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Light painting with a Harmonograph - Part 5


I'm retired and living in Northamptonshire, so plenty of time for photography.
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Light painting with a Harmonograph - Part 5

23 Jan 2022 10:33AM   Views : 347 Unique : 189

Part 5 – 3D Imaging, Future Work and Conclusions

This, for now, will be the last part of this blog. If I find another creative seam or a different way to use the machine, I’ll post some images and follow up with a blog.

When I had the machine set up with the Y upper pendulum, I could create a Harmonogram with three dominant notes, so I had a go at what might be the most iconic chord in modern music, the fantastic Major Chord at the end of 'Day in the Life' on Sgt. Pepper. This used multiple pianos, multi tracking and adaptive level control to sustain the chord for what seemed ages. Such a brilliant way to end the album. To have a go at this the upper pendulum had two notes, one tuned a third up from the lower platform and the other tuned up a fifth. So it needed particularly careful tuning. I also left in a bit of precession, emulating the multiple pianos and some colour. It 'sort of' worked...


'A Day in the Life', Visualised

I'm intending to have another go at this, adapting the brightness through the exposure so it fades towards the centre (rather than brightening) and then add the little bit of enigmatic backwards sound they put on the central grove as a little splash in the centre. It will be about a half hour exposure.

I think all of the images I’ve posted have a ‘3D’ quality to them, due to the way the source/camera velocity translates into brightness. I was wondering if I could take this further, partly inspired by the dual colour image ‘Windmills of Your Mind’. The use of two colours to create 3D images is well known – and has been used for 3D visualisation and movies for many years. This is termed an ‘anaglyph’ process . Generally the colours used are red and blue/cyan, with the same filters over each eye. Where the blue/ red images are in register, the element looks like it is in the distance; where they are apart, the element looks like it is close to the viewer. ‘Windmills’ almost looks like an anaglyph already; it just needs some vertical movement, altering the spacing between the red and blue sources. Below is a movie of how I introduced some up/down movement; quite ‘Heath Robinson’ but it actually worked!

The images captured using this need to be viewed through anaglyph glasses, which you can get for a pound or less on the web. Or you can use a bit of colour gel, Red on the Left, Blue on the Right. It doesn’t always work too well if I put the nodding donkey on a moving platform – the motions tend to couple, making things a bit chaotic (unless you are lucky!). I tried an alternative of keeping the lower platform motionless but slowly moving the light sources away from the camera. The image below ‘Into the wormhole’ is a composite of images recorded by both techniques; it has as much depth as I think is possible!

The little ‘galaxy’ in the centre should appear at screen distance, and the other forms should float up to 30 or 40cm in front, depending on the size of your monitor! I hope it works for you!

This one is a take on what might be seen from the James Webb Space telescope which is now approaching its final orbit and is being commissioned. It is the Universe, but not as we know it (Quoted by NASA?). I can't wait to see what the real images look like! Incredibly exciting!
So far, the patterns are all produced by light, recorded photographically and moulded only by the force of gravity, just like the great star fields and constellations in the night sky. The Physics is more or less the same (but nothing moves fast enough to need a relativistic correction, unlike the orbit of Mercury and black holes)! However, I’m now working on a different way to render 3D, which should be much more flexible, but it requires a bit of motorisation, so the final image won’t be created just by gravity. I think it will be a compromise worth trying though.

The other direction I want to explore is with multi-coloured LEDs with full control over switching, colour, gaps fading etc. Can I take the forms of ‘Enfolded’ and ‘Ribbons and Bows’ further?

I’ve been amazed and inspired by the reactions I’ve had to this work on EPZ. Particular thanks to Fabio , who has produced some amazing ‘sonifications’ inspired by these images. This has almost taken the whole project full circle… the Victorians used the Harmonograph to visualise music and harmonic relationships; Fabio has taken my abstract images back to sound and music!

This project has encompassed many of my passions and interests – photography, physics, engineering, optics, electronics, woodwork, art and made me think and learn more about music. It is hard to envision a project that can do more than this. It has come a long way since I started this in May 2020. Below are two images from the beginning to the present…


First Light

The ‘first light’ image is exactly what the title says, the initial capture from the stepladder prototype; very rough, blurred, jogged and with little harmony. Folding Space -Time is a recent image inspired by all the great Sci Fi we can watch now, such as ‘Foundation’ and ‘Dune’.

I’ve given a talk and live demo on this to my Camera Club (Northampton Camera Club) and will soon be doing the same in nearby Towcester; message me if you have any interest, or if you are passing by Northampton and just want to take a look or have a play. I hope you have enjoyed the story; let me know what you think!

More images from this ‘Harmony of Light’ project can be viewed on here


FabioKeiner 9 111 1 Austria
23 Jan 2022 1:14PM
once those aliens, who were reported last year to have passed near new york, will notice your works, they'll kidnap you into 4th dimensions (aka time-warpSmile) enforcing you to produce your lightpaintings for their long voyage back home to sirius Smile

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