The false, tongue-in-cheek reveal of my newest camera "system."

I promised to reveal my latest camera purchase tomorrow but I thought I'd write something more fun today. I mean, really, who cares what I bought myself for my birthday anyway? It's nothing rare and fascinating. Just another toy for a spoiled 63 year old....

Here's today version:

So I was at this church parking lot and I went to back up my car. When you put the car in reverse the back up camera springs into action and a screen on the dashboard gives you a view of what's behind. I was fascinated by the in your face reality of the image I was seeing. A whole different way of seeing. If only I could capture this unique vision it would bring a whole new level of insouciance to my already tortured personal work.

I quickly drove home and pulled the Honda CR-V into the underground, thirty car, parking garage underneath the Visual Science Lab headquarters and started taking the car apart to see just how the camera and lenses that comprise the back up system were made. It seems pretty obvious that it's a video feed but as a still photographer I wanted to capture stills from from the feed. I grabbed a few Alien Ware gaming computers we had strewn about the shop floor and installed power supplies in the laptops that would work with 12 volts of DC electricity from the car's electrical system. I split the cable providing the video feed and ran it through a de-stabilize/re-stabilize archrinic filtering system in an attempt to improve the signal. It was getting better all the time. It was very, very Nyquist. And accutance-y. With profoundly muddled adjacency effects.

One fault of the camera is that it's a bit noisy and as you know I can suffer absolutely no noise in my images so I knew I needed to add light to anything I'd photograph with the system. To this end I put a serious roof rack with an inverse ceiling grid system to work and put several Broncolor flash systems on the roof of the car. I can trigger about 6,000 watt seconds of flash power with a big red button I wired directly onto the dash board. I decided the flashes were no good used directly so I opted for small softboxes on the six heads I intended to use. A quick test trip revealed that the wind generated at speeds in excess of 110 mph tore up the conventional softboxes in short order. To be honest they weren't doing very well even at 10 mph, so I had the VSL machine shop whip up six 30 by 30 inch stainless steel soft boxes with frosted 3/4 inch frosted Lexan for the fronts. You know, to diffuse light. With a bit of wind tunnel streamlining and some back and forth with the design team rev#13 gave us the aerodynamic profile I was looking for.

Once I'd color corrected and built a profile for the camera and rear facing lens we were ready to test. The routine is to find a scene that looks like a good candidate for the car camera and then turn the car around and back up toward the subject. This scared several mothers of cute young toddlers as we rocketed toward them in reverse, trying to get exactly the right angles and crops. The screeching of the tires and the sound of metal on metal from the brakes caused the small children to squeal in delight. Their mothers were less enthusiastic about our efforts to meld cars with photographic art. In the end we prevailed, the flashes worked and we pulled some stunning 600 by 400 pixel images out of the effort.

Now that file size might not sound like much but remember that we're deeply into the age of computational photography so running the resulting files through an Apple iPhone for a couple hours cleaned up the image nicely.

Now it looks something like this: This is the final output from hours of computational photography, machine learning and A.I. graphics restructuring. Unlike anything one could get from a conventional camera system.....

I think, if you squint and use your imagination, you'll agree that we're on to something here. I've been told that the back up cameras on the bigger Lexus SUV's have better bokeh so we're looking for volunteers who will let us rip the cameras and the imaging guts out of any 2018 Lexus SUV of which they are not especially fond. It's for art and research, who could resist?

Tomorrow we'll circle back to more conventional, boring cameras. 


  1. I wonder if you could sell this to Michael Johnston? It would fulfill his apparent need to discuss cameras and cars in the same blog.

  2. MJ would only be interested if the camera was dedicated b&w.

  3. The beauty of this, as your new system, is you don’t need a backpack to carry the camera, eh? And in actual fact, you may be unaware that thieves seem to love these cameras. A neighbor has had 3 tailgates stolen off his fancy pickup, specifically for the camera system it appears. And replacements cost as much as a new pro model m43. He now parks it, butt snug up against a wall so no one can access the rear end.

  4. Kirk,
    That is so last year with a Volvo.

  5. Great fun, and it could open up a whole new world of marketing for the car industry, which I understand is a bit in the doldrums at the moment. Have you seen the new Mercedes-Leica?

  6. I'm headed to the local "Wrench a Part" and begin harvesting the backup cameras from junk cars. Please do a "How to YouTube" video.

  7. My new hipster edition Maybach has a backup camera that produces a tiny daguerreotype every two seconds when the vehicle is in reverse gear.

  8. Now, this is something!
    Unlike some (landscape) 'togs who use "honest" PP methods to create dishonest pictures, you use - and admit it - less than honest methods to make a thoroughly honest photograph!
    Amazing what modern tech can do...

  9. If its not a Foveon X3 sensor in that back up camera, I'm out. Deal breaker.
    Hey, 1 image every 3 minutes works for a backup cam, right?

  10. This might be a tad unconventional and wacky, but how amount mounting a pair of the cameras on the front of the car to do 3D imagery? You may need to re-write the AI, and use a pair of 3D glasses to get the full effect, but cost is of no consideration when it comes to high art.
    Not THAT Ross Cameron

  11. A completely reasonable approach to solving your problem.

  12. No second memory card slot? Are you serious?
    Deal breaker.


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