More about color perception!

Human eyes have an average of 4.5 million color-sensitive ‘cone’ cells in that middle part of the back of the eyeball called the fovea (Latin for ‘small pit’). 

Stop now.  Try to stare straight at these words and, without glancing sideways, describe the color of something off to the side (a folder or a book cover or some other object).  You can’t do it, can you?   When you turn your eyes to the side, the folder is obviously yellow, the book cover is clearly green, and that flashlight is quite orange.

Did the objects become yellow, green, and orange because you looked at them, or were they yellow, green, and orange before you looked at them?  We’ll leave that to philosophers.

We know that human eyes with their cones are of three types, and here’s what frequencies of electromagnetic emissions they’re sensitive to.  For those who want to know the three parts of the visible color spectrum the cones in humans respond to, this should help.  (Yes, there is an overlap!)

Humans are blind to ultraviolet light – or infrared light – but not all animals are.  Bees and butterflies see ultraviolet areas of flowers that you and I and every living human have never seen and never will see.  (I’d show you a picture of what they could see, but that would be pointless, wouldn’t it?  You wouldn’t see the ultraviolet areas because  you are neither a bee nor a butterfly!)

Don’t feel bad, though.  At least you can see colors far better than dogs can!  They only have cones sensitive to blue and yellow.  See?


So what colors do most humans see?  (Remember, some are color blind, so we say “most”!)  Here’s one schematic that might help and might not.  If you’re curious, Google “1976 CIE Chromaticity Diagram” and prepare to be confused.  It’s ok to be baffled, by the way.

So, now we know it all?  Uh, sorry.  Mantis shrimp have 12 different cones in their light-sensitive organ that we’ll call “eyes,” – but humans perceive colors better than they do.  (Experiments!)

So, where does that leave us?  Well, that’s another topic we won’t discuss today: the human brain, specifically the occipital lobe (from the Latin word for ‘back of the head’).  That’s where all the incoming signals from those cones are turned into something called “color.”  

Once again, time to turn this over to the philosophers to talk about the word ‘perceive.’   Bye! 

Seeing: Edges and Movement!

Edges and movement are very closely related. Out of the corner of our eye we sense that something moved, but we don’t know what. It might be a butterfly or an arrow or a fluttering banner, but we don’t know what until we turn our eyes toward that ‘something’. And then, silouetted against the pale blue sky we see a shape that we recognize as a horse coming over the nearby hill. We don’t know what color it is because the light is ‘not right’ but we instantly know it’s a horse and not a pig or Aunt Edna or an ox cart. It’s the shape!

And what is a shape but an irregular edge? And now we get to the heart of drawing objects: reproducing the irregular edge that makes a viewer ‘see’ a horse. Our brains are filled with millions of shapes, but they all have one thing in common: edges! This is not to say that once you recognize a shape you’ll know what the object is. That round thing may be a golf ball very near you or a basketball further away. And the hint that provides a clue — almost instantly — is the motion.

Golf balls travel incredibly fast; basketballs relatively slower. What’s interesting is that seeing that golf ball coming your way is first perceived as a motion out of the corner of your eye, and then as you turn your head, you instantly think “Golf ball’. Hopefully you duck in time.

And what about that horse coming over the hill? It’ll get here eventually.

FOCUS Friday Night: Funtastic!

First, the May isssue of FOCUS Magazine will be out today (almost certainly). Second, dancing and live music will start at 6 pm SLT with our favorite Canadian, Maxmillion Kleene, to be follow at 7 pm SLT by Collin Martin, new at FOCUS. Third, tonight marks the opening of new art at our FOCUS galleries. We encourage you to take breaks from dancing and check out our Main Gallery, FAIR (FOCUS Artist In Residence), and the Exploratorium of Art.

Getting around is not difficult. It you see this gizmo, you are set. Click and teleport!

By the way, we have seen a ‘sneak preview’ of an article in this May issue of FOCUS by Angela Thespian, Editor, entitled “Art in The Metaverse”. I suspect we all see rumbles of change on the horizon. She puts them in context. More when you get your issue….

And we are not including stock photos of our two performers tonight, not because we don’t love them to death, but because we couldn’t get pictures of them driving to RL gigs, stuck in traffic, cussing up a storm. Really! We couldn’t! But they have both promised to make it to our virual world tonight.

So come on out and have some fun with a gazillion other fun folks. See you then!

Photo Contest Winners: “Flowers”

“April showers bring May flowers” is an old English rhyme, so the theme chosen for the monthly FOCUS photo contest was ‘flowers’. Results of the judges’ decision after more than 20 entries were received follow.

Jacinda Moon’s entry (above) was the judges’ top pick.

Full results of the judges’ were

First Prize: Jacinda Moon

Second Prize (tied): Starr Ghost and Jewel Doune

Third Prize (also tied): Markus Reid and Natali Breda

Honorable Mentions went to Scorp and to Amber

If you’d like to browse the entries and check out the popular votes, just tp into the FOCUS Quadrangle and walk around at leisure. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday or Sunday!

Friday: Monthly Photo Contest!

Some of over 20 images that FOCUS members have submitted this month!!

Starting at 6 pm SLT Grace Loudon will perform to be followed at 7 pm SLT by Wes West — and live music means lots of dancing and socializing! Why not invite that ‘special friend’ who never comes out on Friday nights?

As always, the voting booths are out, so that you can wander around Focus Quadrangle trying to outguess the judges and their choices of First, Second, and Third winners. Yes, the winners of this month’s contest will be announced. We promise!

Or if you want to instead of danciing you can pop into the FAIR Gallery, the FOCUS Art Gallery, or The Exploratorium of Art (just a short tele-hop away!) Fridays are just too good to waste staying home!

Cropping and related things…

Before you crop out parts of a photo, or choose not to do so, why not think it out?

When taking a photo (or drawing or painting): First, decide on an emotion or an idea you’re trying to show: fear, anger, loneliness, balance, variations on a theme, darkness, mystery. Second, identify what part of your image most strongly makes this obvious: A scowl on a face? A misty moutain over a dark lake? Birds soaring free of constraints? Totally dejected and drooping body language? Third, add something unexpected or jarring or off balance so your viewer pays attention through the clutter and distractions of his or her life.

Then, last, chop away at boring things that don’t support your objective. Do you really want a large empty sky? Why have so much foreground separating the viewer from that thing or person you’re focused on? Is all the ‘stuff’ behind the back of that person really needed or does it just make folks wonder: ‘Why’s that all there?’

Think of it this way, would you like to see this?

Or this?

In fairness, if you were in Nice, France, wanted to show how empty and clean your beaches are (photo: Blue Beach), you would not crop the foreground in the first of these two images. You might crop more of the sky (“Same sky as everywhere. So what?”). You might chop that lone person over on the right. (“Is that a woman or man? What is she/he doing?”). You wouldn’t crop the bottom, though. You want your viewer to *notice* the sand!

On the second photo, a bit more ‘artistic’, you want people to look at that bottle and its strange coloring. You chop off a lot of that irrelevant wood thing on the left, leaving just a bit of it. Why? To provide another group of browns to trick the mind into seeing the browns in that bottle and not just the greens.

See? It’s a lot about what you trying to do!

Invisible worlds; unheard sounds!

We think of RL as something ‘real’ and virtual reality as ‘not real but virtual’, but perhaps RL is less real than we imagine. Consider what we see. What an amazingly narrow range of the electromagnetic spectrum! Humans are ingenious creatures, so we create ‘translations’. We can’t see radar reflections, so we turn them into visible images on radar screens.

How much we miss! How little we see!” said one blind man to another!

We can’t hear radio waves, so we have developed machines called ‘radios’ to translate electromagnetic waves (called radio waves) into sounds we can actually hear. (Aside: Teenagers know that adults can’t hear the frequencies they can so they have ingeniously mastered the art of ‘cheating’ by communicating on audios frequencies they can hear, but that their teachers cannot!) A lot of animals can hear all kinds of sounds that humans cannot hear, too!

“Do you hear what I hear, said the night wind to the little lamb?

So, perhaps we shouild remember that we live in a tiny sliver of reality in “real life” and that reality is a lot larger than our narrow world called RL. Oh, by the way, if you want to be cool, compose music for bats, or draw images in infrared or ultraviolet light for the amusement and entertainment of butterflies, birds, and other critters. They might even blog about your work — or make sarcastic comments in audio ranges they know you can’t hear.

How enormous! How tiny!

If you know a pathologist like one that I know, he’s constantly taking microphotographs of weird things he sees under his microscope.   “Here’s a particularly photogenic arterial thrombus small enough to fit in a single field!” And doesn’t everyone know someone sharing photos of the moons of Jupiter or solar eclipses?

 Most of us tend to take photos of people (and often ourselves!).  But there are other ranges of photography.  The landscape is one.  If you look at the woodcuts of Hiroshige, there are folks there, but they’re minor decorations in a capture of the magnificence of wild nature. 

“Kanbara Evening Snow” — Utagawa Hiroshige (1833)

And there are still life images like this one:

Fly agaric, more properly called ‘Amanita muscaria

A part of photography is slowing down, carefully observing, and capturing some feeling or memorable aspect of our life.  (By the way, never eat one of these mushrooms; google it if you’re curious about fly agaric mushrooms!)   The world is filled with fascinating objects worthy of capturing in a camera – or if you’re skilled, with paints or pencils. 

Capture what?  Try concrete.  As an exercise, take 15 photos of concrete, and you may be amazed at how varied they can be!  Or patterns of foliage.  Or of beer bottles.  Or of clouds. 

It’s a big world.  Humans are just a tiny (though important part) of the universe.  Free yourself.  Look around.  Enjoy!  

Ruminations regards color…

We take color for granted.  Though we can distinguish an estimated 1,000,000 colors, most human societies recognize less than 11 of them in everyday usage.  Those intimately involved in jobs that require attention to color – artists, designers, photographers, and so on – have names for more than the basics.  Carnelian, bisque, smalt, amaranth, celadon, and viridian are just a few.  But here, other problems crop up. 

Do these English language words have equivalents in other languages?  Do two people talking about ‘celadon’ have the same thing in mind?  If not, how far apart are they?  And when and why does it matter if not?  There are ‘systems’ such as the Pantone Matching System (PMS) but don’t try to tell your mother-in-law that you painted your living room in Pantone 19-4052 ©. 

Even telling her that you read this may not impress her: “It instills calm, confidence, and connection.  This enduring blue hue highlights our desire for a dependable and stable foundation upon which we want to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.”  She’ll most likely respond: “Yes, dear, but what color is it?”

Here a smart aleck might say, “Hex 1D4E89”, and then further dig his own grave by explaining, “In terms of CYMK: 79, 43, 0, 46.  (Don’t try to look up the frequency of this color on any representation of the electromagnetic spectrum; I tried that and got no result back!) Ultimately, words describe things people focus upon intently.  Ask an oncologist about a tumor, and he’ll make distinctions that to the man-in-the-street mean nothing.

So, where does this leave us?  First: Observe colors when doing photography.  Even if you have no name for a color, try to memorize it, compare it to adjacent shades, and note how it changes – pixel by pixel – across an image.   And also, observe your emotional response to a color.  And be sensitive to the fact that a color you consider a symbol of blood (that family we call ‘red’) symbolizes luck, joy, and happiness in Chinese culture. 

Is one “meaning” right and the other wrong?  Probably not.  Just different.