Looking through a Micro Lens is Both Overwhelming and Satisfying

Spiderwebs on a dead bee's wing, 48th Street. Taken with 15X Micro Phone Lens, Oakland, CA, 2016
Spiderwebs on a dead bee’s wing, 48th Street. Taken with 15X Micro Phone Lens, Oakland, CA, 2016

I have a small collection of unusual cameras that extend my senses.  In my last post, I wrote about my underwater camera. This week, I’m focusing on my Micro Phone Lens. It makes me feel like both a bug and a giant.

The lens is tiny and sticks on your phone’s lens

I got my Micro Phone Lens in 2015 from a Kickstarter campaign. It’s very small and comes in a carrying case, convenient enough to have earned permanent home in in my zipper-pouch wallet. Wallet-Lens

Despite literally carrying it everywhere with me for a year, I’d only barely scratched the surface of taking micro photos. For this post, I delve deeper into experimenting with the micro phone lens.

Lens in hand

Small and made of soft plastic, the lens sticks to the phone lens with a small amount of liquid.

It requires a great deal of patience to position the camera and hold it steady, and vigilance to ensure the tiny plastic lens doesn’t get lost when it falls off.  

How enlarged is its picture?

This animated GIF starts with the micro lens and zooms out to a normal view.

Animated GIF beginning with 15x Micro Lens, zooming out with 4X and 8X macro versions.
Animated GIF beginning with 15x Micro Lens, zooming out with 4X and 8X macro versions.

Micro photos in my life

My first experiences with extreme close-up photographs were in Games Magazine in a puzzle game feature called “Eyeball Benders”. The moment of recognition of an everyday object was always enjoyable. My first experience with how much scale matters in our perception of the world is the movie Powers of Ten, which remains one of my favorite films of all time. More recently, I have discovered the micro and stop motion work of Lauren Corden.

“There’s Nothing Here”

My perception adjusted quickly to the micro scale.

My first thought: “there’s nothing here”, then “there’s a spiderweb”, then “I think those tiny white dots are actually minuscule spiders”.

White spider standing on its web, 48th Street. Taken with 15X Micro Phone Lens, Oakland, CA, 2016
White spider standing on its web, 48th Street. Taken with 15X Micro Phone Lens, Oakland, CA, 2016

All of a sudden I saw spiderwebs between every fence post and on rose bushes and banana trees all around the neighborhood. All full of minuscule white spiders.

Ant battles in bottle brush needles

Beneath a bottle-brush tree lay a bed of red bottle brush needles. While photographing the needles, I noticed an ant, then dozens.  Most ran by my camera in a blur, but one stayed in one spot. It fought every ant that came by.

Two ants in bottle brush needles, 48th Street. Taken with 15X Micro Phone Lens, Oakland, CA, 2016
Two ants in bottle brush needles, 48th Street. Taken with 15X Micro Phone Lens, Oakland, CA, 2016

As ant after ant entered the fight, I realized just how many different kind of ants there were in this stretch of ordinary sidewalk, and how much expression there was: the movement of their heads, in their antennae and chomping jaw. If we could see, at their scale, what is “really going on” would we go crazy?Animated GIF showing three ants interacting beneath a bottle brush tree, 48th Street. Taken with 15X Micro Phone Lens, Oakland, CA, 2016

Animated GIF showing three ants interacting beneath a bottle brush tree, 48th Street. Taken with 15X Micro Phone Lens, Oakland, CA, 2016
Animated GIF showing three ants interacting beneath a bottle brush tree, 48th Street. Taken with 15X Micro Phone Lens, Oakland, CA, 2016

Different members of the colony looked quite distinct from each other, and their antics entertained me for, according to my camera’s time stamps, about 28 minutes.

Finding satisfaction amidst an onslaught of detail

My Escoda Sable Brush, Taken with 15X Micro Phone Lens, Oakland, CA, 2016
My Escoda sable paintbrush. Taken with 15X Micro Phone Lens, Oakland, CA, 2016Seeing through the lens also made me feel better. Capturing a good example of an astonishing image I’d previously overlooked was satisfying.

This feeling is connected to the staring at “things” that makes me spend a lot of time still life painting.

This connection between still life painting and micro photography made me curious to examine a painting under the micro lens.

Animated GIF showing two oil paintings.
Animated GIF showing details of two oil paintings: Galactic marble study, and Galactic Marble in Flashlight Beam.

Taking micro photos has forced me to slow to the crawl of a bug. To let the rest of the world disappear, and to find something where it seems like there’s nothing.

Minuscule pink metallic heart in a sidewalk crack behind the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, Shattuck Ave. Taken with 15X Micro Phone Lens, Oakland, CA, 2016
Minuscule pink metallic heart in a sidewalk crack behind the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, Shattuck Ave. Taken with 15X Micro Phone Lens, Oakland, CA, 2016

After a few days of focused microphotography, I began to get overwhelmed at the world’s detail. This is a problem I already had, and the micro phone lens made it both better and worse.

Looking through the lens made things worse because details were now easier to envision. I could picture more crevices, more insects with their microscopic moving parts: like uncharted territory or shooting stars on a cloudy night.

All photos and paintings by Emily Wick

I Love My Underwater Camera

Me, camera, and a glass of water, Oakland, CA, 2008
Me and my camera joking around at Asmara restaurant, Oakland, CA, 2008. Photo by Brian Brooks.


 

I love my underwater camera. It is a Pentax Optio W60. It is completely waterproof. I bought it eight years ago and I still use it all the time.

Swimming with the camera’s strap around my wrist, and the body gripped tightly in my hand, is the BEST feeling.

The act of taking underwater photographs is precious to me because it was one of my first awakenings to what art could do to the artist.

My First Underwater Camera

My first underwater camera was a gift in college. I was about to travel to the South Pacific to study abroad. I used a point-and-shoot 35mm film camera with Ewa-Marine underwater housing (similar to this model).

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Two stingrays in the Pacific Ocean, Moorea, French Polynesia, 1999. Taken with a point-and-shoot film camera in Ewa-Marine underwater housing.

The hardest part was being limited to a 36-exposure roll of film. Taking pictures under water requires a lot of trial and error, so often the whole roll would be blurry, out of focus, or awkwardly cropped.

Before long, the underwater housing leaked and destroyed the point-and-shoot camera within, which I’d borrowed from my uncle and always felt bad about never returning.

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Me and my friend Nikita in the Pacific Ocean, Moorea, French Polynesia, 1999. Taken with a point-and-shoot film camera in Ewa-Marine underwater housing.

My Current Camera: The Pentax Optio W60

After many years of saving money and waiting for technology to improve, I purchased a digital underwater camera on July 23, 2008.
Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 3.51.10 PM

Resembling a typical compact digital camera, the Pentax Optio W60 has no waterproof housing. The entire camera is waterproof.

Nearly a decade later, waterproofing is finally becoming widespread, and has even begun to include camera phones.

The Pentax Optio W60 in action, Oakland, CA, 2016. Eight years old and still amazing in every way.
My friend Mark on a rope and San Francisco skyline, San Francisco Bay, CA, 2015. Taken with the Pentax Optio W60
My friend Mark Bittner on a rope in front of the San Francisco skyline, San Francisco Bay, CA, 2015. Taken with the Pentax Optio W60.

The Unseen Details

When in the water, viewing the camera’s display or looking through the viewfinder is totally impractical.

It is an exercise in accepting partial blindness and embracing constantly changing images: understanding the camera and conditions of the water without being able to see what the camera sees.

When I review the photos, there are always surprises waiting: images that I never saw and could never plan.

Hotel Pool, Quechee, VT, 2010
Under water in an inn, Quechee, VT, 2010. Taken with my Pentax Optio W60.
Motel Pool, Minot, North Dakota, 2011
Bubbles by the light in a motel pool at night, Minot, North Dakota, 2011. Taken with my Pentax Optio W60.
Drake's Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, 2011
Crashing waves at Drake’s Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, CA, 2011. Taken with my Pentax Optio W60.

The Cross-Section

Anytime there is a body of water, there is a water line, and the possibility of a cross-section photo where the water comes up on the lens: one world so close to another, and yet so totally different.

Backyard pool, Redlands, CA, 2013

At the surface of a backyard pool, Redlands, CA, 2013. Taken with my Pentax Optio W60.

Sparkling sand at low tide and Cynthia, Michael, and Brian playing croquet on a sandbar, Brewster, MA, 2015. Taken with a Pentax Optio W60.
Sparkling sand at low tide and Cynthia, Michael, and Brian playing croquet on a sandbar, Brewster, MA, 2015. Taken with my Pentax Optio W60.
Boca Grande swim. Cartagena, Colombia, 2015. Taken with the Pentax Optio W60.
Boca Grande swim, Caribbean Sea. Cartagena, Colombia, 2015. Taken with my Pentax Optio W60.

The view from the water

The camera doesn’t need to be waterproof to photograph great images out on the water. But if it hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have had a camera with me at all.

Drake's Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, 2011
My bathing suit and legs just off Drake’s Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore from the Pacific Ocean, 2011. Taken with my Pentax Optio W60.
South End Rowing Club and Dolphin Club, San Francisco, CA, 2015
South End Rowing Club and Dolphin Club, San Francisco, CA, 2015. Taken with my Pentax Optio W60.

 The feeling of being in the water

I don’t love swimming as a sport: I enjoy the sensory experience of the water: the act of  leaving the land and floating in a giant lens.

This feeling, and the photos, are enough to offset discomfort: the cold, the clothing hassles, the hours of wet hair.

Me dipping my face into a backyard pool, Redlands, CA, 2013
Self portrait with my face breaking the plane of the water in a backyard pool, Redlands, CA, 2013. Taken from underwater with my Pentax Optio W60.
Indian Springs, Calistoga, CA, 2009. Photo by Anna Engberg.
The underwater me, Indian Springs, Calistoga, CA, 2009. Taken with my Pentax Optio W60. Photo by Anna Engberg.

I never get tired of it

Experimenting with my underwater cameras was my first exploration into how changing our sensors changes our experience of the world. Jumping into the water with my camera in tow can lift my mood like nothing else.

I never get tired of it.

Me in the locker room, South End Rowing Club, San Francisco, CA, 2015
Me and my Pentax Optio W60 camera in the locker room getting excited for a swim (i.e., treading water and taking pictures). South End Rowing Club, San Francisco, CA, 2015

All Photos by Emily Wick Unless Otherwise Noted

How does Understanding his own Color Blindness change how an Artist uses Color?

In the previous post, Exploring the Secrets of a Color Blind Artist’s Work, a closer look at Brian Brooks’s paintings offers clues to how he sees the world differently. This post explores the trajectory of his paintings after he became more aware of color blindness.

Brian Brooks, Inside Smokey’s Looking Out, 2014, acrylic on wood panel, 8 x 10 inches
Brian Brooks, Inside Smokey’s Looking Out, 2014, acrylic on wood panel, 8 x 10 inches.

How a deeper awareness of color blindness influenced Brian’s work

After realizing that Brian’s color blindness was frustrating the painting process, I suggested he paint with a limited palette. He had never considered this.  It allowed him newfound freedom to enjoy, as he puts it,  “the fun part of painting” without having to keep track of what color went where.

The Blue and Yellow Limited Palette: Paintings that simulate color blind vision

He started by limiting the palette to blue and yellow–basically, the red-green “color blind” palette (see my previous post for a full explanation).  This immediately lifted the red-green color confusion he’d struggled with in earlier paintings.

Perhaps these yellow and blue limited palette paintings allow us to approximate seeing the world through his eyes.

Brian Brooks, J. Otto Siebold’s Mural On Rise Above, 2014, acrylic on wood panel, 8 x 10 inches
Brian Brooks, J. Otto Seibold’s Mural On Rise Above, 2014, acrylic on wood panel, 8 x 10 inches

The color-blind friendly range of blue and yellow offers the distinct, deliberately-designed look that comes with any limited palette. Wes Anderson’s carefully coiffed color schemes are well-known, and artist James Gurney, who has also written about color blindness, discusses the benefits of limited palettes in creating unified moods.

Brian’s latest work has focused on a construction site across the street from our studio; the recently-demolished buildings that once stood on the site used to house our friends at Rise Above Graphics.

He started out the series with a few dozen daily paintings of the lot with a close-to-color-blind palette of yellow, blue, and brown.

Brian Brooks, Excavator With What I Would Like To See Over There, 2016, acrylic on paper, 16 x 20 inches
Brian Brooks, 4700 Telegraph With What I Would Like To See Over There, 2016, acrylic on paper, 16 x 20 inches
Brian Brooks, Excavator 7-14-16
Brian Brooks, 4700 Telegraph 7-14-16, acrylic on paper, 16 x 20 inches

Though there’s some green (from mixing blue and yellow) present, these paintings are close to “seeing the world through red-green color blind eyes”.

His next paintings of the same location incorporated the idea of limiting the range of hues, but brought back colors outside the “color blind palette”.

The false color limited palette: Paintings that can serve as color blindness tests

Any limited palette can allow a red-green color blind person to paint with reduced confusion. The only caveat is that only ONE of any pair of easily confused colors can be present. Red and green can’t be on the same palette, nor can purple and blue, grey and pink, or orange and red.

Red-Blue-Palette-cr-rs
Animated GIF showing palette limited to red and blue. Red-green color blind simulation turns on and off.

When the color palette is shifted away from the “color blind friendly” blue and yellow, the painting reflects reality only to red-green color blind people, and looks quite unusual to the those with normal color vision.

In his most recent paintings of the same empty lot, Brian has shifted his palette to red and blue, and can paint just as easily.

Brian Brooks, Excavator 8-6-2016, acrylic on paper, 16 x 20 inches
Brian Brooks, 4700 Telegraph 8-6-2016, acrylic on paper, 16 x 20 inches
FullSizeRender-3-sm
Brian Brooks, 4700 Telegraph 8-7-2016, acrylic on paper, 16 x 20 inches

To a red-green color blind person, the colors in these red and blue paintings do not look nearly as different from than the yellow and blue paintings of the same empty lot.

Animated GIF simulated how two kinds of "limited
Animated GIF simulated how two distinct kinds of “limited palette” paintings look similar to each other when a red-green color blindness filter is applied.

These shifted palette paintings can serve as a crude color blindness test. Without a red-green color blindness filter, the paintings on the left show a realistic, albeit limited, range of colors, and the paintings on the right show unusual false color. With the filter, all four paintings appear to spring from a similar palette.

Now that Brian is more aware of the difference in color vision, does he ever continue to use a full palette?

Yes.  Particularly with pen and ink watercolors, where he doesn’t have to re-mix any colors.

43-Trees-After-A-Trimming-Cool-1024x695
Brian Brooks, Cool Trees After A Trimming, 2015, Watercolor on paper, 3 x 4.5 inches. Animated GIF turns red-green color blind filter on and off.
Brian Brooks, Trees After A Trimming Bad, 2015, Watercolor on paper, 3 x 4.5 inches
Brian Brooks, Bad Trees After A Trimming, 2015, Watercolor on paper, 3 x 4.5 inches. Animated GIF turns red-green color blind filter on and off.
Brian Brooks, Trees After A Trimming Sad, Watercolor on paper, 3 x 4.5 inches
Brian Brooks, Sad Trees After A Trimming, Watercolor on paper, 3 x 4.5 inches. Animated GIF turns red-green color blind filter on and off.
Brian Brooks, Trees After A Trimming Fun, 2015, Watercolor on paper, 3 x 4.5 inches
Brian Brooks, Fun Trees After A Trimming, 2015, Watercolor on paper, 3 x 4.5 inches. Animated GIF turns red-green color blind filter on and off.

I hope this post has taken you on cool, bad, sad, and fun journey.

Exploring the Secrets of a Color Blind Artist’s Work

How can an understanding of color blindness reveal new ways of seeing a painting?

Brian Brooks and his labeled watercolor tray. "Color Blind" is a misleading term: the vast majority of people see a limited range of color rather than an absence.
Brian Brooks and his labeled watercolor tray. The word “Color blind”, like the black-and-white in this photo, is misleading: the vast majority of people see a limited range of color rather than an absence.

While I was working on my color-blindness-simulating paintings of Brian’s watercolor trays, it opened up an ongoing conversation between us as two visual artists: him red-green color blind, and me with color vision in the normal range.

An obvious question emerged: If he’s seeing his tray of colors very differently, how does it show up in the paintings he creates?

What does it mean to use colors that are essentially unseeable?

I took a closer look at his paintings.

The painting itself can reveal a difference in perception

Brian Brooks, Creatures In The Cafeteria, 2012, acrylic on wood panel, 18 x 24 inches
Brian Brooks, Creatures In The Cafeteria, 2012, acrylic on wood panel, 18 x 24 inches

The painting Creatures In The Cafeteria is one of the few very clear examples of color blindness altering the intent of Brian’s work. It shows up most strongly in the tint of green and pink on the floorboards.

How did the painting look to Brian while he was painting?

To help simulate Brian’s vision while I was painting, I used an app on my phone that simulated color blindness through the phone’s built-in camera.

Brian Brooks, Creatures In The Cafeteria, 2012, acrylic on wood panel, 18 x 24 inches (Filtered to simulate how a red-green color blind person sees)
Red-green color blind filtered view of Creatures In The Cafeteria

Simulating the difference for a red-green color blind audience

It’s easy to simulate color blind vision with apps and filters for color normal people, but it’s harder to demonstrate the differences to color blind people themselves.  I tinted the floorboards with false colors that are within most color blind people’s range of vision to simulate how colorful they look, to color normal people, in the original painting.

Brian Brooks, Creatures In The Cafeteria, 2012, acrylic on wood panel, 18 x 24 inches (False Color to Simulate Tinted Floorboards to a Color Blind Audience)
I added false color to Creatures in the Cafeteria to selected floorboards to simulate tinted floorboards to a color blind audience.

Sometimes I see similarity where he sees difference

Brian Brooks, Sun With Paperwork In Park, Watercolor on paper, 3 x 4.5 inches
Brian Brooks, Sun With Paperwork In Park, Watercolor on paper, 3 x 4.5 inches

When Brian was painting this picture, he told me he had messed it up because the grass colors were too different.

Red-green color blind filtered view of painting: Brian Brooks, Sun With Paperwork In Park, Watercolor on paper, 3 x 4.5 inches
Red-green color blind filtered view of  Sun With Paperwork In Park

After seeing this simulation, I finally understood why he thought the grass was inconsistent.

I created the simulation below, changing the green rainbows to blue ones and the grass to various shades of blue, to simulate for him how harmonious the greens looked to me.

False color view of painting--blue to show unity of grass: Brian Brooks, Sun With Paperwork In Park, Watercolor on paper, 3 x 4.5 inches
False color view, with blue representing unity of green, of Sun With Paperwork In Park

He can effectively use colors he doesn’t see without knowing it

People often ask “how he uses” colors like pink and green when he doesn’t see them as distinct from, respectively, gray and red. He tells me he keeps track of where they go, and he typically uses all colors effectively–even impressively.

I’ve come across several other artists who are colorblind, and have had friends enthusiastically tell me about color blind artists they know who create very colorful work.  It’s even been speculated (though I’m not convinced) that Van Gogh was color blind.

Sometimes when Brian uses a full range of colors, I tell him to imagine a painting as twice as colorful as he thinks it is.

Colorful-Dogs-New-Shirt-animated_Updated
Animated GIF showing red-green color blind simulation: Brian Brooks, Colorful Dog’s New Shirt, 2013, acrylic on wood panel, 18x 24 inches

Colorful-Dogs-New-Shirt-768x1017 Sometimes the “extra” color adds just the right touch.  For this painting of dogs viewing a horse painting a lake in a painting, the simulation of red-green color blind painting comes first, followed by the full color version.

Red-green colorblind-filtered view of Brian Brooks, Dogs Viewing Horse Painting Lake In A Painting, 2013, acrylic on paper, 18 x 24 inches
Red-green colorblind-filtered view: Brian Brooks, Dogs Viewing Horse Painting Lake In A Painting, 2013, acrylic on paper, 18 x 24 inches

 

Brian Brooks, Brian Brooks, Dogs Viewing Horse Painting Lake In A Painting, 2013, acrylic on paper, 18 x 24 inches
Brian Brooks, Dogs Viewing Horse Painting Lake In A Painting, 2013, acrylic on paper, 18 x 24 inches. Note the blending of red and green in the top left dog’s face.

I wish he could see the red night sky and green trees in the upper right, and the pinkish brush in the horse’s mouth, and the candy-colored left mountaintop.

He has added secret colors in for us without being totally aware of it. And it exposes something important: how your own work–or your own life–looks to you is rarely how it looks to other people.

How did Brian’s work change as he became more aware of the differences in his vision?  The next post explores how he has worked this knowledge into his practice. 

Painting the Palette of a Color Blind Artist 

We know not everyone sees the world in the same way. But do we ever really think about it?

Me with my painting Portrait of a Color Blind Artist’s Watercolor Tray — Red-Green Color Blind Simulation, 2016, oil on wood panel, 24 x 36 inches. This is what Brian’s new watercolor palette looked like to him when he first handed it to me to be labeled. Photo by Brian Brooks
Me with my painting Portrait of a Color Blind Artist’s Watercolor Tray — Red-Green Color Blind Simulation, 2016, oil on wood panel, 24 x 36 inches.

An offhand remark can be life-changing.  My boyfriend, Brian Brooks, is red-green color blind, and asked me one day if I could label his watercolor tray so he would stop mixing up reds and greens and browns. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

I set out to discover, capture, and communicate the difference in the way we saw color by creating two oil paintings showing Brian’s palette through his eyes and mine.

Color Blind Artist’s Used Watercolor Tray, Oil on Wood Panel, [dimensions]. Emily Wick 2016. Photo by Brian Brooks
Me with my painting Portrait of a Color Blind Artist’s Watercolor Tray, Oil on Wood Panel, 24 x 36 inches. Photo by Brian Brooks

About Color Blindness

Color blind people are technically referred to as “color vision deficient” or CVD. They can see some colors, but don’t perceive the full color spectrum that color normal humans can see.

The Visible Light Spectrum, As Seen By Someone With “Normal” Color Vision. Source: Wikimedia Commons
The visible light spectrum as seen by a color normal person. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Most have a weakness in distinguishing reds, greens, and browns: this is called red-green color blindness or, more technically, protanopia or deuteranopia. It is among the mildest of handicaps: you can’t be a pilot, and your clothes might clash.

What does it mean to mix up red and green?

As an art student, Brian was frustrated with the idea of color mixing in painting classes, and turned to printmaking, which is based in black and white. He later built his career on graphic design and drawing, forms of art whose colors are fixed and easier to deal with than an open-ended palette. In the early 2010s, he began prolifically painting. 

He had a watercolor tray where the order of the colors was especially confusing, and he had me label it because he was always mixing up the red and green.

IMG_3054
Brian’s watercolor palette whose portrait I painted.

Think about that for a minute, if your color vision is normal.

Red and green are opposite hues.

If these could be mixed up, Brian must be seeing something completely different than what I saw.

What did his world look like?

After painting the labeled tray in full color, I set out to paint it through his eyes.

Emily Wick, Portrait of a Color Blind Artist’s Watercolor Tray - Red-Green Color Blind Simulation, 2016, oil on wood panel, 24 x 36 inches
Emily Wick, Portrait of a Color Blind Artist’s Watercolor Tray – Red-Green Color Blind Simulation, 2016, oil on wood panel, 24 x 36 inches

This blue and gold rainbow is widely understood as an accurate depiction of one type of red-green color blindness; specifically, in Brian’s case, deuteranomoly/deuteranopia.

How did I Simulate Color Blind Vision While Painting?

A simulator app called “Colorblind Vision” helped me to see in real time while painting.

Since color blindness is on a continuum, and the app showed the most severe form, Brian corrected me as I went along to best approximate his own vision. The painting I made to simulate Brian’s vision has a little more red than the color blindness filter.

I created this animated GIF that alternates between a color normal and color blind view of both paintings.

two-paintings-CB
Animated GIF showing alternating color blind filter on both paintings. Note that the painting on the left is slightly redder than the filter, which shows a severe form of red-green color blindness.

How different is it to be another person?

It’s so easy for me to think I see Brian’s blind spots, but really it makes me aware of how many I must have too. If such a big difference in actual vision–our clearest indicator of reality itself –is barely noticed, how can we even imagine the differences in our experiences of life?

Improving the Afternoon Sun with Rainbow Film


A blazing afternoon sun is too bright to look at, and it is not very interesting to photograph.

In my quest to continually see with new eyes,  I transformed the sun today. I did it with diffraction film.

It’s the same film that “rainbow view” glasses are made from, and I’d ordered a long roll; six inches wide.

I opened the package and held it up to the window.

All of a sudden, this run-of-the-mill Wednesday in July became a totally great day.

Determined to make my new reality more practical, I cut off a square of film, sandwiched it between two 5 x 7 – inch sheets of glass, put them all in a turquoise plastic picture frame, and raised it to the sky.

I experimented until the sun went down and went home excited for its return.




 

Blue Flowers Color Blind Simulation (Prototype)


Can you get into the sensory world of someone else?

I have photographed hundreds of purple flowers and photoshopped them to their red-green color blind version: a deep blue surrounded by dull, brownish leaves. I had a vision of easily showing this using lenticular printing: the ridged plastic image, usually a toy or an advertisement, that changes from one image to another as you tilt it.

This past weekend the prototypes came on the mail. The photo above flips from full color (on the left) to colorblind (on the right). It isn’t a successful prototype yet: rather than flipping completely from one side to the other when tilted,  stays in a perpetual state of “half and half”.

Knowing someone sees things differently doesn’t make you actually see things differently. The best it can do is make you understand that your perception seems like reality, but it isn’t.

Prism Sunset on a Balmy Summer Solstice


Most sunsets I don’t photograph. You had to be there.

Today is the solstice. I was at home during the sunset. The air was unusually warm and pink light came in through the windows. There was a quietness to the house, like a moment of silence where everything stopped because the sky was so spectacular. Even looking at my phone brought up image after image from friends’ points of view: San Francisco cityscape sunsets, houseboat sunsets, a thin horizon of yellow below deep blue over a Midwestern lake at twilight.

All I had was a tiny slice of orange sky and a prism in my own kitchen. I wasn’t on vacation or even out on a walk. But this little piece of glass combined with this little piece of spectacular sky: it captured how unusual I felt. How inspired. The heat, the pink air, the silence, the full moon just below the horizon, waiting to switch places with the sun.

Marble and Double Flashlight Underpainting

Study: Marble with Two Flashlights – Underpainting – 4×6 inches

Today I set up a still life that combined yesterday’s enlarged marble painting and last week’s flashlight beams, and completed an oil stain, or underpainting, of both beams illuminating the marble.

There is a quality I have always loved about oil stains: it is easy to keep the edges soft. They seem to be lit from within. And they exist for such a short time. This preliminary painting will be covered up with color tomorrow.

All of these works will lay the groundwork for a series of larger paintings.

Experimenting with flashlight and marble

Staring at a Galactic Marble

Today I painted a portrait of my galactic marble. I am going to use it as part of a larger painting, and I wanted to practice seeing it without the distraction of other things going on in the painting. 

marble and portrait
The oversized scale allowed me to work on details of the shine a little more easily. 

I struggled with what to do about the shadow. It just didn’t look great when painted as seen in in the setup. It threw off the composition, and if the composition is off, there’s no saving the piece. 

I solved the problem by exaggerating the lighting and softening the shadow beyond recognition, though I retained the directionality of the light. 

It was a good lesson in laying groundwork. This one, along with my previous paintings of flashlights beams, lay the groundwork for combining the two. Stay tuned!!