Victus Spiritus


Genuine Posts are Images of Our Minds

23 Oct 2009


Images, Moments, What are Photographs?

You can chock this thought flow up to Fred Wilson's share of his daughter Jessica's blog post, the return of polaroid through the eyes of a teenage film photo blogger. Jessica illuminates her passion for analog photography and the hands on development process. Reader's can appreciate her perspective on the surprise and excitement that comes from finally seeing an image come to life. But somewhere in the space between the words, my mind began drifting as I tried to imagine the journey of photons reflecting off of surfaces and focused through the optical system onto a digital focal plane, or specialized film. There is more to this transformation than 3D to 2D mapping. Even time's role, which plays a critical factor (exposure), is only part of the story of photography.

Digital Imaging (comment from Jessica's post)

I think more about the optics (aperture, imperfections in it's curvature) and the process of the 2D mapping of photons from 3D sources. There's this compression of time and space that happens in an instant (or longer). It's a transformation that's beyond composition (that's too involved for this comment: briefly I'm a landscape/sky fan-> they both set my mind free), intensity and color (and blur) are our primary tools to capture something essential, or completely novel.

I enjoy the instant gratification and portable nature of digital (my phone's lousy optics & camera are always with me). But digital has many problems which plague it:
1) pixel cross talk
2) noisy pixels, (gain/bias)
3) jumping pixels (sudden shifts in response to incident photons)
4) dead pixels
All of which have to be accounted for by the software, and refinement of the focal plane manufacturing process. The digital quantization is always approximating the smooth region where photons can strike and binning them into pixels. But even our eyes work in a similar manner with cones capturing photons in a quantized manner during the day (giving us color), rods providing us with black/white night sensitivity to low light levels. It's our mind (and optical processing center) which creates a continuum from the nerve signals.

Quick Physics Behind Vision

In reviewing the physical process of how a digital photo is taken (my hard wired response to this profoundly human experiential share from Jessica), I realized something about the nature of images and photos. Our optical system quantizes measured photons in a similar manner to a digital focal plane. While rods give us black and white vision in low light conditions, our cones spatial orientation uniquely captures incident photons. While the majority are sensitive to red light (64%), some to green (32%), and only a tiny minority to blue light (2%). The proteins in the cones help trigger a nerve response which is channeled down the optical nerves to the part of brains that transforms these signals into three dimensional representations of our surroundings.

Blog Posts as Images

A photograph is a stylized measure of photons over a time period. Photographers create a timeless slice of three dimensional reflective surfaces. In an analogous way, this is how I view blog posts written by those who share their honest and genuine thoughts. Our blog posts are representations of the dynamic and complex state of our minds. A blog post is a stylized measure of our thoughts. In much the same way photographs are limited in their ability to adequately measure life, posts are limited in their ability to completely capture an author's state of mind. In the case of a post, the author's mind is the reflective surface, from which external ideas bounce off of. By all means fellow bloggers and photographers, illuminate me.