“Science can be beautiful. Art can be scientific.” This latest episode of the PBS series Off Book, titled “Seeing Beyond the Human Eye“, looks into how science and photographic techniques are helping transform how we see the world.
Technology defies the boundaries of human perception. From photomicrography to astrophotography, size and distance are no longer barriers, and through slow-mo and timelapse, we are allowed to see time and humanity in a new light. Through our curiosity and thirst for the unknown, the beauty of the universe can now be explored beyond the limits of the naked eye.
In both still photography and video, camera work should generally be invisible to viewers, allowing them to focus on the subject being captured. The same is true for video games. Here’s a nerdy yet fascinating analysis of the camera in the legendary SNES game, Super Mario World. It’s so simple, yet so well designed that it’s not something you’ve probably ever thought about.
Yesterday we reported on how US Track and Field saw its first “photo finish” tie this past weekend in an Olympic qualifying race. If you thought the finish line photo looked strange, it’s not just you: it’s not an ordinary photo. Journalist Daniel Rutter has written up a great article on how finish line cameras work:
[...] most finish-line cameras aren’t super-high-speed movie cameras, but instead a kind of slit camera. A slit camera has a line-shaped lens, which exposes the film or electronic sensor line by line or column by column, not unlike the way a rolling shutter works. The critical difference, though, is that a slit camera can keep on going past the lens indefinitely. You can keep collecting image data, or keep spooling film past the slit, for as long as you have memory or film. The shutter never closes as long as the film or memory lasts, so it’s impossible to miss any action between the frames.
[...] imagine taking a flatbed scanner sensor and setting it up vertically, looking across a racetrack at the finish line. Start a “scan”, and it’ll authoritatively tell you when every body-part of every runner makes it to the finish, by simply showing that part of that person before any part of anyone else. The speed of the scan should be set to roughly match the speed of the runners, so they look generally the right shape, but any part of any runner that stays stationary relative to the scan rate – a foot on the ground, for instance – will seem long. Any part that’s moving forward relative to the scan rate – a hand or foot coming forward, for instance – will seem short. Even if you mess up the scan rate so everyone looks wide or narrow, whatever part of whatever runner shows up first in the scan is the first to cross the finish line.
Ever wonder what camera gear NASA astronaut Don Pettit uses to shoot his amazing photographs from the International Space Station? Here’s a portrait of Don floating around on with his massive collection of Nikon DSLRs and lenses. How much of the gear can you identify?
The camera obscura has been around for a long time (Middle Ages long) and typically consisted of a box or room with a hole in one side through which an image of its surroundings could be formed. As you can see from the example above, any room — in this case a bathroom — can be turned into a camera obscura given a small enough “aperture.” Unfortunately, most rooms have big, blaring windows that let in too much light, and the only image formed on the opposite wall is a shadowy blob.
In the name of forensics, however, Antonio Torralba and William Freeman from MIT have discovered a technique by which they can turn any windowed room into a camera obscura, using a couple of stills of the room to magically gather an image of the outside world. Read more…
Chemistry and physics teacher MattAttackPro shot the above photo showing what happens when a roll of unused 35mm camera film is dropped into a beaker of hydrochloric acid. What you’re seeing is the emulsion (light sensitive chemicals suspended in gelatin) separating from the clear plastic backing.
Did you know that more photos are created every two minutes than in the entire 1800s? HighTable created this infographic that gives a quick overview of the state of the photography industry and the rise of mobile photography. Read more…
Here are some uncropped (or “unzoomed”) versions of iconic photographs that show more context than their famous cropped counterparts. It’s interesting to see what photographers and photo editors chose to keep and what they chose to throw away. The image above is an alternate view of Tank Man. Read more…
Here’s a random but interesting piece of photo-related trivia: did you know that Kodak used a calendar that had 13 months? It was called the “International Fixed Calendar“, and was proposed by a guy named Moses B. Cotsworth in 1902. The system divided each year into 13 months of 28 days each, with one or two days each year not belonging to any month. The extra month was named “Sol”, and appeared between June and July. Although it was never officially adopted by any country, Kodak founder George Eastman became a huge supporter of the new calendar, and instituted it as the official calendar of Kodak in 1928. It would remain the company’s calendar of choice until 1989. Because of this, an alternate name for the calendar is “the Eastman plan”.
Ever wonder what the f-number of your eyes are? It can easily be calculated using the human eye’s focal length (~22mm) and physical aperture size. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
Computing the f-number of the human eye involves computing the physical aperture and focal length of the eye. The pupil can be as large as 6–7 mm wide open, which translates into the maximum physical aperture.
The f-number of the human eye varies from about f/8.3 in a very brightly lit place to about f/2.1 in the dark. The presented maximum f-number has been questioned, as it seems to only match the focal length that assumes outgoing light rays. According to the incoming rays of light (what we actually see), the focal length of the eye is a bit longer, resulting in minimum f-number of f/3.2.
The article also notes that the eye cannot be considered an ordinary air-filled camera since it’s filled with light refracting liquid.