Oct 11, 2017
Welcome, to the fifth installment of the podcast of the film of the book of the story of the idea of the matchbook cover of the cafe by the same name! It's history, cave man style, photography, iPhone style, silhouettes, wild animal style, and Leonardo, Vinci style. Plus, a short conversation after a long drive and the host's son says some nice things about his dad. (Such a good boy.)
And now, this.
The class of equipment we today call "camera" has a history that goes back to 1826 or so, if we trace it to the first permanently captured image, but nearly 300 years further back to an illustration of how to project an image onto a surface (see below), then drops back another 2 millennia for a text description of a projected image, and possibly settles comfortably into its origins some 300 centuries before that when the optical concept still employed today might have provided an image for cave painting painters. So, from paleolithics in Spain to a philosopher in China to a polymath in Friesland to a tinkerer in France to a guy who, at times, ate only apples in Cupertino, you'd think we'd be tired of the tech by now, but instead we keep on keeping on with a device that linguistically derives from the Latin appellation given to it by a German, a phrase that means room dark, the one place they don't work very well.
An illustration attributed to Gemma Frisius; the first known showing a camera obscura.
Deep Dive Digital
Speaking of the iPhone (did I?), the cameras in these smartphones are remarkable in what they can achieve with very little human intervention. However, for those who either present situations that trip up the built-in smarts, or just can't help but fiddle with such things, an app called ProCamera puts almost every interventionist tool at your fingertips (I guess you could try using it with the tip of your nose, but most of us use our fingers, so I'm just gonna go with that). I test it out, as well as a couple of in-app additions that address less-common, more challenging, situations and I rate value-to-price as very good. Listen to the podcast to hear me, or visit their web site, www.procamera-app.com/en/, to read what they think of it. But, hey! Who are you gonna believe?
Above, just your standard run-of-the-mill gorgeous autumn colors. Nothing to see here, folks, but beauty from nature and an iPhone 6s Plus. I used the ProCamera app but didn't need any of the gadgets it offers. So, really, this is here just as eye candy.
For this close-up I set the focus point on the near feature and the exposure point up near the right-hand corner. The former focused the camera where I wanted it, while the latter "tricked" the camera into providing more light, so I could better see the details on the shaded side of the detail. (Extra points if you know what you're looking at — the more specific you know, the more points you get.)
This view of a cactus might, without the shadow, not be understood to be as tall as it is, but by setting the proportions of the capture to 3:1, the shadow trails far to the right and tells the tall(ness) tale.
Above, a somewhat tricky exposure challenge — bright sunlight on the side of the tall wall, but deep shadow beyond the fence and even along the base of the wall behind the cactus. The iPhone didn't suck at this, but it's bland.
Below, using the vividHDR in-app purchase with ProCamera, everything is better. The walls are more colorful, the sky is bluer, the gate and the deep recess beyond the gate are both brighter. It's just, overall, nicer to look at. And you'll notice the watermark in the middle of the image, right? That's because even though vividHDR is only $2.99, I wasn't sure I wanted to drop that kind of coin on a "maybe." When I saw the result, I dropped the coins and, after I picked them up, used TouchID to pay for vividHDR. Now no more watermark — but I wanted to share my reticence. It was warranted, since the results might have been junk, but the proof of the photographic pudding is in the peeping, you know what I'm sayin'?
On the left, my dark closet shot with the standard camera mode. In the center I selected the LowLight setting, and on the right is the LowLight+ rendition. No other changes but those. You can definitely see more with LowLight than with the standard camera, it's a little brighter and parts of the image are a little less digitally noisy, but some parts are actually a bit more noisy. But LowLight+? Wow! Who knew my fuzzy-fringed tinsel-tangled pink cowboy hat could look so good when the light is so bad!? Two points to make here: these were all shot with my iPhone 6s Plus firmly supported by a tripod — LowLight+ takes a long time, like several seconds, to capture and process the image — and that's not my hat, it's my wife's. Just want to be clear about that. (My hat is blue. Duh.) LowLight+ is a real pixel-saver if you need it, but if you need it, you'll also need $2.99.
Rock of the Easties
There's a photo gallery in Fort Collins, Colorado, where the executive director found time in her very busy schedule executive directing to speak with me about her life, art, politics and power. Hamidah Glasgow, above, is the daughter of artists so, of course, wanted nothing to do with art because it was "weird." Then, further of course, she realized that weird is good and has arrived at a time and place where she seems comfortable steering a ship that finds, shares, and promotes great art and artists. The gallery is the Center for Fine Art Photography — www.c4fap.org
The sculptures on Sir Elton's piano were created by Hamidah Glasgow's father, Lukman Glasgow. The album, Elton John's Greatest Hits, was created by Sir Elton, and he in turn was created by mister and missus Sir Elton's parents and the Queen.
The Black and White of it
What do you get when you back someone up against your living room window and shoot them? Sometimes you get a silhouette image where they appear as a black shape against a white rectangle. Sometimes you get 20 years in the slammer, but that's only if you violate copyright laws by not securing a model release first. Okay, only one of those might be true, and in this episode I explain more about whichever is the true one, except I substitute exotic animals for people. Listen and learn, listeners!
Above, by focusing on the horizontal blinds, but exposing for the autumnal trees, the blinds are bold and black and crisply rendered, while the trees are out of focus but still recognizable.
Below, I laid this USMC letter opener against my screen (which is showing part of the web site for the iPhone camera app I reviewed, above) so you can see both elements, letter opener and computer screen, in focus but still the former is silhouetted black against the brighter latter.
But Kudos is a Greek Word!
Speaking of iPhones (did I?)… wait, I already did that.
Speaking of Leonardo da Vinci, he was a very smart guy who, for some reason, didn't share a lot of what he developed and invented. He even described the camera obscura but obscured his writing by hiding it in plain, but mirrored, sight, so no one knew of his description until centuries later. One of the things he knew about was photography, 300 years before it was invented, and I drop that knowledge on you, no backwards audio involved.
Wrap It Up
Finally, I share a review I got on iTunes from one of the smartest, sharpest, most insightful, laser-focused, impartial, judges of photography podcasts to walk the face of this planet — and he's only listened to mine! That person is, admittedly, my son. I just hate to think that the only review on iTunes is his, so I'm begging you, please! Please go to iTunes and, after you subscribe but before you listen, leave a comment that is even more ebullient and effusive and ego-massaging than his. (Or, you can tell the truth, but what fun is that…?!)
Thanks for listening and reading. And please, do, listen — the third quote from Leonardo is worth every cent I paid for it.