sweatshirt and find yourself floating along electrochemical signals in the mind of a great dreaming beast.

brave men tell the truth

Written by Umbrella Man

April 29, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Posted in light

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Landscape of the Day #580

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This delicate little landscape, with its lush dunes of gentle hues, is a tiny region of a pressed flower petal which Emily sent to me in one of her letters. The letter made me smile, as they always do, and I was amazed to see the gentle blending of colors and rolling dunes hidden in the tiny folds of the flower.

In the Great Forest, where entire civilizations dwell on the crown of a single mushroom, there are folk who make their homes on the silken petals of the flowers growing from the trees. They tend carefully to each and every pollen grain which moves in and out of the pedal – for each carries a message of the utmost importance – and every morning they look out and see a world like this. The land is bright and warm, and the colors are so vibrant you could drink them. The world tastes of raspberries and lemonade, and it’s sweet as sweet can be.

There are tiny worlds everywhere, and I am rapt in them – in flower petals and whispered stories, in the simplest melodies and in doodles in the margins of letters. I am searching for my own world, and piece by piece I’m going to find it.

rob’s lullaby

Written by Umbrella Man

April 25, 2010 at 1:58 am

Forager of the Day #562

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Is it possible to take too many pictures of cherry blossom?

No! No, it’s not. There must be an infinite number of ways to look at them, and to ignore some and admire the others would be an injustice!

Last quarter the cherry blossom trees were just beginning to bloom, and I was stunned by their petals, “in tremulous white”. I looked forward to seeing them over the East Field, in view of the bay and the distant hills, framed by blue sky and white clouds.

SInce I’ve returned from spring break, though, a dozen more trees have exploded into bloom. I can see two shimmering diamonds glowing outside my bedroom window, and more are scattered across the campus, clouds of white nestled comfortably between all the towering redwoods and willows. They are an astonishing sight, and passing by them has actually been a little bit frustrating to me – my camera doesn’t see them the same way I do, so I haven’t been able to capture the spectacle to share with you. Their interdimensional glow can’t be recorded digitally, but is a phenomenon only visible to the conscious eye.

Last week I went to see the new blossoms up close, and found that the trees were full of bees. The insects have gone mad for the flowers, and both bumblebees and honeybees can be found amongst their snowy petals. I was, at the time, nervous about getting too close, but today I braved the swarm and stood with my head in the branches, watching for some ten minutes as they bounced and flittered about in search of pollen. I was hypnotized by some of the flowers, and wanted very much to be as small as a bee, to be able to hover into each sweetened bowl, completely engulfed by sun-soaked white. It’s a sensation lost to humans, I suppose – we aren’t given the opportunity for such an experience.

Watching the bees, I remembered that they can see ultraviolet light, and it occurred to me that while we might see the blossoms as white, the bees might see another color entirely, and possibly in brilliant, invisible patterns that beckon the insects to come forth. Judging by their enthusiasm for the flowers, I don’t think it’s a bad guess.

do you wonder where the Self resides?

Written by Umbrella Man

April 7, 2010 at 12:00 am