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AP: art or science

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#26 WadeH237

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Posted 24 July 2019 - 11:32 AM

It's both.

 

There is application of science (or technology) in collecting and calibrating the data.  Presentation of the data is art.

 

Here is my rationale for categorizing it this way.  When we capture the data, there is more or less a "right" answer.  Stars should be round, with a proper brightness profile, and they should look the same everywhere in the field.  We talk about sources of noise, how to make some of them, such a read noise, irrelevant.  We quantify things like seeing and star elongation.  When we calibrate images, it is with the goal of removing artifacts introduced by the equipment.  At least for me, there is a "right" result for the master frame for each channel.  In my work, I can typically get to channel masters that look great.  And then it all goes off the rails...

 

Once the channel masters have been created, it ceases to be science and becomes art.  The astrophographer as an idea in mind as to how the background should look, what parts of the subject should be enhanced, and what parts should be de-emphasized.  Color tones and saturation are generally processed to bring them closer to the astrophotographer's idea of what it should look like or what they want to show.

 

I'm a huge fan of Adam Block's tutorials.  One of the things that he talks about on his image processing walk through videos is the story that he wants to tell with the image.  For example, he has a tutorial walk through of the Crescent Nebula.  He talks about wanting to show a "Jellyfish in a Cosmic Sea".  As he makes decisions in processing, he'll refer back to the story and how it affects his choices.  I've also seen where he'll notice some small detail in the data that most of us would just skip over.  He'll sometimes process the image to enhance that aspect, which makes his work unique as compared to countless other images of the same object.

 

I mainly call this out because it's something that I would have never considered, had I not used his tutorial materials.  Even though I am aware of how he's doing this, it's completely unintuitive to me, and I don't feel like I've ever successfully applied it.

 

And while I'm at it, I'll give one more example that involves portrait photography.  My wife has a friend who had an interest in doing portraits.  When she was getting started, she frequently had me help here with the technical aspects of how the camera works.  With a little bit of technical knowledge, she started making photos that were simply stunning.  She looks at subject matter, framing and lighting completely differently than I do.

 

I suppose that since my artistic talent is minuscule, compared to some of these other people, I recognize the art in the end result that typically escapes my attempts.


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#27 Alen K

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Posted 24 July 2019 - 12:28 PM

There have been a few objections here to the idea that AP is any way artistic, as if that somehow denigrates it. There is even more objection (and not the first time I have heard it) to the idea that our photos are for the most part just "pretty pictures." That smacks of the mistaken idea that scientific pursuits are more worthy than artistic ones. We wouldn't have art if humans didn't need it to exist. We have a concept of beauty, we appreciate it when we see it and we need it to exist, even if we don't all agree on what it is. "That's beautiful" is a common reaction to an astrophoto by people who don't know the first thing about taking them. I for one welcome that reaction. I don't take astrophotos to please scientists.

 

It is amusing to hear astrophotographers who are not in any way actually doing science (the vast majority) talk about getting "data" and who like to say they are taking images rather than photos, the former term sounding more scientific (or at least less artistic). They are indeed doing something very technical that requires a lot of technical knowledge and a lot of esoteric (to the uninitiated) equipment but that is all. And it should be enough. It's enough for me and I was trained to be a scientist (physics), worked a career in engineering and have pursued artistic endeavours (including music) all of my life. 


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#28 schmeah

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Posted 24 July 2019 - 12:28 PM

Nothing brought me more joy in this hobby than filling out a discovery report for the nebula around Abell 39. I consider this more science/techical than art.

 

So this is an interesting example ( and very cool, congrats ).  I think when one coincidentally notes something in the background of a picture that he/she has taken, it does not make it science.  However, if the imager recognizes that it might be something scientifically important, catalogs it, researches it, and reports it officially, then it becomes a scientific endeavor. If that leads you to look for more undiscovered structure, say previously unrecognized planetary nebulae halos, and you pursue this in some systematic fashion, then IMO it truly becomes investigational science. And I agree with gezak, that these kind of endeavors are the most satisfying in what is otherwise a very artistic hobby. Getting an image published as an APOD makes all your friends think you are some cool amateur astronomer. Nope. Just a pretty picture.  

 

Derek



#29 gkarris

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Posted 24 July 2019 - 12:31 PM

Try

 

Headache or Money Pit... ;)

 

:)



#30 ks__observer

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Posted 24 July 2019 - 12:44 PM

When the subs are calibrated and stacked you get a mostly black picture.

That is raw data.

You can change the histogram for purposes of looking for, or examining, something -- change for "scientific purposes" -- whether research or study.

Change the histogram one iota because you want to present an image in a pleasing manner -- now you are into the art world.


Edited by ks__observer, 25 July 2019 - 03:00 AM.

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#31 AhBok

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Posted 24 July 2019 - 01:39 PM

If I do an auto stretch, is my laptop the artist or the program that does the stretching?

Sorry, just kidding. I find this topic amusing!


Edited by AhBok, 24 July 2019 - 02:17 PM.


#32 WadeH237

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Posted 24 July 2019 - 03:45 PM

It is amusing to hear astrophotographers who are not in any way actually doing science (the vast majority) talk about getting "data" and who like to say they are taking images rather than photos, the former term sounding more scientific (or at least less artistic).

For what it's worth, I call my data, well, data because it is.

 

When I first started doing astrophotography, I was taking pictures, and it was not going well at all.  When I stopped looking at the data as pictures, and started regarding it as numeric data that could mathematically manipulated, my results improved dramatically.

 

My final result is either a picture or an image (I use the terms interchangeably).  But the digital bits that come from my camera are just data samples from my optical and capture system.  Everything made much more sense when I realized that.


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#33 freestar8n

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Posted 24 July 2019 - 05:48 PM

When the subs are calibrated and stacked you get a mostly black picture.

That is raw data.

You can change the histogram for purposes of looking for, or examining, something -- change for "scientific purposes" -- whether research or study.

Change the histogram one iota because you want to present an image in a pleasing manner -- now you into the art world.

That attitude is commonly expressed - but it isn't true at all based on what is allowed in publications for high ranked scientific journals.  Arbitrary manipulation to "bring out" specific features is common in artistic astrophotography - but it is disallowed for a scientific publication - and for me it makes me lose interest in what is being shown.  In contrast, adjusting the white and black points is essential - and global nonlinear alterations of the histogram are usually allowed.  It amounts to changing the lookup table of the value at each pixel and referencing a color bar for how the pixel color maps to its original data value.

 

So I like to use journal guidelines as a basis for distinguishing arbitrary artistic manipulation from something that keeps the image within the constraints of scientific work.

 

I'm amazed that people quoted in this thread use 'we' to speak for everyone who is imaging.  They can do whatever they want for whatever reason - but I have nothing to do with what they do or how they think.

 

Frank


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