Friday, May 07, 2010

How I gave up on x-ray vision, and ended up taking pretty pictures instead.

I first became interested when they photos showed the magic ability to see through objects, like the fabled x-ray glasses that populated the backs of comic books in the old days. The researchers at Stanford had actually shown the ability to look through things, though not totally opaque, but close enough. I wanted to learn how it was done, and once I read enough, I resolved to do it myself.

I didn't have the budget, nor the staff, nor the gear... I did have a willingness to experiment, willingness to give it a try, just to see what happened. The first results were interesting, but not what I had hoped for. The focus was on the wrong items, and I learned that it was going to be a fairly manual operation to get things to work right. But with time and practice, my technique improved, and I was able to slowly replicate what took hundreds of cameras and and the work of a few graduate students.

Here is my first result... I managed to see through the trees!


Over time, the ability to see through things lost it's attraction, because it was far easier to just look around something, rather than spend hours after the fact, not knowing if it would even pan out. The experimentation continued, however... and I got some interesting results along the way.

I kept discovering new effects, and new ways of looking at things, including time itself. My interests moved and transformed into something else, the ability to create photographs that would showcase a single object in a frame, with that nice soft focus only achievable in practice with a very large and heavy camera that I could never afford, nor successfully carry.

I wrote about my work on my blog, and posted photos on Flickr, and got some attention. It was enough to keep plugging away at it, learning the tradeoffs involved in order to get the creamy soft focus I really wanted.

I'm now at the point where I think I've got the technical part of it all set, and the artistic choices are going to be the main influencer at this point. I've demonstrated and experimented enough... now I just want pretty photos.

If you find yourself impressed with something, be like me... see if you can figure out how to do it within the limitations you have... you might achieve your goal, or you might just invent something interesting and beautiful along the way.

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