Category Archive Arts

What is Chiaroscuro?

Chiaroscuro (key-ar-oh-skoo-roh) is a classic technique for giving visual depth to a two-dimensional image.

Mikko Reinikainen has on his Flikr page a wonderful, concise description that sums up this technique, using a 30º grid spot to illustrate.

Click to go to the Flikr page.

Using Graduated Filters in LightRoom

Quick tutorial on using the graduated filters in LightRoom by David Terry.



Musings on Art and Photography

Another local photographer posted a short YouTube video of the great photographer Ansel Adams speaking on visualization. The following are my comments on the subject.


As an artist in other media, I must go through the visualization stage. My pencil or brush can’t create an image by pressing a button. There are no short cuts.

Light-writing (photo-graphy) is a two-edged sword because it’s easy to push the button. It doesn’t take a lot of deliberate forethought to create beautiful, well-crafted shots. We can get very good at this with practice. People may pay a lot for our skills.

But as an art, we must go through the same deliberate process as using ink, pencil, or paint. Cameras do not allow us to turn off our brains, to short-cut the creative process of visualizing and working towards bringing that vision into fruition.

I find it true that light-writing this can be notoriously difficult. We have to manipulate intangible physical objects (photons). Because the camera stage can be so difficult, I think there’s a barrier that can make people reluctant to cross. The seduction, the Dark Side, if you will, is to be deceived that just because we can push a button and an image magically appears, we’re suddenly an artist without having to visualize and work the tools of the trade to make that idea reality.

As for tools, with light-writing, we have to start with the camera. If we’re creating what was not recorded, we’re not engaged in light-writing but moving to mixed media. This is not to suggest that it’s bad per se. (Also note that I include necessary post as photography (curves, WB,  etc.). We finish the creative process in post (LR, PS, etc.)).

I have no problem acknowledging that a lot of what I do doesn’t go through the full process. Much of it is to hone my craft, and make some cash doing it.

On the other hand, I find it a rather interesting anecdote that when people seek me or my work out, it’s always the shots that I’ve gone through the full creative process on. I had the idea, I worked the process, and those works grab people somehow.

Even in the studio yesterday, most of the shots were on the fly because of the action going down, but again, the one shot that got immediate comments, every time, was the one I thought through and created deliberately.

It’s not a scientific answer, purely anecdote, but I do find it interesting.

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I Listened Again

For the most part I detest “disposable music” — the ephemeral formula-driven stuff typically found on radio. My main beef with it is that it’s b-o-r-i-n-g. There’s nothing to really engage the mind or soul. It generally sounds the same, lyrics are predictable, and is designed to be consumed and tossed away. At this point people have read into those words what I did not say. I didn’t say it has no value. I said I don’t care for it for the most part.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the album Rainbow by Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎 あゆみ, also known as Ayu) has been musically interesting enough to actually buy last year. I’m still listening off and on.

The songs have variety in their style and instrumentation. Many have musical structure beyond type typical A-B-A-B. If you want to sing along, well, it’s Japanese with a few English phrases here and there. That kind of comes with the territory if you’re talking about J-pop stars. J is for Japanese.


Rainbow, Ayumi Hamasaki

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Opening Poem on “Twilight” by Vangelis

The lyrics that are floating around on the Internet are mindless cut-and-paste jobs by people who have never sat down and listened to the  beautiful opening poem on “Twilight” from Vangelis’ album The City.

日が暮れる。 Hi-ga kureru. Day falls.
それは時の魔法。 Sore-wa, toki-no mahō. This is time’s magic.
明日同じ時、 Asu onaji toki, Tomorrow at the same time
違う魔法。 chigau mahō. there will be a different magic.
それは色が香りに、 Sore-wa, iro-ga kaori-ni, It is when colour becomes fragrance,
香りが色に変わる時。 kaori-ga iro-ni kawaru toki. and fragrance becomes colour.
そして陰は Soshite, kage-wa Then shadow
限り無い青に溶ける。 kagirinai ao-ni tokeru. turns into fathomless blue.

(This is my shot at the lyrics as I hear them. Corrections and comments welcome.)

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Diffraction and Photography

At times I want a very long depth of field, so I shrink the camera’s aperture way down. I’ve noticed, however, that sometimes these photos are kind of fuzzy. After reading Diffraction & Photography, I realized that I may be getting bitten by quantum mechanics.

In short, shrinking the aperture increases the percentage of photons that act as waves, causing interference patterns. At very small apertures, it is possible for the interference pattern to spill over onto adjoining pixels on the camera’s sensor — causing the picture to start becoming fuzzy.

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The Furious Guitar

Finding interesting, engaging instrumental music — especially in the oft-tired genre of rock — can be challenging. The Furious Guitar from Magnatune grabbed me fairly quickly, and in the way that Vangelis’ Direct and Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells did so many years ago. When I say, “Don’t look for any of this on the radio any time soon,” it’s a great compliment.

The Furious Guitar by The Alien Mike ET

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Blue Voodoo

Sometimes a dose of old-school blues in in order. You might want to check out Mark Cook’s Blue Voodoo, a great mix of blues styles from basic guitar and harmonica to all-out R&B and blues rock.

Blue Voodoo by Mark Cook

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Nice song by Kazumasa Oda (小田和正) entitled Tashika-na Koto (A Certainty).

A quick Google turned up English translation of the lyrics here. I’ve not checked the translation, but at a glance it looks reasonable.

The stanza from 38″ to 1’01” grabbed me right away: the music, lyrics, and video of the father and child was a universal message that I had no difficulty understanding.

As time goes by,
can I love you?
Can I really protect you?
I looked at the sky and thought,
“What now can I do for you?”


Beautiful Khoomi Singing

This trio gives a clear presentation of khoomi singing, from Mongolia. The strange, almost whistling sound comes from shaping the mouth like the resonating box of a musical instrument, producing overtones. One can control the overtones by altering the shape of the mouth, allowing a person to “play” an instrument.

I encountered this interesting style of singing as a teen. In my twenties I spent time to figure it out, but haven’t practised for a decade or so. It’s not hard to figure out, but as with anything, mastering it takes serious, concerted effort.

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