Thursday, April 08, 2021

Four Photos, Four Truths


I captured the above photos by running by the same set of trees for 4 weeks. Here's four take-aways from this experiment.

1. Trees are Amazing

They take whatever abuse nature and humans throw at them during the winter, and just when you think they can't possibly be alive, they explode with growth. I know this is how trees work, but still, it's amazing.

2. Unix is Great

I had dozens of the photos of the above scene, yet I needed to pick the best four photos to work with. After downloading a zip file of all images, I ran the following Unix commands to organize them:

# Make a directory for each day and store all the day's photos
# in it
$ for f in *.jpg; do d=$(identify -verbose $f  | \
                         grep exif:DateTime: | \
                         awk '{print $2}' | \
                         sed 's/:/-/g'); \
    mkdir -p $d ;  \
    mv -v $f $d; \
renamed '20210311_165836.jpg' -> '2021:03:11/20210311_165836.jpg'
renamed '20210311_165840.jpg' -> '2021:03:11/20210311_165840.jpg'
renamed '20210311_165842.jpg' -> '2021:03:11/20210311_165842.jpg'
renamed '20210316_165538.jpg' -> '2021:03:16/20210316_165538.jpg'

# Launch the feh image viewer to preview each
# directory's images at once
for d in *; do (cd $d ; feh --auto-rotate -i  -E 300 -y 300  *.jpg &) ; done

Using feh I was able to get a visual overview and then pick the four best matching photos.

3. Art is Hard

In my mind's eye, this project was going to result in a composite image that displayed the breathtaking transition from lifeless landscape to Cherry Blossom Greatness that the DC area is known for.

Needless to say, I missed that mark:

You can see the transition in the above photos, but there's nothing jaw dropping about it. My attempt to capture the scene precisely the same way every week was a bust, and many of the trees around where I took these photos were bursting with flowers while the trees I focused on where relatively bare.

Ultimately, I got out of this project what I put it into. I grabbed photos while out on my run, and the results look like this.

All this makes me appreciate a well crafted art project, the likes of which takes notable time and attention. And if you do it right, folks will almost certainly think I could have done that.

4.The App I Needed

To do this project right, at a minimum I'd need more care in picking my location, more time to allow shooting multiple locations, and the use of instruments (measuring tape, compass and tripod) to confirm consistent camera placement.

However, I could have shortcut this a bit if I had a camera app that supported Onion Skinning. That is, the ability to show a partially-transparent imagine in the camera preview. This allows lining up a shot using a guide-photo.

A quick search on Google Play returned a couple of options for a camera app like this, though none of them looked like a fit for me. Ionic, my app building framework of choice, has a Camera Preview plugin. An interesting test would be to place a partially transparent image over the Image Preview component. If that works, then I could make my own 'Onion Skinning Camera App' with relative ease.

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