Thursday, August 25, 2016

ArtInspired :: Three Generations into a Reflected Dream

I am quiet fascinated with the potential of the deep dream generation processes, brought to light by google researchers trying to explain their artificially intelligent process to recognise objects in photos (unfortunately that had started with discovering pictures of cats on social media, I have been know to unfollow/unfriend people who over post cat photos). To demonstrate the way their neural networks work they showed the state of the neural network as it tried to recognize characteristic shapes, outlines, colours & textures/patterns with a given image. As you go deeper and deeper into the layers of the neural network you get wonderfully focused images that eventually become very surreal (trippy) and dream like. Hence the name of the project Deep dream.


There are many competing  system around now and I probably still prefer Dreamscope on the web and Lucid on my android phone. The best variation of the deep dream approach also allow you to train your own photos or artwork as the neural network to rank your intended photo. There is a fair amount of computing involved in training these neural networks but google or the other services handles this by spreading the task across its cloud of servers, but it does take time. The deeper you want to go and the larger the output required the longer it takes (google seems to abandon the task after 15 minutes, not sure why yet).


WIN_20160824_19_59_21_ProRather than being just a one click Instagram style filter I want to go deeper and see how this can become a tool to develop more compelling images. I had the monday’s daily photo of the reflection in the lake (photo above), and a very ordinary web cam image (photo on the right, from which I wanted to create a profile avatar). I researched the application neural networks in a former life and I know that “hidden layers” can add significantly to the success of predictions, so I wanted to add a hidden artification step. No so easy without access to the source code. I firstly took the reflection photo through google’s deep style process using the Dark Pastel trained network. This produced a interim image somewhere between a photo and a pastel sketch. Not exactly exciting in itself but it does remain largely honest to the colours of the original photo but with a strong hand drawn appearance.

interim "Hidden Layer" based on Pastel Network

I then feed a square cropped version of my self portrait  into another deep style but this time I used the interim photo/sketch as the image to train a new neraul network upon. This is why I am calling this the third generation (1. original photo 2. pastel like photo/sketch 3. neural network filter).


The result was indeed a good combination of the colours and feel of the original photo, along with the style of marks you might get from pastels and yet I was still recognizable peering between my hands forming a diamond shape frame.

I like where this approach is going

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Don’t Stand So Close

The Lens BoxI have been having a little fun with a very cheap accessories I bought at Typo (yes the stationary and scrapbooking accessories place). Its a simple clip on design and the lens just sits over the small camera lens. It works fine on both my Android phone and my HP Spectre (a tablet laptop cross over) although there is some vignetting at the edges.


#234 Experiments with a cheap clip on macro\wide angle lens for my phone.

As a wide angle of a distant screen it is fine, but I’m not really a fan of the fish eye effect on a landscape. However letting it get right upclose (the macro aspect) definitely gives a different, aka interesting, perspective of some familiar items around my studio

Pentax & Tamrom Lens, my favourite comboCanon with zoom lens

The Red Wireless MouseThe Wandering Webcam

Monday, August 22, 2016

PhotoProject :: Seeing The Bigger Picture

I firmly believe seeing is the most important next step for photographers after the basics of exposure and focus are mastered (and by the way most modern cameras do this already).

Here is a simple task to convince you the difference seeing makes, go to one place you know, it could be inside or outside, look for something familiar but interesting but that you have not photographed before and take a good long look, maybe move around it and then quickly take 10 and 20 well considered photos in short succession. Try to mix up the composition and view, high key, low key, up close, step back, concentrate of capturing what you saw before you picked up the camera.

Take a mixure of views and compositions
Have a break perhaps a coffee. Think about a way you can see the object larger than life (or as large as possible). It may be just uploading to your computer with a decent sized screen, or perhaps look at them on your large screen TV, you might have Chrome Cast or Apple TV, a HDMI cable or even via copying the files to a USB stick. You are looking to get the largest possible image, when reviewing your photos.
Viewing on my larger screen LCD via Chrome Cast

Now review the photos and delete the photos that don’t show the essence of what you first saw. They might be good photos well exposed or composed but they don’t connect to what you saw. cull ruthlessly

Cull them, be ruthless. 


You should find at least one photo that amazes you, how well it captures the essence of what you saw.


Full Disclosure, I have photographed my espresso machine before, but that was the previous model (sadly it had to be replaced). I have also often photographed cups of coffee it has made. I can promise I did look at the much loved machine with fresh eyes.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

On Seeing

I perceive an apparent growing gulf happening in digitally based photography.

Photo ... Photo.. #greylinetoronto

A photo posted by norm hanson (@apimageo) on

On one side is the use of photography as a substitute way for seeing, the concept that if its not photographed it may not have happened (eg like the Zen question of does the leaf falling in a forest not make a sound if no one is there to hear it). This helps me make sense of Instagram, which I must admit I still do not fully understand. Some people obviously live through their Instagram photo stream and number of likes. I would worry this is a very shallow and short life. It might explain a lot, why people spend so much time scrolling through social media images, they are living the life through others, particularly celebrities, or worse they are snooping. This is kind of photography is characterized by small screens and short viewing times with the occasional zoom into to looking at the logo on a handbag.

 #217_IGP0603_Maid_in_the_Mist _IGP0622 Coming to the Falls

Glimpses of Sunlight Top of the Falls

On the other side I know some photographers go to a lot effort to cultivate an awareness of what they see and frame that within a photograph. Often this involves leaving some details out to focus attention (depth of field blurring in portraits is the classic example, moving the view so a land post is not growing out of the subjects head). These photos usually demand a longer look. Artists have been following this same path for centuries, they have used sketching as a way to record what they see, refine composition etc. The well seen photographs may be telling a story, have compelling composition or eye catching colours or intricate patterns. They are typically larger and physical, perhaps more likely to be in an older photography book or on a gallery wall. Considered photographs are unfortunately dying out, or perhaps disappearing into the first group where they are overwhelmed and scrolled over.

niagra falls from above panoramic

In the middle there exists a lot of what we can see and experience that just cannot be adequately photographed. This was bought home to me in the panoramic dome on VIA’s the Canadian train. There is just too much to save into a single frame that truly records experience of being there. Yes there are 3d cameras, wide angles and multi stitched panorama but you still have to look through a limited window (I haven’t yet tried the current range of virtual reality googles, but I am skeptical). These images is obviously distorted, occasionally this is charming, but usually it jars and fails to deliver. Some sceens are hard to photgraph in a single image

We see and should be aware of much more, both in terms of dynamic range of light and spatially, than a camera. Yet I worry bombarding ourselves with 1000’s of small images is dulling our ability to see. Improved seeing is not hard, can be taught and even (self) learned. So I hope you join in my next series of PhotoProjects which will be exercises in seeing.

Sketch of lookout at Mount Royal Chalet, Montreal

Saturday, August 20, 2016

PhotoFriday :: Shadows


For PhotoFriday‘s topic Shadows

Comfortably Numb

Yellow Orchid II

A photo posted by norm hanson (@apimageo) on


The Pink Floyd song (my I am showing my age) comfortably numb (I prefer the Van Morison cover) contains the lyrics

There is no pain, you are receding
A distant ship smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying
When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I've got that feeling once again
I can't explain, you would not understand
This is not how I am
I have become comfortably numb

Yellow Orchids I

This nicely summaries how I feel about uploading to on-line services, on the go. Once upon a time I thought I had it figured out but that is now just a smudge on the horizon. On my recent trip I totally lost confidence in google (and using picasa to upload to google “Private” photo albums, By the way, If you share a photo or photo album on google it is no longer private, just the weird address will be hard to guess). The waves of change are confusing and too often surreal like someone talking but no sound a kind of metaphysical painting in a very still piazza. I can feel/see something happening but it is hard to comprehend and where it is going. Thus I am shrinking back on the number of ways and places I try to share my work. DropBox for private shares, Flickr & Instagram for public shares with the occasional Tumblr. I am well over the pain of change and things not working or being deprecated, I just want to be Comfortably Numb.


PS All three versions of these flowers where processed on and posted from my phone.

Friday, August 19, 2016

More Nagging Doubts

My investigation into problems on my small computer network is deepening. As soon as I apparently fix one leak another springs up.

I have reviewed the chrome problems and noticed a few weird things (like pop ups trying to encourage software installs). I started to suspect some of the add-ins and chrome apps I had loaded (but mainly haven’t used). So I deleted chrome on the effected machines and re-installed it a fresh. Trouble is once you log in with your google account it picks up the previous settings. Still chrome is behaving now, and I will get rid of extension, apps and add-ins I don’t used (some time soon).

My other suspicion was at least some of these problems are related to was a virus, but my virus scans are up to date and came up all clear. All except my windows desktop which clams windows imagedefender has been turned off by “group” policy. At the moment I can not find anyway to turn it back on.

The biggest niggling doubt is on my main desktop computer. Every time I restart the computer I get a swarm of windows notifications that “an app default” had to be reset. Which app? Why so many? And bugger now edge is behaving weirdly! How do I delete Edge?

Strangest of all I’ve quadruple checked and none of my windows machines has got the anniversary version of windows 10 yet!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

PhotoProject :: PhotoBook Practise

Its so long since I made my last photobook, on checking it was only 20 month ago, but the process is somewhat streamlined and the on-line service I will be using, Snapfish (*), is different enough to need a little retraining. Snapfish are actually having a current TV Campaign for Father’s Day and have a simple soft cover book with 20 pages being advertised for $10. This this is a good price to let me experiment, before I tackle a bigger volume of my recent trip.

The TV ad and online videos suggest you can make a photobook in 10 minutes and you can,

but there are a couple of IFs.

  1. You need to have the photos you wish to use already organized and ready to upload. 
  2. Be aware the quick set up involves autofill layout, where the snapfish service will automatically do a best fit of all you photos into the available space using a variety of layouts. Its not bad BUT I needed a little more grouping and continuity of theme.

 The Snapfish work area for Photobooks

Since this is a practice run I rolled up my sleeves and spent part of an afternoon moving photos around and adjusting layouts. The first step was to load the photos and snapfish can upload directly from flickr and better still do a group upload from a fkickr album. since I already have my daily photos going into an album this made the upload very straight forward. On the left hand side snapfish has a film roll/tray which the call the photo well and this is loaded with your photos. You then simply choose a template and drag the photos into place (if you don’t want to use autofill). As you use a photo the tick icon, on the lower right of the photo, turns blue to keep track of what photos you have already placed in the book. Since this book is based on my first 100 daily photos (that lets me average 5 photos per page which seemed a reasonable number). so it was a challenge keeping track of the photos already placed, sionce the photo well onky display 16-20 thumbnails at a time. So I used the the “Hide used photos” found under the options icon. Whilst the software and its template layouts aren’t bad it does lack a few alignment tools (they flash up occasionally but I could not find a means to turn them on permanently while I was working). So I had to trust my eye for some key alignments. Otherwise the set up was easy and I soon got the hang of the best approach, which was to have a few photo in the get photo well (aka tray area) and drag them onto suitable looking layouts, and if necessary use autofill just on a blank page as you add the photos.

Adjusting layouts to incorporate extra photos is where you can spend a lot of time. So it is worth (re)watching these snapfish’s editing tutorials. Ordering the book was super simple and I won’t go into that here.

PS: Why Snapfish (*), It’s the service I’ve used before. For a long while snapfish was the only service in Australia that you could get flickr photos printed. That built in service was discontinued when flickr released their own (expensive) photo books. Most importantly Snapfish has always done a decent job on my photos, I am careful to have all images in higher quality jpeg (>80% quality) and in the sRGB colour space and appropriate ressolution (2000+ pixel on the longest axis is fine for the typical small photo book). Finally they are reasonably priced on both printing and postage.