You can relax. This isn't about politics.
Several recent pieces on Our Salon have talked about the fact that art is illusion. “that angry Buddha guy” had an article that specifically dealt with that and others like rosigami have alluded to it as well.
There are many tricks used to create the illusions. I’m not qualified to discuss all of them and it could be boring to do so, so, we’ll just look at a few.
Some colors seem to recede next to others. I read about this in psychology or art appreciation in college, but never really thought much about it until one night in New Orleans when I saw a neon sign that said something like “Boudreaux’s Best Seafood”. Each word was in a different color and some really appeared to be feet in front of or behind the others.
Note that the black and white image looks “flat” compared with the colored images. Which of the colored images looks more 3D to you?
Of course relative size is essential to giving perspective in a two-dimensional painting. (I know that an artist will give me an example of where that is not essential.)
I’ve played around with photography since I bought my first 35mm, SLR Canon camera in Vietnam. Nothing on that camera was automatic. The camera had to be set for the speed of the film you were using and the shutter speed and f-stop had to be adjusted for the shot you were taking.
You might ask how photography is art and I can’t answer that; I just know that it can be. Illusion was a big part of film photography. By adjusting the settings on the camera you could manipulate the depth-of-field. A dew drop hanging on the end of a leaf could be all that was in focus in a shot, or the entire foreground and background could be included.
Today, I take everything with a digital phone camera. That’s both a boon and a hindrance.
I point and shoot in relatively large format because in usual light conditions I can’t see anything on the screen. Then I go to a dark room, delete the obvious duds, and then upload to a computer to get the image large enough to further cull and edit if necessary. I wouldn’t be able to take photos now with a film camera because most of the selection and editing happened as you were setting up the picture.
So, what is the downside to digital photography – at least the way I do it? The depth of field is infinite unless you trick the camera into thinking it is taking a close-up image, lock that setting in place (a photography buff showed a group of artists how to do that one day at our art guild) and then shoot. That wouldn’t work for me. So, what’s lost?
If you take a picture through a screen on the door or window on a film camera you can make the foreground so blurry that the screen isn’t visible. If you take it with an infinite depth of field the screen is visible as well as the pile of trash in the background. With film you could make both if not invisible at least not the point of interest. It’s harder with an iPhone.
Note that the shallow depth-of-field blurs everything in the background and to some extent the foreground.
I imagine that with a good digital camera this isn’t a problem. I’ve never used one.
The other night, a day or two after the full moon, I took pictures of the moon coming up over the ocean. I started with my phone and couldn’t figure out how to turn the flash off, and fearing that I would lose the moment I ran to get my iPad. I quickly took a couple of shots, and then fiddled with the flash to make it non-automatic, and then took a few more shots. One of the things about night photography that works in my favor is that the usual bright light of day that shuts my vision off, is gone, and I can look at images in “real time” as I take the picture. Even then I get surprised.
Back in the day of film I loaded my camera with B&W film, set the camera on a tripod in the background during a “heat lightning storm” in a suburb of Phoenix where we lived at the time, and set the exposure to “B” (open until I closed the shutter) and left the shutter open for a couple of minutes. When I got the pictures back I had to laugh. Yes, I had captured numerous lightning flashes so that the sky looked like a network of jagged white lines, but I had also captured a grid of power lines at the back of the lot that I had never noticed before. The camera sees all.
Seeing all can be a bad thing or it can, through serendipity, be a good thing.
Here are some of the pictures of the moon with commentary:
This was a quick shot. The image is a little blurry to my eyes, and the reflection on the water is not very striking.
This was taken with the iPad on my knees as I sat in a recliner creating an improvised tripod. Note that the reflection is much more interesting now that the moon has risen a little higher over the horizon. The fact that the reflection on the water is much closer than the reflected light from the moon makes haziness created by the moist air less noticeable. Also, note the thing I missed; the light of a boat on the horizon centered on the path of the reflection.
The beacon on the boat is very bright and discreet, presumably because it is transmitted light. The reflected light is brighter than earlier, and shows more of the wave movement, I think because the moon is a little higher in the sky. To my eye it looks like the boat is sailing right down the reflection toward the camera.
This is a bit later. The boat is actually sailing along the horizon and not over it. The lack of centering here doesn’t make as interesting a picture. Illusion can be a matter of context.
All illusion happens in your brain. Your eyes just capture the image. Your brain then creates a story to go with that image.
I read this morning that Ringling Circus has folded its tent for the last time. It seemed propitious to talk about timing and illusion.
My great aunt was a trapeze artist with one of the big circuses. How did that ever happen? I wish there were pictures. The days of circuses are over, I guess, as they have been upstaged by politics. I know, I said this wasn't about politics.