Camera Station #9, Homer, Hubble, and the Viking.

Camera Station #9. Simulated two-month exposure in ultraviolet B, deep infrared, and visible light wavelengths.

This exposure marks the halfway point in processing the eleven camera stations at Windgrove, Tasmania.  The upcoming second half have much more data and tend to be ones I have the most affinity, hope and expectations for (uh-oh…). This one from Camera Station #9 moves into that area and it’s clear that these will take many days to process. Lots of tedious work where your thoughts can drift off to related areas.  Following here are three background stories that came to mind as I layered this one up. These stories probably influenced the final image. This one explores a more painterly approach to layering. 

  1. Why Isn’t the Sky Blue? Radiolab did an excellent podcast on the history of the color blue.  You can listen to it here. In it they discuss Homer’s epic accounts of Odysseus in the Iliad and the Odyssey. In the 1800s William Gladstone logged all the times all the colors were were used by Homer.  Lots.  But no mention of the color “blue.” Not once. Countless description of seas, oceans, sky, weather, but not “blue.”  The famous line is Homer’s “wine dark seas” to describe the Aegean. Here is more from New York Times in a 1983 article.  If some scholars can propose that Greek wine was actually blue, then I can propose that the ocean in Homer’s time was the color of wine.  It changed at some point to blue; we just have no record of it.

  2. Hubble Telescope. I once had the opportunity to visit the Johns Hopkins lab where they process all the images from the Hubble Telescope.  A few of its images are processed for mass consumption and released by NASA for the general public.  A famous example is their image, “Pillars of Creation.” If you have the impression that these are finished photographs that are just downloaded from Hubble as jpegs, you would be incorrect.  Images are almost always black and white and taken with different filters in front of the sensor.  Any given target is photographed separately at different wavelengths.  It is back in the lab where the programmers, visualizers, scientists, and artists work to color and layer all these separate images into something that speaks of the facts, but also looks like something we would expect or hope to see.  They are creating landscapes that don’t exist, and they create them so that they feel comfortable to us and how we perceive things on earth.  We want to feel like we are at a window and this is the view.  Most likely that wouldn’t be the case if we were actually there looking at the scene.

  3. The Viking Lander. In 1976 the U.S. landed the first space craft on Mars – the Viking 1. The first photographs ever from the ground of Mars were sent back to earth where the mission team’s scientists pored over them. The first two were black and white. One of the footpad in the Martian dirt, and one of a shot of the horizon.  These first two caused great excitement and thus, perhaps not enough attention was paid to the third photograph that was sent back.  It was in color and a shot of the ground, horizon, and sky.  It was processed in haste and colorized so that the sky was bluish – a gut, unconscious reaction to the pressure of getting PR photos out to the press.  A day later everyone was aware of the mistake (thank-you Carl Sagan).  When it was revealed that the Martian sky was actually “butterscotch”, the press corps booed.  Apparently people want things to look like home.  Here is a dry but thorough story of the whole affair from NASA’s history.

So exploration, epic adventures, and seeing new things is over.  Now the real process of getting some images finished begins.   Terraforming – “transform so as to resemble the earth” – but whose earth?  Is anthropocentrism required for creating effective landscapes?

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