Filed under “Photography”

August 25, 2015

Inventor Portrait: Alan Adler (AeroPress; Aerobie)

It’s a new Inventor Portrait! Alan Adler, inventor of the Aerobie Flying Disc and the AeroPress coffee maker, tells the stories behind his famous inventions.

I confess I actually completed this a year ago, but hadn’t posted it for a variety of reason. It’s great to finally share it.

May 6, 2014

New York City photographed with the Game Boy Camera in 2000

Back in 2000, I was playing around with a Game Boy Camera, trying to use it to take color photos. (I finally got that to work.) When I first got the camera, I took a walk through midtown taking pictures. I just came across the images and thought I’d share them here for posterity (scaled up to 200% for visibility on our fancy modern displays).

Rockefeller Plaza:

The New York Public Library:

A Giacometti statue at MOMA:

A slice of pizza:

A park bench:

Toy taxis being sold on the street:

A subway car speeding past:

A subway passenger:

Another subway passenger:

Selfie sporting a goatee:

February 21, 2014

House of Cards Season 2 Opening Credits Comparison in Animated GIFs

Are you watching House of Cards Season 2 on Netflix? Did you notice that they changed the opening credits since Season 1? There are still 37 time-lapse shots of Washington DC, and the cuts are in all the same places, but almost half of the shots have been changed. In some cases, the new shot is a slightly different view of the same place. In others, it’s a radically different view, or a different time of year, or a shot of a completely different location altogether. The time-lapses were shot by District 7 Media based just outside DC. They did a beautiful job. Let’s see what’s changed between seasons.

The following are all comparisons of the images. In all cases, the top image is Season 1 and the bottom image is Season 2:

Shot 1:

Shot 2 (are those the same clouds? Same time of day? Same cars? I think this might be the same shot recolored.):

Shot 3:

Shot 4:

Shot 5:

Shot 6:

Shot 7:

Shot 8:

Shot 9:

Shot 10:

Shot 11:

Shot 12:

Shot 13:

Shot 14:

Shot 15:

Shot 16:

Shot 17:

Shot 18:

Shot 19 (looks like a slightly different part of the same clip):

Shot 20:

Shot 21:

Shot 22:

Shot 23:

Shot 24:

Shot 25:

Shot 26:

Shot 27:

Shot 28:

Shot 29:

Shot 30:

Shot 31:

Shot 32:

Shot 33:

Shot 34:

Shot 35:

Shot 36:

Shot 37:

My wife thinks they’re also using a different mix of the opening theme music this year, but my ear isn’t good enough to tell the difference. Has anyone noticed?

February 18, 2014

Idea: A new automatic setting for cameras

There’s a rule of thumb for long lenses and shutter speeds: to handhold a camera without noticeable motion blur, your shutter speed should be no slower than the inverse of your focal length. So for a 50mm lens, you can safely handhold at 1/50 of a second or faster. If you have a long telephoto, like say a 200mm lens, you shouldn’t try to handhold at slower than 1/200 of a second.

But what if you’re using a zoom lens, and your focal length varies from one shot to another as you capture wide shots and close-ups to tell the story of whatever you’re shooting? Wouldn’t it be great if your camera had a setting to automatically adjust your shutter speed (and appropriately your aperture to maintain exposure) when you zoom so your tight shots are still nice and sharp?

You already have an aperture priority mode that adjusts your shutter speed if you change the aperture, and a shutter priority mode that does the opposite. So why not add focal length to the automatic equation, too?

It will not be useful in all situations, of course. In dim light, your lens might not be able to open up enough to compensate for the loss of light when the shutter speed increases as you zoom. But in other situations, this setting could be just the thing that keeps you taking sharp photos instead of smeary messes.

July 29, 2013

HeadBlade Inventor Todd Greene

I started losing my hair way back in college. I went through some years that were not very attractive as I tried to figure out what to do about it. But I never shaved my head. If the HeadBlade had been around at the time, I might have given it a try. Todd Greene invented the HeadBlade as a way to make head shaving easier, but has since built the brand into a whole line of head care products. His original HeadShave design is now part of MoMA’s permanent collection. Here’s a video portrait of Todd Greene talking about the origin of his product and the process of bringing it to market:

See more episodes of my PBS INVENTORS series here!

July 3, 2013

Douglas Engelbart (1925-2013)

I’m sad to learn that Douglas Engelbart, father of the computer mouse, passed away today. I spent an afternoon with him and his wife Karen in 2009 photographing him at home and work as part of my inventor portraits project. He was charming, even flirted with my assistant. I will have more thoughts to share, but for now here are a few photos from my shoot with him.

June 18, 2013

Julie Brown and Charlie Brown

Julie Brown (no, not that one or that one) is the latest inventor in my PBS Inventors series. But don’t watch this one for the invention, which is a simple little thing. Watch it for the inventor. She’s a former Navy electronics technician who later started a construction company where she worked until retirement; now she spends her golden years traveling in a motor home with her dog Charlie Brown (no, not that one). Take a look:

April 18, 2013

Cell Phone Inventor Marty Cooper

Cell phone inventor Marty Cooper has a lot of interesting thoughts about cell phones and related technologies. It was tough distilling our 40 minute conversation into such a short video, but I’m pleased with how it turned out. This month marks the 40th anniversary of the first ever cell phone call, which he describes in the video below. Enjoy!

See more episodes of my PBS INVENTORS series here!

March 21, 2013

An Inventor For Math And Magic Fans

This week’s episode of INVENTORS is about Mark Setteducati, a magician, artist, and one of the founders of the Gathering For Gardner (the biennial festival honoring mathematician and writer Martin Gardner). His clever toys and puzzles incorporate principles of math and magic.

In the video, he talks about hexaflexagons. If you’re at all a curious person, be sure to check out Vi Hart’s fantastic three part series about hexaflexagons on her YouTube channel.

February 22, 2013

The Invention of Long Island Iced Tea

This week’s episode of my PBS web series INVENTORS spotlights Bob “Rosebud” Butt, credited with inventing the Long Island Iced Tea while he was a bartender at the Oak Beach Inn on Long Island in the 1970s.

February 7, 2013

Inventor Portrait: Esther Takeuchi

One issue I’m conscious of in my Inventor Portraits series is that it’s not very gender balanced. Of the forty-something inventors I’ve photographed and interviewed so far, only eight are women. There have been other women under consideration, but in an effort to keep the inventions varied, I’ve passed on some that were too similar. I can only have so many women who invent products for the closet, baby room, or kitchen before it begins to give the impression that women only come up with domestic inventions. Those kinds of inventions are certainly important and useful, but my project strives to be broader in its subject matter.

So when I reached out to Esther Takeuchi, a chemical engineer whose life-saving developments in batteries for implantable medical devices have saved millions of lives, I was delighted that she said yes. She’s a terrific role model for women in science, and yet she expresses her own frustrations with exclusion in her field.

Note: If you like these videos, it would mean a great deal if you subscribe to the YouTube channel and/or share them with other people who might find them interesting. Thanks so much.

January 24, 2013

The First Software Patent

The latest episode in my PBS Digital Studios series “INVENTORS” is about Martin Goetz, the man who got the first every software patent. There’s a good chance that you’ve heard about the current controversy over software patents, but you may not know why we have software patents to begin with. Here’s the story:

I found it especially interesting that today software patents in the hands of patent trolls are said to stifle innovation in small companies, but the first software patent was a tool that enabled a small company to compete against a big corporation. That seems to me more in the spirit of what patents are for.

November 8, 2012

“Inventors” series debuts with PBS Digital Studios

I’m very excited to announce that my occasional series of inventor portrait videos is about to get a lot less occasional, as it’s now part of PBS Digital Studios. I will be releasing a new video every two weeks and you can find them at the new Inventors Series YouTube channel.

Here’s the first episode:

[Note to self: I’ve really got to redesign this website to allow for embedding larger video.]

Going forward, a new episode will go up every other Tuesday. They will mostly be new episodes you haven’t seen, but I’ll throw in a few that I’ve posted here in the past, perhaps with some slight changes. They’ll be new to most people.

Oh, also: one of the best things you could do for me today is share the video — here’s the direct link — and/or subscribe to the YouTube channel. Thanks so much.

I hope you like what I’ve got planned!

March 6, 2012

Inventor Portrait: Ralph Baer, video game inventor, who turns 90 years old this week

[cross-posted from my photography blog]

Ralph Baer, the father of video games, turns 90 years old on Thursday. One of his early inventions, the Magnavox Odyssey, was the first home video game system. It turns 40 years old this year. I photographed and interviewed Ralph over the summer for my ongoing Inventor Portraits Project, and this seemed like a good time to share some of the video in which we discuss, among other things, why he’s still inventing at 90 years old.

At one point in our interview he expressed frustration that modern kids don’t read anymore because they’re too busy playing with their smartphones. So I asked him if he thinks kids play too many video games today. Did he accidentally unleash a monster with his invention? His answer:

Yeah. I did a bit. What I thought I unleashed was a family game. If you’ll stop to consider for a second, what’s the ping pong game? You can’t play ping pong with yourself. It was meant to be played by two people. And we had four-handed ping pong and hockey games early on, also. I always thought of it as a family game. And it just sort of degenerated into a one player type thing which was never in my mind.

I thought that was interesting. I think I see a pendulum swinging back in Baer’s direction with consoles like the Nintendo Wii, which put an emphasis on group play.

Anyway, Happy 90th Birthday, Ralph!

July 11, 2011

Inventor Portrait: Ernest Nussbaum

[cross-posted from my photography blog]

This is Ernest Nussbaum, inventor of the Practicello.

The Practicello is a full height cello that breaks down to fit in carry-on luggage. It’s not intended to be good enough to play in a concert, but its just meant for cellists who want to practice while they travel without needing to pay for an extra seat on the airplane to bring their instrument. And since it doesn’t resonate as loudly as a cello with a full body, it’s not going to annoy the people in the hotel room next door.

Here are some more photos from our shoot:

April 11, 2011

Steven Sasson, Inventor of the Digital Camera

[cross-posted from my too-infrequently-updated photography blog]

It’s been way too long since I’ve posted one of these. This is my portrait of Steven Sasson, inventor of the digital camera. He was the 32nd inventor in my project. I shot him in October at Kodak’s headquarters in Rochester, just a couple weeks before President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Technology.

When he initially mentioned that the first digital camera held 30 pictures, I assumed that was due to the storage capacity of the digital tape. It was really interesting to hear that he picked 30 as an artificial limitation, and his explanation why.

Here are a couple photos from our shoot, as seen in the video:

February 8, 2011

A 30-Year Contact Print on Construction Paper

[cross-posted from my too-infrequently-updated photography blog]

I was in Arizona a couple weeks ago to shoot two more people for my Inventor Portraits Project. My parents live in Arizona, so I took the opportunity to visit them and go through some old boxes that have been taking up space in my old bedroom.

In my closet, I found a photo of me that was taken almost 30 years ago. It had been taped to a piece of green construction paper and placed in a cheap plastic frame around 1982. It hung that way on a wall in my bedroom for about 15 years. When it was hung up, it looked like this:

By the time I took the photo down in 1997, indirect sunlight had faded the construction paper from green to a sort of salmon-like orange. I digitally restored it to the original green for the image above, but actually the background had faded like this:

When I found it in my closet during my recent visit, I decided there was no reason to keep the photo in the bulky plastic frame any longer. It should go in an album, or a better frame. When I separated the photo from the paper, this was revealed hidden underneath:

How wonderful is that? Over all that time hung on the wall, sunlight had bleached the construction paper everywhere it could. But since it couldn’t penetrate the darker areas of the photo, the corresponding parts of the construction paper underneath remained their original color.

Any light-sensitive surface can be used to make a photo, and I’ve seen everything used from leaves to grass. But I don’t remember seeing photos printed on construction paper, even though I know they’re sometimes used to make photograms as an activity for kids. But I did a little googling and found a couple other people who made a print on construction paper using similar methods, although deliberately and not over quite so long a time.

May 12, 2010

Meet Brent Farley

Do you remember the father in the movie Gremlins? His name was Randall Peltzer, and he was a struggling inventor, constantly trying to find success with his latest inventions. He gave his products names like The Bathroom Buddy, and The Peltzer Juicer. He was full of ideas, and built his own prototypes, but never quite found success.

Brent Farley is a real-life inventor in the spirit of Randall Peltzer. I visited him recently as part of my ongoing photo documentary project about contemporary inventors, and put together this video portrait (I recommend watching full-screen):

December 8, 2009

The Manhattan Tongue Project

Back in December of 1998, a friend handed me a role of 35mm color film and asked me to take photos of anything at all, and then give the roll back for her to develop. She wouldn’t tell me why, or what she planned to do with the photos. (I eventually learned that she planned to use the images as creative inspiration for a short story project, with me as her unwitting collaborator).

Not knowing her plans for the photos, and having no direction for what to shoot, I thought about the experience she would have picking up the mystery photos from the lab and seeing them for the first time. I wanted to take photos that would make her anticipation worthwhile.

These are the photos I took (click any photo to enlarge):

November 12, 2009

Inventor portrait gallery on just published their 2009 list of the 50 Best Inventions of the Year. When you check out this year’s list, don’t overlook this box:

inventor gallery

The gallery features nine of the 25 inventors I’ve photographed so far as part of an ongoing personal project.

July 16, 2009

Inventors Tom and Jerry

Some of you know that I’ve been working on an ongoing photography project about inventors. Recently I began experimenting with video to supplement the photos, and I’m pretty pleased with how it’s going. I set up a couple web pages showcasing two particular inventors to show some people in my photography world what I’ve been doing, and I thought I’d share with all of you, too. These inventors are named Tom and Jerry, and you can click the images below to see more about them.

Incidentally, if you or someone you know is an inventor, please get in touch about possible participation in this project. I think I’m heading to Northern California next, so I’m particularly interested in inventors in that area.

Click here to see Jerry:

Click here to see Tom:

June 1, 2009

The blog post picture from beyond the grave

I don’t know who first asked what chairs would look like if our knees bent the other way, but that old question may have been in the back of my mind a couple years ago when I found myself wondering how things would be designed differently if our middle fingers bent the other way. Would that make life more difficult? Or would it make certain tasks easier? What would musical instruments look like? What about computers, or eating utensils? Is there any way that having a backwards middle finger would be useful?

I considered writing a blog entry pondering this question. As I like to do, I came up with a photo-illustration to accompany the blog entry. I took a couple photos, played around a bit in Photoshop, and accidentally ended up with an image that is so bizarrely disturbing that I can actually feel my brain having trouble making sense of it. I could not in good conscience subject an unsuspecting reader to this photo. So I killed the whole post.

I just came across the file now, and it still disturbs me. But I hate to let a good disturbing image go to waste, so now with the proper context, and a build-up designed to minimize the shock, I present the photo illustration that I killed two years ago. Click on the pixelated version below and get ready to look away:

Backwards Finger

October 1, 2008

Announcing my new photography blog

I started Ironic Sans as a place for me to write all the creative ideas I have that don’t relate to my career as a photographer. The topics I write about here run the gamut, but I primarily express myself through photography, and I figure that some of you might like the projects I’m working on. So I’ve decided that it’s about time I start a blog about my photography.

The new blog is called DFP:BLOG, and its launch coincides with the redesign of my photography portfolio site.

Currently on the blog, you can see some of the people I’ve photographed for my ongoing series of inventor portraits, like Tony Pagoto, seen below in his living room, who invented a gadget for keeping the wires under your desk tidy.

And, from my archives, I’ve posted a seldom seen photo essay I shot in a denim factory in Kentucky. If you’ve ever wondered who the people are who put the holes in pre-distressed jeans, this will answer the question.

I haven’t yet figured out what the frequency of posts will be at DFP:BLOG, but when I do, expect to see more work along these lines, as well as occasional one-offs, and links to other work that inspires me.

(And don’t worry — Ironic Sans isn’t going anywhere).

May 20, 2008

A tree grows in Brooklyn Bridge Park

While wandering around DUMBO last week during the New York Photo Festival, I took this picture of a tree near the Manhattan Bridge in the north end of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Since I posted an earlier picture of a tree and a bridge, I figured I’d post this one, too. Maybe I should start a series. Click to enlarge.

Manhattan Bridge

April 21, 2008

Happy Overpass

Overpasses. Those minor marvels of engineering. Sure, it’s easy to appreciate the huge overpasses of major cities, with their cloverleaf patterns and serpentine elevated roads. But I have a particular appreciation for the little overpasses. Crossing over just a few lanes of traffic, they are simultaneously bridge and tunnel. We pass them and immediately forget about them. They are the unsung heroes of traffic.

Well, this week strikes me as a good time to share some overpass photos from my travels, so here are a few images. Click to enlarge.

You can see a more extensive gallery here.






View the full gallery.

March 28, 2008

A photo of a tree

This is my favorite tree in San Francisco:

Golden Gate Bridge tree in San Francisco

I was going through my photo archives this morning and found this picture from a trip to San Francisco a few years back. I’ve always enjoyed this photo, but I never found a use for it. I generally don’t like taking pictures from the exact spot that millions of photos have already been taken, but I found this tree so compelling I couldn’t resist.

February 18, 2008

Idea: The last product Polaroid should make

You may have heard the recent announcement that Polaroid will stop making instant film soon. They’re manufacturing just enough to last through 2009, and then they’re shutting down the factories. That gives them almost two years to develop what I think should be the last Polaroid product: a digital picture frame that makes sure the familiar look of a Polaroid photo lives on.

You just put your memory card in a slot on the bottom of the frame, and navigate using the touch screen to select whether you want to view your photos in “Standard” mode, which functions like any other digital picture frame, or in “Classic” mode, where each photo slowly fades into view over the course of a minute or so while you watch and wonder what photo is coming up. (In Classic mode, you can try shaking the frame to make the photo fade into view more quickly, but it won’t really do anything).

If you’re the sort of person who prefers to pin your Polaroid pictures to your cork board in your cubicle, you can take advantage of this innovative feature: The stand on the back of the frame can rotate to an upward position, sticking up above the top of the frame and revealing a hole for you to stick a pushpin through. The rechargeable internal battery allows you to showcase your photos that way even if you don’t want a wire dangling down from your cork board.

The bottom portion of the frame features a dry erase surface, so you can write your own title for your slideshow by hand, using a dry erase marker. Because sometimes it’s nice to preserve at least a little bit of the old way of doing things.

Previously: Idea: The Digital Jewel Box

December 31, 2007

Glamour Mug Shots

I had an idea today to take mug shots and make them into cheesy studio portraits or glamour shots. I call them Glamour Mug Shots. I whipped up a few examples using celebrity mug shots posted at The Smoking Gun. Feel free to make your own and post a link in the comments. Here’s what I came up with (mouse over to see the originals):

November 1, 2007

Halloween on the Upper West Side

Every Halloween, West 69th Street closes to traffic, and thousands of kids go trick or treating from building to building. This year, I set up my camera in one building’s lobby and photographed some of the kids in their costumes. I thought I’d share a few of the shots (I particularly liked the little girl named Dalia who was dressed as the “Dalia Lama”):

September 27, 2007

Idea: The Histogram as the Image

Yesterday, I posted the image seen here and told you that there is another picture hidden somewhere within it. I challenged my readers to find it. After a bit of confusion in the comments, someone finally declared that they found it: “Hahahaha! Cool! It’s the NY skyline!” Another reader noted, “The first thing I did was to try to tweak the image using the Levels command. I was greeted with a surprise right there in the dialog.”

Yes, the New York City skyline is hidden in that picture’s histogram. It looks like this:

Several people have asked how I did it. So I’ll explain, but I might get a little longwinded in my attempt to be clear. Feel free to just skim and look at the pictures if you don’t want to read it all.

The idea for this project started with a question: Is it possible to create an image that depicts its own histogram? (A histogram, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a bar graph representing all the tones in an image — it typically looks something like a mountain range). I played around a little bit in Photoshop and the closest thing I came up with was this image:

…which has this histogram:

Yeah, okay. That was neat I guess. But I couldn’t come up with any other shapes that worked. But all this thinking about histograms and what they represent got me wondering if I could control what a histogram looks like by manipulating the image. Could I create something recognizable? To try it, I would need to find something that would be entirely black, horizontal in orientation, and not require any holes or vertical gaps. A skyline seemed perfect.

I did a Google Image Search for “manhattan skyline silhouette” and was tickled to see that the perfect image came up in a result from my own site! I once posted an entry about New York City as depicted in the animated film Antz. Google showed me this image from that entry on the first page of search results:

A typical 8-bit grayscale image can have 256 possible shades of gray. A histogram represents the amount of pixels at each level from 0 to 255, and is 256 pixels wide. So the first thing I did was shrink down the Antz skyline to 256 pixels wide. This meant that each vertical band of black pixels in the skyline represented a value from 0 (black) to 255 (white).

Then I created a new document. The first column of pixels in the skyline image represents value “0” and has 43 black pixels. So my new document needed 43 pixels with the value “0.” Column 2 of my skyline represents value “1” and has 46 black pixels. So my new document needed 46 pixels with the value “1.” And so forth.

Another way to think of it is to say that I took all of the “skyline” pixels from this image:

…and put them in a new document, with no other pixels. Then I rearranged all those pixels into a square from dark to light. The result was very close to perfect. The histogram looked pretty much like the skyline, but it was stretched vertically.

Normally, a histogram is scaled vertically so that whatever value has the most pixels reaches all the way to the top of the graph, and everything else is sized proportionately. In this case, it is the shade of gray which forms the World Trade Center antenna that has the most pixels. So this is roughly what the histogram looked like:

I was thrilled that it worked, but I didn’t want it stretched vertically like that. In order to prevent the WTC tower from being too tall (and everything else scaling upwards with it) I had to put extra pixels of one value in my image, so there would be more pure of that value than any other value, which would push the others down so that the graph remains proportionate. I chose pure white, because this creates a thin black line at the far right side of the histogram where you don’t notice it.

I could have added this row of white pixels at the bottom of the new image, but instead I typed my website name in white, and placed it within the image. In doing so, I copied over some other pixels, which altered the skyline. So I had to put it in a place where the “damage” to those buildings wouldn’t be that noticeable. It took trial and error, but I found a good spot. It changed the skyline on the left side a little bit (compare to the “Antz” image). But it still looks like buildings, so I accepted it. Also, this way I get some credit if the image gets passed around without attribution.

I did it all tediously by hand, but I think with a little tinkering, someone could write a program to simplify the process, taking a 256 x 100 silhouetted image and extrapolating a new image with that as the histogram. And the final image file doesn’t need to be a square with a gradient, either. Those pixels could be in any order. They could be completely scrambled. Or they could be laid out in a way that shows an image of an Apple (as in “The Big Apple”). As long as no new pixels are introduced or deleted, the histogram remains the same. But that is a lot more work than I was prepared to do.

Oh, I almost forgot: I doubled the image size so it would look a little better on the website. As long as I resized it using the “Nearest Neighbor” method instead of some other interpolation method, every pixel (and therefore every shade represented in the image) would be duplicated identically, keeping the proportions in the histogram the same.

Update: A reader has taken this idea even further!

September 17, 2007

Idea: Color Photos with the Game Boy Camera

Note:I wrote this article in 2001. At the time, Nintendo had a camera add-on product for the Game Boy that took low-quality black and white pictures. Small, cheap, color digital cameras were not nearly as prevalent as they are now. I originally posted this on my photography website. There has been a link to the article from Ironic Sans in the sidebar on the front page, but I’ve decided to integrate it as a regular Ironic Sans entry and remove the sidebar link.


All colors of the visible spectrum can be broken down into combinations of just three colors: Red, Green, and Blue. In fact, if you look at your computer screen under a magnifying glass, you will see that it is made up of tiny red, green, and blue lights that are varied in combinations to create all the colors you see on your screen.

Every color picture can be broken down into three separate black-and-white pictures which represent the amounts of red, green, and blue that are used to make up that picture, as in this example:

The Theory

If a color picture can be made from three black and white pictures, I could use the Game Boy Camera to take three separate black and white pictures (using filters to capture the red, green, and blue values of a scene) and then use the computer to combine them into a single RGB image. A more elaborate version of this process is commonly used in high-end digital cameras used by large photo studios, so I saw no reason why it wouldn’t also work with the Game Boy Camera. [*note: three-pass digital cameras aren’t really used as often now in 2007 but they were at the time I wrote this]

The Process

I picked a location in my apartment where I could make sure the Game Boy could sit absolutely still (so I could take three identically-posed pictures) and picked a small colorful object to photograph. One of the first objects I tried photographing was a Snapple bottle, Kiwi-Strawberry flavored, with a colorful green and pink label.

To capture only the red light reflecting off the Snapple bottle, I was going to need a red filter that I could place in front of the Game Boy Camera, so that only red light would reach the lens. I went to a local photo-supply store and obtained a free book of filter samples, containing dozens of various colored filters. I picked a red filter and held it in front of the lens and took a picture. I repeated the process with a green filter, and then a blue filter, careful not to move the camera or the bottle in between shots.

Using the Game Boy Camera PC Link from Mad Catz, Inc., [no longer available in 2007] I transferred the images to my computer, where I ended up with these three images:

I thought I had done everything right, but when I pulled the images into Photoshop to create my RGB composite from these three images, I came up with a picture that looked like this:


Obviously, I didn’t have the full color photograph I had anticipated, although there was a hint of color in the image. If my theory was correct, though, it should have worked. A little bit of research on the internet brought me to the cause of the problem. It turns out, the light-sensitive chip inside the Game Boy Camera (it’s called a Mitsubishi M64282FP chip) is sensitive to infrared light, which isn’t visible to the human eye. While I was succesfully filtering out red, green, and blue light, infrared light was still reaching the lens of the camera.

This was easily provable by pointing my Game Boy Camera at my TV remote control and pushing a button on the remote. Even though nothing seemed to happen that I could see with my eyes, I could see the front of the remote light up on the Game Boy screen! I would have to filter out the infrared light reaching the Game Boy Camera in order to get my full color photograph.


Apparantly, most digital cameras are sensitive to infrared light, but contain a built in “hot mirror” filter, which blocks infrared (something I learned through a little research on-line). So I went to my local camera shop and bought a hot mirror filter (which was more expensive than I thought it would be, but I was now determined to take color photos with my Game Boy Camera, so I bought it anyway). I held it in front of the Game Boy Camera and repeated the remote control test, and could no longer see the light of the remote light up. I had a good feeling about this. I attached the hot mirror filter to the front of the Game Boy Camera using masking tape, and picked a new test subject to photograph: a Garfield Pez Dispenser.

Repeating the three-pass process of photographing an object with the red, green, and blue filters, I came up with these images:

Already I had a good feeling, as these images were more in line with what I was expecting than with the previous tests.  So I again transferred them to Photoshop, created a composite RGB image, and this was the result:

The World’s First color photograph taken with the Game Boy Camera!

More Pictures

October 31, 2001 - Okay, I know that they are not the most exciting subjects, but the following photos (plus the Pez Dispenser above) are the World’s First color photos taken with the Game Boy Camera. I just shot whatever was around to be used as test subjects.

November 10, 2001 - My first outdoor attempts. First off, notice the vignetting in these images (the halo that seems to be around the pictures). This is caused by the camera itself reflecting in the Hot Mirror filter. I’ll have to use a black magic marker or something to make the GB Camera black so it doesn’t reflect (I think it wasn’t a problem indoors because the camera didn’t have such bright light on it). In the picture of the trees, the blue sky came out nicely peeking through the top. I’ll have to solve the halo problem before my next attempts.

[That’s it. I never got the motivation to shoot any others in this series, as cheap color digital cameras became more prevalent, and the novelty of taking low quality color pictures with a cheap handheld device wore off].

August 1, 2007

Photos from the Galapagos Islands

By now you may have seen my 60 Second Videos from the Galapagos Islands. As promised, here is a sample of photos from the trip. The rectangular photos were shot by me, and the beautiful ethereal square photos were shot by Ellen. I think several of her photos, which she shot with a $23 Holga camera, are far more beautiful than mine, which I shot with equipment that cost a hell of a lot more. You can see more of both our photos in slide-show form here.

Marine Iguana
Marine Iguana

Trees on North Seymour Island

Sea Lions
Sea Lions

Flightless Cormorant
Flightless Cormorant

Isabela Island
A Darwin Bush grows through the lava on Isabela Island

Marine Iguanas
More Marine Iguanas. I love these guys.

Santa Cruz Island
Scalesia trees on Santa Cruz Island

Soccer Break
The crew from our boat plays soccer on Floreana Island

Blue Footed Boobies
Blue Footed Boobies

Bartolome Island
Bartolome Island

Nazca Booby
Nazca Booby

Waved Albatrosses
Waved Albatrosses

Tuff Cone
A tuff cone lava formation

Giant Tortoise
Giant Tortoise

Back to the Beluga
Back to our boat, the Beluga

You can see more of both our photos in slide-show form here.

March 12, 2007

Mauling Helena

The Table CentaurA new mall called The Domain opened this weekend in Austin. The bizarre photo at right has been chosen to represent the mall in advertisements, brochures, and directories. Seriously, this might be one of the strangest photos I’ve seen used for something commercial. Or at all.

Boxing FennWhat has happened to the poor woman in this photo? What story does it tell? Has she had her legs cut off by an obsessed madman who’s keeping her captive on that table, like Sherilyn Fenn in the movie Boxing Helena?

Or maybe she’s one of those exotic mythical table-centaurs, with the body of a woman and the legs of a table. Wasn’t there one of those in The Lion, the Witch, the Wardrobe, the Desk, and Other Furniture?

Very bizarre. But she does make a lovely centaur-piece.

December 28, 2006

Pointless Vandalism

I saw this the other day in a restroom in Bethesda, Maryland.

Pointless Vandalism


December 26, 2006

Idea: A virtual slide projector

Virtual Slide Show
Some of my photos, as they might look with the Virtual Slide Projector. For now, you’ll just have to imagine the sound effects.
As a professional photographer, I’ve occasionally been asked to speak with photography students about commercial photography, and invited to show some of my work. While putting together a digital slide presentation for a talk I gave not long ago, I realized that I missed the sounds of an old slide projector. The laptop and digital projector have completely replaced the carousel and trays of yore, and we no longer have that satisfying click-and-whir of the mechanical projector.

Surely, I thought, someone out there must make slide show software that mimics the look-and-noise of a real slide projector. I would love to have those noises coming from my laptop, leaving people in the back of the room wondering, “He’s not really using an old fashioned slide projector, is he?” But despite my searching I found nothing. I wanted to write such a program before my lecture, but it’s beyond my programming abilities. Heree are the features I imagined it might have, all of which could be disabled or varied from an “Options” menu:

  • A constant low-volume whir, recorded from an actual slide projector.
  • The mechanical noise a projector makes when advancing to the next slide, with a brief blackout in between the images, as though there really were a slide tray progressing to the next slide.
  • Random upside-down, backwards, or blank slides. I don’t think I ever sat through a slide show that didn’t have occasional screw-ups. The “Options” menu should allow you to control the frequency of these screw-ups, or turn them off completely. And after every screwed up slide, there should be a blank slide and then the same slide displayed correctly, as though someone manually fixed it.

It could have a very simple interface. Just let me browse to the directory with my images, and start the show.

November 6, 2006

When you need those photos in a rush

I saw this sign the other day. I think it’s great that here in the heart of New York City, you can get your film processed in only seven hours. Wow. Maybe one day they can get it down to as little as three or four hours. One can only hope.

7 Hour Photo

October 3, 2006

Clean up in aisle two

The gummint can be found next to the nuts and cookies in aisle two.


As seen in Walgreen’s.

September 27, 2006

Interview: Seetharaman Narayanan

This is the second in a series of occasional interviews with people I find interesting or who work on interesting projects.

Seetharaman NarayananBy now, you either recognize the name, or you’re wondering who Seetharaman Narayanan is, and the difference probably depends on what you do for a living. If, like me, you have a job where you launch Photoshop on a daily basis, then maybe, like me, you can’t stop staring at this guy’s name on the Splash Screen every time it launches. Seetharaman Narayanan. It’s hard to look away. Sure, other people worked on Photoshop. But nobody else has a name like Seetharaman Narayanan.

If you too have been unable to look away from his name as you open Photoshop, you may be thinking, “I thought I was the only one!” Take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Back in 2004, a simple comment was posted on the forum. It said, “Every time I open up photoshop I am mezmorized by this guy’s name. It’s all I can look at. Don’t know why…” Six pages of “Me, too!” responses followed.

He has gone on to inspire a Seetharaman Narayanan fan club group on Flickr, and being unable to get his name out of your head has been recognized as a sign of Photoshop addiction.

So I decided to find out just who this mysterious Seetharaman Narayanan is. What does he do? What does he think of his notoriety? And what’s interesting about him other than his name? Mr. Narayanan, who goes by the much shorter name “Seetha,” was nice enough to answer these questions and more.

When did you become aware of the fascination with your name among Photoshop users?

Jeff Schewe [Photographer] sent me an e-mail sometime in the fall of 2005 about the existence of Seetha’s fanclub thread from

What do you think about it?

I thought it was funny and was amazed at the amount of free time people had at their disposal. I always thought that I was fortunate in getting hired by Adobe at the right time since any Tom, Dick or Harry would have done the same thing I did and perhaps better than what I did. They may not have become famous unless they had some weird last name that is almost un-pronouncable.

How long have you been at Adobe?

I have been with Adobe for 15 years to date. I joined Adobe as a peon on Photoshop 2.5 on September 23, 1991. Peter Merrill (who now works on Acrobat and is still with Adobe) was the lead engineer on the task of making Photoshop run on Windows 3.1 and I was his deputy in the early days. Peter is one of the brightest engineers I have ever worked with in my 20 year career (he may just be the smartest of all!). I still remember the interview I had with Peter before I got hired at Adobe. Peter had this toy application (that later became Photoshop) with ugly Icons and Cursors he showed me and mentioned to me that he had that code ported over from the Mac and he could even open an image (Flower.psd which by the way, shipped as a sample file with Photoshop 2.5) on Windows. I had previously worked at CrystalGraphics and we had just ported over Crystal’s TOPAS over to the Mac platform just weeks prior to my interview with Adobe and I was totally under whelmed by Peter’s demo of Photoshop on Windows. In spite of my lack of enthusiasm, Peter hired me anyway and the rest is history.

What are you responsible for in Photoshop?

Lots of things. I joined Adobe as an engineer responsible for making the Windows port happen. After laying the foundation for the Windows effort, one of the first things I did for the product was to make it multi-threadable. Those days, Mac did not support multi-threading but Windows NT did. In my spare time, I wrote the multi-threading plug-in that took advantage of multiple processor in Photoshop. Peter was of immense help here. When I was re-writing the image processing algorithms in the plug-ins, he pointed to me that there was no need to do any image processing in the plug-in since the plug-in need not know about algorithms and it would be sufficient to just split the tasks and call the functions that knew how to do image processing. It just shows how stupid I was and how much of a genius that Peter was in pointing me to that simplicity. After we shipped 3.0, the Mac and Windows teams got merged and I worked on several things in the core product. Since the team always viewed me as the Windows guy, it would be interesting to note that I was one of the key persons responsible for the Photoshop port to Mac OS/X.

What is your professional background?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Regional Engineering College, Tiruchirapalli, India. I came to the U.S to pursue my Masters in Engineering at the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Since that place was so much fun (Playboy’s number one Party School in 1987), I decided to get another Masters from there in Computer Science. I joined CrystalGraphics (I think they are still around) as an engineer on Crystal TOPAS and after a few years at Crystal, I joined Adobe.

Do people express fascination with your name in the real world? Or is this just an on-line phenomenon?

Not really. I had to spell my name a few times before they get it. I got used to it now.

Are there other names on the Splash Screen that you think deserve more credit and get overlooked because people can’t stop staring at your name?

Every one of the engineers and QE deserves as much credit as I do. But I took the cake because of my long name. Too bad Joe Ault, Chris Cox and Scott Byer don’t have the long names as I do.

Are you working on any new projects we can look forward to seeing your name on in the future?

I worked on Bridge 1.0 (I had the opportunity to work on that since I championed the cause for the FileBrowser in Photoshop 7.0 and CS) and am currently working on getting Adobe Lightroom ported to Windows. But Photoshop is always my home.

Everyone knows about your interesting name. What’s one interesting thing about you that people don’t know?

I bike to work every day, rain or shine. My bike route is 20 miles round-trip and I have been riding to work for the past 10 years. I even influenced my mentor Peter Merrill into biking to work. Since Peter is a maniac, he is now doing double-centuries on weekends.

Thanks, Seetha!

Previously: Interview with illustrator and author Adam Rex

August 29, 2006

Agassi vs. Pavel vs. Agassi vs. Pavel…

Last night at the US Open…


Click for larger version. Details here and here.

Update: Lots of people have asked me how I did this, so I’ve agreed to put together a little tutorial for Photojojo in the next few weeks. I’ll announce it on this site when it’s done, so keep an eye out.

August 9, 2006

Idea: Take “jowlers” to the next level

JowlersHave you seen It’s a website featuring pictures of people captured while shaking their heads back and forth really fast. It makes me laugh out loud every time I see it. They encourage people to shoot their own “jowler” photos using point-and-shoot cameras and send them in. I love it.

So I was thinking, what if I took jowler photos with more just a point-and-shoot camera? What if I set up lighting and a backdrop and treat them like more formal photos? Do they work just as well when they’re this stylized, or does the spontaneous look of a point-and-shoot camera work best? Well, it turns out that I can’t stop laughing when I shoot them, and I think they look absurdly great when they’re done.

Jowlers Jowlers
Jowlers Jowlers

But I need more volunteers. So naturally, I turned to Craig’s List in my search. But for the first time ever, Craig’s List let me down. I once used Craig’s List to get rid of a used bag of dirt (someone came to get it in less than an hour), but I couldn’t find anybody willing to pose for a Jowler photo. So I now turn to the blogosphere. If you are in New York City, and are willing to stop by my place for 10 or 15 minutes for an extremely silly project, drop me a line and we’ll set up some time for one of these weekends. I’ve got ideas for more elaborate jowler setups if you have even more time. You’ll find my e-mail address on the right side of this page.

June 30, 2006

Uma Thurman’s Severed Head

SuperEx SuperEx

When I saw the poster on the left for Uma Thurman’s upcoming movie My Super Ex-Girlfriend, I immediately thought, “Oh my God. Poor Uma. Someone did an awful job grafting her head on a totally different body.” Then I saw the poster on the right, and I did a double take. Someone grafted the exact same head onto this poster, too. If they weren’t going to do a good job, couldn’t they at least make it less obvious that it’s the exact same head? And I think her (body double’s?) breasts are bigger in one shot than in the other.

SuperEx SuperEx

If you want to see just how exactly matched the heads are, click here to watch a little animation.

Hmm. “Uma Thurman’s Severed Head” would make a great band name.

June 6, 2006

Georgia O’Kleenex

Georgia O'Kleenex

This is what I saw when I reached for the last tissue in the box.

May 27, 2006

Hot town. Summer in the city.


Looks like it’s finally summer…