RGU Garthdee New Build – Photo Update 14 May 2013

Its been a while since my last photo update showing the progress of the New Build at the Garthdee campus of Robert Gordon University. As you can see the main entrance and plaza is almost complete, and the final stages of tidying things up are well underway at the south side of the library tower.

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Sunrise Timelapse RGU Garthdee Campus

Yesterdays post contained some photographs taken from the roof of the Round Tower at the Garthdee Campus of Robert Gordon University. This post as the title says includes a number of timelapse videos taken around 06:30 in the morning just as the sun was rising.

A few images of the Round Tower may also be seen below, giving some idea of the location from where the videos were recorded & yesterdays photos were taken.

Experimenting with Photography

The following videos demonstrate some interesting setups where as always light plays a hugely important role. The first example below is that of creating the Bokeh Effect. This is achieved using a long lens to set the background out of focus. The background has a dark card / velum lit from behind with a number of holes punched in it to allow light to stream through. Capturing an image of an object good and sharp in the foreground with the Bokeh Effect in the background can create some interesting effects. The addition of gels or coloured acetate sheets can add that extra dimension. Perhaps experimenting with a number of coloured acetates could generate a really nice effect. The addition of a reflective surface adds some really nice reflections into the mix both from the foreground object and the light streaming into the scene from the background.

Another interesting effect can be created with a zoom lens with a slow shutter of a few seconds. Varying the zoom over the time of the exposure to the imaging sensor generates an interesting blurring. You will see that the scene is initially composed with just one side on light, though the resulting exposure is a little dark, hence the addition of some additional lighting to the front of the subject solves this.

A fairly recent previous post looked at light painting, mainly from the perspective of a person creating shapes using a torch or a mobile. The video below is a different view on light painting where objects are illuminated with light. Varying the placement of the light, from back, front or even just from the top down creates quite an array of different shots.

Given that one can use black card in the production of the Bokeh Effect from the first video above another nice composition to try out is to photograph a wine glass making use of a few black cards to control the lighting / reflections of the scene.

If you are perhaps doing a good deal of product photography then you may find something like a Lastolite Cubelite to be of use, so that you can have nicely controlled soft lighting of the product you wish to capture.

Folding up one of these Cubelites can require a bit of practice.

Photography – Light, Composition

One of the key elements to photography is of course light. Without light one would simply have a blank image. If you enjoy landscape photography then the magic hour at sunrise and sunset are really the only times of the day for such photography. The reason being that photography is in essence about two key things composition / framing of the subject and the painting of the scene with light.

Light can be described in four different forms, transmitted, reflected, soft and hard light. The sun on a clear day is a good example of hard light as one can see really strong shadows on a summers day. Soft / diffused light is that which you would find on an overcast day with little to no visible shadows to be seen. In the case of taking a photograph of a sunset for example you also have the ability of taking in transmitted light, in the form of being able to see the light source. Should you be located close to the sea or a lake then you can also make use of the reflected light from the water.

One of the classing photographic assignments is of course Portraiture. Often you may hear that you should always shoot with the light (sun) to your back. However by shooting into the light source you can capture some wonderful colour and highlights. A large aperture lens is also great for portraiture, thus allowing for a shallow depth of field to be created and all the emphases being placed on the subject in question.

If you enjoy landscape photography then some of the videos below may be of interest.

The following video includes a number of examples of some interesting landscape shots to the music of Enya!

Its not just light but also composition that is important to any great image. You can perhaps glean a few tips on the subject of composition from the final video.

Photography Freezing the Motion

The video above details some really fun things one can do by freezing motion varying the exposure between 1/100 to 1/1000 of a second. The camera is of course set to manual, as well as continuous capture to grab several frames in quick succession. Water is being poured into a wine glass that has been mounted at an angle whilst the main light source illuminates from behind a defused background (velum). Adding some food colouring to the water creates that additional level of drama and dimension to the shot.

The next video looks at capturing the splash of a water droplet. Again like the previous setup this is done without the use of flash photography techniques, though they both make-use of a continuous light source.

Another fun experiment to do is to capture bubbles as they float down to earth. To really freeze the motion exposures on the order of 1/250 of a second allow for some interesting shots to be captured.

One further interesting video fairly similar to the second last one in which the task is to capture a splash, instead of capturing a water drop, this time the task is focused on capturing the splash caused by the dropping of a spanner into a tray of water.

Gavin Howie also has a nice video demonstrating how to capture water splashes. Initially he uses a white sheet of paper as a background. Towards the end of the video he looks at the addition of colour to the image, firstly by changing the white balance, in this particular case he uses tungsten. The alternative option is to use a coloured background that results in some really interesting colouration on the waters surface.

If you happen to have an aquarium floating around then you can have a go at dropping a selection of fruit and vegetables in and capturing the motion of the impact and splash.

Its always of course useful to take a look at the user manual of your camera to be familiar with the settings. In the case of the Canon 600D one can download the user manual from the support page on canon.co.uk. You will see on page 88 of the manual that the Canon 600D is capable of shooting about 3.7 shots per second in continuous mode. One can find details about the Tv setting on page 94 allowing for motion to frozen or blurred.

Treknology – Are we there yet?

At present in the early part of the second decade of the 21st century we have now become heavily dependent on technology. The rate of technological advancement in the past fifty years alone has been incredible, particularly since in development of the first microprocessor, the Intel 4004 in 1971. Since the first incarnation of Star Trek in the 1960’s audiences have been amazed by the technological wonders that seems to be available in the 23rd &   24th centuries. What’s more amazing however is the fact that many of these technologies are now a reality and yet we are still in the infancy of the 21st century. If the advancement of technology continues to increase at its present rate then it is almost impossible to imagine what the world will be like in fifty or even a hundred years, never mind what it may be like in a few centuries.

Tractor Beam Technology
Recent weeks have seen some interesting technological advances. Just a few days ago (25th January 2013) it was announced that a Star Trek “style tractor beam” had been developed by scientists, the project being led by researchers from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. This work makes use of lasers to attract microscopic particles. A simple example of a Star Trek tractor beam in operation on a small-scale can be seen in the S1E3 Episode “The Naked Now”, where Wesley Crusher develops his own “hand held” tractor beam capable of moving furniture and other small objects. In the very same episode he scales up and “reverses fields” on the Enterprises Tractor Beam to help give it a push-off from another starship thereby saving it from being destroyed from an oncoming star fragment.


 Organic Data Storage
Just a few days earlier (23rd Jaunary 2013) a BBC News story discussed another development in Nature showing that DNA would be “perfect for digital storage”. A selection of media types were encoded within the DNA including an image, text and audio. All were read back with 100% accuracy. The article states that “One gram of DNA ought to be able to hold about two petabytes of data”. DNA is also a great way to archive data capable of reliably storing information for a much longer period that any technologies we currently have such as hard disks or CDs/DVD’s.

In Star Trek of course we often hear the term “Isolinear Chip” being used, capable of storing 2.15 kiloquads of information. In terms of the use or organics within Star Trek the one thing that immediately comes to mind are the Bioneural Gelpacks featured on the USS Voyager.  One disadvantage with the organic nature of the Bioneural Gelpacks was their susceptibility to bacteria and viruses. On the positive side they were able to make a “best guess” rather than computing the solution in a more linear manner.

Transparent Aluminium
I am sure you are all well aware of Star Trek IV the Voyage Home, particularly of the scene where Scotty divulges the formula for transparent Aluminium to a scientist in the 20th century. The interesting thing of course is that a material with very similar properties has already been developed (see this article dated 12 Jan 2012). The material is called Aluminium Oxynitride or ALON & is capable of maintaining structural integrity in temperatures up to 1200 degrees C.


 Touch Screen Technology
Touch Screens have become very much the norm and are standard on all smartphones of today. I am sure that everybody thought the touch screen consoles in Main Engineering of the Enterprise NCC1701-D shown in the mid to late 1980’s were really amazing.


 If you were lucky enough to have attended CES 2013 in Las Vegas they you would have probably seen Panasonic’s 20inch 4K Tablet PC, so certainly table top computing is well on the way.


 Another nice example of table top computing is the Microsoft/Samsung SUR 40 capable of sensing up to 52 concurrent touches. Quite appropriately in the vein of Star Trek and exploring the University the application demonstrated in the video below is called NUIverse that allows one to explore the likes of our solar system and star constellations.


 More Science Investment in the News
A BBC News Article dated 28th Jan 2013 discusses the investment of two billion euro into two research projects. The Human Brain project will seek to develop a computer-based copy of the human brain allowing scientists to understand neurogical disorders and the effects of drugs. The second project will look at the use of Graphene – a material with amazing properties such as being stronger than steel and having conductivity better than copper. The “Possibilities” to quote Spock are seemingly limited only by our imagination.

Some other recent developments of interest includes the news of Intel investing four billion USD to build a 14nm chip manufacturing plan in Ireland helping to keep Moore’s Law going strong.

Has Film/TV Influenced Technology?
This post is of course not an exhaustive list of Star Trek type technologies that are currently in existance. I am sure you can think of many more exampes. An interesting question to pose is –  has the technology we have seen in film influenced the evolution of actual technology? Certainly every single time I see a Tablet Computer of today I think of the PADD from Star Trek, and similarly with Mobile Phones becoming almost akin to Tricorders with the ever increasing computing and sensory systems that are now onboard.


 So are we there yet?
To Answer my Initial question – Are we there yet? Well certainly from the examples mentioned above it looks like we have already developed many of the technologies that mesmerised us for so many years in the Star Trek TV shows and movies. Perhaps the Final Frontier is closer than we think!

If you would like to find out about some more technologies then you may enjoy watching the documentary below.

Fun Photography Projects – 360 & Cloning. Any Other Ideas?

Recently I received a link to a YouTube video demonstrating how to spin a camera around the CN Tower. The video was posted a little over a month ago (17th December 2012) and has received around 125,000 views so far. One can make use of Google maps and street view to find the positions from which you would need to take a set of photographs in a circle around a tall object of interest. Then with a bit of work in Photoshop and your favorite video editor create a nice 360 – QuickTime Object VR like animation.

More recently (11th Jan 2013) a YouTube video was posted of the Space Needle in Seattle using the same technique as the CN tower video. I visited Seattle a few years ago and would have loved to have given this a go after seeing the results of the video below.

Another fun task is that of Multiplicity or essentially cloning yourself multiple times. A nice demo of one technique that could be used for this is demonstrated in the video below. Towards the end of the video the author mentions that he would give a ‘prize’ for somebody who include a hundred clones within an image. How difficult would it be to create an image with a hundred clones, or perhaps more importantly how long do you think this would take to achieve? The following post on PetaPixel breaks the cloning process down into seven steps.

I am quite tempted to give the hundred+ multiplicity challenge a go, using the setting of a good sized computer lab. Could have 50 or so clones sitting to desktop computers, perhaps another 20/30 sitting along a very wide windowsill (reading an interesting selection of books ranging from photography to C and Java!). Then would need to squeeze in another 20 or so clones in the remaining open areas. A tripod set at perhaps seven to eight feet should provide a good perspective allowing the full depth of the room to be observed and the clones to readily be visible throughout the image. The video below is another nice example of multiplicity.

Multiplicity in the Studio – Breakdown
Ensure the camera is on a good heavy tripod.
Camera settings to try as a starting point.
Manual Mode.
Sutter Speed 200, Aperture F8.
While lens set to Auto Focus, focus on an area where the subject will be, then switch over to Manual Focus so it remains the same throughout the photoshoot.

Should have one or two lights setup to illuminate the background.
Subject should be 6/7 feet away from the background to help avoid shadows being formed.
The subject itself should be lit so another light (Key light) should be used, to help fill in & create softer shadows and additional & less powerful light may be used.

Combining the images in Photoshop
File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack.
Browse for and select the images taken & press OK.
Within the Layers Window, select each image (layer) and press the Layer Mask Button.
Select the top layer, then with a black paint brush paint out the subject, making them disappear. Pressing Ctrl + I will invert the mask, hiding everything else bar the area painted out.
Carry out the masking process for all other layers.

Once finished, one may go to Layer > Flatten Image to flatten all the layers into one.  A better option of course if you ever wanted to edit it further would be to save the file as a PSD to retain all the layer & masking information. To create a flattened image you could simply save the file as a JPEG.

You may also wish to crop the image to a particular size or aspect ratio (Image > Crop).

Are these fun / Interesting Projects to Try?
Do you think some project tasks along the lines above would be interesting for a group of a hundred or so first year computing students doing a module looking at graphics / photography. Do you know of any other fun and interesting examples be they YouTube demos or online tutorial example walkthroughs?

Some Possibilities for 360 Animations in Aberdeen

The tall chimney stack

The Big Wheel at the Beach

The Obelisk at Duthie Park