Working With Weird Wood: Preface

A few years ago, Nancy took a photograph of her junior-high-school best friend JoAnne’s father on a tractor at his northern-Florida homestead and gave it to JoAnne. After he died, JoAnne brought the picture back, along with some of the old fence pickets from the property, and asked if we could use them to frame the picture. After a lot of research, planning, and experimentation, this is what we came up with:

From Fence To Frame

The pickets were thin, dilapidated, warped, and dirty. The few articles I did find were about “barn wood” which, although it had a slightly distressed surface, was still thick and sound with straight, flat, parallel and perpendicular sides – none of which applied here. The articles were not all that helpful and not all that well written. I thought this project could be an opportunity to learn something new, and to share it with you. I hope I took enough notes and pictures to show you exactly how this frame was made. At least that’s the plan.

But First . . .

From math class, you may remember that one problem-solving strategy is to solve a simpler problem first and then use that answer to help solve the harder problem.  With that in mind, I have an idea to write a series of short articles on working with weird wood to make frames, so that I can draw on that information in the final article about this project.  The first article will be about working with pieces of moulding of different widths in the same frame.  Then I see a discussion of moulding where the inside and outside edges are not parallel.  Maybe then we’ll work with wood with a wavy inside edge.  Following that may be a discussion about what to do when your moulding is curved (but with uniform width).  But even before the first article, I may have to give a short post about matting techniques.  My hope is that by doing all of this it will expand your view of what’s possible and it will stimulate those creative juices of yours.  These articles will probably not be consecutive blog posts; another art festival season has just begun and other things will invariably come up as I am writing these pieces.  So please be patient and stay tuned.  Thank you!

Our Newest Teacher’s Poster, Pupating Monarch, Is Ready

Less than four months after creating our “Pupating Monarch” imageblog, the new posters are ready. We first mentioned these four years ago in Teacher’s Special – Laminated Poster Of “Emerging Monarch” Is Ready!. They are the same size, specifications, and price as our original poster ($15 for 17″ by 28″ signed poster, laminated on both sides).  Like the “Emerging Monarch” poster, they can’t be displayed in our booth during art festivals so you may have to ask for them (or you can contact us directly anytime and we will mail them).

My Answer To “What’s Wrong With This Picture”

Background

Several days ago, I showed a photograph and asked: “What’s Wrong With This Picture”.  Here is more information.

Sideways Moon (overview)

Nancy took this overview a minute later. Both were taken in March 2016, while we were on a trip to Antarctica. The mountains (and snow) in the first picture should have told you “we’re not in Kansas (or Florida), anymore.”video The moon in both pictures is waxing (growing) gibbous (more than half full), meaning the full moon would be five days later. Those are Gentoo penguins you see in this picture. She took these photos on the way back to the ship after our morning excursion, as I remember.

My Answers

Although I was a bit surprised nobody mentioned that the moon, as the subject of the first picture, was too centered, thus violating the rule of thirds, one member of my camera club did think the image confusing because she wasn’t sure what the subject was.  That was a completely valid point and was probably why Nancy had to be coaxed into taking that picture.    The overview shown above might be better in that respect, but here is why I (the technical support guy) found the image interesting:

The moon and the sun follow similar paths across the sky and the lighted part of the moon always points directly toward the sun along that path.  Every time I’ve ever seen the moon just above the horizon, it was pointing almost straight up (or down).  The moon in these two pictures is pointing to the left, a difference of almost 90° from my normal.

The mountains give almost no locational clue, but the snow at sea level tells you that we are not that close to the equator and the penguins tell us which hemisphere we are in (the specific species will narrow down the possible locations even further).  The angle of the moon does the best job, however, of narrowing the geographical possibilities – showing that we were close to the (Ant)arctic Circle.

To get the same effect with Photoshop wouldn’t be that hard, but would take more than just cropping.  And this effect doesn’t fall in the impossible range, like a star between the tips of a crescent moon, or maybe either type of eclipse during the quarter moon, so it is unlikely to be found in a unicorn shot or the like.  It is just a very unusual perspective that I wanted to appreciate for what it was and share with my friends.

By the way, this is the third article (set) I’ve published in the last three weeks involving the moon.  But fear not, I’m ready to move on.  Thank you for listening.

Adding Size-Appropriate Objects To Your Image

I’ve had a few opportunities lately to help people edit their photographs where they wanted to combine two photos into a composite and were worried about the relative sizes being proper, especially when the camera settings and/or the scene were not identical.  Based on these experiences, I’ve created a couple of scenarios to introduce certain concepts.

A Safe Selfie

Suppose you need to add part of a wild animal behind you – to make a safe selfie, if you will.  Most of your composite shots, where two objects are moved around in an image with plenty of other size reference points, fall in this category.   Generally, combining subjects is a two-part process:

Resize One Picture To Match Pixels Per Inch For The Two Subjects

First, you must know the physical size of the two objects.  In the selfie case, you probably already know your own size, but suppose you want to place the head of an animal (whose picture you took from a safe distance) right behind you.  In one case, I Googled an animal to get size information but could not find the size of the head of an adult male of that species.  They did list shoulder height, however.  So then I found a picture of this type of animal online that showed the head and enough of the animal to measure its shoulder height (since my client’s picture of the animal did not have all of these features), and by comparing the two measurements on the picture, found the size of the head.  Fortunately, it’s not always that hard.  Now, measure the subjects in your two pictures in pixels.  Divide the number of pixels by their length in inches.  Resize one of the images so that the pixels per inch that you just calculated are the same in both pictures.  For example, let’s say your 6-foot height (72″) measures 792 pixels in the first picture.  That’s 11 pixels/inch.  The alligator or bear’s head, which you found to be 24″ long, measures 192 pixels in the second picture, for 8 pixels per inch.  You can either enlarge the ferocious animal or downsize your likeness.  If you want to reduce your size, open the first picture in Photoshop.  Click on “Image” in the menu, and then “Image Size…”.  Make sure the “Resample” box is checked.  Multiply the pictures existing resolution (say 300 Pixels/Inch) by the target pixels per inch calculated above (in this case 8 to match your animal) and divide by your starting pixels per inch (11).  That gives you 218.182, which is what replaces the existing 300 in “Resolution”.  Hit “OK”.  Now, you and your animal head are the appropriate sizes, if you plan to put them side-by-side in your picture.  If you want to move one in front of the other, its size will change.

Use A Vanishing Point To Resize One Subject For Changing Distance

Now you can use vanishing points to maintain the correct sizes as you move your objects into place.  We’ve already explained that process in Using The Vanishing Point To Keep
The Size Right When Moving Wildlife Around
.  I would like to point out that as long as your object stays the same distance from the camera, or in the same focal plane, you can move it up, down, and all around without changing size.  If you move it closer to the camera, it should get larger.  When you move it away, make it smaller.  Once you resize it for its new distance, you can again move it up, down, and all around within that new focal plane at no extra cost.  Also, once you find the horizon in your picture, it doesn’t matter which point along that horizon line you use as the vanishing point; all of them will resize your object correctly.  Pick a point that is conveniently off to one side far enough to make long enough construction lines to give you some precision when changing size.

A Beach Scene

I also helped somebody with a beach scene that invoked two simpler special cases of the resize problem.  The base or background image was a wide-angle beach scene and the photographer wanted to add objects that they took with a zoom lens at the same scene that same day.

Floating Objects

The photographer’s intent, in this case, was to shoot objects floating on the water near the horizon with a strong zoom lens and add them to the picture so that they looked closer.  An object floating in the water is restricted to a specific plane in such a way that its distance from the horizon is directly related to its distance from the camera (within a camera’s normal field of view), which is the determining factor in that object’s relative size.  As long as the horizon is in the picture, this is no problem.  Whether you add that object at its original pixel size (as magnified by a telephoto lens) or even if you scale it further in Photoshop (by holding down the shift key to preserve the aspect ratio as you move a corner of the selected border while using the Move tool, for example), as long as you keep the horizon of the added object directly on the same line as the horizon of the background, the invisible construction lines from an invisible vanishing point will ensure the size and placement of your object are in agreement.  If the horizon is not in the picture, then you need to look for other size references and handle as in the first general case discussed above.

Flying Birds

Birds (or other airborne objects) are even easier.  Their position is unrestricted and, more importantly, there are no other size references in view so there is really no way of knowing how large the object really is or how far away, meaning that if it were a ball, there would be no way for you to tell if it is a large ball far away or a smaller ball up close.  If you are familiar with the object and know how large cooper hawks are, for example, then your brain will automatically assign the hawk an appropriate distance based on its size when trying to make sense of the picture.  You can put that hawk just about anywhere and the viewer won’t know the difference.  Obviously, if you put a pigeon in a hawk’s talons then each would act as a size reference for the other and at least their relative sizes would have to match.  If they were not touching (or near enough to imply an interaction), there would be no such restriction.

Other Considerations

Lighting

There are other positional clues besides size to think about.  On a sunny day, an object’s shadow provides positional information, namely the object’s relationship to the sun, which must be consistent throughout the image (for best results).

Perspective Changes

When you shoot someone’s face with a wide-angle lens from a close distance, it will not look the same as when you shoot the same face from far away with a telephoto lens.  An example of this is shown in the fourth image from the top at Choose the Right Lens to Make Flattering Portraits (the only image that’s in color). I’ve seen some experts blame this on lens distortion (as the guy in this otherwise great video at Focal Length for Storytelling – How Lens Choice Affects Your Images, but I don’t consider that lens distortion.  There is such a thing as lens distortion, but in this case, the subject’s nose really does look bigger and the ears really do disappear behind the cheeks if you were to close one eye and look at that person from 3″ in front of their face.  I call that a perspective shift and it is strictly a matter of angles and geometry, not lens issues. The “distortion” occurs when you take that image out of context by changing the perspective, which happens quite noticeably when you move an object from very far away to very close (or vice versa) in your image or if you take a 180° panorama, for example, and print/display it small enough to cover only 15°.  This perspective shift is virtually impossible to correct in Photoshop, so don’t go too wild while moving things around in your picture.  (Interestingly, it is by a lack of any perspective shift that you can catch somebody who created a reflection in their picture by just adding a flipped subject in post-processing.  The explanation of this tangent to today’s topic would require a separate article, however.)

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
As it turns out, I am not the first to call out the lens distortion theorists. See Daniel Baker’s blog Face distortion is not due to lens distortion.

 

Well, that’s about everything I know on this subject.  Please feel free to contribute your own hard-earned understanding of this issue for the betterment of photography in the comment section below.  Thanks.

Two More Eclipse Questions

While we are on the subject of astronomy, I’d like to share just a bit more about eclipses.  Here are my questions (those who follow us on Facebook may have already seen these questions.  Try not to blurt out the answer before your friends have had a chance to think about it):

Question 1:
If the sun and moon both travel from east to west, why was the total solar eclipse last August seen first in Seattle and last in Charleston?
Answer:
The simple answer is that as the sun and moon race across the sky, the sun (on the outer lane) is overtaking the moon (on the inside lane). Here is an illustration of that.

Solar Eclipse Diagram
This drawing is not to scale

Since the surface of the Earth is moving from west to east as the Earth rotates, the big question for some of you is which is moving faster. Turns out it is the shadow. (Actually, the Earth’s rotation is reflected by the movement of the sun in this picture, but the question is still valid).

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
Here is an Earth-centric partial drawing of our solar system showing most of the details/numbers that needed to be considered in arriving at this answer.Solar System Diagram
The above ignores details like the fact that the Earth’s axis of rotation is not the same as the axis of its orbit around the sun or the axis of the moon’s orbit around the Earth. These factors affect the path of the eclipse across the Earth. Here is a map of the paths of all the total (and annular (defined in next note)) solar eclipses crossing North America in this first half of the 21st century.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
Because of the elliptical nature of the moon’s orbit, sometimes it seems larger than the sun and sometimes smaller (Based on the average distances shown in the second drawing (hidden in the previous note), the moon would be smaller). If the moon appears larger than the sun and completely hides it during an eclipse, it is called a total eclipse and its path is shown in blue on the map. When the moon appears smaller, the sun can peek out all around it, and it is called an annular eclipse. Those paths are shown in yellow.

Paths of Solar Eclipses
I derived this from other maps found at a NASA website. This information is courtesy of Fred Espenak, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, from eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov.

Question 2:
Which side of the country would see a lunar eclipse first? Why?
Answer:
This could be considered a trick question. As the second drawing (hidden in first note) suggests, the geometry of a lunar eclipse is totally different from a solar eclipse and so the relative sizes of the shadow and the object being shadowed are completely different.
Animation of Solar Eclipse
Our last animated illustration shows the relative size of the Earth and moon (shadow) from the sun (under specific conditions) during a solar eclipse, but for a lunar eclipse imagine the Earth is the Earth’s shadow as the moon (in the place of the moon’s shadow) goes behind it. As the moon flies into the shadow, that event is visible simultaneously wherever the moon can be seen. For another (possibly better) view, see the second illustration in “A Nighttime Solar Eclipse?”.

Well, that should just about cover everything you ever wanted to know about an eclipse (and more). If you have any questions, you can ask in the comment section, or you may just want to consult an astronomer.

A Nighttime Solar Eclipse?

When I tried to print our second 26″ by 36″ canvas copy of “Eclipse Over Long Pine Key”, the colors were as shown below. I thought one of the ink cartridges must be empty or the printer had a clogged nozzle or something. I pulled out the roll of canvas, performed a cleaning, and did a nozzle check, all of which went well, so I did a small (5″ by 7″) test print on luster paper. It turned out the same way. It was late so I just shut off the printer and went to bed. The next morning the printer passed all tests and I was able to make the correct print with no problem. I’ve never had that problem before or since. I was intrigued by the picture and kept the small print as a memento.  I have no idea how to duplicate this image.

Nighttime Solar Eclipse?

Often, when people see the original version hanging in our booth at an art festival, many of them think it shows a time-lapse of the phases of the moon.  I assure them that although the moon plays a crucial role, it is not directly visible in the image. Below is an animation showing the three different celestial events involving the moon.  A solar eclipse happens only during the day when the moon is new, while the lunar eclipse only happens on a night with a full moon.  In the animation, both of those are total eclipses, while both versions of our “Eclipse Over Long Pine Key” show only a partial solar eclipse.  The third part of the animation shows a complete lunar cycle with all the phases of the moon.  In this case, unlike the other two events, the edge of the obscured part of the celestial body will always touch both poles.

Moon Animations

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
While all parts of this animation are drawn to scale as seen from the Earth, the time compression is different for each celestial event.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

This barely retouched picture (not even cropped – only overcoming camera sensor limitations), which Nancy took a while back (at my request), shows something that most people never see.  Another good question might be “What aspect of this photograph gives the best clue about where it was taken?”

Sideways Moon (closeup)
There may be more than one correct answer to these questions.  I’ll have my answers in two weeks. Stay tuned!