Monday, March 2, 2015

Why the 'color' of "The Dress" is important. Especially if you're a photographer

If you're not a photographer, the 'color' of the dress is important because it shows us how two people can look at the same object and see something different (wars have been started for less).

But if you're a photographer the 'color' of the dress becomes extremely significant...especially if you don't know the science behind why people are seeing different things. Yes it is a science...and as a photographer you should not only know why the photo is color-ambiguous but also how to use your photography knowledge to simulate similar scenarios and to solve problems that could arise for your client…without use of excessive Photoshop.

Okay back to the dress. People are either seeing “White and Gold” or “Blue and Black”. Those seeing one color or the other are not color blind or a tad mentally retarded. No they are not trolling you. They are ‘seeing’ what they are seeing. Some even see a different thing at different times, and what they see at any particular point in time is not exactly within their control. As a photographer, you should be able to see both colors at will. And yes we know the real color of the dress but for scientific/educational purposes, it is immaterial. A knowledgable photographer can simulate these scenarios using simple lighting and white balances without the use of photoshop. Ends up being as subjective as a science can possibly get eh?

Now to brass tacks:

If you want to see white and gold, first imagine that there is blue-tinted shade cast over the dress (and only the dress)...or that there is a tungsten white balance where deeply orange lights are being used to light the rest of the scene (and, somehow, not the dress).

If you want to see blue and black, imagine that most of the bright background is literally white or close to white (or a daylight color of sorts).

Explanation: if you shoot a bride in her wedding dress with Tungsten white balance, everything that is white in the image will appear blue. The eye (well the brain) is able to tell when something is actually white based on the color of everything else in the image. For example, the bride’s skin will be tinted blue also. However if you use a tungsten (orange) gel over a spotlight that only hits the bride’s face, her face color will appear 'normal', while her dress still appears blue. If a photographer were  somehow able to use orange spotlights to recolor everything else apart from the dress, he will have successfully, for all intents and purposes, changed the dress color from white to blue.

Check out Neil van Niekerk's blogpost (actually, check out all his blog posts)

In the first image on Neil's blog post, the model seems to be standing in a completely blue colored background but her face seems lit by daylight-balanced light. That’s because he used a tungsten white balance in-camera and an orange gel to spotlight her face.

It might be possible that the background is actually blue in color, but what gives it away is the blue tint of the model’s skin in areas that the spotlight does not hit.

Both views are possible in the controversial serendipitous image of “The Dress” because of the amount of dress shown relative to the surroundings and because we cannot see the rest of the dress showing the human inside it. It would have been easier to 'see' the original color of the dress (because her skin would be tinted blue or not). Also, if you zoom in on certain parts of the image, it's sometimes easier to see one color over the other, depending on what color is in the background.

This is similar to the Spinning Dancer illusion where the perceived direction of the girl's spin depends on what you see first.

Granted, in this particular controversy, if you look closely, you can find evidence that points to the actual color of the dress (blue not white) because you can see many areas around the boundaries of the dress that have absolutely no fall-off of blue tint or light. This implies that the blueness we see is not from an external source (or ‘wrong’ white balance) but from the dress itself.

I know there are people out there in the Twitterverse saying, "who cares?", but as photographers we ought to care because this is really what we do for a living.

Now the actual color of the dress is not important, it's just a dress for Pete's sake. What's important is why healthy people can see different things when looking at the same image. Calls to question the objectivity of our perceptions and how much we can truly trust our convictions.

Rant over.

How was your week? :)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Quick One! Watch What You Click

It's very easy to click on the wrong thing.
For example a search for "Google Earth" shows a suspect looking site as the top query.
(No reputable service needs to advertise themselves as "100% virus tested...Trusted Website")

Search results for "Google Earth" showing a suspect/phishing paid ad at the top.
Search results for "Google Earth".

Monday, June 16, 2014

Nigeria vs Iran, World Cup 2014: My Crazy Interpretation.

Super Eagle?
Okay I'll just let you know I don't know much about soccer so stop me when I'm wrong.
Nigeria faced Iran at 3PM Eastern Time on Monday, June 16th and immediately the match started the Iranians found themselves leading by a goalless draw!
So they set out to defend that lead with all the men they had. Since all their players were standing in front of the goal post, Nigeria's Super Eagles had no choice but to try to penetrate via the flanks. The only problem was the Eagles seemed content with getting the ball along the flanks all the way to the opponents corner and then stopping. This they did over and over until the Iranians realized they didn't seem to have an interest in scoring so they figured they might as well try and attack. So the Eagle's keeper, who'd been taking a nap all this while, had to wake up and explain to the Iranians that the Eagles were not necessarily intent on the Iranians went back to their post.

A certain Osaze fellow showed up much later for the Eagles. He seemed sort of interested in scoring but there was only so much he could do by himself.

The result was a match so er, 'peaceful' that the world was only too eager to wash the blandness out of their mouths. Luckily there was a USA vs Ghana game that started shortly after. And those fellows immediately went to show that they were actually interested in scoring.

You haven't stopped me yet...

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Infinite "Why".

Dear New Parent,

The time will come, and oh it will surely come, when your kid starts asking you "why"...instinctively and perpetually.

Your first experience could go like this:

Kid: Daddy can I go to the playground?
Kid asking exasperated Dad "Why"
The Infinite "Why"
Dad: No.
Kid: Why?
Dad (don't bother me kid): Because.
Kid: Why?
Dad: Because I said so
Kid: Why?
Dad ( might just be easier to reason with him): Because it's too late.
Kid: Why?
Dad: Because it's dark outside
Kid: Why?
Dad (hey this is kinda fun): Because the sun's gone down
Kid: Why?
Dad: So that we can go rest and get some sleep
Kid: Why?
Dad : Because if we don't get some sleep we'll be very tired in the morning
Kid: Why?
Dad: Because we're not machines, and even machines need their rest
Kid: Why?
Dad (okay this is no longer fun): Because sleep and rest is good
Kid: Why?
Dad: Why is sleep good? Are you even serious?
Kid: Why?
Dad (now this kid is just trolling): Hey will you stop doing that!
Kid: Why?
Dad: Do you want to go to time out?
Kid: No I want to go to the playground.

Now if you were a little more experienced, things could probably go like this:

Kid: Daddy can I go to the playground?
Dad: No.
Kid: Why?
Dad (now this is the correct response to every "why" that comes after a "no"): Because it's not yet time to do that.
Kid: Why?
Dad: (now this is the ultimate response to end all "whys"): I don't know.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The F Party

illustration of a police officer with an 'f' on his hat
F Police by DrAjao
Facebook’s DNA has changed. It started as a frat party that never ended and just kept growing until it was a complete festival (a la Burning Man) with sideshows, hippie communes, concession stands, people making out, people puking, pissing, pooping, using psychedelic drugs, rocking to music, drinking, eating good food, eating bad food...just generally having a good time in a way they know how and in the way they define ‘good’...
...but it still was a party. The party became very popular. More people flocked in. They came in with family and friends and left with strangers. Some didn’t even remember why they were there anymore. Some didn’t even remember who they were anymore… ...but it still was a party. More concession stands showed up. Generally, more people showed up to sell all sorts to the party goers. The organizers of the party charged them a token to set up their stalls, which were, by and large, ignored by the party goers…. ...I mean, seriously, we’re partying here.
Then all of a sudden, the frat boys grew up and party was bought out by shark investors hoping to make a good buck from this awesome party. Dude, this was a party where those who didn’t attend were basically committing political suicide! But it still was a party. The new management started to build. The vendors and partygoers alike were certain they were building stalls, soundstages, pedestals, pulpits, multi-tiered halls with ginormous viewing screens and badass sound... ...oh what a party. It turned out the management was building prisons. Okay maybe “prisons” is a harsh term...they were just containment cells for know, the flashers, the streakers, the party poopers, and the scammers (replete with clich├ęd imagery of a silhouetted character with a hat and long coat filled with stolen goods). Yaaay right? So when stone-faced bespectacled policemen started patrolling the grounds people hardly took notice. Only problem was, the policemen were not scouting for the above mentioned people. They were scouting for anyone who was being the life the party or attempting to do so. If anyone held a mic or a top hat, the Po Po was on him like Right Twix on Left Twix. Scoping him out, taking copious notes, asking people here and there whether that guy cracking jokes (in the corner full of belly-ache-laughing people) was trying to upsell them something else. If they caught anyone giving away free candy without a permit, they hauled his ‘hind off to cells.
man in top hat behind bars
Containment Cells by DrAjao

Yep...anyone who wanted to be the life of the party from then on had to pay for a permit. Management of course felt that the term “Containment Cells” was too negative so they tried to put a positive spin on things. They claimed that they were merely temporarily detaining those whose selling tactics were getting out of control so they don’t distract too much from the party. So they called the cells “Controlment Cells”. Before long, people couldn’t easily party with their friends any more. As if it wasn’t hard enough keeping up with them in the old days. Many new vendors who had paid for permits to sell things were flooding the party and replacing the real talent as the life of the party. So things got rather mundane and chaotic at the same time...if you can wrap such an oxymoronic concept around your head. Naturally, the number of people who got dissatisfied with the party reached a quorum of sorts. Some felt inundated, others felt insecure in the chaos, others suddenly gained insight into the fact that they were addicted to the more unproductive things in life. Others realized they were addicted to productive things...but these productive things were too many to keep track of. And unbelievably, others were bored! So they packed their little belongings and moved to the other big party on the other side of town (Google +). Now this place had the stalls, soundstages, pedestals, pulpits, multi-tiered halls with ginormous viewing screens and badass sound. The place was immaculate, wall to wall of spotless white...and the toilets actually flushed. Every party had a designated room and there was nary a roadside vendor or street hustler for miles. But it was too well executed to feel like a party. You could get work done though...there were numerous offices, studios, gyms, and all sorts of neatly compartmentalized places where you could do exactly what you came to do without being distracted and with less fear of compromising security. Nah...that wasn't a party. So they left the Google ‘party’ (The G party), swallowed their pride, and came back to the Facebook party (The F Party). They were welcomed without judgement by their friends. To be honest, most of their friends didn’t even notice that they’d been gone. Some who had never left the F Party had instead taken a vow of abstinence but their withdrawal symptoms were too severe. They were also welcomed back without to much mocking. The party was much too busy for anyone to notice anything. Management noticed people coming back though. That gave them the confidence that they were doing the right thing and shouldn’t be worried about competition. At least the F Party is still a party right?
bottle with red liquid and a label with the 'f' logo
Bottled Fun by DrAjao
But what about the empty echoing halls of the G Party? Well, see, the G Party planners couldn’t care less. The whole complex has already been paid for (while the F Party people still have to pay heavy rents and mortgages). The G people also know that if a major calamity were to befall the F Party, they already have a place for all the displaced to continue their party. Till such a time (if it ever comes to that) the F Party goes on. Sadly the DNA of the frat boy party for fun’s sake has morphed into this Orwellian marketplace attempting to put the fun into bottles, cork them, and then sell to the highest bidder. So there's lots of fun to go around... ...but that's not exactly a party :-/ Epilogue: An example of a company whose DNA hasn’t changed is Walmart (hate ‘em or love ‘em). The DNA of Walmart from day one has been “lowest prices possible no matter what”. You would think that when they became one of the biggest companies in the universe, they would thumb their noses at their customers, rebrand and start charging luxury prices. Nah they stayed true to their DNA because it worked at bringing in the people. The above article is not out of malice toward Facebook. Far from it...I've spent too long studying Facebook at Hard Knocks University, so I'm in for the long haul. This is simply a warning that they could still lose their customers if they focus too much on the money rather than the value.