Pandemonia -- An Introduction
Pandemonia is an informal attempt to publicly thread together some of the images, obsessions, thoughts, and experiences I've collected over a decade or so of photography. It's necessarily limited both by the medium (see Phil Greenspun's We Have Chosen Shame and Will Get War) and by the amount of time I can devote to it (currently very limited). Pandemonia's images are organised in a loose web of obsessions and themes; genres; and narratives or essays -- you may find the same image in more than one dimension or thread. (If you want a more formal presentation of my images -- without the accompanying chat -- visit my HamishReid.com gallery pages).
If you haven't been here before, the best place to start is probably the Themes and Obsessions page. This presents many of the images and photos in some sort of structured order, with (usually) some sort of textual context (whether the text helps or not is another matter...).
The narratives or photo essay pages are currently limited to two photo essays, The Occupation, about the Berkeley People's Park riots of the early 1990's, and A Sense Of Place, about Emeryville and West Berkeley.
There's also a new snapshot server, Snap!, under the main Pandemonia home. This is a randomly-shuffled set of about 60 digital snapshots. There's also a new (as of August 2002) One Day feature that showcases the images (using the snapshot camera) that I managed to get out of a single day's session in my house with a friend who doesn't mind posing (warning to Americans: this (shock! horror!) contains partial nudity...). I have also added a new (as of September 2002) Black + White. + Digital. page with some examples of digital black and white work and an incoherent set of musings about digital and black and white (one of my favourite combinations).
There are several old equipment reviews under my TechTalk page; these TechTalk pages are a compendium of the usual gearhead stuff other photographers may (or may not) find interesting.
The Other Sites page lists some other web sites that I like or have found useful.
Pandemonia is a part-time work in progress, so if something seems to be missing, try again next week.... Similarly, since I try to change the contents regularly, check back in a month's time if you're still interested -- I may have replaced a thread here or added one there, etc.
On most pages, any of the small (thumbnail) images can be clicked on to produce a (much) larger JPEG version of the same image (this can be slow..), whether or not the thumbnail is highlighted.
If you've got any questions about the photos or Web pages -- why are they so dark (or so light)?, are they manipulated?, etc. -- have a look at the notes below. Some of the more technical questions might also be answered in the TechTalk pages.
Pandemonia assumes that you have a common late-model browser (e.g. IE 5 or similar-era Navigator, etc.); some of the layouts will make no sense without these (the default AOL browser predictably mangles most of the complex images according to AOL users). I use CSS a lot, but it should work fine without this.
Please read the formal copyright notice covering images and text on these pages before attempting to copy or pirate images under my home page or Pandemonia.
These notes are here to answer questions people sometimes ask about the images and photos in Pandemonia. They are not in any logical order. If you've got more questions, get in touch and I'll try to answer them.
Why Are The Images So Dark / So Washed Out?
One of the joys of imaging on the Web is the total lack of standards for what tech types call gamma -- in effect, how dark or how bright midrange greys appear on your screen. Different manufacturers and systems set monitor gamma differently, and consequently they end up showing the same image very differently. Some systems will make the image look too bright and washed out, others will make it appear too dark; very few will make it look the way you want it to. There is no way to tell Netscape (or whatever browser you're using) the monitor gamma value the image was produced with -- and certainly no way to get your browser to compensate automatically for the difference between that gamma and yours.
In short, due to this lack of a standard, there's currently no way to make an image that looks good on every machine out there -- and almost no way to make it look really good on more than a handfull of similar systems.
I edit these images with a Mac G4 system setup with a system gamma of 2.2; this is deliberately higher than the standard gamma for most Macs and SGI boxes (which are usually set somewhere between 1.4 and 1.8), and a bit lower than standard for Windows and Sun boxes (both PCs and Sparcstations seem to have a system gamma of about 2.5). What this means is that on standard setup SGIs and Macs these images will appear somewhat washed out; on boxes with a gamma higher than 2.2, they'll appear too dark. In practice, I try to make the images a bit dark on the 2.2 box so that they're not totally washed out on normal Macs (I also usually sanity check check my images on one of my Linux and Windows boxes before putting them up on the web).
So how do you correct for your own monitor's gamma? How do you change it? I don't know how you change a Windows box, but it's relatively simple on Macs (use the Gamma utility that comes with Adobe Photoshop if you've got it; there are other similar utilities around), and doable on Sparcstations. A good intro and guide to gamma correction is CGSD's Gamma Correction Home Page; I won't add any more here.
You could also, of course, try fiddling with your monitor's brightness and contrast controls, but this is rarely very effective (it's not correcting for the gamma difference, just making it aesthetically more pleasing), and it's a pain.
Apart from the gamma issue (above), there are other limitations on the image quality that you'll see here. In general, the images you see here are no match for the printed versions -- many of the print versions are large (16x20) black and white or Cibachrome prints, and the little JPEG or GIF images on your screen just ain't the same thing.... (Note that this is not a digital thing, only a Web thing).
The main reasons (in my opinion) for quality problems on the web are:
- Firstly, I have to admit that I'm not about to put my best high resolution, high quality images out on the Web (and get ripped off in the process). What you see here are deliberately dumbed down versions which, given the resolution and the use of the JPEG, don't look terrible, but, again, don't look anywhere near as good as the print or transparency versions. If you want prints or transparencies, or the hi-res versions of these images, contact me (but note that I'm the world's worst printer, and it can take me literally years to get around to printing a particular image because I tend to print in batches).
- Resolution -- your monitor's resolution is probably either 72 or 96 dpi (dots per inch), i.e. much lower than the corresponding print, especially at on-screen image sizes like 5x7 or 8x10 (inches). This will make some images look jagged or coarse, but there's not much I can do about this -- it's pretty fundamental. I could make the images much larger, giving them a much higher relative resolution, but then we'd hit the next problem:
- Size -- bigger on-screen size means bigger image files and slower viewing, especially if I make the resolution high enough to make the image look very good full-screen on a 21 inch monitor (and they do look damn good when done properly...). I don't have the disk space -- and you probably don't have the bandwidth or patience -- to cope with several dozen 20Mb image files and their downloading and rendering by your browser.
- Colour balance -- as with gamma, it's difficult to get precise colour renditions across different platforms, and consequently some images will have the wrong colour balance. Sometimes there will be noticeable colour shifts or casts; again, there really isn't much we can do about this without a lot of work. What looks good on my (calibrated) screen here won't necessarily have the same colours on yours. Some systems support only 8 bit colour maps (i.e. only 256 distinct colours at one time) at some or all screen resolutions; this will make most of my colour images look awful.
- Surroundings -- good matting and framing of photos and images in general really makes an enormous difference to the way a print is seen. The final framed version gives the print a particular context and background that's not possible in the typical web browser. This is only presentation, I know, but it can still make a dramatic difference in the way the image is perceived.
Do You Have Other Images and Prints?
Yes! Due to disk space and time limitations, I can only put a small fraction of my images and photos onto the Web (and those that make it here are crippled by the use of JPEG and low-res imaging). Contact me if you're interested in a full catalogue.
Do You Manipulate The Images At All?
Currently, most of the images under Pandemonia are relatively straight -- I use Photoshop for these images much as I would conventional tools, doing the various contrast manipulations, dodging, burning, cropping, etc. digitally rather than by hand (and what a relief that is...). The exceptions are usually obvious or well-labeled (e.g. One Day or Black + White. + Digital, where the manipulations are often the whole point...).
Can I get Copies or Real Prints? Can I Use These Images In My Own Web Pages?
See the copyright notice for details on what you can and can't do with these images, and for how to contact me if you want real prints (I have many more than I can get to show here...) or you want to use the images commercially.
Who Are You? How Can I Contact You?
Check out my resume for some details -- and go to the Get In Touch page to contact me.