Friday, June 2, 2017

Yosemite – A Symphony of the Senses

Walking through nature at Yosemite with an Imperceptivist digital camera is as expansive as listening to digital music on acoustic waveguide speakers.  The translation and compression of reality into a small box can feel as big as the universe.

That weekend vacation ten years ago, the day before I toppled into dawn at Napa Valley, I spent hiking the heights at Yosemite.  I can't help find parallels to emotive music.

The disquiet rhythms found in this park remind me of the galactic stretch I hear in Gustav's Planets--a diverse platitude of solar bright and deep space blacks, ranging from pianissimo, through fortepiano, to expressivo.

The valley and peaks, large as a 120 member symphony orchestra, with twisted trails and sloped sides flows into to bluesy rock, melodious marshes and charming creeks of country rhythms.  

Yosemite gives much to hungry minds and thirsty souls, with its grainy rifs that are spiced with detailed licks as if from a crisp but edgy electric guitar.   

The rugged cliffs and soft valley create a soundstage of multiple octaves, balanced with ambiance that presses one to see or hear a symphony of the senses.

Yosemite's medley is an atonal progression with harmonics above and below.  The elevated bravado of 5,000 foot high Half Dome leaves you both fractured and yet a whole note high in presence of its sharp grandeur.  

El Capitan likewise chest-puffs and stands woolly above the valley. 

The austere favorite of climbers gives an offbeat composition in rounded tops and rough scales between striped white and black granite crevices. 

As you descend into the valley, Sentinel Rock guards your diminuendo as a commanding, contemplative sentry. The depth is not fully appreciated until you listen to the soft reverberations below.

Likewise, the Cathedral Spires pierce your thoughts with an irregular stride that rushes you staccato toward the chilly insular Glacier Point.  Its steely form appears and disappears in transient, frostbitten notes scrolling you toward warmer measures.

The sibilance of the Bridalveil Falls strikes your ears, giving you a creative rush of exuberant ideas, not unlike those eureka moments in the shower you discover now and then.  

Then you ease along the reedy melody of the Bridalveil Creek, composing a polyphonic concert of trails adante, passaggio grasses and rollicking currents.

The ebb and flow of warm legato in the meadow is a bright, wistful interlude. The carefree, earthy grassland bows a dolce coda of solitude. 

Then a glissando valley sprawling with textures erupts into an a vast lush song.

Slowly you rise above, bridging intimate vocals from trees standing A Cappella on slopes, their towering solos and melodious brilliance pulling you back up.

An enharmonic duet presses marooned, pentatonically upwards to reach the summit.

Again standing crescendo atop the dome, conducting views actually heard as if from Holst's ghost, but which can never be truly revealed to anyone else through any human media. It is fermata.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Amazon's Alexa is an Imperceptivist

If you ask Amazon's digital assistant, "Alexa, what is your favorite color?" One of her responses as of early 2017 is: "Infrared is super pretty!"

Imperceptivists tend to agree with her. (It's also a lot better answer than Siri gives to the same query*.) Here is one of my recent "pretty" infrared photos at sunrise catching some untrimmed Florida palms.

In my pursuit to acquire 1000 individual, unique photos of sunsets/sunrises in 30 days--an ambitious goal even in sunny Florida, I have hit a challenge.  For the past couple of weeks it has been almost entirely cloudless.  We are in a severe drought in Central Florida, and the air is a little smoky many days due to numerous wild fires.  This is a result of global warming and severe climate change.

Where there are fires, and they've almost doubled in frequency in the US since the 1980s, there is a lot more smoke.  Soot and particulate matter float and drop, then tend to collect on wet surfaces--lakes, rivers, ocean, and to the surprise of many, on the top of ice caps.  When soot collects on top of the ice and glaciers of our polar regions, this dark covering increases absorption of the sun's energy.  That energy heats and melts the ice.  Think about a black leather car seat compared with a white cloth seat--which is much hotter?  In fact, the USGS just announced last week that there are only about one-fifth of the glaciers left at the U.S. Glacier National Park.

If you ask Alexa, "What is Global Warming?"-- She responds with a very scientific answer.  She's smart and knows good art when she sees it.  This leads me back to my "unseen" sunrise and sunset photos I blogged about here and there.  You've probably been noticing a change in the ones above.  Yes, the foreground--the trees, water, horizon--are lighter and not almost entirely black. 

This is because I have been shooting right before sunset or right after sunrise with infrared as well as other colors of the full spectrum my camera senses.  Like Alexa, my camera shows that near twilight can be super pretty with the right filtering.

Compare the photo above in the infrared of a scene in Orlando near Universal Studio's theme parks, with one taken in mostly visible at sunset, below.

(Photo taken with a wider field of view to show sun above horizon)

Sky in the infrared is slightly less colorful, partly because sky has a different level of light. However, my filter includes some UV/blue.  The sky and illuminated trees in the infrared are closer in total radiance. That evens out the exposure from sky to ground so that the photo including infrared (above) has a brighter foreground than the mostly black one of the visible photo. Granted the infrared photo was exposed with a higher compensation. The exposure latitude is still more narrow and forgiving.

Alexa's response that infrared is super pretty when asked her favorite color interests me and all Imperceptivists.  Color in infrared is a matter of technical and artist interpretation. It is real--as real as the color our brain interprets from the neuro-signals sent from the eye's color cone cells. Most of us have wondered if red looks like our red to other people. 

Our filter and camera choices are translators, much like language translators who may use slightly different word selection when idioms don't directly translate.  This makes full spectrum and infrared a great art medium--it is not just a replica of nature to what our eye may see.  It is nature, real nature, in a way our eye cannot see but would love to see. It's super pretty when artistically done up.

Those engaged in this kind of art -- Imperceptivism (like full spectrum or infrared photography) -- are the creative persons also at the spear tip of human techno-evolution.  We will adopt those technologies that augment our species and kick off the Post-Imperceptivism art movement, which is very hard to envision at this point. I will give you my vision of it in a future blog.

Alexa, while not human, could be considered a post-imperceptivist art aficionado. She is already hyper-human in at least her connectivity. I wonder what Jeff Bezos thinks of this art form his creation--the digital assistant of Amazon--thinks is super pretty.  Maybe she really sees a specific color for infrared because her eyes are already technologically augmented.  In fact, Alexa is now equipped to show you what she sees with a new Echo Show device.  I would like to believe that if asked her favorite color, she would show you infrared sunset photos like these.

So, to accomplish my goal of 1000 unique sunrise/sunset photos in 30 days between April 15-May15, 2017, I have turned to using full spectrum and infrared to achieve it. Global warming may have challenged me, but I found a way.

Admittedly, these required a lot of learning and I had to post-process these to get the effects I desire.  Rest assured, as I adapt, I will have these out of camera every time.  Many already are just that.

The biggest challenge is keeping the vegetation from appearing too warm (in color) as the sun quickly descends and the light temperature changes by the minute.  The custom WB feature in camera is helpful.

I ask my reading audience, where are my fellow Imperceptivists? Is Alexa the only one with me on this?

* Siri will tell you her favorite color is greenish with more dimensions, meaning the rainbow colored apple--a sales point.  Bleh.  At least Alexa thinks outside the seen.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Soulful Journey: Le Vignoble

The vineyard has symbolic meaning in many religions.  I won't get into them, but will show you how it influences my artistic perspective.

In my early 20s I lived a corralled life, having grown up in a strict religion and attending my earliest college years in Utah. I was given a rare opportunity in Berkeley, CA.  The day the first Gulf War broke out on January 16, 1991, I arrived on campus and underwent orientation.  That night, from my room above Liberty Square--a BART substation--I watched the street fill with protesters. 

Over the next couple of years in California, as I attended school and worked at Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore laboratories (both as a student and post graduate employee) I gradually fell in love with the unfortunately expensive, but progressive, almost nonlinear Bay Area.

Years later, after a marital break-up, in 2007, I returned to the area. Fairly low on funds and alone, I found my vacation both educational and restful, despite traveling well over 500 miles in a few days from Berkeley and San Francisco to Yosemite, and then to Napa and exiting by Oakland.  

I arrived at Napa just at sunrise, having left Yosemite after dusk the night before and drove most of the night away to capture the rising sun on le vignoble.  I slept only about three hours that night, on a deserted roadside, and I groggily, gladly awakened to beautiful scenes in the quiet hills of Napa Valley.  I only had the morning, as I would drive to Oakland to catch my flight that afternoon.

In autumn 2007 I learned for the first time that grapes become translucent marbles in the infrared, even though they appeared dark burgundy to my eyes.  The invisible--almost x-ray--soft diffuse glow within each grape warmed and brightened me.

The unseen luminescence transmitted through them reminded me of those moments in life that I've caught a glimpse of something deeper, indiscernible and profound.  Rays caught the webs of a spider and the sun starred between the fist-sized white leaves.  I felt connected.

A decade later, as I revisit my archive of photos from that short vacation, I feel drawn to that past again. As if pushing through a shadowy forest clearing into the well kept rows and life sublime of nostalgic years gone.

Those opalescent grapes, white textured leaves, soft pasture and deep skies are a refuge that seems fantasy now.  I fear the environment may not long support these moments in our future.

I feel melancholy writing this.  I want to remain optimistic. Believe in a future for my own children.  Hope that our efforts can sway the public to preserve our world.  The direction is clear and given by science but sometimes corralled fears keep us from moving along the rows and forward.

As aesthetically pleasing as black and white photos can be, truth is not black and white.  Data driven science and facts are colorfully complicated. 

The translucent grapes hold seed pods inside.  That little secret can be seen with unseen radiance.  Our eyes cannot tell what our mouths may crunch.  But before we bite we can use science to reveal what lies beneath.

Our homes, our lives and our future depends on us being vigilant and careful.  Using facts measured and scrutinized over and over as compared with feelings given us by tradition can yield dependable results.

It may be too late to naturally fix nature, but we could develop technologies to save it for our descendants.  It is the entrepreneurial garages and laboratories of science which create technologies from the unseen.  Dogmas have no laboratories, only belief systems of opinion.  There is a big difference in pretend and unseen.  One is still real, the other just wishful.  Both can create wonderful art, but it is in the lab where facts and fantasy are sorted out.  Dogmas and politics have no laboratories.

The unseen that is measured, categorized, verified and organized into cohesive science can actually produce results that benefit humanity--against its selfish predilections.  We grab and eat until all is consumed.

I wonder what is at the end of the row in my life.  Nah, that's a long way off, right?

Le Vignoble is fertile and yields abundance of pleasure and art for me.  Protests, learning, adaptation, conservationism and peace all have a place among the grapes.