Saturday, February 25, 2017

Though the Mind's Eye

We had this strange couple over to our house the other day.  They appeared to be in their seventies but  were rather gregarious and energetic for that age.  It was a bit exhausting, and a little bit annoying on my weekend off from work as they seemed to be talking all the time and they had enthusiasm for anything and everything.  Maybe they did not have many friends and had all that pent up stuff to share.  Yet, in all honesty, it was somewhat our fault, as we had initiated the call to visit their yard.  A friend had suggested that they also had some hillside erosion issues when they built their house and that we might get some ideas for our yard.

It was a three day weekend for my husband and I.  I was glad to be out of the city and back into our newly purchased get-away on the river.  The house is over 70 years in age tucked against the trees, but has been well maintained.   It was not large and still needed a lot of superficial work as a son of the prior owners had lived there a year and repaired nothing.  The rooms with contemporary high ceilings and track lighting and the wide windows overlooking the river on the left side and overlooking the backyard with a view across the river and the softer view of the marsh on the right from our rise of land were what I looked forward to soaking in with a cup of tea each Friday.  Each view was a painting.  Everything at the CIA had been tense these last weeks, and even though I was in the history section of the department writing biographies, I could feel the confusion and craziness just outside our section.  Warden, my husband, could shut everything out while he worked on his computer code, but I was in a room of people separated only by cubicles and could feel the distraction.  I was working on a detailed biography of Sarandji of the Central African Republic which had not been all that intriguing.

Anyway, Warden had called this elderly couple for a tour of their yard on the river.  They did sit on a bit of a hill, but the slope down to their tributary of the river was much softer.  It was hard trying to keep up with the couple, casually dressed in jeans and hoodies, on what was our warmest day of the new year thus far.  They showed us every single tree they had ever planted in their ten years of living there.  They pointed out various birds in the woods, the vegetable and flower gardens, and finally we got to the side of the hill where they had placed retention walled supports that we were interested in studying and the river where they had put in rocked reefs to deflect the waves from eroding more shoreline.  

The couple talked over each other and corrected each other like long term married couples do.  I decided that the best method was to divide and conquer.  So Warden took the husband for a while and I followed the wife.  Then mid-way we switched.  When we finished, we of course had to invite them back to our house to get their advice on our land challenge.  They were like happy dogs, covering paths and identifying plants and suggesting reinforcements in our yard while we tried to keep up.  By the time they left at 1:00 PM I was both hungry and ready for a lie down.  I was also wondering with some trepidation if our paths would cross more often when we fully moved down here.

(P.S.  The above is mostly true and happened last weekend.  We are the elderly couple, of course, so I have no idea what was running through the younger couple's minds, although I wrote this as if I did.  But I do know we (hubby) talked way too much.)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Fourth and Last on Photo Lying

This will be the last in my series of "adulterated" photo editing posts. The photo below is not one I took, but something my daughter-in-law took a few years ago when we were out exploring a state park. She took it with her phone which had an effect included that put the "grunge" filter on it. It includes my son and his nephew and niece (my grandson and my granddaughter).  It has that almost fisheye look as well.



Note the hand in the frame on the lower left. This is a better example of how hard it is to clone certain elements out of the photo. I tried to pay attention to detail, but it becomes obvious when you repeat a pattern from somewhere else in the photo over the part you want to clone out, particularly when there is not much background to choose from.  I also took out my sweet granddaughter but just left the light color of her clothing and it looks like a jacket or backpack, perhaps.



As a follow up to my prior post I had given up on getting the geese as the focal point of my photo.  I could have cropped it down, but the focus was too poor to be useful.  I just removed my neighbors for the heck of it to show how photos can lie.

Errol Morris in his book that I am reading wrote: "It is an error engendered by photography and perpetuated by us.  And it comes from a desire for "the ocular proof," a proof that turns out to be no proof at all.  What we see is not independent of our beliefs.  Photographs provide evidence, but no shortcut to reality.  It is often said that seeing is believing.   But we do not form our beliefs on the basis of what we see; rather, what we see is often determined by our beliefs.  Believing is seeing, not the other way around."

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Lying Through the Lens

This is the view from my side of the river from my deck looking across the river. I lightened it a bit and sharpened it but did nothing else. I was trying to get a photo of our bunches of geese that were resting before take off. But they are too far away to hold the attention of the viewer.


This is the view that is falsified which makes it look much more rural. If a printing company took a magnifying glass to this they would see my edits, because I used shortcuts and was not careful. But to the untrained eye, I think the edits are hard to see and it makes it look as if I have no neighbors. What do you think?




Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Follow Up to Before

Spending time "faking" the photos with change in style and not content.  My hellebores (Lenten roses) are blooming very nicely this week under my bare sugar maple.  They have become the subject of this experiment in photography.  The first is the original with a little change to exposure to lighten it.  Then each photo below has a layer which changes the original in a different way.  This is not a change in content, just lighting and tone.







Saturday, February 18, 2017

Is It Fake?



These colder days have given me time to focus (and I do mean that as a pun) on photography.  I am reading a book titled "The Mercury Vision of Louis Daguerre by Dominic Smith."   I am also reading a book titled "Believing is Seeing (Observations on the Mysteries of Photography)" by Errol Morris.

While both books are about photography they could not be more different in tone or focus or era.  The first is a biographical fiction written with the prose of a poet or a romantic or a photographer.  Paris in the 1800's is seen through light angled scenes and colors and scents that makes it easy for me to think I am there. The city is dirty and ugly, marred by revolution and class separation, but still filled with lovers and artists and lamplight.  The fictional theme of the book is Daguerre's search for the love of his life at the end of his life while becoming mentally compromised by the cloud of mercury poisoning from his years of photographic work.  While it is fictional, it is done very consistently.  A series of nude photos are taken by Daguerre of an important figure in his life and we see how he decides to pose them and why and how photography began to change the society.  He asks one elderly woman whether she wants to have a daguerreotype made of her and she scolds photographers for trying to capture "death."  It is a frightening new technology and considered as a sin among many religious people at that time.

Daguerre talks in the book about how the person changes the minute the camera lens is upon them, and therefore, it is impossible to get an honest essence of the person in a picture.  At that time a person may have to sit for several minutes in front of the camera, and candid shots were unknown.

In the second book I am only 30 percent through the 300+ pages.  It is a discussion of the truth of photography and the accuracy of interpretation of a photograph by others when viewed years later.  The writing is a bit tedious and forces the reader to question almost everything in what we see and how we come to conclusions about what we see. "We may know the order of the photographs but that doesn't mean we know whether they were authentic or deliberately posed."  This struck me as certainly important today with the magic of digital painting.  Some of you may remember the photo of the dusty and bloody Syrian boy sitting shocked in an orange ambulance chair after an Assad/Russian bombing of his home.  Assad claims the photo was fake, even though witnesses attest to its reality.  There are so many photos of children in pain and maimed after the war, one wonders why the Syrian President claims this one was fake?  Is it because it truly captures the emotional horror of this war?

This taken from Wikipedia on the truth of photography:  "Charles Peirce's term 'indexicality' refers to the physical relationship between the object photographed and the resulting image.[2] Paul Levinson emphasizes the ability of photography to capture or reflect "a literal energy configuration from the real world" through a chemical process.[3] Light sensitive emulsion on the photographic negative is transformed by light passing through the lens and diaphragm of a camera.[4] Levinson relates this characteristic of the photograph to its objectivity and reliability, echoing Andre Bazin's belief that photography is free from the "sin" of subjectivity.[5]"  So much is covered in the preceding sentences that one could talk all night about it.

Another person who writes about photography, "Sontag also describes the inability of a photograph to capture enough information about its subject to be considered a representation of reality. She states, "The camera's rendering of reality must always hide more than it discloses…only what which narrates can make us understand."[25]"  This is clear to me as I frequently frame the photo to leave out distracting or extraneous stuff and may later photoshop to erase it.

There are lots of photos on social media sites where celebrities state one thing or another about life or politics.  Almost all of them are fake, their images being used without their permission.  There are other photos that have clearly been enhanced with romantic mist or fake snow or something to make them softer and more beautiful than the original.

This seems to be a theme these days.  Viewers are being duped everywhere.  How do you know something that was shown is real or not?  You can search online for testing fake news and a number of sites will come up with guidelines.  Factcheck.org and Snopes are reliable sources for analyzing something written or said, but they do not usually focus on photos.  You can find a reverse source search for some photos here.  This is sometimes used by photographers to see if their image has been stolen and used elsewhere.


Fake stuff has been around for a long time and will be around, perhaps forever.  (Apologies for my very poor photoshopping of the image above.  I was too lazy, and perhaps too low on technique, to present something more believable.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

What is in Common?

My neighborhood is not as quiet as someone would think if they came down the side road into the neighborhood.  About half of us are retired and so busy in our yards or coming and going during the day.  The other half are still working and one has a nearby business office, so his workers driving heavy equipment go up and down the road at least a half dozen times during the week.  


This is the road after the last snow.


My  next door neighbor on the right (his house is above across the ravine) is an elder guy who can fix almost anything.  He is pretty much the go-to guy for that stuff in his church that needs fixing.  He and his wife are very religious in that they attend evangelical conferences at least once a a year and sometimes more in Florida.  He votes conservative and thinks climate warming is an unproven theory, and therefore, blows his yard every other day so that it remains neat as a pin.  He has two daughters and a son, none who live in this state.  Two of his children have divorced.  The son has a family in the Philippines although he is not married to the mother.  The son, a commercial pilot, also has an estranged ex-wife and son in South America that he was finally able to see at age 6 for the first time in as many years.  The divorced daughter is raising two girls on her own.  The other daughter has married for the first time at age 40 and has recently given birth to her first child which means they take more trips down to Florida to see the new little one.  They have a comfortable retirement as you can see from above.



My neighbor who lives on the left across the other ravine (their winter home in the photo above sadly empty this month) has lots more money.  I have written about them before.  They have had an expensive motor boat which they recently sold since they do not use it enough.  They also have a fancy sailboat that cost somewhere in the six figures and they take it out a few times a year.  They have a large huge home and even have an elevator in their house!  She started a church under one of those rather liberal religious sects in this community.  She and her husband vote liberal.  They now spend most of the winter months at their condominium in a snazzy area of Florida.  This is a second marriage for him and a first for her, so she holds Christmas holidays for his son's family before they head south.  His son is some genius engineer inventing materials for space.

All of these neighbors are really nice and kind and we help collect mail on travel and exchange tomato plants or baked food.  We go out to dinner with the liberal neighbors several times a year.  Both neighbors are very different from us.  We are comfortable middle class bureaucrats with no religious affiliation or interest in such and do not have the money that they have.  We do have grandchildren or step grand-children in common.  We share gardening with the neighbors on the right and food-eating with the neighbors on the left.  We all live in harmony and we support each other after hurricanes with removing trees and storing food in freezers if electricity is on or in the case of my neighbor on the right assist after recuperating from triple-by pass.  We are all college educated.  

I think about my neighbors when the craziness of the social news trolls starts getting to me.  We do have more in common that not and I keep hoping that we will see some middle ground on much of this soon.  I also realize that this is a rose-colored demographic and not how most of the U.S. lives.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Attention!

Once again here is a navel gazing post all about me.

I am thinking there are various types of attention disorder that can be seen in people besides that which can be medically diagnosed.  I think I have a mild variation of ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity disorder).  Something that is not so demanding  that I cannot function in this  dysfunctional  society.  This is something new for me as my life has been pretty much filled with the ability to compartmentalize and focus.  I have been both high energy and high functioning in my past life but rarely hyper.


Why do I think I have trouble with attention.  I can follow a conversation, a TV show or a recipe.  I  can focus.  But I also find I sometimes have to re-focus on something else at the same time.  I have a compulsion to be doing two things.  I cannot exercise without some distraction to get me through the routine.

For example, as I am writing  this blog I am listening to the NYT broadcast on my laptop "Will Shortz:  Meet the Puzzle Master."   It seems when I get  distracted I have to fill the time with something other than a pause in thinking.  I  frequently play solitaire on my lap top while watching television, or if it is the depressing news which I watch with hubby, I go between  listening to the world circus and listening to an online course from Harvard on photography on my laptop with my earphones.  I may miss much of the news, but it is  an ever present annoyance that pops up later in the day in so many ways.   I also cook and  watch television at the same time.

Currently I  am reading all of  the books in  the photo below (not at the exact same time, of course) as well as also reading "Leaving Blythe River" on my Kindle.  I  have a dozen half read magazines scattered on my coffee table.



I certainly am losing my ability to focus for long periods of time on any one thing and I am just sitting and wondering if  the aging process has something  to do with that.  My mother-in-law lost her ability to read a magazine and just flipped through the pages in her elder years.   Maybe I should Google this phenomenon while I am doing the NYT mini crossword puzzle this morning?

I am wondering if meditation exercises will slow this restless mind?  Are there other physical or mental exercises I should be doing...while not  blogging,  of  course?  Or is this just a normal personality disorder?

How is your attention span these days?