Week 2: The SpaceTime Continuum

Basic Digital Photography with Matthew Swarts


Camera Basics and Exposure


For Next Week:

Read in your textbook: pages 1-83.

Read About: The Clock of the Long Now 

Turn off your camera’s flash.

Fill your memory card with images that experiment and demonstrate the reciprocal relationship of aperture to shutter speedPlay and have fun  with depth of field (make pictures using a wide (small number) aperture and then make the same  image with a small (high number) aperture). Play and have fun with shutter speed possibilities (slow and fast).  While you should strive for correct exposure every time, Experiment! Make Mistakes! Do something new and interesting with your frame each exposure. Make your time with the camera as engaging as possible.

Upload your images to your computer’s hard drive. Choose 6-8 of your best images, resize according to the directions below, and upload them to the “spacetimecontinuum” folder inside the “arts1850” folder using Dropbox.


Exposure (EV)= Intensity (of Light) x Time (this relationship is inviolable)

Exposure Compensation

Exposure Compensation Issues:

While automatic settings can produce fine results, with digital photography in general it is better to underexpose (usually by 1/3 to 2/3)  fstops when creating JPEGs as your final output file.  (Most cameras are set to create JPEGs by default…see if your file output type can be modified and if your camera allows for RAW file processing, read below!)  Even though this concept is somewhat complicated to understand at first, determining correct exposure with a digital camera is very easy.  For any given situation in the real world, learn how to use your exposure compensation controls to make the images in your viewfinder slightly dark and richly saturated, with highlights that are not “blown out” or overexposed. Exposing this way gives you more options.

If your camera can make RAW files, I would suggest you start using this file format immediately. RAW files contain all of the information that has hit the sensor, uncompressed and without any in-camera processing, while JPEGs invariably involve both compression and camera processing. The procedure for making ideal RAW files is slightly different.  With RAW, the camera user has the ability to moderately adjust exposure and brightness and other options AFTER the initial in-camera exposure has taken place to a much greater extent than with JPEG files. Because of the structure of this post-processing operation, photographers now believe it is better to slightly overexpose (by 1/3 stop or more) RAW files in camera.  This means you set your exposure compensation control to create files which are slightly light in appearance, still working to minimize blown out highlights.  Exposing in this way, again, gives you the most options when working with post-processing software like Photoshop, Camera RAW, Lightroom, and others.

NOTE: These are just GENERAL recommendations. Every exposure situation is unique and the best guide for how to compensate appropriately is your LCD viewfinder and your eye. Get in the habit of constantly checking your exposure on the LCD screen!

Fstop = unit of aperture or shutter speed measurement.  Each change in camera’s fstop settings either halves or doubles the amount of light that hits the sensor. 

Aperture and Effect on Exposure

Exposure is measured by your camera’s light meter.  For now learn how to set your camera’s meter to Matrix (also called Multisegment, Pattern and Evaluative metering).

For any given lighting situation, there is a reciprocal relationship between changes in aperture and shutter speed.  Raising the value of one, in other words, means you will have to lower the other, and vice versa. For any exposure situation, there is no single “correct” exposure, but rather a range of choices is available.  The options of exposure are perhaps the most powerful tools of photography.

 Aperture (the size of the opening of the light “faucet”, controls Depth of Field)

Depth of Field (area of image in focus from foreground to background, controlled by aperture.  Wider aperture = less depth of field.  Smaller aperture = more depth of field.)

Wider aperture = smaller number|higher number = smaller aperture.

Night Blooming Cereus, Sally Mann, 1988. This is an example of a wide-open (smallest possible number) aperture. Note the depth of field is very narrow and specific, with only the edges of the cereus flowers in focus. The rest of the image is blurry and exhibits a phenomenon that photographers lately refer to as bokeh.

Andrew Miksys. This is another good example of a relatively wide open (small number) aperture. Only the plane of the glass and a small section of the girl’s face are in focus. Objects in the background begin to blur together in interesting amorphous color arrangements.

“Seva Dasi,” © Fazal Sheikh. Example of a middle (not wide open, not stopped down all the way) aperture. Only the subject of this portrait is included in the depth of field, the background and foreground are out of focus.

Todd Hido. This image was made with the lens mostly stopped down, toward a smaller aperture (higher number). The foreground and center are in crisp focus, as is much of the background.

Walker Evans, Allie Mae Burroughs, 1936. This is a good example of a small (high number, “stopped all the way down”) aperture. Note the entire subject plus the foreground and background are in crisp focus. The depth of field extends far into the frame. As writer James Agee said of Evans’ work, what is visible represents “the cruel radiance of what is.”

Shutter Speed (controls the time value of light hitting sensor):

Henri Cartier Bresson. In this image, relatively fast motion has been stopped by a fast shutter speed (likely greater than 1/125 second). There is also great depth of field, made possible by a small aperture (high number).

Abelardo Morell. During a long exposure, the book appears to have been pulled toward the viewer, creating the illusion that the star maps are sliding off the picture plane. This is made possible by an extremely slow shutter speed, accompanied by motion while the camera rests on a tripod.

Please download and review the slides from this week’s lecture, being certain to answer for yourself what kind and combinations of shutter speed and aperture were used for each image displayed: arts1850 slides week 2 the space time continuum

Exposure Controls and Compensation (know how to access them)

Mode (Auto, Program, Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv), Manual)

Topics to Investigate:

CCD vs. CMOS (sensors: the camera’s eye.  charged coupled device vs. complementary metal oxide semiconductor. sensor translates light into voltage, with charge being proportionate to amount of light)

Camera Resolution (how many pixels are available to light)

Bit Depth (number of bits used to store a value)

Color Mode (grayscale/RGB/CMYK)

File Formats (JPEG, TIFF, RAW, Photoshop PSD)

Noise (electronic errors or interference)

ISO (standard for measuring the sensor’s sensitivity to light. Higher number equals more sensitivity, usually more noise.  Lowest number equals smoothest, cleanest image.)

Digital Media (+size/+speed = more versatility)

Shutter Lag (time lapse between when you press shutter and when camera actually sees the scene before the lens)

Burst Rate (how many shots in quick succession before camera has to pause to write to card)

Optical vs. LCD viewfinders

Aspect Ratio of Image (most 4:3, some 3:2)

Histogram (make friends now with this graph! quantified brightness values from 0-255 used in evaluating and adjusting image quality and exposure)

Image Size (camera setting for image resolution, higher = more information)

Compression (JPEG setting always uses some compression, which is “lossy”, lower setting degrades image, higher = smoother, sharper.)

White Balance (controls accuracy of color balance and color temperature in an image, usually AWB fine)

Sharpening (destructive process)

Saturation (color intensity)



Color Space (when possible use adobe RGB 1998)

File Numbering (continuous much more useful)

Format (know how to reformat after every use)



In order to view your work, you must first upload your images to your workstation’s hard drive.
1. Open Adobe Bridge, the icon for which looks like the following:
2. When Bridge opens, the interface will look similar to this:
3. Connect either your camera (with card) or a card reader (with card) to the computer (usually via USB).  If you are using your camera you will likely have to power it on and select the appropriate mode for uploading your photographs. From the File menu, select “Get Photos from Camera…” A dialogue box that looks like the following will appear:
4. Choose the Location where you want your images to be saved  and create a new folder in that location (for example: thespacetimecontinuum).
Select the “Advanced Dialog” option and you will see a dialog box that looks similar to this:
5. Be sure, if you have made RAW files, that you select the “Convert to DNG” option. This assures that your file will be converted to an archival file format that is readable on any platform.
Double check the location and name of the folder you will be saving to. When you are certain the dialog box is set up correctly, select “Get Media”. Your files will begin to upload to the destination folder. After upload is complete you will be able to view your work in a new Bridge window.

Basic File Management (Using Bridge to Export your work)

1. The files you import directly from your camera will be too large to share on the web. In order to resize and export them, you must first create an Export preset. Select the Export tab in the lower left corner of the Bridge. When the Export panel options appear, select “hard drive” and then click on the “+” symbol in the lower right corner of the Export panel. This will allow you to create a new preset for exporting your files. A dialogue box will appear:
2. Select export to a specific location in the radio button options. Save the images to the Desktop to start, as you will still need to rename them before placing them in my Dropbox folder. Once your dialogue box looks similar to the one above, select the Image Options tab at the top. The dialogue box will change to reflect options for resizing your images:
4. Select “Constrain to Fit” and input “800” into the dialogue box as shown above. This will create files with a maximum pixel dimension of 800 pixels. Change the “Image Quality” to 12, the highest quality available. Lastly, name this preset “arts1850” so you can use it in the future. When your dialogue box looks similar to the one above, select Save and your preset will now be saved and listed in the menu in the export panel:
5. Hold down the apple (command) key and select your best 6-8 images. Then drag this stack of images onto the newly created “arts1850” preset.  A small arrow will appear in the upper right corner of the yellowed-out preset name. Click on this arrow and your files will be exported to the desktop!


Submitting and Sharing Your Work (Using Dropbox)

1. Each week you will need to submit your work via Dropbox. The first step is to rename your files: “firstnamelastname” followed by a number.  (For example, my files would be named “matthewswarts1.jpg”, “matthewswarts2.jpg”, etc). You can do this easily from within Bridge. Just locate your files in the Bridge Browser (hold down the apple key to select multiple files). Next, select “Batch Rename” from the Tools menu. A dialogue box will appear that looks similar to the one below. Configure and input your name in the “new filenames” dialogue box, as I have below:
When your dialogue box appears similar to the one above, select “Rename” and your files will be saved on the Desktop!
2. Next create a new folder and rename the folder (first name last name) plus (name of assignment). (For example: “matthew swarts the spacetimecontinuum”). Note: to create a folder, from the Finder (click on the desktop to bring it up) select File>New Folder.
3. Place all your files in the folder. (Click and drag!)
3. Open up DropBox. (Or navigate to http://dropbox.com and sign in.) Locate the “arts1850” folder that you were asked to link your account to.
4. Drag (or upload) your newly created assignment folder into the appropriate assignment folder inside “arts1850”. For this first week it will be “thespacetimecontinuum”.
5. Close Dropbox.

Artist Spotlight: Trevor Paglen

Active Military and Reconnaissance Satellites of the United States of America, Multimedia Installation © Trevor Paglen
In 1963 NASA launched the first communications satellite “Syncom 2” into a geosynchronous orbit over the Atlantic Ocean. Since then, humans have slowly and methodically added to this space-based communications infrastructure. Currently, more than 800 spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit form a man-made ring of satellites around Earth at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers. Most of these spacecraft powered down long ago, yet continue to float aimlessly around the planet. Geostationary satellites are so far from earth that their orbits never decay. The dead spacecraft in orbit have become a permanent fixture around Earth, not unlike the rings of Saturn. They will be the longest-lasting artifacts of human civilization, quietly floating through space long after every trace of humanity has disappeared from the planet’s surface.
Commissioned and presented by public art organization Creative Time, The Last Pictures is a project to mark one of these spacecraft with a record of our historical moment. For nearly five years, artist Trevor Paglen interviewed scientists, artists, anthropologists, and philosophers to consider what such a cultural mark should be. As an artist in residence at MIT, he worked with materials scientists to develop an ultra-archival disc of images, capable of lasting in space for billions of years.
In September 2012, the television satellite EchoStar XVI will lift off from Kazakhstan with the disc attached to its anti-earth deck, enter a geostationary orbit, and proceed to broadcast over ten trillion images over its fifteen-year lifetime. When it nears the end of its useful life, EchoStar XVI will use the last of its fuel to enter a slightly higher “graveyard orbit,” where it will power down and die. While EchoStar XVI’s broadcast images are destined to be as fleeting as the light-speed radio waves they travel on, The Last Pictures will continue to slowly circle Earth until the Earth itself is no more.