Monthly Archives: March 2014

Silverknowes Beach, Edinburgh

Edinburgh, Silverknowes beach long exposure photograph of Firth of Forth after sunset

Just after the sun sets, one can get some incredible light over the Firth of Forth, as in this picture taken from Silverknowes beach.

The above photo is part of my ongoing personal project on Edinburgh seascapes. The beach at Silverknowes is an interesting place to photograph. Depending on the tide and sky, it can look very different from one day to another. On this day, the tide was quite high and I was fortunate to be on hand to capture the elongated clouds over the Firth of Forth. The choice of a long exposure further enhanced the effect. I could only manage to take one picture like this, since after this photo was taken the light was gone.

I was drawn to the rock at the bottom left to use as foreground interest in my picture, and since the sky looked much more interesting, I made it the dominant element in my composition.



In the quantum theory of a particular physical system, the lowest energy attainable is higher than the minimum energy of the system predicted by the classical Newtonian theory. This difference in energy is called “zero point” energy.
For example, in the classical theory of the hydrogen atom, the electron orbiting the proton would gradually lose an infinite amount of energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation and fall onto the proton. In the classical theory, the hydrogen atom would therefore be the size of a single proton, or roughly 10-15 m. In the real world, the hydrogen atom is way bigger, with a size of about 10-10 m. The quantum theory, which gives a very good description of the properties of the hydrogen atom, only allows the electron to lose a finite amount of energy until it reaches an energy 13.6 eV below that of the ionised hydrogen atom. But no more. The zero point energy in that case is infinite. We also find that the electromagnetic zero point energy of empty space is infinite, or at least extremely large if we assume that there is a minimum wavelength (the Planck length) for electromagnetic radiation. But it is no cause for alarm, since in electromagnetism only energy differences matter, and not their absolute value. The zero point energy cancels out of the calculations.

Levitation or zero gravity using Photoshop

Making someone levitate is relatively easy with Photoshop. Zero gravity without the space shuttle.

This is different in Einstein’s theory of gravitation, in that the absolute value of the density of matter determines the curvature of space-time. Einstein’s celebrated equation E = mc2 states that mass and energy are equivalent. Hence the very large (essentially infinite) zero point energy predicted by the quantum theory should be equivalent to a very large mass density that in turn would produce some enormous gravitational fields, which are not observed.

The development of a quantum theory of gravity is an important and yet unsolved problem that is occupying some of the best minds in theoretical physics.

Fortunately, the solution of problems caused by gravity is a lot easier in Photoshop. In the photograph above, I appear to float in zero gravity in my flat. A problem I was able to solve in relatively little time. Thank you Adobe!

Shiny Reflections

If you look up “photography” on Wikipedia, you will learn that the word photography comes from the Greek words “photos” (light) and “graphê” (drawing), literally meaning “drawing with light”.

Close-up of forks on colourful background with reflections

Close-up of a couple of forks on colourful gift wrapping paper

I previously mentioned on this blog that I took a number of online photography classes to improve my craft, and one of my instructors, Joe Baraban, would often say, “if you find the light, you find the shot”. Needless to say that lighting is particularly important to the look of your images.

Close-up of kitchen knife on a colourful background with reflections

Same background as above, but moving in close on a kitchen knife

Another revelation came from a CreativeLive online workshop given by Don Giannatti on the topic of “subject centric lighting”. As a physicist, I was aware that different kinds materials interact with light differently. The point Don Giannatti drove home was that it should be the first thing to take into account when thinking about lighting a subject. In particular, shiny objects can be tricky to light. The common mistake is to shine the light directly at them. The objects then typically hurl back a sea of photons directly into your lens, creating a horrible mess of overblown reflections. The photographic equivalent of urinating against the wind, if you will. In his workshop, Don Giannatti showed how to light shiny objects. Give them something to reflect and light the thing they reflect. The pictures in this post illustrate the point nicely. I gave the shiny cutlery some gift wrapping paper to reflect, and I simply lit the wrapping paper with my electronic flash.

Close-up of a couple of spoons on colourful background with reflections

The curved nature of the spoons made it more difficult for me to find some good reflections




There are many reasons I’m not into selfies, pictures of myself taken with a cell phone.  The first reason is that I’d rather be behind the camera.  And as a photographer, I tend to prefer better quality portraits in good light.

Shelfie, Photoshop composite of bookshelf and Philippe Monthoux

My first Shelfie pic.

On the other hand, something totally up my alley is a shelfie. Reading is one of my favourite pastime. In my many years as an academic, I amassed a rather large collection of books. But the book buying didn’t stop when I got into photography and business. My interests keep expanding and you can get an idea of the range of books I have on my shelves from the above photo.

The shelfie picture is also a good illustration (pun intended!) of the kind of imagery the digital technology and Photoshop allow one to create.  This shelfie photomontage is part of a personal project of mine involving photo composites. Apart from the creation of interesting surreal images, the technique of compositing has some very practical applications. For example, a reflector (or white card) may be needed to get the light just right on the subject, but the placement of the reflector is such that it appears in the shot. A combination of photos with and without the reflector allows one to solve the problem.

I believe that the mastery of Photoshop is a requirement in this digital age, and I plan to explore other kinds of composite ideas to hone my Photoshop skills, because I just love to learn new things. So look for other Photoshop composite experiments like the shelfie picture above in the coming weeks and months.