Analyze the Data not the Drivel

Recent Images

  • Mahin ghost dream.

  • Zion river canyon selfie.

  • It was overcast on our quick visit to Zion. Maintaining structure in grey misty skies requires some tone curve tweaking. Default camera settings make the skies too bright washing out detail. I adjusted the default tone curve and shifted brightness levels using the zone system tool in Darktable 3.0 to try and reproduce how this valley appeared to the naked eye.

  • Looking over Saint George Utah from our motel on the cliff at night. I shot a series of single-shot exposures of this scene and I am not thrilled with any of them. The highlights on the white temple building are not satisfactory. From now on I will shoot both single exposures and bracketed stacks and select the best during post-processing.

  • Sauron's Gecko

  • Here I am about to board a flight, probably at the Billings airport, in 1968. So much has changed in fifty-plus years. Northwest went belly up and was absorbed by competitors years ago. You seldom enter planes from the tarmac and never without feckless genital fondling from Home Land Security: a creepy personal freedom infringing ultra-Orwellian government agency that I will forever mock. 1968 was a dog's breakfast sort of year but flying was undeniably less of a pain in the ass.

  • I often root around in old image files with new software. I shot the frames that went into this Pierre South Dakota rail bridge panorama in 2001 with a one megapixel HP camera. The original frames were unevenly exposed and my early attempts to glue them together were not satisfactory. Current panorama software produces decent results even with these low-resolution originals.

  • Me standing in front of the Congress Towers in Brasilia. In 1979 the public was allowed on the roof of the building in front of the towers. On the day of our visit, the sky was filled with dramatic clouds. Subjects would go in and out of shade. I have other shots taken within minutes of this overcast image that are bright and sunny.

  • One of my mother's better Instamatic slides of the Beirut shoreline near the Phoenicia Hotel in 1969. When I look at old slides I cannot help but indulge a silly time travel fantasy. I imagine myself being beamed right back to where this shot was taken armed with a modern high-quality camera. Even a good 1969 era camera would produce a higher quality image. Alas, the only time travel available takes the form of old prints, negatives, and slides.

  • Looking up Third Avenue in Dawson City Yukon. In 2002 many of the historic buildings associated with the gold rush were sagging picturesque ruins. Gold was still being mined in the region but the glory days were long over.

  • On my first solo Europe trip flight, I sat beside a young woman also on her first solo trip. It was an overnight flight and when the morning sun cut through the small jet window it highlighted her profile. She was a good sport about posing and all these years later I still like the result.

  • Walking through the Boise State campus we came across the Big B.

  • Angels Landing cliff path.

  • Saint George Utah from our Inn on the Cliff balcony.

  • Sometimes the future arrives sooner than expected. After uploading this before and after diptych (click here) of my attempt to restore a 1966 snapshot of me in a Shiraz garden I thought about running this shot through the deepdreamgenerator.com using a color slide, taken around the same time and location as the base style. The result of this experiment is this interesting false-color rendering. The colors are wrong but not entirely wrong. In any case, this image is more interesting than the original or my first restoration attempt (click here).

  • Narcissist Jinn.

  • The colors of dusk mirrored.

  • We took a little walk on the Lake Lowell dam near Nampa yesterday. There was a dramatic arc of clouds running east-west over the dam. Before leaving the house I staged a little mental debate. Should I take my big boy DSLR cameras or should I restrain myself and only carry my phone? Mali gets annoyed when I stop to snap pictures on our walks. She sees our outings as exercise sessions and an opportunity to coach her lazy, (tanball in Farsi), husband. I opted to only carry the phone and regretted it when I saw the weather. Clouds are like snowflakes. No two in the history of the cosmos are ever identical.

  • My mother standing beside a gold moose statue on the front stairs of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. The year 2000 was the "Year of the Moose" in Toronto. The crazy Toronto mayor, Mel Lastman, got it in his tiny little head that what the city needed was hundreds of cheesy plastic moose statues. Moose sculptures were everywhere and, I am disturbed to report, the public loved them.

  • Ned Prothro, (looking at the camera), and his friend Swedenberg outside the American Community School darkroom in 1969. Ned was one of my best ACS friends. He lived in Beirut with his bitterly divorced neglectful father that let him run wild. You could smell the neglect; Ned's hygiene was bad even for teenage boys. I ignored his smell and joined his wild pursuits. I left Beirut in 1968 but Ned and I traded longhand letters for a few years afterward so I know a bit of his story. Ned was very smart, he was programming in PL1, a now-defunct IBM programming language, in high school and went to MIT after ACS. He didn't adjust well and left before graduating. He kicked around for years, pursuing at least one degree elsewhere, and ended up in Stillwater Oklahoma where he died unexpectedly of a heart attack in his early fifties. Mathematical notes found by his body were about his delusional studies of the distribution of prime numbers.

  • Pantanal jacare caimans have perfected the afternoon nap. They bask in the sun, without moving, for hours and hours. We sat on the edge of the marshes hoping to see them go after something. Our long vigil was rewarded by one of the caimans slowly opening its jaws. The excitement was palpable. The situation was different at night. Throwing flashlight beams over the marshes frequently reflected two bright orange spots, caiman eyes, smoothly cruising the waters. Every hour or so a violent crashing splash could be heard as they caught something in the dark.

  • Way back in the 1970s I read about a new polymerized state of water: polywater. Most chemists thought it was a total crock but being a naive high school student I set out to duplicate the process that allegedly formed this bizarre water. I won't go into all the details but the process required creating ultrafine glass capillary tubes. I had a ball creating the tubes one of which is seen in this improvised microscope shot. I worked diligently for months attempting to replicate the experiments and found nothing. Polywater refused to form. I remember discussing my experiments with my Ph.D. Chemist uncle. He listened patiently and asked me what I had concluded. I told him I was either doing something wrong or polywater didn't exist. In case you're wondering Polywater doesn't exist. This was my first experience of testing authority assertions. The great thing about science: nature doesn't give a shit about your social standing, sex, class, gender, race, religious beliefs, or political inclinations. Reality is not a socially constructed narrative and only ignorant ideological imbeciles (iCubes) think otherwise.

  • Beware of golden apples!

  • This is one of my early Darktable watermark experiments. One of my first projects of 2020 is to come up with a logo for images and blog posts. I've been told by people that take themselves way too seriously that branding is important. I'm not sure it's important but it's certainly fun.

  • Heading up Angels Landing trail in Zion.

  • The name of Zion in the Paiute language translates to "straight-up land" and many of the cliffs are exactly that.

  • A before and after of the only 1966 shot I've found of me in Shiraz Iran. This restoration is a failure. I am not happy and will revisit this image in the future with more advanced methods.

  • Gaze from Hell.

  • The backside of our Topham Terrace townhouse in Orleans Ontario. Yeah, it was really this white in Februrary 2006.

  • What are you suggesting?

  • Stained glass in a Rio cathedral.

  • Looking west over the Mediterranean Sea near Beirut's Phoenicia Hotel in 1968.

  • Catch of the day. I was impressed by the size of some fish in markets. The catfish look more sad than appetizing.

  • Magnified bling.

  • Getting the best results out of the deepdreamgenerator.com requires experimentation and human intervention. Here I started with a picture I shot in the Museum of Civilization in Hull Quebec (click here). For the style image, I used a dream generator output of this nude (click here) that had been transformed by a series of texture styles followed by a round of image hacking to shift the hues of the generator image.

  • Zion trail bridge gap. Another Darktable 3.0 experiment. I downloaded a collection of Darktable style files and applied one style after another to this image until this version made me look twice. The rendering of grays here is reminiscent of how Ansel Adams toned some of his prints. The amount of intelligence embedded in image processing hardware and software is allowing hacks like myself to emulate masters but it's also undermining the very notion of art. Where is the art here? Is it in the act of shooting the picture, is it in the complex processing that converts photoreceptor counts to recognizable images, is it in the delicate dance of parameter preferences that constitute a style? Every link in this chain is mediated by the inputs of thousands of people. If you doubt this I challenge you to construct a digital camera from natural raw materials. So how do you apportion image credit or blame?

  • Mali waving on the Angels Landing trail in Zion. There was just enough snow on the trees and bushes to make them stand out.

  • On our way home from visiting family in Las Vegas, we stopped in at Zion National Park. This was our first visit to this spectacular park. The weather was not great. The skies were overcast; gray clouds were hanging around the cliffs. Snow dusted the trees and made the trails slick. Also, to handle the holiday crowds, cars were banned from the valley and visitors had to ride shuttle buses. The shuttles were a pleasant experience. With no traffic the park was quiet and people socialized far more than they would have in their cars. We hiked partway up the Angels Landing trail. Here's Mali looking down on her pokey picture-taking husband.

  • I make frequent attempts to repair pictures that are beyond my restoration skills. I do this to push myself and to try out new software. This is the only picture I've found of me in Shiraz Iran. It was shot in a garden, probably by my sister Aileen, sometime in 1966. I'm guessing it's Aileen's work because the image is unevenly blurred. Her camera was even crappier than the old fixed focus Brownie hanging around my neck. In the 1960s cheap plastic lenses exhibited all sorts of "creative" optical defects. I suspect the only way to fix this shot is to substitute scaled sub-images. You could carefully blend in higher resolution stock pictures of leaves, paving stores, clothing and so on. Extreme restorers have been doing this for years. Perhaps AI-based restoration software will refine stock substitution in the future. If so I will revisit this picture.

  • Chrome guardians.

  • Sirenic nymphs.

  • Merging images with similar themes and applying extreme tone and color shifts might yield something appealing.

  • Today we took a short cruise through parts of Death Valley. In our short trip, we set a few records. Our car's thermometer hit a new high of +50C and my GPS hit a new low of -80 meters while standing beside this sign. In my scuba diving days I never went below 200 feet so this is an all-time (non-cave/mine shaft) record. You can go lower in Death Valley. The lowest point in the valley is around -95 meters but reaching that point requires hiking and I wasn't up to a hike in the +50C heat.

  • Going down the Yukon River: man of the woods.

  • Fishing in the Pantanal was a delight. Not only were many of the local species tasty they also had oddly colored markings. This "Zero Fish" (I just made that up) is a good example.

  • A Peruvian woman working her wool. She was sitting near ruins letting tourists take pictures of her for tips.

  • Twisted torsos.

  • Saint George Utah from our Inn on the Cliff balcony.

  • Looking back down the Zion valley toward the park entrance from the Angels Landing trail. The weather was mucky but bad weather often makes interesting pictures. I used my "toodling-zoom" (a mediocre 18-55mm kit zoom) for this shot so the fine details are not up to snuff.

  • The Saint George Mormon Temple at night. A 300mm telephoto shot from our Inn on the Cliff balcony. Night shots like this expose the deficiencies of your character, software, and equipment.

  • Sunroom construction at 1983 Downsview Drive. I've lived in many places over the decades, averaging a move every two to three years. Such short stays preclude major home renovations. This project was a rare exception. The sunroom was a nice addition to the house but despite the contractor's assurances to the contrary, we suffered a few minor leaks later on.

  • My grandmother Helen's life long friend Win Tisdale had a knack for people's pictures. Her snapshots captured everyday unremarkable moments that we only appreciated years later. Here we are celebrating my brother Steve's birthday in Helen's Livingston living room in 1967. He's the boy wearing the orangish shirt in the middle. My mother's back is in the foreground, while Gert, my paternal grandfather, is on the chair to left. My father and paternal grandfather are on the couch. I don't know the boy beside Steve but the girl on the side of the frame is my sister Aileen. My grandfathers and mother are no longer with us (2019) but this captures them in typical poses. Yes, I know this snapshot sucks as a piece of pure photography but as I have said before content ultimately trumps technique.

  • Art heist.

  • One of Hazel's road trip Kodachrome slides. She snapped this shot on a family trip to Glacier National Park in 1949. The low bridge is the main subject but she managed to squeeze in the old car as well. Hazel often included cars and people in her scenic shots. You can question her composition but here I am restoring a blurry and scratched seventy-year-old slide because I find it interesting.

  • "Collagial," (it's a word I just invented), image recycling.

  • Jacob and Helen in front the Macbride Museum of the Yukon.

  • Kingston red gun battery tower roof.

  • One of the many churches in Cusco Peru. I thought it would be easy to find the exact location of this building but I haven't found a door and wall that exactly match. I suspect this is a side door of the main cathedral but I'm not sure.




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