The Casual Blog

Tag: Nikon D3200

Art, technology, and our bedroom v. 2.0

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I saw a story this week about the predictions of various tech company execs as to developments in 2013. The most interesting one to me was that 2013 would be the year of art. The prediction was that the coming year should bring a shift in which technology begins to enable a new creativity.

It struck me as unlikely that we’d see such a major cultural shift this year, but I liked the idea of focusing on how technology might advance creativity. Clearly, it sometimes does the opposite. Television, for example, has on balance surely made us duller, and I worry that Facebook may be no better. But the internet opens a vast number of possibilities, and the tools and portals keep improving.

A case in point: one of my 2012 projects was to learn to draw on my iPad. I found the tools I tried awkward and glitchy. The line would be flowing fine and then for no apparent reason stop working, and need to be reset. Frustrating. I put that endeavor aside for the time being. But the prospect of an amazingly convenient and flexible drawing tool with all the convenience of a tablet is close, if it’s not here already.

As regular readers have heard, I’ve been experimenting with digital photography in recent months. My hope was that with my entry-level DSLR (a Nikon D3200), I might find expressive possibilities that exceeded those of my trusty-but-inflexible Canon point-and-shoot. In any event, getting new equipment tends to inspire new efforts. This is, of course, a slippery slope — it’s possible to shovel a lot of money out the door on fantastic lenses and other equipment without realizing much of an artistic ROI — but so far I’ve kept equipment urges under control, and I’ve made some images I liked.

Lately I’ve been focusing more on what to do with those images Again, technology is expanding the possibilities. I’ve been experimenting with Photoshop Elements to tweak them, and with Flickr and Dropbox for storing and sharing them. Some I’ve shared in this blog. Sally gave me my first digital photo display frame for Christmas, and I set it up with a slide show of my images from our Christmas diving trip to the Turks and Caicos. I’ve been turning it on when I sit down for breakfast, and getting a quick taste of the remarkable beauty of the reefs.

Rita Tiller in bedroom v. 2.0

Rita Tiller in bedroom v. 2.0

Last week I took on a bit of a retro project. In the fall, we engaged Blair Sutton, an interior designer, to help us re-do our bedroom, which had a traditional look that didn’t work with the rest of the space. Blair somehow took our vague concepts and came up with a design that was contemporary but also relaxed and calming. She is truly an artist. One of her ideas concerned the space on the wall over the bed.

She proposed three frames from Pottery Barn hung side by side to be filled with small images of our creation. I’d been thinking for a while about getting some of my own images on our walls, but it never got high enough in the priority queue until Blair’s directive. I took the triptych as a challenge, and though it took a while, it finally got me focussed.

Eventually I picked three images from the Turks and Caicos set (two of which I previously published here) and took them to Rite Aid drugstore to print. (There turned out to be a small learning curve on this. I actually had to take them in twice, because I didn’t get them in an acceptable format the first time.) Anyhow, the prints turned out fine, and Sally volunteered to do the framing. We were both happy with the results, and enjoyed the collaborative process.
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Chilling with Robert Frost and a new camera

The hot weather finally broke last week, after setting a temperature record here in Raleigh for most consecutive days over 100 (6) and tying the all time high of 105. Most of the time, I’m in air-conditioned environments, but still, I usually try to spend some time in unprocessed air. During the recent heat wave, though, the idea of communion with the natural world seemed rash. The brutality of nature was in full display.

To cool off mentally, I refreshed on The Wood-Pile, a poem by Robert Frost. I memorized this chilly thing a while back for no good reason other than its stark strangeness. It begins, “Out walking in the frozen swamp one gray day, I …” The narrator at first sees nothing but “tall slim trees.” It seems matter of fact, but it’s completely strange! Who goes walking in a frozen swamp? Especially when the sky is gray and gloomy?

As with other great poems by Frost, what seems at first to be simple factual reporting turns out to raise question after question. The nominal focus of the poem is on a well-formed cord of wood incongruously left in the middle of the snowy swamp. The narrator has personal knowledge of the hard work required to cut so much maple with an ax, and is baffled and offended that anyone could invest such effort in a fine wood pile and leave it “far from a useful fireplace.” He speculates that such a person must be someone who “lived in turning to fresh tasks.” This is, from the narrator’s viewpoint, a strange and disturbing thing. And so we wonder more about the flinty narrator.

A woodchuck near the Buckeye Trail

Is it a bad thing to turn to fresh tasks? The poem make us wonder, but still I think, generally not. New challenges are, more often than not, good. I undertook one last week and bought my first digital SLR camera with the thought that I’d like to engage with the visual world a little differently and take better pictures. I’ve been drawn by photography since I was a kid, but in the pre-digital era was discouraged by the difficulty of working with film (dark rooms, chemicals, and so forth) and the expense.

I also worried about that the camera sometimes shuts off the photographer from experience. Think of gaggles of tourists taking snaps of the Grand Canyon — and forgetting to look at it. Direct experience of beautiful things, or even not-so-beautiful things, is a terrible thing to waste.

Balancing that risk, though, is the possibility of finding a different way of seeing, and also a different pathway for communication. I’ve enjoyed using my little point-and-shoot to share images with friends, and noticed that at times taking a picture created an interesting shift in my own visual perspective. A photograph is an abstraction from a larger visual reality, but being conscious of this can focus attention on the larger reality. Deciding whether something is worth snapping and how to snap can open things up.

Anyhow, I got a Nikon D3200 with two Nikon lenses (an 18-55 zoom and a 55-300 zoom). Although the D3200 is an entry-level SLR, it is, to me, amazing technology. 24 million pixels! Four shots per second! ISO 100-6,400! Fast autofocus! A vibration reduction system! HD video with sound! And it fits my hands perfectly. All that it requires is knowledge, experience, and creativity.

I was thinking that it would be fun to photograph wildlife, and especially birds. I’m also interested in trying to look at human-built places that are not intended for show, places that happen as a by-product of other objectives, to see what we might be missing. Above and below are some of my first efforts.

Mallard ducklings at Lake Johnson