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.