Sunday, December 4, 2016

How to capture a glitch in the wild and then tame it

How to get an 100% authentic glitch photo:

1. Get a cocky computer support guy to hack into your computer when you're out of your office and destroy all of your files.

2. Have IT try to retrieve the files and fail miserably.

3. Send the drive to a file recovery service and have them retrieve only non indexed and corrupt files.

ta-dah! That's how, back in 2009, I ended up with a lot of corrupt files. Once I got over the disaster, I started to see the beauty of the glitch, which is basically the valiant attempt of the file format to do its job even amid failure (if file formats wrote Shakespearian tragedies, they would be filled with the brilliant gore of rainbow hued breakdown).

The purist glitch is like a found object. You just take it from the wild like Duchamp stealing a urinal and calling it art. I love the pure, dada corruption of a found glitch, like this:

That's pure, unadulterated glitch.

Then, if you're not too much of a purist, you can intervene to varying degrees. Like the following, where the only thing I changed was to put it in black and white (while leaving the snowy noise with its natural flecks of color):

Here's another almost-natural glitched image of an old typewriter ad. The only thing I changed was a slight change in the tint of the bands of color (there was more of a lilac in the original, but I didn't like it):

Getting a glitch in the wild is like getting that "decisive moment" in street photography, but with more serendipity (cloaked in disaster).

But there's no reason not to make something out of that corrupt file. So, sometimes I'll add in another photo, usually in black and white. I'll play around with blending modes ("multiply" is always a good place to start) and then start messing with curves, masks, and such. The photo at the top of this post is a combo of two photos that in Photoshop layers looks like this:

The combo creates little moments such as the parallel between the watchful dad (top left) looking at the kid and the heroic god slaying the snake. dark, i know. Then, there are the parallel arms of the statue and the other kid whose small arm is just below the statue's. Can you spot the Yankee's logo hovering in the white netherworld of that vertical line piercing the left third of the photo? 

Working with glitch is nothing new. In fact, I've cycled back around to it out of nostalgia. After glitch art went from underground to mainstream I think it's settled down more into the zone where it has less baggage and can be played with without being caught up in pure trendiness. 

Until I exhaust and tame all of my naturally corrupted files, I will keep adding new glitch (and noise) art to my online gallery for sale. I'm all about unpretentious pricing (I'll explain why in a future post), so feel free to buy something to add epic digital tragedy to your walls (glitch art looks especially good printed on metal).

Saturday, December 3, 2016

So...Instagram...yeah, side effect of the new iPhone 7

Despite having written a post about Instagram (actually, two, well four) back when a mere 100 million or so people had already discovered the app (so cutting edge), I never bothered to use it. So there goes my chance at life as an "Instagram influencer."

Instead, because I'm really bad at monetization, I spent my Instagram-related energy on writing an  article about the horror movie Sinister and the Instagram aesthetic, and doing a book chapter about the Brownie camera and its relation to Instagram. But use it? No way. Pinterest was all the social media I could handle. But then I got the iPhone 7plus and thought, sure, six years late to the party, perfect. Fashionably late.

So...try not to be jealous, but I have, like, 45 followers, so that basically puts me in Kardashian territory. See, just look at this screenshot:

Taylor Swift is no doubt nervous about my meteoric rise. It's what people are saying. So I hear.

Should you want to follow takeoutphoto on Instagram, go for it. It exists. It's my really lazy way of sort of blogging. Even lazier than tumblr.

I've had a sudden nostalgic resurgence of interest in glitch (see my "Glitch Gothic" chapter in Cinematic Ghosts if you're into that kind of thing). I'm going back through my files from 2009 that were destroyed/hopelessly corrupted by an overconfident IT guy. Thanks, bruh. Out of devastation (and it was pretty devastating at the time to lose both my hard drive and backup) comes the beauty of digital ruins. Sometimes, the pure glitch is beautiful on its own, and sometimes I help it by combining it with black and white. Here's one I did tonight:

(and I put more up for sale on my smugmug site as I do them)

Here's one of my favorites:

But what does this have to do with the new iPhone? Nothing. I started Instagram because I got the cool dual lens iPhone 7 plus, which has a camera good enough to take real pictures with. And instead, I end up working on more photos that I did not take on an iPhone. Go figure. Then, in turn, it put me in the mood to write this blog post. Maybe could happen.

But if it doesn't, hey, there's always my Instagram account.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Family Tree Photoshop Tutorial and Free Template

A family tree I did for one of my parents (with some info removed here for privacy) The "frames" are from a vintage photo.

If you Google "Family Tree Template," here's a screenshot of what you'll get:

I don't want to disrespect any of those drawings of trees, but they're a bit too juvenile for a grown-up person's wall. 

Martha Stewart, on the other hand, has done some stunning family trees, but nothing with both photos and names/dates. She has a really cool diamond-shaped arrangement with photos, for example, but it's more about d├ęcor than information.

When I made a family tree for one of my parents as a gift, I opted for a style that was suited to the vintage of the photos and the style of the home where it would be hanging. Some of the info has been removed from the screenshot for the sake of privacy, but you get the idea. Sadly, I was also faced with the problem of not having photos for everyone (we lost almost everything in a warehouse fire when I was little and living outside the country), so when lacking a photo, I opted to put the name/date in the frames. I made a 16x20 inch print, so that's the size of the template (but you can resize it). To help remedy the sad state of the internet's family tree photo templates, I am sharing this one with you for free along with a tutorial. The file for the template is large (about 163mb it is a Photoshop .psd file), so be patient when downloading. (a zipped file is still 64mb. Do the regular one if it gives you problems) The template will look like this:

a closer detail...

(Did you notice I left out that decorative thing around the name? sorry, but I left it out in the template because it's from a digital stamp set I bought ages ago.)

And a view of what your Layers palette will look like (tons of folders! one per person)

It looks daunting, but once you know how to do one folder, you know how to do them all. Almost. The "child" folder (where the person whose genealogy you're depicting goes) is slightly different. Here's a look inside that folder

 Click on the folder and you will see four layers. The bottom layer is the type layer. Double click the "T" (not the words next to it, but the "T" itself) and you will see the "Type name here" text get highlighted. You can now type a name in its place.

In the type menu bar, you can change whatever you like (color, size, font). If you hold the cursor anywhere but directly over the type, you can drag the text to recenter it. 

One layer up from the text layer is the frame layer, which you will leave as is, but feel free to toggle the eye on and off to see what it is.

The next layer up is also going to be left as is (see, that's not so bad!). This is the clipping mask layer. You can learn more about clipping masks in my wedding template tutorial, but otherwise, just keep reading.

The top layer in this folder is "photo goes here." Sounds self explanatory, but your photo will not magically resize to fit the window, so here is what you do:

1. Open the photo you want to use (I suggest keeping all the photos black and white or sepia for better continuity)...

2. Select it (command-a for Mac, ctrl-a for PC) and copy it (command-c or ctrl-c)

3. Now move back into the window of the template and make sure that the appropriate "photo goes here" layer is active (just click once on it). See how that layer is highlighted? That means it's active. I know this sounds super basic, but I sometimes get rushed and forget to select the layer, so if you're like me, a reminder is in order.

4. With the "photo goes here" layer active, paste (Mac: command-v or PC: ctrl-v) the photo you just copied onto that layer. 

And don't freak out if it looks like this....

Or if you can't even see it (provided you can see it in the highlighted layer). Your photo is hovering back there, masked by everything else. You will only see whatever is in that rectangle of the frame. A quick way to find your photo (and you will have to do this anyway so...) is to hit "transform" (command-t or ctrl-t). You can see by the outlines of the transform box that the photo is way bigger than what I need:

To transform your photo without distorting it...
hold down "shift", grab one of the corners, and and pull in to resize. You can click anywhere within the outline of your photo and drag around to see how you're doing. See, it's getting closer...

continue the shift corner dragging and moving around until you like how it appears in the window (note: but make sure it's not smaller than the space of the inside frame.) This seems about right:

Now hit return and accept the transformation.
It's magical!

Now you will be more or less repeating those steps for each folder (each folder is labeled with the person it represents). If it makes you feel better to keep things tidy, click the little arrow next to the folder you just completed to hide its contents.

Now work your way up to the next folder...

You will follow the exact same steps as above, but now you have two text layers (a date layer and a name layer).

Note that the frame sizes get slightly smaller with each generation. It was just a matter of fitting things in a way that looked right.

This isn't a super fast process, but trust me, it's a lot faster than building it from scratch. Just a couple more things and we're done:

What about those layers without photos?
Chances are, you won't be missing the exact same photos that I was (unless you're my sister). So what if you want to change something? For example, look at those top two folders (a photo one: maternal grandmother's mother and a date-only one: maternal grandmother's father). 

Let's say you're lucky enough to have photos for both. You will want to get rid of the date-only one and replace it with a photo one. Start by turning off the visibility (the eye) of the layer you're replacing so you can see a blank spot to fill:

Now duplicate the entire maternal grandmother's mother folder (make sure the folder is active and hit command-j for a Mac or ctrl-j for PC). This gives a copy. With your newly copied folder active, you can use the move tool (v) to drag it into the blank spot:

Now you have two "grandmother's mother" layers, one of which you may want to rename to avoid confusion. You can trash the folder you don't need or just leave it invisible.

Final touches...

Maybe you don't like that beige color (too peachy? too band-aid like? Hey, it worked with my parents' color scheme.) You can change it by using the paint bucket tool to pour a new color into the "background color" layer:

Make sure you're happy with how all the text is aligned. Save a layered copy in case you want to change something later. The size is set to 16x20 (at 320 dpi, which is what Costco uses), so it will work great for 8x10, but you may have to do some adjustments to the canvas size (sorry, but I can't bear to continue a tutorial on that right now) and then crop in order to get different aspect ratios.

Maybe at some point I'll do a version that goes back even more, or something really modern, but for now, I hope this will make the world of family tree charts look a little less like it belongs on Dora the Explorer. 

Good luck! Let me know if you try it.

note: This is free, so please do not try to sell or get profit by redistributing the template.
p.s. If you like this tutorial, feel free to show some love by browsing my galleries of prints for sale (they make good gifts)