Proportions, Space, Framing

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This is a slice through a Nautilus shell. This particular one is in the Zoology Museum in Cambridge, where I photographed it with my iPhone.

I tidied up the reflections and the background, but otherwise, this is a Nautilus shell as the Nautilus made it – except sliced in two.

The Nautilus has ninety tentacles that it waves about in the water to take food that passes. The shell is its home.

It starts out small, and as the Nautilus outgrows the shell it builds a bigger compartment around itself. You can see the little tubes that are its last contact with the compartment it vacates before it seals it off.

The Nautilus builds about 30 compartments during its lifetime. And in doing so it makes this spiral of air-filled compartments.

The compartments that have been sealed off are water tight, which is why a whole Nautilus shell without the creature that lives in it, floats.

I made a joke about the stupidity of Brexit, pointing out that during its life, at no time does the Nautilus abandon its shell in the vague hope that it will find another one as well fitting.

Here though, I just want to talk about the shape of the shell.

There are classical design rules. They are the rules that classical architecture follow. A certain height to a certain width, a certain distance to another certain distance.

Quite the opposite of building economically at the expense of craft and the love the product. That is, building to formula of whatever shape will satisfy the building regulations for the least wastage of plasterboard sheets to line out a room on a housing development…

Some people believe that the reason the classical design rules are as they are is because their appeal is hard-wired into our brains because of the way the world around us is constructed.

Or to put it another way, there is evidence of ‘rules’ of composition throughout nature, and these may explain why an extended form of these rules exists in classical art and design.

The Fibonacci Series in Nature and Classical Design

The Fibonacci mathematical series is simple. Start with the numbers 0 and 1. Add them together. Add the answer to the larger of the two numbers that have just been added. Repeat, and repeat, and repeat. That’s a Fibonacci sequence.

0 + 1 = 1
1 + 1 = 2
1 + 2 = 3
2 + 3 = 5
3 + 5 = 8 etc.

And as the series progresses, two things become apparent.

The first is seen if we construct rectangles with sides that are in the ratios of the series (1:1, 1:2, 2:3, 3:5, 5:8 etc) and set them one on another so that sides of the same length are laid on top of one another. If we then draw a line that curves to follow the corners of the rectangles, it forms a spiral.

And that spiral is the spiral that is echoed in nature – in seashells and fruit and flowers and endless features of the natural world.

The second interesting thing we can see as the series progresses is what happens to the ratio of the larger number to the sum of the larger and smaller numbers,.

In the example above I only got as far as 5:8, but if we keep going, the ratio approaches a number, a fixed ratio. It is that described and used in art and architecture throughout history certainly back to the Ancient Greeks, and which is known as the Golden Section.

Another way to express it is Phi (pronounced Fee), which is 1.618.

Take a length, any length. Divide the length by 1.618. The ratio of that part to the whole is what is called the Golden Section.

Here’s a a yellow rod. The red part if the length of the yellow rod divided by Phi.

The Golden Section is the ratio of the red part to the whole length of the rod.

And that relationship is used over and over in the classical tradition of design in art and architecture.

Turn the two parts of the rod at 90º to one another and we have the proportions of a room, or a picture frame.

Perhaps someone could make a digital camera with a sensor in that proportion.

Flying Twigs Advertisement

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Greeting Cards

I thought I would show the advertisement we put together for a trade magazine, that will appear beginning with the January issue.

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We are based in the UK, so for details of the countries to which we ship and shipping costs to those countries, please see the FAQs.

Pricing and shipping for posters depends on the size chosen. Check the individual product pages for details.

Ordering is easy and secure. Look for the padlock next to the web address. That tells you everything is encrypted. Plus, we use industry-leading Stripe online payments for secure checkout.

We have all our cards printed in the UK on top-quality, environmentally-friendly card stock with a smudge-free writing surface.

The envelopes are plain white, and they too are easy to write on (because don’t you hate it when the cards or the envelopes are shiny and you can’t write on them!). Score one for Flying Twigs!

Urban Sketcher

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I watched this woman sketching on the street in Cambridge during the Mill Road Winter Fair. She was drawing in her sketchbook whilst looking at the people across the road at a food stall.

I am pretty sure she is in the Urban Sketchers Meetup group because I spoke with another sketcher further along the road and he told me the group members were dotted about.

As you can see, this first image is a detail from the full frame shown below. I shot it with a Fuji X-T2 and the 18-55mm kit lens.

1/250th second at f4.5, ISO 800, focal length 42.5mm

The weather was dull, it was the first time I had used the camera, and the streets were pretty crowded. So all in all, a thumbs up for the camera and lens.

I particularly like the way the camera has captured the delicate champagne colour of the woman’s hair below her ear, near the collar.

Revisiting The Panasonic GF1

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Following on from me thinking about image quality, I have been going through old photos.

I have a folder of shots using the Panasonic GF1. I never liked the camera, or rather, I never liked the colours that the camera produced.

You can find many people complaining similarly if you google for Panasonic image quality.

That said, it was OK when the sun was not shining – pretty much guaranteed in Edinburgh.

The camera has a micro four thirds sensor. Image quality, as in the capability of the sensor to resolve detail is said to be proportionate to the linear length of the sensor; the longer the better.

So when looking at this little graph – it’s the linear length and not the increase in area that matters. As you can see, the micro four thirds sensor is about half the length of the full frame sensor.

What you might not notice is that the shape of the micro four thirds sensor is not the same as the full frame sensor. Full frame is 3:2, whereas micro four thirds is deeper: It’s 4:3.

That was a break with tradition that stretched back to the first Leica cameras a century ago.

The Panasonic GF1 is an ‘old’ camera in sensor terms. So, though, is the D700 from the previous post.

Here’s a photograph I took of a street performer in Edinburgh, and a closeup. I can see a lot more crackles, for want of a better word, that break up the image when viewed in detail.

Compare it to the Nikon D700 image in the previous post.

Does It Matter

Does it matter that the image looks worse (or looks worse to my eye) than the full frame image when viewed close up? After all, do we normally look that closely when viewing an image. 

My answer is twofold. Yes it matters because sometimes I look to look at images in detail and it’s a more pleasurable experience when the detail is cleaner. And secondly, there is a sparkle with full frame images that is noticeable even when the photograph is not viewed up close.

Shot at ISO400, 1/800th second, f3.5

The Nikon D700 That I Sold

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I sold my Nikon D700 some years ago. I sold it because it was a heavy camera to carry around, too heavy as a do-everything camera. It was fine for when I knew I would be photographing someone or something. But for carrying around casually, it was too much.

Also, it was full-frame. That meant that the lens were big and heavy because the circle described by the glass had to cover the large full-frame sensor.

Fast Forward To Today

Today I was going through some old photos to add portraits to my portrait photography site.

I came across a photograph I took when Tamara and I were in the town of Bath in Somerset. I checked the details and I shot if with my D700.

In Roman times Bath was named Aqua Sulis and centered around the bathhouse. The woman I photographed was dressed in Roman costume and was working as a guide, describing daily life in the baths.

Oh what depth of detail. It has stopped me in my quest for the next camera. I have to think again.

1/800th second at f5, ISO800

How Much Does The D700 Weigh

It weighs 1095g (2.4 US pounds) body only…