A Robin Darkly

I love this sillouette of a robin on a fence. It looks like he has somewhere to go, something to do. Could it have something to do with that towering object in the background? The picture  evokes a subtle mystery. There’s a question, here left unaswered. It’s fun to be able to look at it multiple times and each time see a different story.


Other People’s Code

I like looking at other people’s code. Said in the right voice, that could sound quite creepy. But I like to see what kind of projects they’re working on, how they implement solutions, what languages they chose to work with and how many other people are using their work. So I’ll keep looking at other people’s code. At night. Through their window. While they work.

Sometimes, I’ll just go to GitHub and search for a language or maybe a keyword having to do with something I’m doing in one of my own projects. This usually gives me a couple hundred pages of repositories to look through. I’ll click on page 99 or 100 of the results just to “randomize” what I’m seeing a little.

Over the last couple of weeks I started realizing that I was only searching for code in languages that I was familiar with. Within those languages I was only really reading code that I already understood or was familiar with. That didn’t set right with me because I wasn’t seeing anything new or interesting.  I felt like I wasn’t growing as a developer. I was staying comfortable and not challenging my skills.

So I decided to do something about it. I wrote a short little Python script (and later created a more convenient JavaScript bookmarklet) that randomly selects a repository and opens it. Ok, Ok, it’s not that exciting or inspiring. Nor is it original or even useful. It has a bug or two and should probably be developed a little more to give the user more options to filter things out.

But the idea was to gain exposure to new coding styles, languages and technologies and on those points it is a success! I have started a weekly habit of searching randomly using the bookmarklet and whatever result I get, I force myself to read through it and try to understand it. If I think the code is interesting enough I will try to implement it locally.

If you’re interested, you can find the repository at https://github.com/RyanDavison/RandomRepo . Feel free to fix bugs, add features or anything else. If you just want to play around with finding random repositories you can drag the link on this page to your bookmarks bar and click away.

Viewing the World Through Creative Observation

In the never ending battle between right and left brain thinking I too often let the left hemisphere rule. When I drive I seek the most efficient route rather than the nicest one. When I shop I have on blinders in the form of an explicit list and I exclude everything else from even the consideration of purchase. And when I work I focus intently on the logic behind what I’m building.

None of these left brained tendencies are bad. But left unchecked they become authoritarian dictators that squeeze out exploration, wonder and the beauty of design. This is why I’m trying to make it a concious point to approach events in my life through a lens of creative observation. I don’t always make it happen. Sometimes I’m in a hurry. Sometimes I need to accomplish something that requires a logic-only process and I neglect shifting into a right brain thought pattern. But whenever I am able to view the world in a creative, spatial or exploratory way, I tend to be more satisfied at the end of the day.

How to Take Good Blurry Photographs

Photographers spend most of their time trying to take sharp photos. They set their camera on a tripod and ensure a fast enough shutter speed. They’ll sit around for hours waiting for the wind to die down before they trigger the camera. And when they do trip the shutter, it’s usually with a remote switch so they don’t have to touch the camera and shake it.

I’ll admit, I typically do the same. There’s nothing worse than taking a shot that you think will look amazing when printed, only to discover there was a slight shake in the camera and now the picture just looks bad.

Lately, however, I’ve been experimenting with the practice of intentionally blurring some photographs. I got into it by accident. I was out taking photographs one day when, for whatever reason, I moved the camera significantly while triggering the shutter. The lines and color combining that resulted were cool. They almost looked like paint brush strokes. So I decided to try doing it on purpose. I would paint with my camera.

There’s a big difference between a blurry photo and an intentionally blurred photo. Blurry photos look like you were trying to get a clear, sharp image but you didn’t know what you were doing. An intentional or artistically blurred photo should remind you of something in a fine art gallery. If you’re going to try it, keep in mind that you still have to adjust for the optimum shutter speed, ISO and aperture.

When I shoot blurs I’m out in the early morning or late evening for the best light. I’ll set my ISO at 100 and open up my aperture fairly wide to an f/16 or f/22. There’s no need to blur your background with a short depth of field since the whole image will be soft. The shutter speed should be slow enough to allow your movement to matter. However, you don’t want it too slow or there will be no distinction at all.

The point is, you still have to pay attention to everything you normally would when shooting any type of photography. With the wrong light, subject, composition or exposure, your blur photography will still look bad.

Below is one of my favorite blurs. I was staying at an Airbnb in western Colorado farm country. While I was taking a walk one early morning I looked off in some bare trees in the middle of a field. I couldn’t believe it when I saw a muster of peacocks perched on the branches. There were eight or ten of them.

I didn’t have my camera at the time so I came back the next morning with it and tried to capture a few images. It was pretty early (read low light) and I was hand holding the camera. I knew I wasn’t going to get perfect pictures so after taking a few to prove to myself that I was actually seeing apparently wild peacocks in the middle of Colorado, I tried taking some blurs of them while they were flying down from the trees. The result was an oil painting like image.

Since then, I’ve blurred many subjects. It adds a whole new aspect to my photography and gives some variation to what I produce. It’s also artistically freeing during those times when I know I can’t capture perfectly sharp pictures. You can use any situation to your advantage, even when the situation seems to be giving you a disadvantage.