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Being objective about one’s equipment

It was a field trip designed to create a post about a photographic movement that began in the mid-1920s – New Objectivity. I’d seen it on TV recently. The documentary used as its example a German husband and wife who travelled around during winter (the light was more suitable) and photographed industrial buildings. There were rules to ensure that the result would be an objective rendition, not some artistically pictorial image of prettiness.

As a field trip designed to create a post about objective photography, it failed.

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The car park I use near work contains a lot of unhappy looking trees. Even in their peak, they look distressed. The leaves are full of holes. Around the base of each tree is a metal cage, variously mangled and bashed over the years.

These cages intrigue me. I want to document them before the car park is redeveloped.

So, with some of the features of New Objectivity ringing in my ears, I waited for an overcast Sunday morning and headed over there. “Overcast” because it creates an even light when viewing the trees from different angles and “Sunday” because there would be very few cars.

But the results were disappointing. Instead of the clarity and crispness required of objectivity, I got the soft and fuzzy of the picturesque. I strain my eyes when I look at the result, trying to force a degree of focus that just doesn’t exist. And, yes, I used a tripod and shutter release.

Example

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I’ve since learnt that the depth of field affects the sharpness of an image. I knew that depth of field affects which section of the image will look sharp when compared with other sections, ie it defines the area to be in focus. I did not realise that it affected the degree of sharpness in that focussed area.

In my desire to encourage the trees to stand out from their background, I selected F1.4 on my fixed 50mm lens. Mistake. Big mistake. 56 big mistakes. Not that I wasted 56 photos. This is, after all, digital. I wasted 56 squats that were required to look through the viewfinder. I’ve never done 56 squats before.  I have now.

So, there was no post about New Objectivity, just a lot of muscles objecting.

Instead, there is this post about getting to know your equipment …

Get to know your equipment!

Today, I experimented with my three lenses. There is the fixed 50mm mentioned above and the two zooms that came with the camera. The aim of the experiment was to compare the results of each F-stop.

Having selected an object with plenty of detail on a vertical plane, I set up the camera on its tripod and worked my way through each F-stop on each lens.

Test Subject

In order to see the differences writ large, I cropped the first, middle and last shots from each.

For the fixed 50mm, the F-stop range was 1.4 to 22 with a middle around F5. I realise F5 doesn’t sound halfway, but there are a 25 separate stops and F5 is number 12. In the result, the 1.4 is soft and dreamy and the mid-range is much sharper.  Then, for the 18-55mm zoom, the range was 5 to 32 with a middle F-stop around 11. Again, the mid-range is sharper.

Fixed 50mm lens:  F1.4   F5   F22

Fixed 50mm lens: F1.4 F5 F22

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18-55mm zoom lens:  F5   F11   F32

18-55mm zoom lens: F5 F11 F32

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However, there may be something else going on with the 55-200mm because the results did not fit this pattern. The manufacturer intended it to be used as a telephoto lens. Perhaps an experiment where the object is just a few feet away was not the best option? Or perhaps there was a variable I didn’t pick up on?

For the 55-200mm, the range was F4 to 22 with a middle around 9. Here, the first image appears sharper.  Perhaps not by much, but it seems sharper to me.

55-200 mm telephoto: F4  F9  F22

55-200 mm telephoto: F4 F9 F22

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Back to the car park

Armed with this new insight, it’s back to the car park … on the very next overcast Sunday morning.

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By way of efficiency comes decline

Edge Pieces

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Visual acuity is a term for clarity of vision. For clarity, we need healthy eyes, but we also need a suitably sensitive interpretative faculty in our brain.

So what’s that got to do with jigsaws?

When we hand a child their first jigsaw, we hope to teach them some problem solving techniques. We suggest they sort the pieces by particular categories. We suggest they start by building the frame. And we watch while their skills develop.

As we get old, the aim is to exercise our faculties as a means of staving off impending decline. Sometimes, the habits we develop as children are best set to one side.

If I efficiently sort the puzzle pieces, I’m wasting an opportunity to exercise those parts of my eyes and brain that are necessary for clarity of sight. There’s no impending deadline; no need to be efficient. In fact, the longer one puzzle lasts the cheaper the whole hobby becomes.

I’ve started a new game. The pieces are poured from their plastic home into the box. I visually “pour” over them, picking out each edge piece. I then “paw” at them, churning the surface, bringing unseen pieces to the top … and picking out each edge piece I see.

How many other supposed efficiencies are contributing to our mental decline?

 

Just a clue

Just a Clue

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With a preference for processing information visually, over the years I become increasingly reliant upon visualisation, as a memory aid, as a problem solver, as a direction finder.

If I can see it, either physically or in the mind’s eye, then I can move towards it.

Sometimes, though, closing my eyes helps, particularly if I’m trying to do something that is a little out of focus or out of range. The visual is so strong that I must shut it out in order to concentrate on that which I need to concentrate.

So, a jigsaw with no accompanying image to guide me …. that’s going to be a new challenge.

The jigsaw is a novelty piece I found last year but have put off, and put off, and put off. The image on the box is an office in “olden” days. There’s a switchboard, a sand-filled fire bucket, a tea trolley and a manual typewriter. Dresses are ankle length. The delivery truck must be cranked by hand. It’s a cartoon. Brightly coloured. Very busy.

The fine print on the lid proclaims:

The Picture On This Box Is Not The Picture On The Puzzle. It Is Just A Clue.

The picture on the puzzle is a modern day office. It’s also a cartoon. Brightly coloured. Very busy.

Not being able to see what’s ahead requires new strategies. Instead of being drawn to the accent colour, because the pieces stand out so dramatically from the others, it is necessary to start with the dominate colour found around the edge. Instead of asking “where does this piece go?”, the question is which pieces relate to each other, which share something in common.

Eventually, enough of the jigsaw is assembled and the old strategies re-emerge. I can see where it’s headed.

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Oregon State University Library published a 1969 paper written by Roger Hayward, a jigsaw puzzler since 1911. It’s a great read.

His wife sets out the puzzle pieces for him. He never looks at the picture on the box. He takes his time. He has a scoring system. If he tries to place a piece and it doesn’t fit, that counts as a error.

“Looking over the array of pieces is like thinking over the many comparatively unrelated memories in my mind. My psyche, like a demented mouse, goes poking about among the pieces, looking for shapes and colors that might fit the memory (just acquired) of other pieces. As I look at the pieces I am simultaneously putting memories of the pieces into my short-term memory for possible future retrieval. When trial proves that two pieces fit then the fun begins.”

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I’ve taken some photos of my modern day office. I usually pass the jigsaws to family. I’ll slip prints inside the lid. They can choose for themselves if they want to use them.

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The jigsaw

“The Office” by Graham Thompson.  Wasgij.

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Reference

Hayward, R. 1969.  “The Jigsaw Puzzle and the Inventive Mind”.  Oregon State University Libraries, Special Collections and Archives Research Centre

http://scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/coll/hayward/hayward-jigsaw/page1.html

 

Form One Lane

Blazing a creative trail out of decline

The radio announcer mentioned Spring. It’s the only explanation for my sudden rush around the house, pulling covers off cushions and shoving them into soapy water. That, and the fact that the sun’s out.

My Year of Sweat Squared hasn’t played out as planned. Last year’s Year of Sweat was a success, but I thought I could push it a bit further – hence the “Squared” component of this year’s theme. It hasn’t work for two reasons. First, my feet keep pulling me up. If it’s not one, it’s the other. I’m off to the podiatrist on Wednesday as a first step (pun intended) on a rest-of-my-life journey to keep my feet on the ground. I will not give up my bush walks.

Second, after four years of combining work and study, a lot of things needed tidying and rejuvenating. The garden was tired. My studio was tired. The pantry was tired. My office was tired. It’s not just that the physical spaces were in need of work. Nothing sang to me anymore. I needed some rejuvenation as well.

Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t think of anything fresh for the new Year Of theme.

So … now … it’s the days before spring. Eight months of the year have passed. Where am I up to?

The garden is much improved. Plants have been re-potted. New plants bought for previously empty pots. Vegetable garden is up and running again. The shed is cleared out, but still needs a clean out.

The studio is functional again. My office is part way there, but still a way to go. The pantry is … well, one shelf is done.

Those four years weren’t a total decline. I managed to keep a few things ticking along while burrowing my way through books and journals. I got a bit of sewing done, although that was more by necessity than desire. I learnt a lot about digital photography. And I re-established my love for jigsaws.

And therein lies a very important point. Even though great chunks of my life were stagnating, I kept the light burning. It wasn’t a blazing bonfire, but it was enough to keep my creative spirit alive.

So this weekend, in honour of Monday’s First Day of Spring, I’m reinvigorating my rejuvenation after the winter slow down. The cushion covers are off. Furniture is being moved. And another jigsaw will be finished.

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Will doubling my fibre intake reduce my allergy symptoms?

The internet is useless. I tried to find some information on vinegar and all I got was hordes of links to apple cider.

Over the last 18 months I’ve been looking out for information about the digestive system – the world of the gastro. I even tried emailing ABC’s Catalyst program with a request. I hoped to be another name on a possible petition that would eventually prompt them to do a story on the latest research. There must have been lots of names because we got more than just a 10-minute story. We got two half-hour episodes, Gut Reaction Parts 1 and 2.

The central theme of the two episodes was the relationship between fibre and the micro biome (ie gut bacteria). The surprise take-home message was the amount of fibre … 50g per day was mentioned. That’s double the currently recommended dietary intake of 25-30g.

I’d like to give it a try. My aim would be to find out if 50g of fibre a day will decrease my allergy symptoms. It would be a bonus if the extra fibre had a positive impact on my EOE and hayfever.

That will sound bizarre to many, but I’ve already worked out that improved gut health has a positive impact on my emotional resilience. I’ve already experienced the bizarre. The only rule I have for these experiments is that I should do myself no harm. According to Better Health Victoria, I can increase fibre intake without increasing kilo joule/calorie intake, but I should do it slowly.

Spring is not far away, so I’d better get started.  However, I suspect it will be difficult to maintain such an increase.

Unfortunately, even if it works, I’ll only be able to say “It could be the case” and only then if it’s a bad season and I’m obviously not suffering like everyone else.  Unfortunately, the down side of that scenario, eveyone else would have suffered through a bad season.  Sorry.

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Oh, and the vinegar … some of the researchers mentioned on Catalyst claimed it fixed asthma in mice. One researcher attributed his decline in puffer usage to it. But it could be a blood thinner and not everyone can cope with foods that thin the blood. Use with care.

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Related Posts

♦  EOE

♦  Exercise and Depression

♦  Exercise, Cortisol and Caffeine

References and Links

♦  Transcripts for the Catalyst episodes:  Gut Reaction Part 1  http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4067184.htm; Gut Reaction Part 2  http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4070977.htm

♦  Information on serving sizes and number of serves per day:  http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/the_guidelines/n55g_adult_brochure.pdf

♦  Better Health Victoria Fibre Factsheet:   http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Fibre_in_food