Monday, September 23, 2013


 So, you can tell I love fractal art. Well, this post is for those who want to know what fractal art is about and especially for my friends at the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks!
Love fractals
Fractal art is mathematical art. Art formed by the interaction of multiple mathematical formula to plot points in three dimensional (3D) space. A fractal artist manipulates the formula and their properties to produce various abstract models. These 3D models are then rendered by a computer to form a two dimensional picture which can be viewed on a computer screen or printed on paper.

If that sounds complicated, it is. Fractal art could not exist in its present form without a computer to do the heavy lifting. My computer has just rendered a fractal I designed; it made 5,942,263 calculations per second and took 4 hours and 42 mins to complete. That's over 100 billion calculations for a single fractal image - a feat hardly possible without a computer.

Though fractals are mathematical, fractal artists today do not need to be mathematicians (I certainly am not!) As well as the mind-bending volume of calculations, computers help the artist by providing a visual environment in which mathematical formula can be represented by graphical objects. The artist positions and sizes the objects in relation to one another and modifies their properties, while the approximate results are displayed on the computer screen.

Despite such technical help, the journey to a finished fractal image is anything but straightforward. Fractal pictures can rarely be previsualised, except in the broadest of terms; the artist launches into the fractal void on a voyage of discovery. It can be a frustrating voyage - for some time nothing usable is revealed then, when finally something interesting does form in front of the artist, the task is to coax that embryonic image towards something worthy of being called a fractal image. Often it never makes it and the artist must start over.
In the beginning
Even with these difficulties, there is something about fractal images which draws the artist onward. A good fractal can be breathtakingly beautiful and the combination of creativity, discovery, and craft involved in producing fractals, quite addictive. But fractals also seem to have another quality - the ability to connect with something that lies just outside our normal comprehension - visual analogies that communicate at a metaphysical level.

If you want to get started in fractal art a good place to begin is with a free program (Windows only) called Apophysis and tutorials which can be found at Deviant Art.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


In a few weeks this view will be obscured by spring's new growth and an abundance of leaves. It caught my eye yesterday for the bold simplicity of the shapes set against a stormy sky. It was the work of a moment with the camera, but processing it to capture the feeling of that moment took several hours and a few aborted attempts. Why are the simple pictures the hardest?

On a related note, I have just read through "Eyes of the Heart - Photography as a Christian contemplative Practice" by Christine Valters Paintner. Her book deserves more than a quick read through (and I will give it much more than that) but she encourages a deeper 'seeing' than a photographer (me) often gives the subject; more of a 'slow gazing' designed to see beyond the mere physical form and expose something deeper. That's a huge challenge - using a device (a camera) designed to capture light to reveal something more than an image. Hmm ... work to do there me thinks.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Android storm

Just before the storm struck last night, ripping off our gates and hot water expansion pipe, we experienced a technology storm of a different sort. It started when my two week old Android tablet seemed to be connected to WiFi but was not connecting to the Internet. A fifteen hour power outage interrupted diagnosis but, when power returned today, both my phone and Annette's Android phone were both showing the same symptoms - connected to WiFi but no Internet access. All other devices (PCs, iPads, Kindle seemed unaffected).

Google searches uncovered an Android bug where IP addresses allocated via DHCP were not being properly recorded in the Android device. Each affected Android device shows it's IP as "Unknown" (Settings/About device/Status).

Although repeated connecting and disconnecting from the network can restore a device to working order, this is hit and miss at best, and frustratingly annoying at worst. The actual answer is to reserve IP addresses on the DHCP server for use by Android devices and to set each Android device using one of these "static" IPs rather than DHCP. Everything else in the network can continue using DHCP but the Android devices each get their own dedicated IP. It's a bit of a pain to set up but once it is done everything works more smoothly and devices connect more quickly.

Hope that helps someone out there with a misbehaving Android.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Back in The Square again

After nearly three years, it's good to be able to walk through our city centre again. Sure it's damaged and it's disorientating not having all the familiar buildings in their place, but I like what I am seeing - Christchurch people are reclaiming their broken city. People are creating things, wonderful things, that could not have found a place in the more regulated pre-quake Christchurch. Would anyone have been allowed to erect a whare in the square prior to 2010?

Would impromptu art spaces, like this photo exhibition, have found a place on the more crowded city streets?
There is something really cool going on in Christchurch post quake, and I'm not sure that I want to see the rebuild snuff it out once the developers and bureaucrats get their act together. We need an ongoing supply of empty space where creative people can make cool things for Cantabrians to delight in and smile at.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Window pain

Three years on from the start of the earthquakes, and this damaged yet unrepaired building seems to reflect our city:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Digital opalotype

The opalotype was an early photographic technique where images were made on a 'milky' or 'opal' glass plate. Very often, after development, the plates were hand painted to make a photograph which had a quality similar to that of a water colour painting. I started experimenting with a digital form of opalotype in 2011 and have refined the process using a variety of tools including Lightroom, Photoshop (or substitute) and Topaz filters. This 'street' shot from Sunday's Farmers Market is an example of what the process can produce.
The steps involved are not difficult but can be time consuming:
  1. Develop your image in Lightroom to create a good quality, natural, colour image
  2. Take the image into PhotoShop or equivalent (layer 1)
  3. Create a duplicate layer and make it into a black and white image (layer 2). I usually use Topaz Black and White Effects.
  4. Duplicate layer 1 again and move it to the top of the stack (layer 3)
  5. Take layer 3 and reduce it to splashes of colour only (no outlines). I do this in Topaz Simplify, using a variation of the Buz Sim preset.
  6. Change the blending mode of layer 3 to 'color' and reduce the opacity to taste (30%is a good stating point)
  7. Duplicate layer 1 again and move it to the top of the stack (layer 4)
  8. Take layer 4 and reduce it to outlines on a white background (no colour). I also do this in Topaz Simplify using the same Buz Sim preset, but set to generate black outlines only.
  9. Remove unwanted outlines (usually in the background and sky) by painting them out with white on layer 4 (try to outline only the main subjects)
  10. Change the blending mode of layer 4 to 'Linear Burn" and reduce the opacity to taste (30%-50% is usually good). Then examine it critically and paint out any outlines which don't look natural (the edges of shadows are an example)
  11. Flatten the image and return it to Lightroom
  12. In Lightroom make any final adjustments to colour and tone and then create a radial gradient (LR5) to fill the image (Ctrl+double click) then lighten and reduce contrast, saturation, clarity and sharpness at the outer edge of the gradient.
  13. Finally create a narrow white border around the image with feathered edges - this should blend with the lightening you did in step 12 to produce the milky white edges and corners of the final image.
And that, is that. It's not a recipe, as such, because every picture is different but, following this approach and using your own judgement, will give you some very interesting results that look as though they fall somewhere between a photograph and a water colour painting. As you practice on different pictures you will soon get to know what works and what doesn't and adjust settings as appropriate. Good luck and have fun with digital opalotypes.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Nikon D600 - a year on

Well, perhaps a few days short of a year, but it was this month a year ago that I acquired the D600. I remember, on one of the first outings being blown away by the dynamic range of this camera: with my old D80 I had become quite used to blending three bracketed shots to capture a high dynamic range scene. In the last year, I cannot remember ever having to blend shots with the D600 - I shot bracketed many times (an old habit) but never used more than one shot in final production. Today's shot of the Oxford Farmers Market is a case in point - one exposure (actually a four-shot stitched panorama) and everything from the distant clouds to the shadows under the market stools is well exposed (shot RAW and developed in Lightroom).

So, a year on and I'm still loving the D600 - can't blame the tools any more :-)