Where in the World is Lumen Sandiego?

STORY TIME! Try to guess where in the world Lumen Sandiego is, and learn about some RE-DONK-U-LOUS-LY cool lighting art at the same time!

Some years ago, I travelled to an “Art Island,” which hosts work by some very spectacular artists, including Claude Monet, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Tadao Ando, Yves Klein, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and most importantly for this post, James Turrell between its public art, museums, and hotel.

One museum is located underground, lit via sky lights and windows. I had just taken my first ever lighting design class, and was seeing lighting design everywhere in so much depth it was a little ridiculous (see definition for: obsession). There I saw my first piece by James Turrell, his “Afrum, Pale Blue” (1968). Seeing a piece of art made entirely of light and location impacted me, its simplicity as its strength.

The next piece of his I saw was “Open Field” (2000). There was a guide, who motioned for us to remove our shoes, and I filed in to a line with some other patrons. I felt ritual saturating the room, as we were asked to mount the stairs. We reached the top step, and stood facing the wall, and the flat expanse of uniform blue light directly in front of us. It was the flawless, the smoothest, most perfect panel of light I had seen.

Then my mind was blown.

The guide directed asked us to enter. I suppose he must have motioned, because I don’t believe I spoke the language quite good enough to have understood. I was baffled. I knew I was staring at what I could only assume is the most flawlessly backlit piece of frosted plexi ever. There was nothing to enter. If I stepped forward, I would hit the wall and have humiliated myself, and the polite people in line with me. However, we trusted the guide, and stepped in to the wall.

Wow.

It was not a wall, but a vast blue void.

Inside, to the camera, it looks like this:

But to human eyes, it looks like this:

I was in an entirely different plane, I was in flatland, I was up against a wall, I was in infinity…

Long story short, James Turrell’s work is CA-RAY-ZAY! We wandered the blue space, exploring its limits, exploring ours, before we finally walked down the steps and put our shoes back on.

 

***

 

This was my introduction to the Light and Space movement. This art movement originated in the 1960s in Southern California. It used light as an integral medium, and focused on creating “perceptual phenomena.”

Why does this matter to us as lighting designers, technicians, or light lovers? Well, let’s just ask trusty ol’ Wikipedia what the Light and Space movement involved, shall we?

Whether by directing the flow of natural light, embedding artificial light within objects or architecture, or by playing with light through the use of transparent, translucent or reflective materials, Light and Space artists made the spectator’s experience of light and other sensory phenomena under specific conditions the focus of their work.

BOOM. In that one sentence, light was referenced 5 times. That’s more than your average show review. So clearly, these artists have found a way to make one hell of an impact via light. I will speak more about Light and Space movement in the next “Where in the World is Lumen Sandiego?” and give more examples of how they expertly manipulate light, but let’s keep this first installation short… QUIZ TIME!

 

Where do you think I was? I kept it very easy as this is the first installation of “Where in the World is Lumen Sandiego,” so enjoy the feat of victory while you still can! Post a comment, or I’ll reveal next time. Have a tip for a spectacular location of light “Lumen Sandiego” should visit? Submit your tip to daphne (at) jimonlight.com or via the contact form.

 

Photographs from Mitsumasa Fujisuka

 

Au-WHOA-ras!

Arctic Photo, Tromsø, Norway

Seeing an aurora has been on my bucket list since as soon as I could brag to my childhood friends the name of the Disney princess was actually a  freaking awesome astronomical phenomena.

Auroras form from energized particles (predominantly electrons) accelerate across Earth’s magnetic fields, colliding with our gasses and creating photons! Their colors of the aurora are determined by which gas atoms and molecules the particles collide with. Check out the graph below, which shows how the gas dispersal in our atmosphere at different altitudes creates the different colors of auroras. The colors of their lines relate to the predominant color the particle collision with these gasses create.  WICKED, huh?!

They start as still east-west bands, until they suddenly “dance” across the sky in waves. Then the aurora will break in to numerous arcs and continue its dance travelling towards the south

Recently we experienced the largest solar flare in 6 years, which triggered beautiful auroras in even lower altitudes than they usually lie, and at intensities that staggered seasoned aurora scientists. Below is a SPECTACULAR video that shows the truly unbelievable range of movement and speed of a recent auroral substorm… but most importantly which most aurora time lapses don’t show–humans! Marvel at the sheer scale and speed of movement of these phenomena! What’s even more exciting is, the sun is likely to become even more active with solar storms in the next few months and years! BRING IT, YOU HOT, MASSIVE SPHERE OF PLASMA AND MAGNETIC FEILDS.

Lights Over Lapland Photo Expedition video of CME impact on 1-24-2012 from Lights Over Lapland on Vimeo.

 

The photo above was taken by Bjørn Jørgensen. It and many more shots of the recent flares can be seen here.

Learn about NASA’s Themis mission which studies auroral substorms and other space weather here.

Jim posted another aurora time lapse video almost a year ago that is QUALITY.

Graph via the Geophysical Institute at University of Alaska.

 

Peace, love, and photons!

Andika Pradana’s Interview with James Turrell, Master of Light and Space

I was so thrilled to get an email from Andika Pradana about his coverage of a presstalk and presentation with the famous James Turrell.  I’m so proud of you, Andika!
(I went to KTH in Sweden with Andika, he’s quite an amazing photographer and lighting artist!)

The talk was produced by See! Color! in Järna.

Do you know of James Turrell’s work?  Well, James Turrell is a MASTER of light and space – he’s an American artist, and his works are quite stunning:

“The Light Inside”

“The Space that Sees”

"Space that sees"/ James Turrell .(afternoon)

“Heavy Water”

You really need to do a little bit more looking into these pieces, they are STUNNING.  The one above, entitled “Heavy Water,” is a large swimming pool installation with a tower buried in the pool.  Swimmers can dive under the tower that resides in the water to look up and see the sky, surrounded by all of the blue water.  Awesome.

Check out Andika’s coverage of the press event with this American Master of light.  AWESOME coverage, Andika!  I am so proud of you!

Part one:

James Turrell (Interview) from Andika Pradana on Vimeo.

Part two:

James Turrell (Interview part 2) from Andika Pradana on Vimeo.

Part three:

James Turrell (Interview part 3) from Andika Pradana on Vimeo.

Thanks to Slipping Outside Yourself for the images of Heavy Water, and Oregon Live for the image of James Turrell!

Philips LivingColors, V2.0 – LED Love for the Home

I wrote about the Philips LivingColors fixture in its initial form quite a while ago – and I had the pleasure of meeting the designer of the LivingColors fixture when I was in Sweden, Willem van der Sluis.  Willem is one cool dude.  We got to hear a lot about the original story of the initial ideas surrounding the LivingColor lamp – did you know that when Philips first proposed this idea, they wanted to use three incandescent (halogen) lamps inside this thing?!  That goodness that they decided to repel that decision – otherwise it might have been the Philips LivingCrapIBurnedDownMyHouse.

There is now a new release of the LivingColor wash – Philips claims that it is 50% brighter than the original, which, if you bought version 1, sucks for you.  Right now the fixture retails for between $230 and $350, and includes seven LEDs, a choice between a wall lamp and floor lamp, and comes with a multi-parameter color and intensity control.

I still think it’s cool, and I still want one.  Amazon has the Philips LivingColors full size for $190 and a mini version with the remote built-in to the case (which comes in glossy black and glossy white) for $107.  My birthday just passed, anyone need a belated gift idea?  :)

Here’s a picture of the mini version, in glossy black:

Thanks, Geek and Hype!

LDI 2009: SeaChanger’s Booth

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One of my favorite booths this year was SeaChanger’s booth.  Besides the fact that they have a great product and are using the LIFI lamp like rockstars, SeaChanger had their standard setup – Eileen Morris (gourmet chef and wife of Tom Morris at SeaChanger) cooked those of us at the conference some of the finest food I’ve ever eaten.  Most definitely the best omelet I’ve ever eaten.

The entire booth was lit by plasma sources – I have completely forgotten the percentage that Tom Stanziano gave me about how much less power the SeaChanger booth was using by having plasma lamps in their fixtures – but at least 30% less comes to mind.  The light from these LIFI sources and the SeaChanger optics is pretty stunning.  The booth itself is set up like a kitchen show – broadcast camera feeds to plasma screens, showing how nice the light appears on camera.

Quite frankly, it is a damned beautiful light.

Okay – omelets, Grand Marinier whipped creme on crepes, the SeaChanger color engine, and the LIFI lamp.  This was a good combination for LDI 2009 for me!

I have some really interesting stuff coming up about SeaChanger this week – you have to stay tuned, especially if you like glass color filters…

Check out some images of SeaChanger’s LDI 2009 exhibit:

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That’s my hand, and it’s resting on the cooling fins of the SeaChanger below using a LIFI lamp.  Awesome.

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SeaChanger Wash:

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Look!  It’s a Nautilus, a Profile, and a Wash!

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Thanks for the omelet, Eileen!

Robert Buelteman’s Magic Flora

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Do you know who Robert Buelteman is?  A while ago I read an article in Wired about Robert (the article is where I got the images), and I was so intrigued by his art and process that I had to contact him myself and tell him how great I found his work.

Robert is an artist of the utmost depth and skill.  He’s an artist working with light, electricity, nature, and an idea of using those three things to expose images that are hidden from our view by design.  Robert Buelteman creates images of plant life, but not with a brush and pigment, a camera, or a lens.  His images are exposed in total darkness with high voltage electricity.

Robert made an interesting comment in an article in Asian magazine “Photoworld” – he said that his art has more in common “with Chinese Brush Painting and improvisational jazz than it does with the current practices of photography.”

Robert’s process is almost as beautiful as the work that it produces.  In order to get the effect Robert creates, he has to “thin out” the subjects (the plant life) by scalpeling them down very thin to get the aesthetic feeling that he wants in the particular image.  They are then placed on a piece of color transparency film that’s covered with a diffusion filter (could be rice paper, ground glass, acetate, Plexi) laid on top of the subject to scatter light.  The “easel” onto which Robert composes his image is a piece of sheet metal between two pieces of Plexiglas, all of which is submerged in liquid silicone.  Oh, yes – and 40,000 volts of electricity that are hooked up through the plant subject, making electricity jump through the plant life and onto the sheet metal.  All of this is captured on the color transparency film.  Robert then “paints” the plant subject with a fiber optic lead no larger than a human hair using light onto the film.

It’s a trial-and-error process – Robert might do 150+ “takes” of each photo, trying to accurately catch the auras and make it looks how it looks in Robert’s mind’s eye.

The interesting thing to me about the process is the point where the gas surrounding the plant subject gets ionized.  At this moment, the gas is turned into a plasma corona of sorts, and the work takes on an almost Kirlian photography in some cases.  Robert’s process is different than the Kirlian style of photography (which is all blue); what I find very interesting is how the life of the plant is almost released and captured on film.  It’s like looking into the soul of the plant.

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I emailed Robert a little while ago, hoping to find out about the way he feels about the work, and some insight on him as an artist working with light.  He was gracious enough to answer some emailed questions – I’ve posted the exchange below:

JimOnLight:  How did you arrive at the conclusion to take such an interesting look into plant life?

Robert Buelteman:  I’ve been photographing nature for over 30 years as a black-and-white landscape photographer, and even though I had been very successful with my work, I became frustrated by the ordinariness of it all. Seemed everything that inspired me had been shot by so many others so many times that my art form had become an exercise in futility. No one SAW what I did – I desperately need a new set of eyes, a new way of apprehending life itself.

JOL:  Does your muse for this work come from a particular fascination or interest in your life?

RB:  I am interested in assisting people to beyond the strait jacket that life puts us in. Day in, day out, life has it’s way with us and we tend to become more dead, more asleep every day. My work is a wholesale rejection of the way of life that says “Nothing to see here, move along” – life is brilliant, life is precious, life is a privilege, life is a miracle. Those are the qualities I work to imbue in every photograph I make.

JOL:  Your works are amazing in many ways, but one of my favorites is the form of the work. It has a slight flavor of the Kirlian Photograhy style mixed in with something that must be specifically Buelteman – can you describe your process, both artistically and physically?

RB:  If these were straight Kirlian images there would be no color other than blue. I meticulously hand paint the subjects using a fiber optic probe the size of a human hair.

JOL:  When you look closely at one of your works, take “Avena Futua” in the Through the Green Fuse Collection for example, the observer notices a very ethereal feeling connected to the leaves and the aura of electricity. How much of your work do you see in your “mind’s eye,” per se, and how much comes from experimentation with the flora and the electricity?

RB:  You have selected the only pure Kirlian image in the entire body of work! And yes, it was a bit of a surprise when I saw that the intense discharge had super heated the leave causing it to turn red. The experience of making these images is very distinct from landscape photography – there is no sense of control – it is replaced by a serendipitous dance between myself, the subject, the vision I have for it, and the vagaries of the process.

JOL:  If you had any bit of advice for young artists and designers working with light, could you share a small bit?

RB:  I try not to give advice as I don’t think it is of much value, and it all sounds so trite:
listen to your hear
think for yourself
follow your dreams
believe in yourself or no one else will
damn the torpedos, full speed ahead

See what I mean? Now, if you can be those qualities instead of merely speaking them, there’s some real value in that.


I am so very grateful to get to connect with this man!  Check out a few more of his images (thank you, Wired) and please check out Robert Buelteman’s studio site with more of his lovely work. Robert has a great new book out of his work in this series.  The book is called “Signs of Life,” and is available from Light Language Publishing.  Check it out – free shipping through the end of the year!

Robert sent me a new work, and I have posted it directly below.  The work is called “Rainbow Chard,” as it is the Buelteman process on a piece of rainbow chard, which is almost as delicious with garlic as it is with light and electricity:

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Thank you so much, Robert!  I think your work is spellbinding.

buelteman

VLX – Inside the New LED Marvel of Moving Lights

MMM.  VLX!  Sexy!  I cannot WAIT to see this at LDI 2009.  Hey, did I mention I am going to LDI 2009?

I just found some pictures of the inside of the VLX from Vari*Lite, and a few of the outside of the casing.  Check this stuff out!

A light engine chip from the VLX – Phlatlight anyone?

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More light engine goodiness:

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Even more lighting engine goodiness:

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Front lens side view with motors:

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Front lens with motors:

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VLX with its clothes off – I mean covers:

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Front view:

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Rear view:

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Thanks, Vari*Lite!

The Kruithof Curve – Color Temperature VS Illuminance

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Have you ever heard of the Kruithof Curve?

Back in the early 1940’s when fluorescent sources were beginning to affect the way we thought about light and color rendering, a scientist that worked for Philips named Arie Andries Kruithof performed some informal tests on how the human eye relates the amount of light in a given time of day to the color temperature of the light source.  Typically, human beings like higher color temperature light sources during the daytime hours, and lower color temperature sources once the sun goes down.  People in warmer climates tend to favor cooler color temperature sources, and people in colder climates like warmer light.  It seems pretty intuitive, yes?

Is this an official guaranteed works-for-every-human-on-earth standard?  Of course not.  Everyone is different.  Eastern societies have different preferences than Western societies.  But – and this is a general but – there is a correlation between the amount of light from a light source (lux) and the color temperature of the light source (degrees Kelvin) that seems to be fairly common among us all in most situations.  This is the research that culminated in A. A. Kruithof’s color temperature VS illuminance curve, as seen above.  Kruithof was working on visually pleasing light sources, and was interested in how adjusting the amount of light altered the amount of illumination needed to maintain a pleasing sense to the human eye.

The rods and cones in the human eye work together, and once the amount of illumination reaches a certain low or high point, the rods (intensity sensors) lead the visual information to the brain.  At night, when dusk conditions occur, you might notice that most of the colors in your view tend to be monochromatic, usually blue – this has to do with the low level of illumination, and a phenomenon referred to as the Purkinje Effect.  The Purkinje Effect tries to explain why our brain switches to scotopic vision at dusk when illumination levels are very low, and color rendering is poor – as the brightness of the day decreases, the vibrancy of reds goes away a lot faster than the vibrancy of blues in our vision.

We might have some almost built-in tendencies towards color temperature and light levels – perhaps somehow tied to the cycles of the sun and our circadian cycles.  We might have a tendency to associate warm colors with fire light at night, and we might associate higher color temperatures with the mid-day illumination levels from the sun.  Who really knows.  Kruithof gave it a try, and the curve is what he determined.

The two sources in the graph are the color temperature of Western/Northern Europe at mid-day (D65), and a 2700 Kelvin MR-16 tungsten-halogen source, for reference.

Thanks, ArchLighting and SoLux!

Lee Introduces New Sodium Effect Filters

Oh holy cow – my man iSquint posted an article about Lee’s new range of Sodium Effect filters that were released recently.  This line of filters is excellent – if you ask “why on EARTH would I want a set of 3200 degree filters?” then you’ve never had to deal with daylight before.  Way to go, Lee, and iSquint, you’re awesome!

Lee has also developed a  new falight conversion gel that coverts daylight (5600k) to Tungsten (3200k) with a red bias.  The new gel colors is 604 Full CT Eight Five.

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Ars Electronica in Austria – An LED Marvel Performance

From the Vimeo site on the project:

lights on is an audio visual performance created for the Ars Electronica museum in Linz, Austria, which has a facade that contains 1085 LED controllable windows. The windows’ colors are changed in realtime with music that’s broadcasted on speakers surrounding the building.

visuals coded in openframeworks by zachary lieberman, joel gethin lewis and damian stewart (yesyesno). music by daito manabe, with support from Taeji Sawai and Kyoko Koyama. we made this in three days :)

the performance is approximately 10 minutes long. this is an edit. also, we’ve recorded the output from the software (audio / OSC) and this performance can be replayed in the future for events, etc.

special thanks to the awesome ars electronica / futurelab crew, (maria, wolfgang, andreas, ramsay, horst, gerfried, maff, christopher and everyone else), also iris mayer, carolina vallejo, and rhizomatiks for helping make this possible. also a huge thanks to the excellent technicians Multivision who installed this system: is.gd/BnCy. some info about the install here: is.gd/BkP2

openframeworks.cc / daito.ws / frey.co.nz / joelgethinlewis.com / aec.at

Check out this video – Oh, I want to do this with some good folks like these.  Dreams of living architecture always fill my brain…


Thanks, VJ.TV!