Spring seems to have sprung, so my thoughts have been turning toward desert wildflowers, which I understand are blooming in profusion in the lower parts of Death Valley right now—late February, 2016. Chances are that’s where we’ll be heading in a few weeks.
That got me thinking about my trip to Death Valley in April, 2010, and to Craters of the Moon for the bloom there two months later, in June, 2010. Both of those trips resulted in YouTube slide shows.
I’ve just revised “Craters of the Moon—Wildflowers & Lava Flows” by adding a jazz guitar soundtrack & a couple new slides: Craters of the Moon: Wildflowers & Lava Flows
The Death Valley slide-show: Death Valley Wildflowers, 2010
Rummaging through Gallic adventure memoiries, I recalled a slide show I pulled together a few years ago for friends headed to France. They are images from my most recent trip to France, 2004:
It takes a while to download, but I think it’s worth the wait. If you download and run the slides on Acrobat Reader, I think it’ll run like a slide show. I have not put a soundtrack to it—yet. Let me know what you think. Please report technical difficulties. I’m looking for ways to make this site more “media” friendly, suggestions invited.
Recently, a Buddhist brother posted this poem:
by Wendell Berry
At start of spring I open a trench
in the ground. I put into it
the winter’s accumulation of paper,
pages I do not want to read
again, useless words, fragments,
errors. And I put into it
the contents of the outhouse:
light of the sun, growth of the ground,
finished with one of their journeys.
To the sky, to the wind, then,
and to the faithful trees, I confess
my sins: that I have not been happy
enough, considering my good luck;
have listened to too much noise;
have been inattentive to wonders;
have lusted after praise.
And then upon the gathered refuse
of mind and body, I close the trench,
folding shut again the dark,
the deathless earth. Beneath that seal
the old escapes into the new.
The poem brought to mind a contest I came across during a trip through the Midwest a few years back.
The Big Rock, Illinois, plowing match has been going on since the 1890s. The annual event invites an impressive collection of classic, working tractors and their owner-operators.
I love how scoring the plowing embodies principles of much broader application.
Each month the Carnegie Museum of the Arts Hillman Photography Initiative invites response to an interesting, sometime provocative image.
The image for March, 2015 is Sara Cwynar’s Girl from Contact Sheet 2 (Darkroom Manuals), 2013, accompanied by this question, “How has photography’s shift affected you? This month’s photo, Girl from Contact Sheet 2 (Darkroom Manuals), shows an uncertain history of manipulation or data loss. Look closely. Its digital blur suggests what happens when photography straddles two worlds. How has the dramatic shift from print to digital impacted you? What does this image say about the gains and losses of this transition? Respond to this picture and our questions with text, photos, videos, or audio files, and we’ll feature your response on our website.”
My immediate, almost visceral, non-verbal response was to post a copy of The Wave of the Future, a 1983 poster that struck me at the time as a brilliant depiction of the digital revolution about to sweep society.
The poster pictures Katsushika Hokusai’s 19th-century Great Wave off Kanagawa, its surf breaking into pixels that, in turn, transform into a digital map of an even larger wave. The image reads like a historical scroll; it was prescient.
Judy Kirpich, a creator of The Wave of the Future tells the story of how it came to be. Ironically, the startlingly perceptive vision of the future of digital imaging was actually produced entirely by hand. Digital image-mapping was prohibitively expensive in 1981; there was no Photoshop or Illustrator. A team of designers and illustrators spent days creating six separate overlays, hand-coloring each little square on acetates spread over the original lithograph and inking in each line of the digital wave.
The poster was published right around the time I acquired my first personal computer, a Kaypro “luggable” that had a nine-inch, green monochrome screen whose display relied entirely on keyboard (ASCII) characters. While a clever programmer could do some amazing things with such a palette, it would be almost a decade before I would have a computer with a truly graphical interface. However, I had gotten hints of the graphic potential of digital imaging a few years earlier.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Bell Labs was doing research into human perception, computer vision and graphics that underlies today’s high-definition computer and video graphics. In 1973, Leon Harmon, a leading researcher of mental/neural processing of what we see, published “The Recognition of Faces,” the cover story in the November issue of Scientific American.
In his research, Harmon overlaid a 16 x 16 grid of squares on the portrait of Lincoln etched on the US five-dollar bill, the uniform color of each square averaging the color of all the points within it.
The result is an image that up-close resembles a black and white Piet Mondrian print, but from across the room looks like a blurry image of Honest Abe. It went as “viral” as an image could in those analog days.
Within a year, Salvador Dali incorporated not only Harmon’s photo-mosaic technique but the Lincoln image itself into a painting of his wife—Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at a distance of 20 meters is transformed into the portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko).
The painting was displayed at the Guggenheim in New York during the US Bicentennial in 1976. That same year, Dali published a slightly different version of the image as a lithograph edition of 1240: Lincoln in Dalivision. Within three years, both Harmon’s and Dali’s images had gone around the world.
These analog images illustrate a photo-mosaic presentation of visual information that would become fundamental to digital graphics—from arrangement of photon sensors and interpretation of their signals in our cameras to the pixels of color on HD TVs, computer screens and patterns of ink spots printed on photo paper.
To be continued…