The Lytro camera is probably the most interesting advance in photographic technology this year. An array of microlenses allows the sensor to capture information about the exact direction from which light is coming, and that allows software to focus every part of the scene regardless of it’s distance from the camera. To highlight this advance, the company’s first camera produced interactive online images which could be refocused by clicking anywhere in the scene (see some here). We have all looked at photos with out-of-focus parts, and it is a novel experience to be able to click on or touch the fuzzy places and have the crisp focus shift as if a focusing ring was being turned. But it has also been maddening to know that the captured data would allow the entire photo to be in focus all at the same time, yet this was not an option for any Lytro photo. It was a clever marketing approach, because modern digital cameras with tiny sensors have very good depth of field, and many of the photos we take now already have everything in focus. Allowing the viewer to “focus the photo after it was taken” highlighted how new this technology was.
Click anywhere to adjust the focus.
Two weeks ago Lytro released new software that allows any Lytro photo to be viewed with all parts in focus. This was surely the plan all along, and I guess now that they have milked the public relations benefits of the refocusing gimmick they can move on to new gimmicks. The new software also allows the viewer to change the point of view of the photo ever so slightly, and to apply Instagram-like filters to the images. This upgrade arrived just in time, because last week the Chaos Collective released a clever process that allows those of us without $400 Lytro cameras to take photos which can be refocused by clicking on them. The photos above and below were taken with my trusty Nikon D40. The trick is to take a three second video while you pull focus through the scene. This site will then generate a focus map and code which displays the video frame that is in focus at the place the viewer clicks. The image is divided up into a 20 x 20 grid for mapping mouse clicks and that is a bit coarse for the scenes I captured. So you have to click around a bit to find the exact spot to get some areas to focus.
Click anywhere to adjust the focus.
My D40 does not take video, so I just took a series of photos focused a different distances and put them in Premiere to make a video. I could have used a video camera or Powershot, but they have smaller sensors and greater depth of field, so the effect might not have been so dramatic.
In the late nineteenth century, hand drawn “bird’s-eye maps” were a revelation to earthly New Englanders. When exotic hot air balloons were the only way to gain such a perspective, enterprising artists just imagined what a bird might see. The customers for these maps lived and worked in the buildings depicted, so these are probably placed with some accuracy, relying on existing maps for data. It is the details of the rest of the landscape that were recorded nowhere else. In the 1889 drawing below, cleared fields, orchards, and shrubby growth nearly to the top of Hogback Mountain confirm the wisdom that in 1850 the entire slope, like others all over Vermont, was probably cleared of trees. Today, the young ages of the trees tell the same story, but an old bird’s-eye view is still a revelation.
You can view a high resolution version here: http://fastie.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Bristol1889.jpg
I had been thinking about this old image, but I did not examine it before I flew a camera under a nine foot delta kite from the Mt. Abe High School in October, and the resulting panorama is from a different vantage. But now I know where the kite has to be to repeat the old view, and I think it will be possible to do it. I will need the reel with 1500 feet of line, and a more reliable wind than I had last time (disaster was averted by a lucky zephyr that stopped the fall into a poplar).
The best exploring of the panorama below is here.
A lot of trees have been processed in Bristol. Huge stacks of forest products are stored on the floodplain in both the 1889 and 2012 views.
The Canon S95 captured 562 images during the 57 minute kite flight. Fourteen of the photos were stitched together in Microsoft ICE and two more were added in Photoshop. These 16 photos were taken within a three minute period along with 44 other photos.
9′ Levitation Delta kite
RC radio control of tilt, pan, and shoot
Canon Powershot S95
1/800 second (Tv)
-2/3 exposure compensation
manual focus on infinity
14 photos stitched in Microsoft ICE, 2 more added in Photoshop
Last month I went to the Middlebury Farmers’ Market at Marble Works for the first time ever. My garden had been suffering some scurrilous blight and I was about to feed 10 people for the LEAFFEST weekend. I looked along the row of vendors to the steeple of the Congregational Church beyond some trees and realized there might be enough space to launch a kite there. A west wind would take the kite the length of the lawn and then over toward the church on the “Green,” the village commons. This could offer a unique view of the village center. But the wind almost never blows from the west here due to the north-south trend of the Champlain Valley. Other wind directions would make the flight less rewarding and the launch and landing more risky, and I had never flown a kite from such a small area surrounded by so many power lines, buildings, trees, river banks, and busy roads, so I assumed I would never fly there. read more…