Archive for September 22nd, 2007

Vive La Difference! Photoblogging

I don’t normally do this, but it’s such a dramatic demonstration of the difference between color and black & white, that I just had to. Except for pictures where it’s immediately obvious that the color doesn’t add anything (i.e., the subject matter is already white or gray, or the color is just flat-out hideous), I always process a color version and a black & white version, because I never know just what might appear.

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This is the first picture I took in La Jolla this year, of tomatoes at the grocery store. Nice orange tomatoes, nice green stemmy things, color all the way, right? Well, maybe I should see what it looks like in B&W, just in case…

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It’s like a completely different picture. The shiny orange tomatoes now look metallic, and the stems are almost the same shade of gray/silver. This is illustrative of one of the key differences between B&W and color, at least for me. For want of a better word, I’ll call it “delineation.” In the color photo, the stems and the oranges are very clearly differentiated by their opposite colors, but in the B&W version, that distinction goes away, and they’re both just shades of gray. And very similar shades of gray, at that.

In B&W, shapes are defined by the contrast between light and dark, not differences in colors. I remember when this was first driven home to me, when I was messing around with the television as a kid (okay, I might have been in high school…). I turned the color all the way down, and then I flipped between a channel showing an old black & white movie or TV show, and one showing a modern show in color. Where the B&W content was very contrasty and easy to view, the color content was very flat, practically a uniform shade of medium gray, because it was entirely reliant on colors to delineate its shapes.

I think that was the turning point for me in terms of understanding the difference between color photography and B&W photography. After a year of my high school color photo teacher futilely trying to explain to me why I shouldn’t be taking the same kind of light and shadow pictures that had worked so well for me in my B&W photo class, it took a little bit of random TV experimentation to make me finally understand.

I still like to punch up the contrast in my color photos, but if the shapes are primarily defined by lights and darks, I’m probably going to go with black & white.

4 comments September 22nd, 2007 at 02:34pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: La Jolla/San Diego,Photoblogging

The Nonexistent Device I Want

So, yesterday I learned that my cellphone is about four times faster than the first Cray supercomputer. I mentioned this to a coworker, who predicted that 20 years from now we wouldn’t even have computers, that we would have something that we can’t even imagine right now. So that got me to thinking, if I could design the Perfect Portable Device, based on existing or at least plausible/impending technology, what would it be?

Most of it is fairly obvious stuff: the next generation or two of flash memory should be dense enough and fast enough to replace hard drives (which should improve device size, weight, reliability, and battery life) portable CPUs get smaller and faster, and there are already portable devices that can play console-quality games, audio & video files, display ebooks and photos, surf the web, and even run Windows or OSX. And really, any device that can run a desktop OS and connect to the internet is capable of performing all of those functions, so we’ll just assume that PPD can do all of that, and that it has at least a 128 GB flash drive, 1 GB of RAM, a 2 GHz mobile processor, and a small 3D video card. And speakers, definitely speakers. A decent digital camera would be really nice too, but I can live without that if I have to.

There are devices that can pretty much do all of this already, but they have the absolute constraint that they have to be at least as large as their screens. So large-screen devices are bulky, and compact devices have tiny screens. So here’s my idea: A screen that folds. OLED technology will make it possible to manufacture displays that can bend in half, so why not have a device with the form factor of a book? You open it up, and you have a screen that’s the size of two “pages.” For typing, you could turn it 90 degrees and use one “page” as a touchscreen keyboard – or just use the bottom half of the two-page display (needless to say, it would auto-tilt the screen like on the iPhone). By my calculations, a 4″ X 3″ folding device would have a 7″ display when fully unfolded. At the other extreme, you could fit a 15″ screen on something roughly the size of a hardcover book.

Oh, and I would also like WiMax broadband connectivity, and if it’s fast enough, I don’t see why the PPD couldn’t use it to view cable TV channels, if the cable companies can figure out a way to make them available to their subscribers and their subscribers only.

I don’t think I’m asking for so much, really…

2 comments September 22nd, 2007 at 12:52am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Technology

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