Monthly Archives: April 2015

World Pinhole Photography Day

Did you know that a pinhole can focus and project light? A pinhole in an opaque material is the world’s simplest camera! Yesterday was World Pinhole Photography Day.

History

The discovery of pinhole optics massively predates photography (the act of chemically recording a projected image). During the Renaissance, painters traced scenes projected onto a canvas by a pinhole on the opposite wall. The use of a pinhole to project images goes back to 5th century BC China.

A camera obscura uses a pinhole to project an image. Renaissance painters could then trace these images. (image source: Wikipedia)

Why Pinholes?

In an age of digital cameras and high-end optics, the pinhole endures, charming and simple.  In honor of World Pinhole Photography Day, I went on a pinhole outing.

You might ask, what is the point of pinhole photography in this day and age? There are aesthetic and practical reasons. I like knowing exactly how my lens works, for once. Even a prime lens can have upwards of a dozen pieces of glass in it. I have a good science background, and I can’t even touch that level of optics. A hole in black plastic. I get that. Pinholes have interesting properties. True, they don’t focus nearly as sharply as lenses. But because pinholes have such small apertures, they have nearly infinite focal depth.

Brief photography lesson: larger openings (apertures) allow more light and create shallow ranges of focus. This can be desirable in a portrait. Small openings permit less light and increase range of focus. This might be preferable for a landscape. Sufficiently small openings cause softening due to diffraction (physics of light stuff). If you shoot on an SLR, you may have noticed diffraction-caused softening on shots at f/22. The pinhole I use is f/177. This diffraction is what gives pinhole photos their texture.

The upshot: pinhole photos flatten a scene. Something a yard away will look similar to something 100 yards away. This allows a photographer to create interactions between different depths that wouldn’t be possible with a conventional lens. And finally, pinholes can create a really fun old-timey effect.

My setup

My setup is a bit like sticking a horse-drawn carriage on a rocket ship. I use a Lensbaby composer with the pinhole optics kit. My camera is a Sony Alpha 7s. Pinhole photography, due to the tiny amount of light transmitted, has slow exposure time. Exposures are often measured in multiple seconds. The Sony Alpha 7s is one of the fastest consumer cameras in the industry, with a maximum ISO of 409600. Thus, I was able to take decent handheld pinhole images even in low light by using high ISO.

Lenbaby pinhole on Sony Alpha 7s.

Lensbaby pinhole on Sony Alpha 7s.

The Images!

ISO 409,600, 1/6 second exposure. No tripod. Indoor shot on a rainy day.

ISO 409,600, 1/6 second exposure. No tripod. Indoor shot on a rainy day.

ISO 20,000; 1/60 sec.

ISO 20,000; 1/60 sec.

ISO 80,000; 1/60 sec.

ISO 80,000; 1/60 sec.

ISO 12,800; 1/60 sec.

ISO 12,800; 1/60 sec.

ISO 16,000, 1/60 second exposure.

ISO 16,000, 1/60 second exposure.

ISO 160,000, 1/10 second exposure. Indoor shot on a rainy day.

ISO 160,000, 1/10 second exposure. Indoor shot on a rainy day. I love how it looks like a 40s cheesecake shot.

Writing prompt: World Laboratory Day

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“World Laboratory” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)

 

The capsule docked at the World Laboratory station. Dr. Trinner pushed gingerly from weightlessness into the gentle rotational gravity. The door slipped closed.

“Your laboratory is a ways from the dock. It’s all allotted by need, the labs with heavier shipping duties are near here, the vacuum labs are surface labs, the gravity labs rotate faster, the zero g labs are on the axis.”

“It’s all right, I wouldn’t mind stretching out,” Trinner assured the nervous guide. Her reputation obviously preceded her. But it had been years since the Erlenmeyer Incident…

Strictly speaking, her research didn’t benefit at all from work in space. But as a child, she had dreamt of being an astronaut. Doing science on a space station was damned near the next best thing. The station had jumped at the opportunity to have a Nobel winner onboard.

The light gravity was disorienting, harder on her stomach than zero g somehow.“How many are onboard now?” She braced against the walls of the corridor.

“30%, about,” the guide responded. “Some of the laboratories require special work and will take longer to complete. It will be pretty peaceful for a while here!”

“Other than the construction,” Trinner said.

“Yes, other than that.”

#

Trinner was alone in the lab. Some colleagues would follow in a couple of days. Her quarters were in the cluster near that lab section. It felt like science camp, living and breathing science, away from the cares of the world.

The construction echoed through the bulkheads from time to time. But there were other noises that Trinner couldn’t explain—voices. Voices came from the walls, in languages she didn’t know. She wondered if it were recordings of radio or television, but she couldn’t find a source.

Water Polo Designs & T-shirts

Is there any greater joy in art than seeing a project through and sharing it with others? I designed some water polo t-shirts, and finally they have arrived. They look phenomenal!

Plus, it’s a great joy to design for water polo. It’s a small sport. Maybe you’ll see a neat poster for the Olympics, but that’s about it. The women’s game is especially short on designs. This year, I took my design inspiration from art deco sports posters and the National Parks vintage poster series.

Art Deco poster style

I wanted to convey the sense of motion I like in the art deco posters. The curve of the water surface suggests energetic water. It could also suggest the curve of the ocean.

Vector artwork for t-shirt

Vector artwork for t-shirt

tshirts-04810

Final t-shirt result

design1

Source pencil drawing

Below: An art deco poster I particularly found inspiring. Early versions of my design incorporated gradients to suggest form, as in this poster. In the interests of simplifying printing, I chose to go with two colors.

Mistrzostwo Swiata: Krynica by Stefan Osiecki and Jerzy Skolimowski, 1930.  For the 1931 Ice Hockey World Championships in  Krynica, Poland.

Mistrzostwo Swiata: Krynica by Stefan Osiecki and Jerzy Skolimowski, 1930. For the 1931 Ice Hockey World Championships in Krynica, Poland.

Below: an alternate idea. Like basketball, a lot of action in water polo happens at the center position. Unlike basketball, the offender and defender stay relatively fixed, facing away from the goal. The offensive center wants to turn forwards or backwards to take the shot. The defender waits to react. I hoped that the slightly disjointed postures suggested depth or motion.design2 text-01

Design made into a poster. Perusing Wikipedia, I discovered that water polo has a surprising variety of names for a sport invented only about a century ago.design2-poster-01

Original pencil sketch. Eventually dropped the water ripple and turned it more geometric.design2

National Parks poster style

All the teams in our water polo conference, the Atlantic Conference, are in North Carolina and Virginia. Three out of the five are close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and none are coastal. This gave me the idea that the conference could be thought of as the Blue Ridge Conference.

The championships this year were held in Charlottesville. Humpback Rocks are a popular hiking destination along the Blue Ridge near Charlottesville. People often hike Humpback rocks at sunrise to get the view of the Rockfish Valley. This fell quite naturally into a vintage style poster look.

This design was a super rush job. I drew the sketch at 10PM before the deadline the next day. The next morning I vectorized it. The shirts arrived a week later. I probably now would choose to make the figure white, for better clarity at a distance, but I still like the design.

Blue-ridge-tee

They didn’t go for my conference renaming. =Ptshirts-1774

Original sketch.IMG_0769

One of the national parks posters that inspired this design.

Writing prompt: National Stress Awareness Day

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“National Stress Awareness Day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)

 

Lisa pressed the start button on the tester. The arm slowly pulled harder and harder on the cylindrical sample, and recorded the resistance of the rod. Lisa watched while holding her breath. This was what she had been working toward for the last six years. This either spelled the ticket out of school to a prominent job and good paycheck or back to god-knows-how-much-more grad school with an advisor that would view her as more of a liability than an asset. It had taken three years full of setbacks to build the casting machine. And three more of broken parts and materials choices and whatnot. If she’d known that she would wait six years for a meaningful result, she would never have gone to grad school.

But she had. And she waited. The machine plotted the relationship. The slow grinding sound filled the room. Scritch, scritch, scritch, and another data point.

Crack! A fracture shot through the sample, spider-webbing as it went. It reached from the top to the bottom of the rod. The machine beeped “I’m done!” and stopped pulling on the rod. The chart of the stress-strain filled the air. Lisa’s eyes shot to the stress axis. How far had it gotten?

“Only that far?” Lisa shouted. “That far?” She stood and threw her chair against the ground.

Six years. Six years down the drain. What would she do now? Find a new project? Give up? Her mind buzzed and reeled. The hallway seemed to lurch as she lumbered down it.

“Lisa!” the undergrad accosted her at a time she was least prepared to coddle him. “Lisa, about your test!”

She snarled and moved past him. She needed to be outside. It pulled at her.

“Lisa, you didn’t just do the stress test, did you?” the undergrad pursued.

She looked over her shoulder and kept moving. He seemed to understand.

“Um, which… which sample did you use?”

She stopped.

“It wasn’t in the blue case, was it?”

“It was.” She should be relieved at this line of questioning. She wasn’t. The tension built in her.

“I might have switched the samples. I dropped several of them and had trouble sorting them back out. It might not be the final sample.”

#

Their advisor found the undergrad later, with “stress test” written on his face. He had been bludgeoned with a fractured cylindrical rod.

The professor found Lisa with the stress machine, cradling her printout and another fractured cylindrical rod. She smiled serenely and extended the plot to the advisor.

“This is excellent data,” the advisor said. He nodded, turned around, and left the room in a good mood.

The Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC

Though I’ve lived in Virginia for seven years and I love to photograph flowers, I had never been to Washington DC’s Cherry Blossom Festival. I fixed that on Sunday. Since then, I’ve been working to transfer, organize and edit my 860 photos. Then my primary computer crashed in a fiery blaze, and will require repairs. But I could pull off some of the work and my favorites are below. The tidal basin in DC is lined with 2000 cherry trees, and they were all at their absolute peak Sunday. It was one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever enjoyed. It was packed with people, which I usually hate but Sunday they didn’t matter.

Check out full size images as well as several enormous panoramas here.

Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC. Taken on April 12, 2015.

Jefferson Memorial & Cherry Blossoms. Combination of two images with focus stacking.

Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC. Taken on April 12, 2015.

The Washington Monument & Cherry Blossoms.

Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC. Taken on April 12, 2015.

Jefferson Memorial & Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC. Taken on April 12, 2015.

Flowers at the George Mason Memorial

Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC. Taken on April 12, 2015.

The Washington Monument & Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC. Taken on April 12, 2015.

Choosing to write- obstacles and overcoming them

Every day, I work on my writing confidence. One wants to be open to criticism and suggestion but not left raw by it. Like a lot of aspiring writers, I lack a support network, such as I have in the sciences. I don’t have many readers, I lack feedback, I lack editors. These aren’t complaints but a recognition of the challenges I overcome every day I choose to write.

I maintain two continuous goals — to finish projects and to hone my writing skills through reading and exercises. I have four e-books up on Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks (three posted within the last year) and I’m in a writing class through writers.com. The posts on this website combine both goals.

I get excited about every visit to this webpage, and every download on Kindle or Amazon. I was ecstatic to receive a five-star review on “The Domestic Cat.” My downloads picked up. It was validation on a story I believed in, that made it to the final rounds with several science fiction magazines but was rejected for being conventional. (It is — it’s about a scientifically-enhanced cat. But it’s super fun!) Then I got a three-star review. It wasn’t intensely critical, and said my story felt like the start of a novel. “Doesn’t that mean you felt like reading more?” I said to myself. My downloads sank like a rock. I was pretty bummed.

When I read my friend Stephanie Hunter’s delightful supernatural book, Scary Mary, I decided to look at her negative comments. Two of the one-star comments clearly meant to give five stars. Several others harangued upon grammar and nit-picky details that were not problems. Several said they don’t like supernatural books. Suddenly I felt grateful for my middling three-star review. (But seriously, go check out Scary Mary. The author just got accepted into the Science Fiction Writers of America, and she’s awesome.)

I considered additional stories I could tell with Peppercorn and his captor. The ideas flowed. I love these characters, and I easily see a wide variety of stories. I could practice some of the techniques from my writing class and explore longer works with Peppercorn.

So that’s what I’m doing right now. An ambivalent kindle review and new writing tools have launched me into a new project. One that can satisfy both my goals. I’m proud of making lemonade from lemons. And I’m having a blast writing more about Peppercorn.

Writing prompt: Reconciliation Day

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Reconciliation Day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)

The tone sounded on the radio. It rang out, long and steady and unbroken. The people stood, arrow stiff, looking to the sky. Aina found it all theatrical and disconnected. The city of Vironevaeh’s old hatchet had been buried. It seemed irrelevant. So they were at peace with Naenaiaeh. The ancestors of Vironevaeh and Naenaiaeh had fought. But Naenaiaeh was all the way on another planet. No one could get into orbit, much less to other planets. Even communication between the two worlds was recent. So they’d been at “war”. How much of a war can be held between two civilizations that can’t even talk? What exactly is a war that consists of shaking your fist at the bright star in the sky and writing scathing plays about those bastards in the sky?

The tone stopped at last. Aina’s classmate Yosef wiped a tear from the corner of his eye.

“How can you be moved by this?” she asked him.

“I don’t know… how can I be moved reading stories from Earth? Or fiction? People that I didn’t know that died long ago or never existed.”

Aina snorted.

“Long ago, our peoples were one. And when they were, they were strong. I guess I hope that our unity will bring us back the strength we lost.”

“We weren’t strong because we were one, we were strong because we had technology that’s gone now.”

He shrugged. “Maybe we can regain it together. It would be poetic if our drive to reunite gave of the mechanical means to do so.”

Aina shook her head. She knew why the symbols of meaningless unity bothered her. Declarations of solidarity were just that—declarations. People cut and run when the opportunity presented itself. People told her that she should seek reconciliation too. It was the word on everyone’s tongues these days. But they didn’t know what they were talking about. Isn’t it better to live with one leg than to have a second that might betray you?