The biology of seeing

I came across this lone maple leaf on a vast lawn of seaweed at low tide. To me this image is about texture and contrast. Not a gorgeous scenic, but an intimate pleasing composition. My eye is drawn to the bottom third of the image where the rock is peeking out amidst three waves of seeweed, and then my eyes naturally wander to the maple leaf and the dark upper patch of seaweed.

On page 78 of her book, “Vision and Art, The Biology of Seeing”, Margaret Livingstone talks about work done by A. L. Yarbus, a Russian psychologist who put trackers on contact lenses on subject’s eyes and monitored where their gaze fell while they looked at a series of pictures. What he found was that people tend strongly to look at portions of the picture where there is fine detail and high-contrast. There is a striking picture on p. 79 of Livingstone’s book where she shows the results of Yarbus’ work. You can see superimposed on the painting exactly where one person looked.

I’ve never forgotten this, and now I try to pay attention to exactly where I look in a scene. A photographer I know (Richard Newton at Univ. of Massachusetts) once told me that a good photograph naturally leads one’s eyes around the image in a pleasing manner. I think this is good advice and Yarbus’ work tells us that we can use contrast and detail to help assist in making pleasing compositions.

Brooklin, Maine at 72 MP

My family has recently moved 3 hours north of Portland to a rental in Brooklin, Maine (hence the dearth of images this summer!). Here’s a beautiful point of land in Blue Hill Bay and mere 15 minute hike from our house.
Now, if the 72 megapixel header in the title of this post got your attention, you’re probably wondering what camera sensor I have gotten my hands on…the answer is that it’s not a new sensor, but a true resolution enhanced image created from 5 bracketed tripod-stabilized images fed into PhotoAcute, a great program for the Macintosh that can give (roughly) a doubled resolution image. That’s double in each dimension, or  not quite double, as my 21 MP image
only increased to 72 MP (a true doubling of resolution would create an 84 MP image). If I had the  time to post the 5 bracketed images here as well, you’d see that the program did a great job of exposure blending.
More frequently, if I find myself at a spot and I have some sense that I might have  a good image, I will take multiple exposures (PhotoAcute likes 5 or more) because in the back of my mind, I know that I can improve the image quality and size considerably using PhotoAcute. Also, it does a great job of increasing the dynamic range captured.
The downside is that processing five 21 MP images takes a LOT of time—about 8 minutes on my 3 year old 17″ Macbook Pro. It makes the cooling fans come on and it takes Lightroom3 a good few minutes to export a jpeg out of the 428 MB DNG file that PhotoAcute creates. Yes, it creates a DNG, which you can then touch up (if needed) in Lightroom 3.