Fractal fun: coloring changes

A fractal spiral colored by a palette designed along Persian-carpet colorsWhile working on fractals in Fractint it was easy to fall into the habit of making color gradients for my palettes that mimicked metallic surfaces. Without the added flexibility of the tools now available,  most of my fractal play was in the nature of ‘taking portraits’ or ‘macro-photographs’ of structure that was either striking or, as so often happens, reminded me of something. Eventually all that shiny surface gets kind of same-y and it’s time to consider some changes. In my last post, I put up a few fractals that were more or less monochromatic. For the images of this post,  the palette was designed to look as if the fractals  were done in colored pencil. By altering the gradient so that its peak color was white (instead of peaking at an intense shade of the color to create the illusion of highlights on a metal  surface), and by limiting the colors to a main hue shading to white and adding a solid black for “drawing within the line”,  the palette’s effect is pretty close to colored pencil shading.

Thus,  bright, shiny images …

.get a different look. Julia fractal colored as if with colored pencils

As you can see in the next images, the limited number of colors in the palette  for Fractint doesn’t  work very well when the pixel values of the iterations (each time the formula is altered then solved for all solutions within the range and by the parameters being explored) don’t change enough to avoid ending up with bands of color rather than a smooth gradient.  Sometimes, the banding that results can be used to effect in an image, but usually one wishes the gradient were smooth instead.

Coloring the same fractal with different color palettes is par for the course, as one looks for the best way to enhance the structure that interested the eye.  With bilaterally and radially symmetrical fractals, this allows us to play with Paint Shop Pro, or some such, to assemble an image with different versions of the same fractal, for fun.  With Ultrafractal,   this is possible using the various tools within the program,  in concert with special formulae  that writers have given to the  public collection for all of us to use.

Using Fractint and Paint Shop Pro;  the last is a sort of vertical diptych:

(click on images in this post to view larger versions}

Gold, green and grey horizontal julia with golden spherescolored pencil coloring of horizontal julia-based imagecomposited image of metallic and colored pencil julia based fractal image

Messing about with the coloring can get you out of a rut. If everything one’s filing away looks like metal,  maybe it’s time to try to make it look like plastic or a painted surface.  Or even an organic object of some Nature not quite our own.radiating lavendar metallic

Radiating metallic  efflorescence.

Change things and get a high contrast image.high contrast white version of radiating efflorescences.

red, lavendar, white and brown radiating raw liver-y  look.

This one grew on me, eventually. though, I still call it the ‘organized liver’ when no one is within earshot.

Study the way light bounces off of things.  Does the brightest highlight still exhibit a shade of the color of the surface or is it a straight reflection of the temperature of the light source?  Does the highlight flare out over the surface or does it stay tight to the shape of the ilight source? Watching for characteristics of surfaces is a great aid to increased flexibility in choosing how to best exhibit whatever structure the math reveals while you explore the literally infinite world of fractals.



Some Fractals in Black and White

grayscale textured Julia set spiral thumbnail image.
This post was penciled-in to be about my first  explorations with infrared (IR) photography.  I was hoping that along with some outdoor images,   that I would have progressed far enough to show the results of  experiments done on trying to use IR to read some of the faded writing on an old field collection tag.  No luck so far,  but I’m looking into two other ways of doing things.  My camera is very good at blocking IR radiation in its unconverted form so anything I try takes quite a large amount of light and LONG exposure times.  The two or three experimental shots that sort of worked looking out at partly cloudy skies used exposures in the 8-12 minute range. This doesn’t bother me much (I’m actually having a ball thinking up things to try),  except that one must get used to a quite shocking amount of the technicolor snow that is digital noise.  At any rate, it is for a future post.

I Brake for Fractals!

Today’s  post is of a handful of images that thwack some big red work-flow shutdown button in me.  My old graphite and pen-and-ink tastes agitate  for abandoning further alteration and sometimes they win; a black and white image, or nearly so, is saved to be rendered HUGE to disk to bring up detail.  I”m not really sure what, stylistically, triggers this, though, “I LIKE that,”  seems sufficient reason to ‘take a snapshot’.

A Julia0set based image appearing derelict and corroded; grayscale

Fractal Noir

I’ve noticed,  that the majority of pictures I keep in grayscale tend toward the edgy, or bleak.  Such as this Julia-based image that reminds me of some derelict structure that is coming apart and great sheets of metal are collapsing on and tearing apart from  each other.  It doesn’t take much for my mind to imagine hearing those ghastly creaking noises  that up the suspense inside damaged submarines in the movies.  This,  even though I have gone on to also make a color version of this one.  The color one is a work in progress that resembles some exotic blue crystal pocket in a cream/ochre siltstone  bedrock; not gloomy at all, yet this one has more impact on my sensibilities.

colliding metallic gray spirals with messy strands, scepters

I can hardly wait to render this one to disk as a HUGE  file and find out what all the broken up spaces and the draping traceries develop into as the details become visible!

regular shapes and many-curved-spike spirals appear as odd hydrozoa

Other times, the image is not foreboding or ‘noir’ at all.  This image has a positive note to it.   It looks like some sort of protozoan quadrille going in some congenial environment in a petri  dish.

That’s quite a common thing while working with fractals, the “that reminds me of a..” or “that looks like…”  Fractals seem to resonate the way music does, in a very real sense, in the brain.  Maybe  we are looking at things that feel familiar because they underlie the structure of the place in which we find ourselves?  Fodder for a thought  ‘r two.

Lastly,  here is a detail from a larger image, rendered to disk at about one half of the target size I’d like to eventually use as a standard for fractal-based images (click on image to see at size).

Big render detail of spirals with tendrils

If you are interested in information about the Mandelbrot set or other fractal types, there is a lot of interesting stuff in a page called (almost)the Mother of All Fractals:The Mandelbrot Set.  The page has images to help understand the ‘territory’ and to demonstrate how the Mandelbrot set is being discovered to tie into phenomena in the physical world.

And,  just for fun:

Here’s a little animation by Dave Makin (his copyrighted work) using Ultrafractal.

You can see his other animations under MakinMagicFractals on YouTube.




Picking Up My Fractals…

From where I left off.

Hallo, welcome to the sputtering refiring of my blog engine.  I would like to offer an apology to those who came to look at my blog, only to find nothing new.  I should have posted some form of “Out of the office” notice or other; I’m sorry.  Medical issues: a surgical visual repair that was undertaken did not have the expected result.  It will be at issue for some time to come so I will be trusting to luck that I don’t just post blurs! You will let me know in the comments, won’t you, please?

Before taking Janet Parke’s Ultrafractal (UF) class, I allowed as to how I would likely be posting some of my homework images here, well, here we go!

I haven’t the experience nor sufficient computing power to ‘go crazy’; so my stuff is from the UF shallow end.  The insufficient computing power can be frustrating even when keeping things simple because, fractals having infinite detail, the clunky fragments that detract from an image generated as a small picture can be hiding some beautiful details and textures. Julia spiral with tentacles; colorHere’s an example.

This image was rendered small and the details have turned into a distracting mess. The portion in the red box is detailed below from a much larger, and lengthier, rendering.

The detail:

disk render detail of portion of previous julia spiral with tentacles, color

As you can see, the detail is there once you throw enough pixels at it.  UF allows huge renders to disk; the limitations are really what your machine can handle and how long you can bear not working on more images, while waiting for a large render to calculate.  Since the machine I use for UF is shared, I cannot simply dump all the other programs taking up space,  and that computer uses RAM for video tasks,  so with those considerations, not much RAM is generally available. My current big,  straight-to-disk render has a little over two hours of calculating time to go, if rendered straight through.  My wimp-grade computer alerts to overheating after an average of one and a half minutes. If I pause and let the machine cool for about ten minutes I can keep going; a minute and a half plus ten minutes cooling per shot. Suddenly, two hours gets very, very long, lessee, 120 minutes x 10 minutes cooling is 1200 minutes…etc. Can’t wait to upgrade my computer.

The same sort of improvement can be seen with this pair, where besides messing up the smaller spirals in the space off of the main structure, the small render has pretty much made visual hash of the patterns on the ‘copper’ segments:fractal spill in coppers, yellow, orange and dark green


Detail from area of fractal spill above it

Large renders-to-disk are, in this tyro’s opinion, the Way To Go.

Tweaking things a bit

Some users of fractal software are really only interested in seeing to what form the actual mathematics plot. They are not interested in ‘tidying up’ or ‘improving’ the image,  beyond using coloring algorithms to help keep track of how the iterations are behaving.  I used to lean a bit toward that until I had my breath taken away by some of the ‘fractal-based‘ artworks that started showing up in the Fractal-Art Contests.  I’m hooked!

Back to my homework results.  In my virtual attic, where I’ve stored away the concept of making a sort of museum of Fractint images I’ve made, a whole subsection is of images that look like sculptures constructed of cut card or paper. Without the benefit of layers, that is how they will form, it’s the math.  Using layers, one can alter the image and make something with a more organic texture or ‘feel’ to its appearance.

comparison of unaltered fractal image with averaged-layer image of samefrom paper structure to something carved?

I’d imagine there is a way to manipulate interestingly with averaged layers of color as well, but I’ve tried only once with indifferent results.

Sometimes, to my mind, tweaking isn’t generally wise.  If you like all 68 different ways that you’ve tweaked something it’s hard to know which to concentrate on to work to fuller development of the image. You can take up a lot of memory with whole collections of fractals that vary only by an aspect or two of their make-up.

an odd three lobed spiral in black and coppersilver, black and copper cable-like structure based from spiral.

I’m sure you can see the similarities; one was an assigment, the other was its start. I find the former pretty, while the latter makes me think about how rootbound in technology we seem to be getting. ::shudder::

With all of the possibilities presented by the forms of the math and the creativity of the formula writers, who so generously contribute their work to the public collection for folks to use, you get a whole range of results. Some remind you a lot of things in the physical world, some lend themselves to just working with graphic design and others are just..in the realm of numerically-inspired fantasy.

Messing with shapes and colors:modern art style assemblage of spheroids and sections, rich blue and lemony/sunny yellow

A more organic look, near-flowers are fun to work with:blue spiral of pseudo-flowers on mottled white, green ribbony 'grass'

This was a surprise..a little cave; a work in progress at this point. For those new to fractals, one of the properties of fractals is self-similarity in structure, that is, you can find very similar structures at all levels of size scale. You can see this in this image by finding the little cave, quite similar, but over on its right side,  roughly an inch up from the bottom and a half-inch in from the right side (as you face the image: your right).

a little cave in what looks like a pencil sketch rock garden with fractal vines

I have a lot of fun putting spheres into things, haven’t quite got down getting them as well defined as I’d like but I do like them:

a tentacl-y spiral reaches out to silver spheres in dark structure with gray and blue mist.

One of the things we learned to do in UF was use a couple of special formulas to manipulate areas of the resulting image. You can directly select areas to help achieve a design, such as the Mondrian-inspired images of divided ‘canvases’ with fractal focal points by Kerry Mitchell.  At this starting level, however, this tool in UF comes in handy as a way to make mat surrounds and frames for images, right in the parameters of the picture.

framed metallic-looking surface with a julia three pronged junction like a mineral in matrix

I hope this has given you some small cross-section of an inkling of an idea about fractal-based art. If you are interested in trying your hand at UF,  I can’t recommend anything better but that you get hold of Janet Parke’s lessons.  Although she has retired from teaching them, they are superbly laid-out lessons, now available as e-books, and will give you the organized approach that will cut out untold volumes of time in developing a workflow that you can use to continue your own foray into the fascinating, and addictive, explorations in fractal art.



Season’s greetings from limbo!

I just wanted to wish anyone who happens upon this page a memorable, warm and happy Christmas and New Year time!

Thanks to the writers out there who’ve shared so many interesting articles and thanks to the artists of all stripes who keep the web an interesting place in which to wander!

All the best to you all in the New Year ahead!


If I knew then…

Re: If  I knew then what I know now…

A letter to the Flamenco-playing kid in the glasses…


Hey Kid*,

I’ve been asked to give myse…er, you something of a short head’s up on a couple of things to incorporate into your assemblage of philosophical and intellectual tools.  I will Capitalize and Bold them.  With judicious application, they should set you up for a decent swing at the few strikes that you get in your scientifically expanding three-score-and-ten.  I misse…er, you don’t seem to be headed in the directions that will expand your opportunities as you become decrepit like y…er, I have, so here is a little list. Write these down in that gray plaid notebook where you’ve filled in each square with pencil-drawn ideas for paintings, yeah, the one with the poetry for Juli K H on the black inside the cover; oh, and as a side note, paint more than one of those, will ya? Y…er, I’m gonna like the way the one you do turns out, even if you didn’t.

The first thing I want to go ba…er, for you to do is to Attend Social Functions where you are not part of the choir, band, crew, cast, etc. although parties after any such event held by those organizations will do.  Do not, I repeat, do not go or stay within two feet of a wall or doorway unless you are passing through the door. If all you risk is your own pride, Take Social Risks. Do not risk the pride or reputation of others, that is their own option. Smile when you meet people and ask their name.  Practice taking “not interested in talking to you right now” as something that happens,  like dropping your napkin; There are Other People and Other Times, you Just Keep On.   Move to another area and try again.

Plan, (yes the evil P word) Trips to Places That You Want to See/Experience, whether or not you can get anyone else to go.  Do this as often as possible; you never know when that possibility might >poof< vanish overnight.

About maintenance: you know those Lists you hate?  The ones that you have to uncrumple from that little wad when you discover that you’re not actually going to get to spend any time at the summer recreation program,  seeing anyone from school? Here’s another approach.  Take a look at the tasks on the list. Aside from the bi-quarterly moving of the firewood pile, those are all things that build up because no one is assigned to do them as ongoing chores.  If you keep your eyes open and tackle a couple of the less enormous ones for a half-hour or so each day or every other day, you will find they never become major “everything on this list has to be done before school starts in three months” items on The Lists.  Break the Task Down into Manageable Parts. You’ll wonder how it was things didn’t get done before.

I have to get going, so as a general rule for all of the interests you may develop, and you’ve heard this once from Granddad, but I see it didn’t sink in, Take the Risk of Failure, particularly in areas in which you have the most creative ideas. If this  means entrepreneurship, so be it. Find a teacher, find a mentor, but find out what you need to know to make an idea fly and risk making a buck, most people see the point in making money.  And if you fail, Study Failure Until it’s Understood, and Forgive Yourself Your Mistakes. Then, you Just Keep On again.

Oh,  just one more thing,  no matter where you are, or what you’re doing, Be There In the Ongoing Moment with all your might.  Keep your …focus.

Be happy kid,  I hope these are useful to you,


A friend

* we were never all that close


Turkey up top

Gquowp-gquowp-gquowp!   For the last few days we’ve  been hearing a different call around the yard, coming at any time of the daylight hours.  I’ve spelled it as best I can there, but it’s not an utterance with which I’m familiar.  I had heard that our town had its  own complement of wild turkeys but I never thought I’d see them in such a suburban setting. The nearest strip of real woods is on the canalized creek-bed a quarter-mile away and yet, gquowp….gquowp….gquowp-gquowp, now and again.

Then came the early morning sightings out the kitchen window.  Preparing food in the kitchen for the morning feedings, checking out the window to see how low the finch’s thistle-seed feeder has gotten since the day before, when,  just outside the front door and  down between the retaining walls where the violets used to grow, a long neck and large head move cautiously forward, revealing a fairly large feathered  torso on stilts,  across onto the left-hand neighbor’s front yard.  Up along the edge of the hedge, followed openly, about four feet back,  by the right-hand neighbor’s petite tabby cat, who looks frankly astonished. Which look changes, once she sees us looking out at her, to something like “I could take that, ” as she comes back to our front walk.  The turkey, like a magic trick, vanished in the short time we were watching the cat.

We saw it a couple of times in the next few days, strutting from the right-hand neighbors, across the open cul-de-sac and up the driveway du jour turkroof_0558bto vanish into thin air, somehow, when it reached a house.  Then it seemed to have gone from the neighborhood.

Until this afternoon, gquowp….gquowp…gquowp..mumbling a couple of feet to the left of the backyard glass door.  Still looking for other turkeys, I guess. I went and got the camera, hoping to get a good shot, but when I returned it had, yes, vanished, so I hurried out the front door to catch it coming down the side driveway. Peeked around the corner: nothing.  Went all the way around the house the other way: nothing. Then, faintly, gquowp! Gquowp…gquowp.  I went back around front, looked ’round the yard and found nothing.  Gquowp-gquowp-gquowp-gquowp-gquowp!  Oh, the sound was from something taller than I am, turkroof20090319band there was the turkey, on the ridge of the garage, neck extended, calling and looking for other turkeys. I took a couple of shots, until it seemed uneasy. I backed away onto the porch, checked exposures quickly and went back, hoping for a closer shot or a preening or wings-extended shot. No turkey on the roof, but there it was, at the bottom of the front garden walking up across the neighbor’s lawn, on its way to vanishing again.   If I didn’t know better,  I’d swear the thing teleports!

I hope I get some more tries, it’s a tricky critter!

Has the early spring brought you new visitors this year?




Thinkin’ Spring

Oh…the weather outside’s disgusting,

I can hear my knee-joints rusting,

so it’s here inside I’ll grumpily remain,

let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.

With apologies to Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne for fiddling with their classic.

I’m staring out the window at a medium waterfall that earlier was the downspout-less end of the  eaves trough.  It’s overflowing.  The narcissus and daffodils in front and in back of the house resemble a lost colony of colorful morning-after fraternity row students, crashed face down all over the yard where an overindulgence of rain has left them ’til they dry out a bit.  The last few days of seeing them up and alert seemed to promise a return to getting out into the yard with a camera.  Meanwhile, I’m thinking drab little scattered thoughts, as disciplined as a herd of cats, so I am going to post some spring-like pictures, photographic and fractographic, to keep my anticipation going, although some of these need to be re-taken using  better eyes.

Translucent petals on flowers alway make me want to saturate an image with their color. To that end, closeups taken from in front of (in some cases inside of) the flower with the sun or a pair of flashes lighting it from behind, pastelpollnccan bring out shades not seen in reflected light shots.

Continue reading ‘Thinkin’ Spring’

Phrases that resonate in my head

Morning comes and morning goes with no regret
And evening brings the memories I can't forget
Empty rooms that echo as I climb the stairs
And empty clothes that drape and fall on empty chairs

From ‘Empty Chairs’

By Don McLean

Places to go, things to see…

Theme: Redoable Lite by Dean J Robinson
 All content, text and images, except where credited to other artists, ©2008-2010 Peter M. Spencer; all rights reserved. Use by permission.