Category Archives: Art

The Camera

Capturing a moment and freezing time has always been fascinating for mankind. It always required a skill to turn a moment into a lasting image. Cave drawings are the first known attempts to do just that. Over the millennia many great, and not so great, artist practiced this skill.

With the invention of the camera and film the game changed. It was suddenly much easier to trap the moment and make it last. The first photographers still had to be very skilled because you could not go to a store and buy a role of film – the first photographers made their own plates for their box cameras.

But by the 50s and 60s photography had become so easy that every American tourist traveling the world took his or her camera along. And in the recent years the prevalence of digital cameras has brought picture-taking everywhere.

The main areas in which photography is used today are snapping memory shots, documenting events and facts, and artistic expression.

Probably the most pictures take are from the first category – capturing memories. Here is the camera, especially the latest very small models, which can go everywhere and that fit into your shirt pocket. As there is, beside the initial cost for the camera, no cost involved in photo-taking, many, many photos are taken, many of which might only be looked at once before they are forgotten on a hard drive or deleted.

The second use of the camera for the documentation of events, facts and objects requires a much bigger skill level of the photographer if he really wants to create an image that tells a story or shows a situation. Point and click does not work any more. The photographer has to have the ability to isolate something specific from a sea of distraction. A wide-angle shot where, way in the background, you see the dog biting the kid while there are more prevalent objects in the foreground will not document the dog attack.

Artistic use of the camera requires a total synergy of camera and photographer. Just like the painter knows exactly how the brush will apply the paint to the canvas, so does the artistic photographer know every nuance of his tool of the trade – the camera. But just as a great painter will paint a great picture with an expensive brush or a cheap pencil, so is the great photographer able to even use a cheap camera to take great pictures.

The camera, in all three fields of application, has opened up the entry into the respective area to nearly everybody. But it still remains true that to create great pictures, great skills are required. Today’s advertisement tries to make it appear that if you spend bundles of money to purchase the latest and greatest camera, you will automatically take perfect pictures. This is certainly not the case as the photographer and not the camera takes the pictures. Lowering the bar to enter the field allows many more people to get started but only the person who sticks with it and trains himself in the art will obtain stunning results.

SciFi Anarchy

Mack&pipe60sFor many years I have been listening to sci-fi stories on Escape Pod. Great way to make your driving time more enjoyable. In the olden day when I drove much more I was always up to date with the latest episode but lately I have fallen seriously behind – not enough commuting (well, not too sad about that, though.)

On m,y last trip back from LA I listened to a classic, written in the 40s – Expediter by Mack Reynolds. Happy to report that there were anarchist that long ago.

Worst Youtube Videos Countdown

There was, apparently, somebody called Rocker 13666 on Reddit who created a list of the worst music videos uploaded to Youtube ever. I learned about this on GeekBeat but could not find the original post on Reddit, so, in order to preserve this list for posterity, I record it here:

  1. It’s So Cold in the D
  2. Beavis and Butt-Head – It’s So Cold in the D
  3. IceJJFish – On The Floor
  4. I Don’t Wanna be a Crappy Housewife
  5. Double Take – “Hot Problems”
  6. Zanger Rinus: ‘Met Romana op de scooter’
  7. Sateliti – Audi
  8. Wowowowow
  9. The Divine David ‘The World Is Burning Let’s Masturbate’
  10. Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up

So – how was the pain – you masochist!

Oh, just one little bonus – a GE light bulb commercial…

Female Beauty

A photo essay from http://imgur.com/a/HfFQq#OsjcN

Canon and Nikon together – At Last

Sometime in the dark ages – more than 15 years ago – I invested in a Nikon SLR 6006 with a nice 35-135mm zoom lens and it served me well until the dawn of the (reasonably priced) digital age. Early DSLRs were way too expensive and not worth the money, so I went with a few consumer digital cameras for some years, one of them also a Nikon, albeit not with exchangeable lens.

For many years my old 6006 sat in the closet losing value but I always had in mind  that at one point I would invest in a DSLR and then I could use the nice lens which was about five hundred bucks in the days I acquired it.

The time of the DSLR finally came in form of a Canon T4i. I had strongly considered waiting for the perfect mirror-less camera, but the deal I got on the Canon – I just could not pass up. I did not go with a Nikon DSLR because I also wanted to use the camera for video and Canon seemed to be superior in that department. Thus, I still had that good Nikon lens sitting there without any use. The idea of selling it on eBay shattered quickly when I saw for how little these cameras were traded – it really appears the time of the 35mm film is over.

I finally a reasonable offer for an adapter for Nikkor AF lenses to EOS bodies and it arrived today.

First test with that ‘good’ Nikkor lens were rather disappointing. It appears that lens technology has made long strides over the last decade and a half. The lack of transfer of data to and from the lens through the adapter (none) was no big deal, as I grew up, focusing manually and with the camera set to aperture priority the exposure was still pretty automatic – if I wanted. One feature of the Nikkor lens I was looking for was the macro range – at 35mm I could push one little button and extend the barrel quite a bit further, thus getting much closer to the subject.

Here the closes with the Nikkor

nikon-out

and the closest I could get with the Canon 18-55

canon-out

That was pretty good, but then I wanted to see how it fared when I looked closer, and this is where the disappointment took hold.

Big bad color fringes on the Nikkor lens

nikon-in

at least in the out-of-focus areas of the image while the Canon lens showed no such faults

canon-in

I will have to make some more test to see how the aperture will affect this behavior as, I believe, the Nikkor was wide open, while the Canon was exposing with the lens closed to 11. Now I start to imagine how the quality will be for a modern lens for the price of the old Nikkor, and even more so for a modern lens that I can not justify to buy.

What this little experiment really drove home to me is that the experts are right when they say that glass is more important than body.

UPDATE:

The above was written sometime in March of 2013. Since then I looked into other options of getting a closer look at things without using the macro setting on the Nikkor lens.

When it was time to buy something from Amazon with a price under the minimum to get free shipping, I added a Macro Extension Tube Set and a Macro Reverse Ring Camera Mount Adapter. The first one simply adds distance between the sensor and the lens, thus allowing to focus on objects closer to the lens (but losing the ability to focus on infinity with a ring inserted). The second allows to reverse the lens and mount it on the camera with the filter thread, allowing for extreme close-up shorts.

When I received these adapters I took my trusted lens cap and took a few shots to compare with what I could get with the old Nikkor lens. This time I was positively surprised. I got the same good quality of the image with my 18-55 lens – much better than the old Nikkor lens.

Close-up with Distance rings

Close-up with Distance ringsNow, that I have a solution to do close-up photography without the use of the Nikkor lens I can put that lens on eBay again, throwing in the body of the 6006 which I have not been able to just throw away so far.

The Lensman Series by E. E. Doc Smith

First LensmanMany years ago that I read the Lensman series by Doc E. E. Smith, the precursor to all modern space opera that came after it. Even at the time I read it the technology was dated as these books were written in the 40s and 50s (and even I had no read them when they were first published), but that all did not matter to me at all. These were just great stories.

My first read was in a German translation and I am rather certain that I read at least a few of the books in English after I came to the US of A. For a long time now I wanted to read them again but these books are hard to come by – most of them were out of print and I believe still are – you can’t really find them on Amazon in form of inexpensive paperbacks, maybe as bound collectors items but not for an amount that I was willing to spend.

So I had given up for a while to find a complete set, but recently discovered the first, Triplanetary, as an ebook and am about to finish it on my tablet (apparently the only useful application for a tablet.)

As I was approaching the last few pages I needed the next one – First Lensman. Quite a bit of googling later I finally hit the mother-lode at Arthur’s Bookshelp. He had them all and as I was at it, I also got the Skylark series for the time when I’m done with the Lensmen.  That could be a few years at the slow pace I am going.

Just in case you need the sequence of the book, because it is sometimes hard to figure it out the chronology:

  1. Triplanetary
  2. First Lensman
  3. Galactic Patrol
  4. Gray Lensman
  5. Second Stage Lensman
  6. Children of the Lens

And here – as we are at it, the sequence of the Skylark series:

  1. The Skylark of Space
  2. Skylark Three
  3. Skylark of Valeron
  4. Skylark DuQuesne

 

Edgar Allan Poe – The Raven

The Raven Evermore

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;- vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow- sorrow for the lost Lenore-
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me- filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
“‘Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-
This it is, and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”- here I opened wide the door;-
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”-
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore-
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;-
‘Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door-
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered-
Till I scarcely more than muttered, “Other friends have flown before-
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said, “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore-
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never- nevermore’.”

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore-
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee- by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite- respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! –
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted-
On this home by Horror haunted- tell me truly, I implore-
Is there- is there balm in Gilead?- tell me- tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us- by that God we both adore-
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend,” I shrieked, upstarting-
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted- nevermore!