Posts Tagged 'photography'

venice revisited

For several reasons, I have been consistently falling into daydreams about Venice in the past few weeks. One reason is the smell of warm weather which reminds of me the anticipation of going to Veneto last spring.  Another is a square two inch picture of a comforter laid on a window sill over a canal in Venice which I spotted while skimming a book for thesis. I immediately remembered that I had taken a picture across the same canal.  You can reach it by walking down a bright, wide but quiet street with a brick wall on one side and houses on the other. The street ends under a building next to the canal with no steps leading down to the water.

Left, picture from the book Collapsibles. I sat just beyond the picture on the right side of the canal across from the one-story high wall. Right, my photo of the one-story high wall.

Venice, despite its winding streets and consistent architecture, manages to remain distinct from street to street. In contrast, suburbia developers, who have constructed endless winding streets and incredibly consistent architecture, have created repetition and anonymity. (Maybe the new urbanists have done better?)  Venice succeeds in creating a sense of place and identity because it has much more variety than surburbia (obviously), not just in color or materials, but also (more importantly) in architectural forms/spaces. This is achieved through a lack of standardized street dimensions, organic growth, layers of uses, and layers of time amongst other things that I have yet to unravel.

I would love diagram/catalog Venice to dissect its spatial patterns, but that would be a self-torture as well. The question really is if I go back to Venice again (the dream…), how do I want to study it now that I have an intuitive grasp of it? What are the forms and patterns of Venice that be applied elsewhere and how does that translation happen? (I want the diagram of Venice somehow. This paragraph also makes me think that I have been brainwashed by MIT. Do I really need the diagram? I feel like there must be something that is between the diagram and J Wampler.)

In any case, another reason for Venice daydreaming is wanting to edit the photos from the trip using my new skills from darkroom. Darkroom printing has made me conscious of the level of manipulation and control possible in a photograph which in turn makes Photoshop more fun (partially because digital is so much faster). Also, I am curious about the emotional difference of a black and white photo and a color one.  Some experiments of color and b/w below and flickr for more.

It looks old and full of character in color, but in black and white it is battered and used up.

rainy to moody, dark, and mysterious

cute pool party to glamorous gathering

dematerialization of fruit and other objects

Despite our constant complaining about the overwhelming quantity and pointlessness of MIT course requirements*, it is on occasion actually not a terrible thing. MIT, being a technical school, requires me to take a 12-unit lab class before I graduate (slight groan). So I opted out of the architecture-building tech lab with Les “is More” Norford which sounded only somewhat interesting and registered for Strobe Photography Lab in the electrical engineering/comp sci department instead. Had it not been for MIT requirements, I probably would have never gotten to around to taking this class and missed out on a long standing MIT tradition.

Strobe photography was largely developed and popularized by Doc Edgerton as a student and professor at MIT. The flash of the strobe is so short, on the order of a 75-250 nanoseconds, allowing us to use it to record extremely high speed events that are not discernible by the human eye in normal lighting. The main challenge is to get the strobe to trigger at the exact moment to capture what you want. Enough talk. Here are the images**.

mapping a balloon pop | synch and delay method
This is six different balloons popping with photos taken at different strobe flash delays. Camera: Nikon on 35mm b/w film

the process of things | multiflash strobe photography
Exposing the film to multiple strobe flashes to capture the process of an action. Shown here: a golf swing, and two bouncy balls dropped on top of each other (transfer of momentum). Camera: Nikon on 35mm b/w film.

milk drops and lighters | high speed video


This is recorded using a high speed video camera, not strobe. Frames were capture at a rate of 3000 frames/second with Phantom HSV recorder. The milk drop is shown here at every 20 frames or .007 seconds. The lighter ignition is shown at every 10 frames or .003 seconds. Hopefully, I’ll get these up in video form too!

bullets | audio triggered strobe
Bullets shot through playing cards, various fruits and peeps with a rifle. Strobe triggered with an audio sensor whose position was adjusted to capture the bullets in different positions. Camera: Nikon D200

shockwaves | schlieren and shadowgraph
For our group final project, we are taking on the ambitious task of imaging shockwaves produced by bullets and discharging capacitors when the sound barrier is broken. The images should be beautiful as long as we get the lighting to work which is proving much more challenging than we had thought. Point source lights! Columnated lights! Ack, I end up just listening to the engineers, but still what I’ve liked most about this class is the technical work that is involved. The images are just a satisfying by product of the calculations.

In a time when photography is so effortless, and oftentimes so careless and nonchalant, it is easy to forget that it was developed as a science. Photography is not only aesthetics, emotion, ideas or intuition; there is real precision, detail, and science in the way it works. It’s nice to be able to understand a bit of that technical side that’s actually quite beautiful.

*One of the things that makes MIT unique amongst colleges is its ability to endlessly generate systems for institute requirements and corresponding vocabulary for those requirements. For example, before I graduate from MIT, I am required to take all my 6 GIRs, 2 RESTs, quite a few HASS, two of which have to be CI-H, 3 of which have HASS-Ds that are from the same category of which there are 6 (be forewarned: not all HASS classes are HASS-Ds and not all classes that seem like HASS are actually HASS, but you can replace a level three language for one HASS-D), 2 CI-Ms, 12 units of lab, and a swim test. Is this gibberish? It is.

**All images were taken by Strobe 4 aka Broken Glass Disposal. Group members: N. Ristuccia, S. Cole, R. Teil, J. Li with help of C. Silcox.

[edit 07.09.09 | Strobe 4 its final project investigated Schlieren imagaing of shockwaves generated by discharging capacitors. Our website provides general theory behind Schlieren, as well as images, and Schlieren set up tips]

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