A Four Billion Year Blog
And here we are, communicating, only because evolution came up with animals capable of abstract thought and semantic language. With animals capable of understanding the beauty of the world around them, and of inventing machines that allow them to record that beauty. And with animals who are also able to understand mathematics, that most universal of languages. A language that is understood by humans of all cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and certainly by any other species capable of abstract thought that may exist in the Universe. I only bring up mathematics as a way of introducing myself, because mathematics are at the center of my professional and intellectual life. But this blog is not about me nor about mathematics. It is about some of my views on nature, on humans, and on the conflicts between nature and humans. It is also, plainly, about photography, about some of the machines that we use to build a visual record of the world, and about how we relate to those machines.
My intention is to have a strong photographic element in all of my blog posts, whether or not the topic of the post is even remotely related to photography. It is an activity that I am passionate about, perhaps because it is in so many ways the exact opposite of my other intellectual passion. Whereas mathematics allows me to enjoy the elegance of a formal logical argument, photography allows me to see the beauty of an image without rigorous requirements. The two pursuits complement each other, and just as I write equations on a more or less daily basis, I also produce images (almost) daily. And among those images there are the ones that I use to illustrate the topics of my blog posts.
A bit more about the flavor of this site. I do not follow trends, I stay away from the hip way of things, and I am convinced that I was born fifty years too late. So my views may rarely be “in tune” with the way of today’s world. I do not own a smart phone. I do not do “social media”, whatever that may be. I read books made out of paper. I listen to music on CD’s. I only drive manual transmission cars (if it ain’t got three pedals, it’s a golf cart). You may be thinking “Luddite!!”. Not quite – I simply choose machines following my own set of criteria, rather than what fashion and trends tell me to choose.
What does this mean when it comes to photography? Let’s see. I do not use Photoshop, I do not stack for depth of field, and I do not generate composite images of any kind, including HDR. Every single image that you find here is the product of a single exposure, with as little post-processing as possible, most often done in Lightroom. I like to do things the old fashioned way, and even though I do not use film any longer, as it is a dead medium, I find myself using manual focus lenses from the analog era more and more frequently. I can even see myself selling all of my digital lenses in the not too distant future. I find digital lenses and the images that they produce to be rather impersonal, and I prefer the analog sweetness of old lenses. Digital cameras and sensors will come and go, become obsolete and die. They are no more than hardware. I think of the digital camera as simply the “digital film” that you put behind a lens. Good lenses are forever. They are much more than hardware or software or the combination of the two. They are like theorems or works of art, immutable in their capacity to infuse an image with a strong, unique, and undefinable essence. And among analog lenses I have a strong attachment to many of the jewels manufactured decades ago by the likes of Olympus, Carl Zeiss (East and West), Konica, Fuji and a few others. As I said above, I put less emphasis on the camera, but I also have my favorites, which I have chosen because they are unquestionably at the top of their respective games. I shoot with Olympus OM-D and PEN, because of their great image and build quality in a very small package. I use Sony E-mount cameras (full frame and APS-C) because they are the only sensor-mount combination that is able to do justice to the great lenses of decades past. And I have a special place for my Sigma SD-1. The quality of Foveon raw files must be seen to be believed.
This blog is constantly expanding, and a sizable portion of the content focuses on some of the images that I generate with this mixed bag of equipment. But don’t expect to find technical discussions about photographic equipment. You will not find lifeless images of test charts (“does that line on the edge look sharp to you?”). You will not find tedious lens comparisons,nor endless repetitions of the same scene photographed with different lenses, different apertures, etc. (“and now let me show you the same mailbox that I showed in the last 137 images, but now with a different lens”). You will not find sophisticated-sounding discussions of “bokeh”, “vignetting” or “organic rendering”. The web is replete with this sort of efforts, and while I respect the time and care that the authors have invested in generating them, I don’t find them particularly inspiring nor useful.
What you will find here are images taken with different lenses under a wide range of conditions, accompanied by brief discussions of where the images are from, how they were generated, and what I think about them and about the lenses that produced them. You will find, for each lens, camera, or camera-lens combination that I somehow became interested in, collections of what I think are some of the best images that I was able to extract from that equipment. My hope is that the images will speak for themselves, and that together with my non-technical impressions, they may help you get a feeling for the personality of each lens. For that undefinable quality that goes beyond sharpness, contrast, color rendering, bokeh and flare, and yet is a combination of all these things.
Some of my work can be seen in this blog, but a more formal portfolio of my photography can be seen here. Many of my photographs can be purchased as fine-art prints, framed or un-framed. Please drop me a line if you have some project that you believe we could collaborate on. I am open to discussing just about any type of arrangement or assignment.
So, why the blog’s name? Because that is more or less the age of the Earth. More precisely, it is 4.56 billion years, but that would be too nerdy as a web address. And four billion years is closer to the age of the origin of life on Earth, and the age of that common ancestor to all terrestrial organisms. That humble common ancestor that made it possible for us to be here, exchanging ideas.