So what is Digital Fine Art?

A thoughtful article on what is digital fine art.
In the interests of stimulating some debate, I propose to attempt to
answer this question and then encourage you to email us your
reactions/feelings/ideas for publication.

I would define digital fine art as any art in which computer or digital
technology has been used in some part of the artistic process. This is
a very broad definition but a good one I think. One could be very
limiting and say that digital fine art is only that which is entirely
‘made’ using digital processes. Whilst this is also a valid definition
it is too narrow for our purposes here. Whilst I can foresee a point
where the word digital can be dropped and we can simply concentrate on
the art, not the technology of the process, we are not their yet. We
are at a point in time where some individuals have seen the potential
of digital technology in the artistic process but the vast majority
have not, or consider it too ‘easy’ to really be art.

Digital technology can be applied to the whole artistic process or to
only part of it. An example of the latter is the following. My wife is
a traditional decorative artist who tends to leave the digital side to
me. She was commissioned to do a large, quite complex painting that had
important issues of perspective and scale to resolve. Rather than doing
this in her more usual trial and error method I convinced her to
prototype the painting on the computer. To do this we scanned various
elements from books of photographs that were close to what she wanted.
We then played around with these, changing their size and perspective
until we had a mock-up of the painting that worked compositionally and
impact wise. We than printed this off as a reference and off she went
to paint in her usual acrylics. Here the end result is totally
non-digital yet an important roll was performed in the digital domain.
The same could have been achieved with pen and paper but the ease with
which we could reposition things and experiment greatly facilitated the
process and improved the end result.

Digital technology can be applied to any of these areas and processes of art:

o    Photography;

o    Painting and drawing;

o    Printing of the painting, drawing or photograph;

o    The physical painting of the artwork;

o    Planning;

o    Design of sculptures;

o    Production of sculptures;

o    Motion picture, video and animation work;

o    Lighting and sound for performance art.

The most important thing to remember is that you can incorporate as
much or as little digital technology into your art process depending on
what you feel comfortable with, what works with your vision and what
you can afford.

Further, we can divide digital fine art into a number of categories. As a working basis we can divide it into the following:

o    Algorithmic or mathematical art;

o    Digital replacement for natural media;

o    Photo-manipulation;

o    Digital Synthesis.

Algorithmic or mathematical art includes a number of areas of digital
art. We have all seen Fractal art, which was very popular for a while.
Other types of algorithmic art include initiatives in artificial
intelligence to allow computers to ‘paint’ and various programming
approaches to turning images into paintings (some of the Photoshop
filters, for instance). Some other authors include 3D art in this
category, arguing that the production of models of objects, the
positioning of lighting and the camera and then allowing the computer
to ‘render’ the scene by mathematically calculating the light/optical
effects puts it in the algorithmic category. I actually disagree with
them and, as we shall see, put 3D in a different category.

Digital replacement of natural media basically uses the computer to
emulate various ‘conventional’ artistic processes and materials. The
results of such work are frequently indistinguishable from ‘the real
thing’. The actual process of creating the work is effectively similar,
except that rather than brushes, a canvas and paints, we use a graphics
tablet, monitor and software. Digital natural media offer advantages
and disadvantages over the real thing. It can be far quicker to work,
easier to mix otherwise incompatible media, like oils and watercolours,
and the ready ability to correct mistakes leads to a bolder
experimental style. Also since the output is actually significantly
independent of the creation process, it is possible to later choose
things like the size of the work and the media it is printed on. The
disadvantages are that it is not real paint, the tactile sensations are
not there and the reality is that some techniques that are so natural
when working with natural media don’t translate well into the computer
(at least not yet).

Photo-manipulation is perhaps the most prevalent form of computer art.
In many ways this is also digital natural media because most of the
things that you can do to photographs in the computer could be done in
the darkroom, just usually more slowly and far more difficultly. The
most heavily commercial of the digital art areas, along with 3D, it
offers the challenge for surpassing the ‘play’ to be truly fine art.

Digital synthesis or what I would rather call ‘Holistic or Integrative
Art’ uses any and all techniques, including conventional ones, to get
the result you want. In this form, quite akin to ‘mixed media’ the end
result is what matters, not the ‘racial purity’ of the techniques used
to create it. My own preference for this type of art (and digital art
specifically) is that it puts the focus where it should be, on the
quality of the art, its message and how well it communicates it. Whilst
the media used has some relevance to a collector or gallery when
considering issues of permanence and suitable display and storage
conditions, it has, I believe, been too long used as a form of
selective snobbery.

In reality there are very few digital artists who work purely in one
mode. For example, when I was heavily involved in algorithmic art, I
would still commonly use photo-manipulation techniques on the resulting
images to finetune colour, contrast and composition. I would then often
use conventional techniques to arrange multiple images into one
‘piece’. This is also why I don’t put 3D art in the algorithmic
category alone. As an artist that works in this area I actually feel it
combines many techniques. It mixes sculpture, set design, industrial
design, photographic lighting and photography with digital natural
media painting, and mathematical art. I have also never seen 3D art
done well without post-production photo-manipulation. Thus it combines
so many forms of conventional art with all the forms of digital art.

So Where’s The Beauty?

A good friend of mine, Steve Danzig, and I were having a long ICQ chat
the other day and ended up discussing beauty in digital art. It had
occurred to me that when you look at a wide cross-section of digital
art it not only divides to into looks: beautiful and optimistic; and
dark, depressing and im
ages to cut your wrists by. Interestingly most
of the beautiful and optimistic appearing digital imagery that is not
kitsch lies in the mathematical art domain, whilst the dark imagery is
mostly photo manipulation and 3D. Is this a real perception? Does it
reflect the personality types of the people drawn to these differ
approaches? Email in your thoughts.

The old examples of my algorithmic art show one type of such work.

Introduction to 3D Modelling and Rendering, Part 1 â

An introduction to 3D for those new to it.

What is 3D?

For those of us used to working in Photoshop and Illustrator it is
important to realise that all that work is 2D, or two-dimensional.
Photographs of real objects or painting them from scratch in Painter,
they are still 2D. This is because we are either working with a pixel
representation or flat objects, like lines, text, paths, etc. This is
true even if we are attempting to simulate a 3D look.

In 3D work, or three dimensions, we are producing a description of real
objects with depth, scenes comprising many objects and the spatial
relationships between them, along with the required lighting
arrangements and viewing characteristics. The end result of 3D work is
still usually 2D. This is either a still image or an animation, but
it’s still made up of pixels. In an ideal world our output would be
three-dimensional too, as in a holographic projection or even a
sculpture. This is a limitation of the output technologies that we have
to work with at present, rather than an inherent characteristic of 3D
work. Since 3D printers exist (they are actually more like a
numerically controlled milling machine in some ways), as do using LCD
shutter glasses for direct 3D display, working completely in 3D is
possible, just not the normal use.

Deep down, usually buried deep inside the software, our 3D work
consists of rather mathematical descriptions of our scenes, such as
place a sphere of radius k, with it’s centre at x,y,z point in space
with a surface texture like stone. Thankfully, we rarely have to deal
with the numerical level unless we choose to. There are good reasons to
dive down to the numerical level at times, such as exact placement. 3D
software is largely click and drag operation these days for most common
operations. It is important to remember that we are trying to represent
things in the three-dimensional world that we are used to living in.
Just as navigating around the real world can get you lost, so is it
easy to become disoriented in 3D software.

Keeping oriented in 3D

In 3D software the convention is to use a set of three coordinates, x,
y and z. Co-ordinates can be absolute or relative. Absolute coordinates
apply to the entire world that we are creating in the computer.
Everything is specified relative to a universal origin, the centre of
your digital universe, with coordinates of 0,0,0. Positive x values may
lie to the right, negative ones to the left. Positive y values may be
up and negative ones down from the origin. Positive z may be in front
of and negative ones behind the origin. Absolute coordinates are used
to position objects in our scene, to place cameras and lights, etc.
Relative coordinates have their origin somewhere other than the world
origin. For instance, in creating an object made up of many parts it
may be more convenient to think in terms of positions relative to what
you wish to consider the centre of the object.

How the software works can have an impact on how easy it is to keep
oriented. Some programs, like Bryce, display only one window, so you
only have one view of your objects/scene at a time. Other programs,
like Vue d’Esprit or Lightwave, by default give you four views: a
front, left and top view plus the view through the main camera. This
last solution is generally preferred but does tend to work best when
you are using a large, high-resolution screen. This is why most of the
consumer level programs use the one view approach, assuming home users
have small screens, whilst professional software takes the four-view

The stages of 3D work

The following are the main stages of creating a 3D work:

1.    Create objects;

2.    Place objects in relation to each other in scene;

3.    Place light sources;

4.    Place the camera or observer;

5.    Add textures to objects;

6.    Add atmospheric effects;

7.    Render to produce a final image or animation movie.

The exact order of this sequence is partly up to you and partly a
function of the software that you are using. For instance, some
software separates the creation of objects and their placing in the
scene (as in Lightwave), others combine this into one step (as in
Bryce). Likewise, sometimes the textures are placed on objects when you
create them. But they can also be added at the scene creation stage.
Each person gradually finds their own order of working that suits their
needs and the needs of the specific project. For projects involving
many people there may be different order, or indeed some stages my be
performed in parallel, than for projects where you are doing the whole
thing. The order of steps can affect the performance of your software.
The sequence given tends to produce the least delays with most
software, for reasons that will become clear as we progress through
this series.

Creating objects and placing them in the scene is often called
‘modelling’. This is because in creating an object and then a scene we
are building a ‘model’ of it in the computer. Some software even
separates the modelling function from the rest of the software by
splitting the process into two programs. It is quite possible to do the
modelling in on manufacturer’s program and the rest of the process in
another. I quite frequently use three different programs for this
process, making use of the strengths of each, these being Poser and
Byrce and Lightwave.

Light sources and a camera are necessary if you are to see anything of
the wonderful model you have created. Light sources and cameras can be
treated in much the same way as any other object. Light sources will
have their own, special characteristics though, like the type of light
source, whether it casts shadows, its colour, etc. The camera also has
special characteristics, like its field of view, resolution of the
resulting image(s), etc.

Rendering is the process of determining what the scene looks like from
the camera position taking into account all the characteristics of the
objects, light sources and their interaction. Rendering is usually a
time consuming process for any scene of reasonable complexity. This can
vary from a ‘go get a cup of coffee’ to ‘lunch’ up to a whole week, or
more. This is one reason why high complexity rendering of still images
or animations tends to require fast computers and lots of memory. One
reason that the order with which you create your image(s) is important
is that you will usually do lots of little test renders along the way.
Thus you want to leave the details which really slow the rendering down
to as late in the sequence as possible.

Why would we want to use 3D?

We need to represent solid objects, whether in a still image for an ad
or an animation to go in a movie. Since real world objects are 3D,
there will be times when a 3D representation is needed. Sure, we can
paint or airbrush a 3D approximation but it will have a particular
look, assuming that we have the skill level to create it.
Working with
3D software creates a different look. This can vary from one with a
very computer feel to a photorealistic one, depending on the software
and what we do with it. The major advantage of working with 3D software
is that it is easy to produce changes. To change the viewpoint only
requires that we move the
camera and render. To change the lighting or
reposition objects is equally easy. So having created a scene once, we
can produce many different images from it. This is like photographing a
real scene in everything from wide-angle to close-up, and from
different positions. 3D software gives you flexibility. This very
flexibility allows you to re-purpose images. You may do an illustration
for a magazine ad and then the client comes back and wants an animation
for a TV ad, or the web. Once you have built the models, you can re-use
them repeatedly.

This screen grab of the old Metacreation’s Infiniti-D 4.5
shows a four window, working environment. Three windows give front, top
and side views whilst the fourth shows the camera view. This type of
display, common to most of the higher-end 3D packages, works best on a
high resolution, large screen.

The single view at a time display, like this one from Bryce,
works well on smaller displays. Usually keyboard shortcuts or buttons
allow you to switch between views. Whilst not as convenient as the
four-window display it is quite workable. It seems natural once you get
used to it.

This simple cartoon bird was created out of basic
object types and rendered in Infiniti-D 4.5. A background image was

[X]periment ’05 Design Conference

[X]periment ’05 is a bi-annual national design conference organised by the Design Institute of Australia (DIA), and held in Adelaide.

[X]periment ’05 is a bi-annual national design conference organised by
the Design Institute of Australia (DIA), and held in Adelaide.

This year’s [X]periment conference will include a stimulating range of
events focusing on the theme of multi-disciplinary collaborative design

Events include a debate, colloquia, international and national speaker
sessions, a design exhibition, master classes and selected social

The conference will be capped off by Adelaide’s annual design
highlight, the DIA – Laminex Group South Australian Awards

[X]periment will be held in Adelaide in October 20-23, 2005.  

Contact [email protected] for details.



In the last two years, through the sale of donated artwork at the annual Basefield exhibition, they’ve raised over $15,000 for local children’s charities here in Melbourne.
Press Release

In the last two years, through the sale of donated artwork at the
annual Basefield exhibition, we’ve raised over $15,000 for local
children’s charities here in Melbourne. It is an amazing achievement
and a great thing that a group of individuals have created through
networking and community building!

Artists from Europe, North and South America and Australia have been
involved in past Basefield Projects.  Possible only in the cyber
age, Jade has fostered relationships online, selecting artists whose
works inspires and who share his passion to make a difference within
the community.  The work is often edgy, always original and has
its roots in the art of the streets.

Some of the amazing indviduals who have donated their work from the
last two shows have included: Evan Hecox, Paul Clark, Steven
Harrington, Lee Misenhiemer, Dmote, Delta, Tofer, Rinzen, Fafi, Derrick
Hodgson, Kev Grey, Niko Stumpo, Mike Giant, Geoff McFetridge, Tim
Biedron, Merda, Cody Hudson, Mr Jago, Dalek, Ben Frost, Richard Colman,
Travis Millard, Michael Leon, Sam Flores & Misery.

We are not stopping there, and the 2005 Basefield Exhibition is based
on the legendary Aesop’s Fables and will showcase over 80 artists from
around the globe. The exhibition will be known as The Commons, with
each artist receiving a small collection of Fables to explore in any
medium they choose.

This will be the third year that the Chapel have supported the
Basefield Exhibitions and this show is kind of special as it will be
the last time we will be exhibiting at the Chapel! Something exciting
is hopefully just around the corner, so add the date to your dairies,
planners, etc and we hope to see you at what we promise to be a thumper
of an exhibition, with more than one surprise!!!

This years artists include: Merda, Lee Misenheimer, Paul Clark,
Chistofer Chin, Richard Colman, Neasden Control Centre, Andrew Pommier,
Derrick Hodgson, Kev Grey, Mr Jago, Jeremy Fish, Andy Sargent, Robert
Mars, Tiffany Monk, Cody Hudson, Kyle Ranson, Travis Millard, Regular
Product, Andy Jenkins, Stormie Mills, Tobin Yelland, Nathan Jurevicius,
Chad Buckingham, Robert Hardgrave, Jon Burgerman, Ben Frost, Anthony
Skirvin, Kelly Tunstall, Luke Canning, Niko Stumpo, Josh Petherick,
Etsu Meusy, Vicki Wong, Karen Ingram, Dalek, Rick Froberg, Esao
Andrews, Dmote, Mike Giant, Steve More, & Remi Rough, Michael
Sieben, & Todd St. John, to name a few.

The Commons  will open – an occasion in itself – at the Chapel
Galleries on 27 July from 6.30pm and will remain on exhibition until 15
August. Chapel Galleries are located at 12 Little Chapel Street,
Prahran. The Galleries are open 12pm – 7pm weekdays and 10am – 5pm

For further information about The Basefield Project visit

Image Making is a Health Hazard

Image making, whether digital or analog, can be a health hazard. Take some steps to protect yourself.
“I note the passing recently of Yousuf Karsh in a Boston hospital,
which only goes to reinforce a theory I have held for some years now,
that  photography is injurious to your health….. nay not only
injurious, but in fact it will kill you. Examine the facts. 
Ansell Adams – dead. Horst P Horst – dead. Robert Mappelthorpe – dead.
Diane Arbus – no longer with us. Julia Margaret Cameron –
deceased.  … the list just goes on and on. It used to worry me,
but now I just go with the flow. We’ve all gotta go somehow, so why not
with a camera to your eye or a hand in a tray of fixer?
Incidentally….Karsh was only 93 when the dark spectre of photography
caught up with him.”. So says Jeff Moorfoot, in a recent Free Radical

Whilst the above quote is meant in a humorous light, it does raise the
interesting question, is photography, and digital image making,  a
health hazard for us and/or the environment? In this article, we’ll
look at this and discover that it is becoming a far more complex
question to answer than it once was.


There are basically two key areas we need to examine:

*    Personal health and safety aspects of being a photographer or related professional, and;

*    Effects on the environment of our activities.

Both these questions are greatly complicated by the fact that
photography is rapidly evolving from a chemical-based industry at the
point of use (film, processing, printing) to an electronic one
(cameras, computers, digital printing) that is chemical based only at
the point of manufacture. So to cover the topic fully we need to
examine both the personal and environmental issues for both traditional
photographic processes and digital ones.

The general perception is that, as we all know, traditional
photographic processes have many issues due to the chemicals used in
processing, but that digital is clean. As we shall see, this is far
from true.

Health & Safety

With conventional photographic processes almost all of the health and
safety issues relate only to those involved in the production and
processing of film and paper. Therefore, professionals who get all this
work done at a pro lab are safe.

For people running a processing facility, whether of commercial scale
or a small creative facility within a studio, the issues boil down to
three things:

*    Maintaining air purity

*    Avoiding physical contact with chemical

*    Appropriate disposal of waste chemicals

Because chemical photographic processes have been around for so long,
and the possible health effects of them and the related photographic
procedures are well know, there is excellent documentation and
management of just what should be done. PURE (Photographic Uniform
Regulations for the Environment) is a division of The Photographic and
Imaging Council of Australia (PICA). Their code of practice for liquid
waste management, for example, spells out the basic requirements:

*    Keep a site log book

*    Get a trade waste agreement/approval/permit or exemption

*    Use the PURE data sheets

*    Operate film or paper processors according to specifications

*    Operate a silver recovery unit

*    Test silver recover at least quarterly

The major chemicals that a photographer could meet in a processing environment that are of concern are:

*    Ammonia (respiratory irritation)

*    Thiosulfate (allergic reactions)

*    Hydroquinone (skin dermatitis and eye problems)

*    Formaldehyde (respiratory irritation, allergic reactions, cancer)

Photographers are far less likely today than previously to run any
in-house film or paper processing. Those that intend to should contact
PURE or go to the PICA website at One
area of possible significant concern is the rise among fine art
photographers in the resurgence of traditional, pre-silver halide,
photographic processes, like cyanotypes and gum bi-chromates. These can
often involve significant amounts of heavy metals and other relatively
poisonous substances. All the books that I have used for such processes
seem to do a good job of spelling out the dangers in these processes.
The advice in the books should be followed carefully. Indeed, fine art
photographic work is most likely to put a photographer in direct
contact with chemicals these days due to the use of tray processing.
Sensible precautions, like rubber gloves, using print tongs and
extremely good ventilation will usually do the trick.

Digital photographic techniques create an environment in which the
photographer is far less likely to come into contact with harmful
chemicals. So is digital completely safe and benign? The answer is
definitely no. Apart from the environmental issues to be discussed
later, there are health and safety issues for photographers.

Computer equipment uses a lot of plastic. Many plastics are
manufactured using formaldehyde, a major respiratory irritant. These
continue to outgas for some time after manufacture. We have probably
all noticed strong smells associated with plastic items soon after they
are removed from their packaging. Since it is not uncommon for
photographers to surround themselves with such equipment, often in
small and poorly ventilated spaces due to covered windows for better
color judgment, we may be exposing ourselves to higher levels than
necessary. Sure, the individual effect on your health from that new PC
may be small, but we are concerned with cumulative exposure over your
working life. Indeed, the new car smell you get when you buy your new
Porsche or Range Rover (don’t all professional photographers have
those) is also caused by this out gassing. Hence the recommendations in
some new car manuals that you drive with windows down for several weeks
after purchase.

Ergonomics is probably the largest widely accepted health risk
associated with computer technology. The key issues here are posture
while using a computer and the repetitive nature and limited movement
range of most of our activities while at a computer. Broadly, the key
things to get right are:

*    Get a really good, ergonomic chair that has arm rests

*    Adjust the height of the chair so that the
circulation to the back of your legs is not being limited by pressure
from the edge of the seat

*    Adjust the seat back to give good lumbar support

*    Adjust the keyboard and mouse height so that there
is a greater than 90 degree angle between your upper and lower arms. In
other words your wrists and hands should be lower than your elbow

*    Adjust the monitor height so that the top of the
screen is at or slightly below eye level. This puts the centre of the
screen at a natural slightly downward look

*    Take lots of breaks

*    Do some stretching and use a stress release ball to work the finger muscles.

If you need them, get glasses. Many people find it useful to have their
optometrist make up a pair of glasses specifically for computer use.
Contact lens users need to remember to blink more, as there is a
tendency to blink less when staring at a computer screen. This dries
out the eyes and can cause increased irritation. I would also be
cautious of the extreme tendency to put computers in very dark, grey or
black painted rooms, in the quest for better color accuracy. Sure,subdued lighting helps, as does neutral surroundings, but don’t overdo
it. I have found that too extreme contrast between a bright screen and
very dark surroundings causes eye stress.

Less definite health and safety concerns around computer equipment
exist regarding radio frequency radiation emitted by the equipment. I
would presume that most of you have been following the debate about
mobile or cell phone safety. Whilst still in the early days, there
appears to be enough new solid and independent research coming out
suggesting the possibility of health issues as to advocate the use of
hands free devices where possible. What is almost never discussed is
that wireless networking products, that allow you to connect computers
over some distance within a studio without wires, could have similar
effects, and possibly worse because of the continuous exposure over
long periods of time, even if the actual power levels may be lower. The
other radiation concern involves computer monitors. All now on sale in
most countries have good shielding in place for the user. However, be
wary of situations where a person is located behind or to the side of
someone else’s monitor.

Remember that we are all facing a lifetime of use of, and exposure to,
digital technology. Even very small effects can accumulate over a whole
lifetime. Sure we have all learned, after asbestos, cigarette smoking
and Mad Cow Disease, among a whole list of others, that there can be a
significant difference between what scientists and public health
officials say, and reality. A process of sensible limitation of how
much we expose ourselves to new technologies could be in our long-term
health interests. I am not advocating a Luddite approach, but rather a
sensible caution to things that we will be exposed to all our working
(at least) lives and for which long-term experience is not yet

Environmental Effects

The environmental effects of conventional photographic processing
appear to be well understood. Small quantities of photographic
chemicals, such as produced by home tray processing, seem to be well
handled by the sewerage system. Thus, permits are usually not required
at that level. For commercial scale operations there are a number of
requirements which vary depending on the local government concerned.
Most require permits, silver recovery to reduce the amount of
discharged silver to minute quantities and appropriately operated and
maintained processing equipment whose output is either collected and
disposed of or flushed into the sewerage through any necessary
balancing tanks (to correct Ph levels). The PURE group of PICA can
advise any photographers wanting  to install new processing
facilities in-house, as can the AIPP and ACMP, or ask a photographer
with an existing installation similar to the one you want to install. I
suspect few photographers will be installing new processing labs in

The photographic industry as a whole has been making significant
efforts to reduce any use of problematic chemicals, and to also reduce
greenhouse gas emissions and water usage at its manufacturing
facilities, at least in the first world. Of course, one does need to be
careful that manufacturing environmental issues are not just
transferred to the second and third world.

That brings us to the mass of computer equipment, printers, batteries
and such that we use. There are two issues here: manufacture and
disposal. The computer industry is hardly clean at the manufacturing
stage. Semiconductor chip manufacturing uses large amounts of water and
significant amounts of highly dangerous and carcinogenic chemicals,
like organic solvents. Various problems with contaminated ground water
and high cancer rates may be a consequence of chip making activities.
Even the assembly of computers and peripherals is not very clean, with
plastics being manufactured and the use of wave soldering systems using
lead-based solders. None of these things directly affects our
environment here in Australia because of the lack of any real
semiconductor industry here and the fact that most computer assembly
uses major components manufactured elsewhere.

The big, burning topics at the moment are end of life cycle and
recycling, and removing hazardous chemicals from their construction.

As usual, Europe is way ahead of everyone with regard to this. Spurred
on by pending legislation in several member countries that could affect
the Single Market, the EU has developed a policy on waste from
electrical and electronic equipment (WEE). This directive comes into
force on 1st of January 2007 and requires the substitution of mercury,
lead, hexavalent chromium, cadmium and polybrominated biphenyls and
polybrominated diphenyl ethers brominated flame retarders. As a
consequence of this WEE Directive individual member countries have been
examining this issue and producing their own directives, such as the
ROHS Directive from the British Dept. of Trade and Industry. It is
likely that the impact of the EU adoption of this WEE Directive will
result in the effective elimination of these chemicals in new computer
equipment in Australia, since very little is manufactured purely for
the Australian market. Internationally manufacturers are moving to
modify their production processes to meet the EU requirements. The
major one for computers is the removal of lead, which is used in the
solder that connects components on circuit boards together.

Where most countries will have to legislate to gain any benefit is in
the area of computer recycling and end of lifecycle destruction. In the
just released Fourth Annual Computer Report Card, prepared by Silicon
Valley Toxics Coalition, they report companies of double standards,
being good corporate citizens in Europe where they are forced to by
legislation and doing little where there are no laws to force them. In
Japan and Europe, most computer and related companies have product
return policies, where an item is returned to the manufacturer at the
end of its useful life. The new WEE Directive prohibits the companies
from dumping in landfills and from exporting the waste computers to
third world countries. Yet in the U.S., where there is no such
restriction, between 50 and 80% of electronic waste meant for recycling
is exported to the third world. There, disposal and recycling methods
are causing massive environmental and health damage. Australia
currently has a Computer & Peripherals Material Project pilot
program underway but at this stage, there is no compulsion by
legislation. Amanda Myers, Policy Officer in the Industry Partnership
Branch of Environment Australia (EA) said that the response from
computer companies in Australia has been “very, very slow”. At the end
of 1999 the computer industry was to provide details to EA on take
back, recycling, etc. Three industry bodies were to respond. Two failed
to and the other submission was rejected. Ms. Myers commented that
legislation is being looked at as one option. She commented that while
some computer companies are making efforts, most seem guilty of double
standards, in that in their home countries, due to tough legislation
they behave well, but have failed to show any initiative where not
compelled to.


Despite the gloomy prognostications that opened this article,
photography does appear to be becoming a safer profession. Its
environmental impact however, can be just as serious, if
not more so,
as we transition from a chemical-based to an electronic-based industry.
As always, personal responsibility and demanding corporate
responsibility from our suppliers, will keep us all safer.

Note: whilst every effort has been made in the preparation
of this
article, the author and publishers can not be held accountable for the
advice given. Please seek appropriate advice about your own work

 Item  Chemicals Present  Disposal Method
 Batteries  Heavy metals esp. Cadmium in Rechargeable Ni-Cd’s and Lead in lead-acid  Collect for industrial waste disposal
 Computers and electronic equipment  Lead (in solder), other heavy and trace metals, plastics  Recycle by return to manufacturer or special recycling

 Plastics  Formaldehyde (may be out gassed) Recycle
 Digital papers  No major known issues  Paper recycle
 Digital inks for inkjets  No known issues Rubbish collection
 Toner for laser printers  No known issues  Recycle (toner refillers)
 Film  No known issues  Rubbish collection
 Photographic chemicals  Formaldehyde, thiosulphates, ammonia, hydroquinone, silver and others Industrial waste agreement, collection or sewer (with treatment), Silver recycling 

Issues in Digital Camera Design

In this interview we talk to several people with a deep knowledge of digital camera design. While the interview is now two years old, the information in it is still highly relevant.
As professional photography moves from being predominantly film based
to predominantly digital, many of us are struggling to come to terms
with the key issues of digital sensors. For those of us raised on film
densitometry curves and Ansel Adams’ ‘The Negative’ there is a whole
new world out there and many of the parameters we took for granted have
changed radically.

When you move from an emulsion to a silicon chip sensor, whether CCD or
CMOS, things change. Major issues with film, like reciprocity failure,
do not exist with digital.

CCD sensors come in two major design types, Full frame and Interline.
Full frame CCDs attempt to use as much of the chip surface as possible
for the pixels (more correctly called pels, or picture elements).
Interline CCDs don’t use as much area for sensing because they use some
of the surface area to rapidly transport the picture data from the
CCDs. Thus, Interline CCDs are great for speed imaging situations, like
video or high frame rate sports photography, whilst Full frame CCDs
have greater sensitivity. Full frame CCDs, as used in most professional
digitals, offer the largest inherent imaging area as a proportion of
the chip size, thus they have the best sensitivity and lowest noise.
Certain CCD designs use a process technology called ITO, or Indium Tin
Oxide, which adds about a stop and a half of extra light sensitivity,
but around two stops in the blue channel, where CCDs are least
sensitive. ITO is used on the Kodak CCDs in their pro backs. The
general lower sensitivity of silicon sensors in the blue usually
manifests as greater noise in that channel, because the signal (and its
noise), have to be boosted more to maintain colour balance. This is the
reason many digital camera images benefit from having a Gaussian Blur
applied to the Blue channel only.

CMOS sensors, as used in the Canon D60 and the Foveon design, has less
of the chip area devoted to the light sensitive components, hence their
sensitivity is inherently lower. Because of this, CMOS pixels have a
lens built into the chip surface. This lens can cause reduced light
intensity around the edge of the chip with normal lens designs. It
manifests as greater noise around the outer edge of the chip. However,
CMOS offers other major advantages, like lower power consumption, lower
cost and greater ease of integrating other camera functionality onto
the chip.

Digital image sensors, whether CCD or CMOS, are prone to what is called
thermal noise. As the temperature of the chip increases the pixels see
more ‘spurious’ light which shows up as noise. For the technically
inclined, when light hits the sensor it releases electrons, which are
collected in the pixel well. Heat also releases electrons into the
pixel well. Since one electron is the same as another, there is no way
to tell the difference between these ‘thermal’ electrons and ‘light’
ones. This noise is swamped in short exposures with plenty of light. As
I proved for myself in tests, digital cameras can produce more visible
noise the longer they have been switched on, and thus the hotter the
circuitry is. Also the hotter the ambient temperature is the more noise
too. So, if you are shooting longish exposures in the outback in
summer, keep your camera in a cooler between shots. Whilst I don’t
believe any 35mm-based digitals do it, some medium format digital
backs, like the Kodak ones, also capture a dark frame in exposures
longer than 1/4 second. A dark frame is a shot of the same length as
the imaging exposure but with the CCD covered, so that the only ‘light’
it sees is the spurious ‘dark current’ noise. On other cameras you can
naturally do this yourself using a lens cap and Photoshop. Some digital
backs for medium and large format cameras use active cooling to keep
the CCD cool, and thus reduce noise. This adds bulk and significantly
increases power drain, but works excellently. CCD cooling was developed
by the astrophotography guys to remove noise from their very long, i.e.
one hour, exposures. We used to do this with film too, but there to
improve the reciprocity characteristics.

One thing that is starting to become an issue with digital capture is
inherent sharpness. Some of the higher resolution sensors have pixel
sizes around that of the circle of confusion of common lenses. Those of
you who remember your optics (you all do don’t you?) will recall that
the circle of confusion defines the resolving power of the lens. Many
photographers working with cameras at this leading edge, such as David
Meldrum, report that they get much sharper images with certain lenses
than others. This will be an increasing issue as more cameras use such
sensors and as the resolution of sensors continue to rise. Then just as
with the finest resolution films, you will need to be very choosy about
which lenses you use to get the sharpest result.

So maybe film and digital are not so different after all.

To get an additional perspective, we interviewed Kenneth Boydston,
President of MegaVision, and Mike Collette, founder and president of
Better Light, Inc.


Wayne: CCD vs. CMOS – Are there any fundamental issues between these
that make you see one as superior to the other? Why? Now or in terms of
future development potential?

Ken: As an image sensor, nearly everything about CMOS is better than
CCD except one very big thing: Signal-to-noise ratio.  For an
equivalent signal, CMOS has always been noisier, which has limited its
use to lower end applications.    Because of the
numerous advantages of CMOS, silicon designers are motivated to drive
down the noise, and over the last few years have done so.  At the
same time, improvements have been made in CCD, though not as
much.  We are, therefore, seeing CMOS sensors increase their
market share, and begin to appear in increasingly high end
applications.  My guess is that this trend will continue.

Mike: There is no intrinsic advantage to either CCD or CMOS technology
in terms of image quality — equivalent light-sensing elements can be
made with either technology.  It is my understanding that CMOS
sensors are easier to fabricate, because they are made on the same
high-volume fab lines as most other integrated circuits.  CMOS
technology also facilitates the inclusion of additional circuitry on
the sensor silicon, which can reduce overall component count in a
digital camera.  Both of these advantages are important for
lower-cost, more compact digital cameras.  However, there is no
PERFORMANCE advantage for an image sensor fabricated with CMOS vs. an
image sensor fabricated with “CCD” (usually NMOS) technology; in fact,
many “CCD” image sensors produce notably better image quality than CMOS
image sensors, for several reasons.  Also, nearly all CMOS fab
lines have significant limitations on the size of each integrated
circuit that can be produced, which will in turn limit the size and
performance of any CMOS image sensors, too.  For the highest image
quality, “CCD” image sensors will continue to be superior to CMOS image
sensors, especially for larger-format and scanning digital cameras.

Wayne: Sensitivity vs feature size – as resolutions increase, pel size
drops, unless the sensor gets larger. This has an impact on ‘ISO’
sensitivity. Are there any developments pending that are likely to
impact on this?

Ken: If a large pixel and a small pix
el are alike in every other way,
the large pixel will have more signal, because it collects more photons
and has a larger well in which to store the photon generated electrons.
Since both the large pixel and the small pixel have the same amount of
noise (we said they were the same in eve
ry other way), the large pixel
has better signal to noise, and therefore wins the ISO prize. 
This, in general, is the case. But if the small pixel can be made with
lower noise, then the small pixel may win the ISO prize even though is
has less signal, because it is signal-to-noise ratio that controls
ISO.  Because a small hunk of silicon is much cheaper than a big
hunk of silicon, and because a small hunk of silicon means smaller,
cheaper cameras, silicon designers are motivated to drive down the
noise.  Small pixels today are better than big pixels were a few
years ago.  Making lower noise little pixels is similar to making
lower noise big pixels, so it is likely that large pixels will continue
to have better ISO than little pixels, but little pixels will get good
enough for an increasing number of applications.

Mike: Not likely.  Present-day image sensors can achieve a quantum
efficiency (QE) of over 60%, which means that these sensors are already
converting over 60% of the photons that strike them into electrical
signals.  The maximum possible  QE is 100%, which would
represent less than one f-stop of improvement in sensitivity over
today’s sensors.  Shot noise, which is a fundamental component of
the signals from these image sensors, cannot be mitigated or avoided by
any technology — it’s one of the “laws of physics” — only larger,
more light-sensitive pixels can truly improve the sensitivity of a
digital camera.  There is a sensor technology that could
dramatically increase the sensitivity of scanning digital cameras (by
more than three f-stops), but it’s not clear whether there is enough
market interest in these large-format devices to merit the development
cost of such a sensor.

Wayne: How does digital sensor design impact on the optical design of a
camera’s lenses? Are ‘digital’ lenses really any better in practice
than ‘film’ ones when used in a digital camera?

Ken: Of course, sensor size affects the size of the lens, and pixel
size affects the resolution required of the lens. The resolution
limitations of a typical 35 mm lens can be clearly seen as the pixel
size falls from, say, 12 microns to 6 microns. For single shot Bayer
pattern color sensors, the resolution limitation is not all bad, as
some optical resolution limitation is desirable to reduce color
aliasing (Wayne – this is the same effect as incorporating an
anti-aliasing filter, which really just introduces a small degree of


There is another consideration as well.  The surface of a sensor
is not uniformly sensitive to light.  In between pixels, there is
often area that is not sensitive at all.  Within the sensitive
area of the pixel, there are sometime areas that are not as sensitive
as other areas.  While full frame CCD sensors (such as are used in
some high-end backs and cameras) are nearly 100% sensitive and
uniformly so, all CMOS sensors are not and most CCD sensors are
not.  Because of this, a tiny micro-lens is often stuck on top of
each pixel to focus the light falling on the insensitive area
into  the sensitive area, which is usually near the middle of the
pixel. These little micro-lenses work best if the light is coming at
them perpendicular to the focal plane.  So light coming parallel
to the optical axis (telecentric) is best.  This is why wide angle
lenses don’t work so well with many digital cameras.  

Lens designers are therefore designing telecentric lenses.  Since
telecentric lenses require more elements, they use more glass and are
therefore more expensive.  This again motivates sensor designers
to make smaller sensors so that the lenses can be smaller, use less
glass,  and thus be cheaper.

Mike: Some smaller digital image sensors use micro-lenses over each
pixel to direct more of the incoming light into the active area of each
pixel (which, in these cases, is smaller than the spacing between
pixels, so there is some “dead area” around each pixel).  These
sensors may benefit from a telecentric lens design, where the light
rays striking the image sensor are more-or-less parallel to each other
(and therefore perpendicular to the image sensor surface over its
entire area).  Professional digital cameras typically use image
sensors that do not have micro-lenses, and therefore do not require
telecentric optics.  Most commercially-available “digital lenses”
are designed for larger-format cameras (with interchangeable lenses),
and these “digital” lenses may deliver improved performance under
certain test conditions.  However, in most real-world 
applications, there is little or no difference between the so-called
“digital” large-format lenses, and their “non-digital” (film?)
counterparts.  Our large-format scan backs make excellent lens
testing devices, and we have evaluated a number of (large-format)
“digital” and “non-digital” lenses this way.  In our testing to
date, we have obtained the best overall results with a “non-digital”

Wayne: What do you see as the likely developments in camera sensor design over the next 1, 2 and 5 years?

Ken: More of the same: better, faster, cheaper. Smaller pixels getting
better, so more pixels can be crammed onto the same hunk of silicon.
One thing not likely to change soon is the spectral sensitivity of
humans, so I don’t think pixels that image visible light will get a
whole lot smaller than 3 microns (Wayne – most current sensor designs
go down to around 8 or 9 microns, so there is still room to get

Mike: Perhaps Foveon will get their interesting new color technology
working reliably.  Many smaller image sensors are already at the
practical limit of (small) pixel size, so it is unlikely that even
smaller pixels will be developed.  CMOS sensors may cram more
electronics onto the same silicon, but this probably won’t improve the
sensor performance (image quality) significantly, if at all.

Wayne: Will the Foveon development take over the world?

Ken: That depends on how well it works.  My experience with 100%
sampled color images vs. Bayer pattern color images is that it takes
about two Bayer pixels to equal one 100% sampled pixel.  Thus, all
else being equal, silicon hunkage could be halved.  But I don’t
know yet how close all else is to being equal. I imagine there are
significant challenges, not the least of which might be
signal-to-noise.  The property of silicon that Foveon is
exploiting to separate color has been well known for nearly as long as
silicon sensors have been around.  If it was easy to do, it would
have been done before. If they pull it off, it will be a laudable

Mike: That may depend upon your definition of “the world”… 
Foveon currently has no intention of producing a sensor large enough to
be of interest to most professional photographers, so this small but
important segment of “the world” probably won’t be affected. 
Foveon is making a lot of noise about “true color at every pixel”, but
scanning digital cameras have enjoyed this advantage since their
introduction in 1994, delivering better image quality than Foveon could
hope to produce.  Even when Foveon gets their technology working
reliably, there are many aspects of the consumer digital camera
marketplace that do not involve technology, a
nd these “market forces”
may have more influence on Foveon’s eventual success than their patent
portfolio or PR efforts.

Special quote of Ken’s: ‘Of one thing I am pretty certain: An
micro-acre of silicon takes a better picture than an micro-acre of
silver, and the silicon k
eeps getting better.’

We would like to thank Ken Boydston, President of MegaVision, Mike
Collette, President of Better Light, Inc. and Jay Kelbley, Worldwide
Product Manager of Digital Capture for Kodak for providing information
for this article.

David Ho

David Ho is a digital artist who creates very painterly images using Poser.
I became aware of David Ho’s art work preparing our coverage of the
2001 International Digital Art Awards. Again, while judging the 2002
IDAA this time, his work jumped out at me and screamed for attention.
Dealing with the inner, esoteric and personal aspects of life, David’s
work lives up to his motto: “the duty of an artist lies in making the
metaphysical physical”.

David is an American, born in New Jersey. At a young age he moved to
Taipei, Taiwan and awas there before moving back to the US during his
early teens to Northern California, where he lives to this day. Doing a
sociology degree at Berkeley, after graduation he decided to become an
artist so did another undergraduate degree in Art History and Fine Arts
at San Jose State University. So the sociology degree, and probably the
psychology studies that were part of it, plus the fine art degree has
provided the melting pot from which David creates his art. He works as
a freelance illustrator and graphic designer.

David Ho has been creating these digital fantasies for the past 8 years
now. He creates them for one reason only – to quiet his demons. Making
art is a form of self-therapy for him. He works on the Power Mac
utilizing software like Photoshop, Poser and Bryce. Many of the
textures you see in his works are traditionally created and later
scanned into the computer from his flatbed scanner. His works have
appeared in numerous publications including the Society of Illustrators
annuals, Spectrum Annuals, Design Graphics Portfolio issue, Chicago
Tribune, MacWorld Expo digital gallery, Step-by-Step illustration
annual, Applied Arts illustration annuals and more.

David’s way of working is most interesting. David uses Curious Lab’s
Poser and Corel’s Bryce to create his scenes in 3D. The rendered images
are then taken into Photoshop. Here David drops all the colour out of
his images, by converting to monochrome and then back to colour. Here
he adds textures, which he often paints conventionally and scans on a
flatbed scanner. By working in monochrome at this stage it allows him
to concentrate on composition, texture and lighting without the
distraction of colour. Once David is happy with the result he then hand
paints in colour (so easy to do digitally by painting colour on a
separate layer and setting the blending mode appropriately), taking
care to only enhance the message of the image by the subtle use of

Learning More

For those interested in learning more about his work you can visit his web site at

David also has a book out of his work, Shadow Maker – the digital art of david ho.

This book is a MUST READ. In 192 pages there are over 100 full colour
illustrations that do a wonderful job of showing his work. Unusually
for a book by a digital artist, David provides a five page step-by-step
guide to how he creates his images. I say unusually because most
artists are pretentious and secretive about how they do their work.
David is a truly nice guy and it comes over in his book. You can learn
a lot from this book.

I would call this one of the must have books of the year. You can buy
it direct from David via his web site and I notice it
can also be bought from Help an artist who does great work
and buy a copy.

Viewfinder Australia Photo Library

Viewfinder Australia offer Australian images in CD collections.
Viewfinder Australia is a dinky-die Aussie group of photographers up in
Queensland. They currently have about eight CD collections available.
Each has 104 images, both as high resolution JPEG and medium resolution
CMYK TIFF. Viewfinder’s images are large – 30MB+ in RGB and are priced
at a level significantly lower than other CD ROMs of royalty free

They have announced the release of their latest collection of
royalty-free Australian Images “AUSTRALIAN FAUNA” on CD ROM. Featuring
the work of leading wildlife photographers, this CD ROM
contains 104 high-resolution images of selected Australian animals and
birds, many of which are now endangered. As with all of Viewfinders CD
ROMs, this is an industry product, aimed squarely at publishers and
graphic designers who want to have “ready to publish” at the highest
level of quality. All pictures are drum scanned on Viewfinder’s own
drum scanners at their Gold Coast studios. Viewfinder’s Greg Crow says
that “although this CD is somewhat specialised in its content, we know
that many designers are always looking for typical Australian pictures
such as those of frogs, birds, koalas and kangaroos  and this CD
contains all of these as well as more obscure and lesser known

Australian Fauna (Vol 4 of “The Australian Collection”) is available
from Viewfinder Australia Photo Library’s website
at a cost of A$380.

New filter system

New filter system from French maker Cokin suits both still and video, film and digital photography
French camera
filter specialist Cokin, has announced the release of the
new Cokin Z-PRO Filter Holder, suitable for both film and digital
cameras, in particular D-SLRs and video/broadcast cameras (including
the new HD format).

It is modular, it can be easily dismantled, and it’s set-up to be able
to accept filters of 1.6mm thickness (which most photographers use),
and 4.0mm thickness, used in the Broadcast segment in dimensions such
as 100x100mm (4″x4″) and 100x150mm (4″x6″).

The Z-PRO Filter Holder will fit a large variety of lenses thanks to a
range of adaptor rings covering the common lens diameters of 49mm up to
96mm. Additional rings designed for Hasselblad® B60/B70 and Rollei® are
also available.

The entire Z-PRO system is ideal for the latest generation of Digital SLR and Video cameras (HDV).

The Z-PRO range of filters is made of organic glass with a very high
optical transmission rating. It includes over 90 different filters
designed to satisfy the needs of professional photographers and
videographers. The range includes Correction/Conversion filters,
Graduated filters, filters for Black & White, Soft filters, Neutral
Density filters, etc.

Totally reversible Holder

To prevent the risk of vignetting (dark edges around the picture), the
Z-PRO series Filter Holder is fully reversible, which means that a
filter can fit in the adaptor ring’s slot and the adaptor ring can be
fit in the first filter slot. Therefore the filter can be positioned
very close to the lens and the edges of the holder are clear of the
field of view.

Eliminates vignetting over 20mm focal lengths

The Z-PRO filter-holder was tested (in the standard 3-slot version) and
created no vignetting on focal lengths down to 20mm (based on 35mm
format). This can be extended further in the wide-angle configurations.


The Z-PRO range also includes a storage wallet for 5 filters, and a
choice of two filter kits including widely-used graduating

Australian pricing:


Pro Grad Kit: Filter holder, wallet, Z121L, Z123L and Z125L filters: RRP $225.00

Pro Grad ND Kit: Filter holder, wallet, Z121L, Z121M, Z121S, Z306  (ND2) (ND4) (ND8): RRP $275.00

For other countries please check your local distributor.

The Z-PRO COKIN System is totally compatible with following brand SYSTEMS:


Cokin Z

Leica Digital-Modul-R Back to ship June 15th

Leica has announced the shipping date for the Digital-Modul-R back
Deliveries of the LEICA DIGITAL-MODUL-R will start on June 15th 2005.

The digital addition to the Leica R SLR range, developed in cooperation with Denmark’s Imacon A/S and Kodak’s sensor business Kodak ISS has now met the testing and acceptance conditions of Leica Camera AG and is now ready to market. ?The quality of the digital photographs taken with the LEICA DIGITAL-MODUL-R is even better than they expected, by reports. “Our customers had to wait longer than planned for the unique digital solution from Leica, but are now rewarded with an outstanding product”,? says Mario Thurnherr, Manager of Leica Camera’s Photo Division.

The back is the first and only (so far) digital back that is designed to fit on a 35mm format camera exclusively. Other manufacturers have taken the line that, since the sensor is usually the most expensive part of a digital camera, it is more cost effective to just have two camera bodies if you need to shoot both film and digital. Leica is marching to a different drum.