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Author Topic: NArt  (Read 844 times)

Chris Kern

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NArt
« on: February 18, 2019, 08:10:01 pm »

I've been tinkering with the Deep Dream generator, feeding it some of my photographs to see what it can do with them based on the image attributes it has "learned" from its back-end neural network.

I hesitate to call the results art, and I really don't deserve much credit for them because all I do is choose a photograph to use as input, select from among a group of available "styles," and then decide which of the emitted pictures looks the most promising.

But the manipulated images are interesting—at least, I think so—so I've posted a few here.

I look forward to any comments or invective.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2019, 10:11:17 pm by Chris Kern »
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John R

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Re: NArt
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2019, 12:47:37 am »

If I, along with thousands, perhaps millions of other photographers start to use this AI to manipulate our images, what distinguishes one from any other? Why would our photographs be worth anything if everyone used an AI module to manipulate our images? I have seen examples of people using Topaz or Painter to manipulate very bad images, and make them come out looking great, is that what we want? And what exactly did you do, using basic PP tools, to make your image better, while maintaining a reasonable semblance to reality? Of course there are genres which allow for complete artistic licence, but most do not. Heavy, overmanipultive HDR, is but one example that most people simply don't like.

JR
« Last Edit: February 19, 2019, 12:57:54 am by John R »
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Ivophoto

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NArt
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2019, 12:56:24 am »

Honestly?

It’s kitsch. Nothing wrong with it, kitsch does have it’s place, but it’s not more than what it is.

From technology point of view , it’s amazing.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: NArt
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2019, 01:06:05 am »

Chris,

Some of the examples you posted are indeed interesting. The three I like are 1. Your father (if I remember correctly from your earlier posts) 2. Town panorama and 3. Street painter. The vulture is horrible, others bearable.

What makes the three interesting is the uniqness of the manipulation style (at least I have not seen those before). And the fact that they resemble a drawing or painting, for better or worse.

However, John is posing the right question: what happens when that uniqueness disappears when more people start using it?

P.S. I noticed Ivo’s assessment after I posted mine, and I agree.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2019, 01:29:17 pm by Slobodan Blagojevic »
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John R

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Re: NArt
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2019, 01:08:18 am »

Honestly?

It’s kitsch. Nothing wrong with it, kitsch does have it’s place, but it’s not more than what it is.

From technology point of view , it’s amazing.
I would suggest it is a great and amazing work for the programmers. Eventually, as with most technologies, it will find a much more useful purpose for society. Such as rendering body parts for medical and other purposes, or creating illustrations of concepts of subatomic particles, their orbits and interactions, etc.

JR
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John R

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Re: NArt
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2019, 01:30:26 am »

Chris,

Some of the examples you posted are indeed interesting. The three I like are 1. Your father (if I remember correctly fro your earlier posts) 2. Town panorama and 3. Street painter. The vulture is horrible, others bearable.

What makes the three interesting is the uniqness of the manipulation style (at least I have not seen those before). And the fact that they resemble a drawing or painting, for better or worse.

However, John is posing the right question: what happens when that uniqueness disappears when more people start using it?

P.S. I noticed Ivo’s assessment after I posted mine, and I agree.
Actually Slobodan, I was thinking of you when formulating my thoughts. Why? Because you spoke very highly of "computational" photography when discussing the new Apple phone. Such as creating fake bokeh around a main subject. What's wrong with that you might ask? Well, why do I bother to carefully observe my subjects and line them up so that I can effectively use bokeh to create an impression between my subject and foreground and the background? I may as well stop doing that if the camera is going to do it for me, based on a simple command. I think this will have its day and then it will become so cliche and ubiquitous that no one will care how good your photographs are. If anything, like has happened with digital photography in my camera club, they will want to know why you didn't fix every single little thing that they perceive is wrong, with PP or with some AI module. What do you think Slobodan, Ivo? Should we hang up our cameras in the near future., tongue in cheek, of course. Because, as I am sure you guys do, I love photography.

JR
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Ivophoto

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Re: NArt
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2019, 01:56:09 am »

Actually Slobodan, I was thinking of you when formulating my thoughts. Why? Because you spoke very highly of "computational" photography when discussing the new Apple phone. Such as creating fake bokeh around a main subject. What's wrong with that you might ask? Well, why do I bother to carefully observe my subjects and line them up so that I can effectively use bokeh to create an impression between my subject and foreground and the background? I may as well stop doing that if the camera is going to do it for me, based on a simple command. I think this will have its day and then it will become so cliche and ubiquitous that no one will care how good your photographs are. If anything, like has happened with digital photography in my camera club, they will want to know why you didn't fix every single little thing that they perceive is wrong, with PP or with some AI module. What do you think Slobodan, Ivo? Should we hang up our cameras in the near future., tongue in cheek, of course. Because, as I am sure you guys do, I love photography.

JR

One of the reasons I try to stretch the style of my work, sometimes successfully, most of the time not, is walking over a fresh path. Most of the time, after a while I realize hordes already passed the trail. But anyhow, it’s the human factor I want to bring into my work.

About technology, I’m afraid photography IS a technical craft. Photographic technology dictates what we can do and will do. The little Japan engineers in our camera influence more we expect.
In film era, Fuji and Kodak dictated generations of photographers. The color and chemistry engineers behind Kodachrome are in fact more responsible for the photographic legacy of that period than any photographer on it’s own.

Same for all the PP manipulation tools and techniques.
The programmers of Nik filters, in particularly Silverefex, dictated 500px, Flickr and 1x for years.

Look at the landscape section, remove the PP exagération and you will get another impression of famous landscapes.

It’s from all times.

I will not hang my camera on the hook, I continu my tampering and remain curious to what a real artist can do with new technology.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: NArt
« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2019, 02:23:01 am »

I had in mind other examples of computational photography, like Smart HDR and long hand-held exposures. But you are right, John, faux bokeh also belongs to that category.

You are also right that we are rapidly approaching the day when no one will actually care how good our “real” photographs are. On my trip to Cuba, I used two new (for me) lenses, 135/2 and 100-400, both giving beautiful bokeh. I can admire just how creamy it is, but most people will soon, if not already, be like “Oh, that must be the iPhone Portrait mode, right?”

In other words, the rapid advances in smart phone photography will more and more encroach on the skills needed for our traditional photography. The craft part will gradually disappear. The only thing that is left for us is the ability to see things differently than the average public. The art of seeing.

LesPalenik

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Re: NArt
« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2019, 02:44:59 am »

If I, along with thousands, perhaps millions of other photographers start to use this AI to manipulate our images, what distinguishes one from any other? 

If everybody starts with the same image and they all use the same manipulation technique/filters, yes, nothing would distinguish one from the other. However, starting with your own image and applying different filters, and then modifying the masks, shapes and other attributes, you end up literally with millions of permutations (most of them ugly, but hopefully also some interesting and pleasing). 

Ivophoto

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Re: NArt
« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2019, 02:47:22 am »

. The craft part will gradually disappear. The only thing that is left for us is the ability to see things differently than the average public. The art of seeing.

Agree. With emphasis on ‘differently ‘
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Rob C

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Re: NArt
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2019, 04:19:23 am »

If I, along with thousands, perhaps millions of other photographers start to use this AI to manipulate our images, what distinguishes one from any other? Why would our photographs be worth anything if everyone used an AI module to manipulate our images? I have seen examples of people using Topaz or Painter to manipulate very bad images, and make them come out looking great, is that what we want? And what exactly did you do, using basic PP tools, to make your image better, while maintaining a reasonable semblance to reality? Of course there are genres which allow for complete artistic licence, but most do not. Heavy, overmanipultive HDR, is but one example that most people simply don't like.

JR

Outwith applied photography and the world of art galleries etc., it already means nothing except to ourselves.

Thinking otherwise is self-deception.

I think that confession deserves my own +1.

Rob

rabanito

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Re: NArt
« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2019, 05:36:12 am »

I expect the photographer to begin with was called "visualization", the ability to picture the final print in his mind before releasing the shutter and possessing the technical know-how to create the image that’s in his mind, even if it differs from the reality of the scene in front of him. (Italics are mine, the sentence is not but I adhere)

Putting the raw material through the jaws of some machine is not what I personally expect, even if it gives an interesting or even curious result.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2019, 05:40:56 am by rabanito »
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Ivophoto

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Re: NArt
« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2019, 06:41:09 am »

Outwith applied photography and the world of art galleries etc., it already means nothing except to ourselves.

Thinking otherwise is self-deception.

I think that confession deserves my own +1.

Rob

And a +1 for my own tampering.
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Telecaster

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Re: NArt
« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2019, 05:08:03 pm »

I don't think it's a bad thing at all if processing tech ultimately devalues the results of its processing. The unstated implication of Winogrand's "I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed" is that the finding out and the something are what ultimately matter. Seeing the "something" in the first place, followed by the process of "finding out"…that's up to you, using whatever means you choose.

-Dave-
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Chris Kern

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This is Really Unreal (Not Off-Topic)
« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2019, 08:31:10 pm »

If you think software-generated transformations of Real Photographs™ are ... ahhh ... degenerate, what about software-generated images of people who don't exist?  If you haven't seen it already, check out the This Person Does Not Exist website: with each refresh of your browser, the site will display a new, quite plausible machine-generated headshot.  Really creepy.  Mildly addictive.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2019, 10:48:29 pm by Chris Kern »
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Alan Klein

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Re: NArt
« Reply #15 on: February 19, 2019, 09:37:06 pm »

All if this is nothing new.  All post processing programs have these styles and effects from oil-look, pencil-look, etc.  In any case, the programmer is the artist not the photographer.

Chris Kern

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Re: NArt
« Reply #16 on: February 21, 2019, 12:23:32 pm »

All if this is nothing new.  All post processing programs have these styles and effects from oil-look, pencil-look, etc.  In any case, the programmer is the artist not the photographer.

Well, I’m an old-school 20th Century procedural computer programmer, and my understanding of the software architecture of these neural network applications is quite rudimentary.  But I think machine-learning offers something genuinely new in the realm of image recognition, manipulation, and enhancement.

The reason for this is that when neural networks operate on images (or other inputs, for that matter, but we’re interested in pictures here), there is a semantic component that reflects what they have learned from the exemplars they have been trained on.  Feed a neural network image-recognizer a diet of paintings by van Gogh along with some that are not by van Gogh, allow it to assign probabilities based on the way you identify the paintings, and eventually it becomes proficient in distinguishing a van Gogh from, say, a Renoir.  Not that difficult for thee or me, perhaps, but it’s quite impressive for a learn-by-example computer program.

That’s the recognition aspect.

Now, reverse the processing direction and feed one of your photographs to a neural network that has been trained to recognize van Goghs, and it will do its best to make your picture look like a van Gogh.  Yes, you can argue that the result is just a parlor trick—or kitsch, if you prefer—but the software actually may “know” something about van Gogh’s style even though the only type of visual art the programmer was familiar with is anime.

That’s the manipulation aspect.

(I’m not certain how to characterize the website that displays realistic software-generated images of the faces of imaginary people, so I’ll defer that for future consideration.)

I don’t think image-manipulation is bad, per se.  Although, needless to say, some programmatically-manipulated images are awful.  I agree with Slobodan that several of the transformations of my photographs are interesting—and for the same reason he gave: “the uniqueness of the manipulation style. . . .  And the fact that they resemble a drawing or painting, for better or worse.”  I don’t have the skills to make a woodcut, or paint a "Magic Kingdom" landscape, or sketch a realistic street scene, but if I did, I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have produced the images emitted by the Deep Dream website.  Does painting from a photograph produce an inherently inferior image than painting en plein air?

Finally, if you’ve managed to put up with my rambling so far, we arrive at:

The enhancement aspect.

Photographers have always made changes to their captures—well, most of us, at least—and in the years since the advent of digital photography our tools have become increasingly powerful.  Mostly, though, they have been dependent on modifying the original pixels.  There have been some exceptions, such as programs that use fractal interpolation to “enlarge” images, but my take on those techniques is that they are actually inserting artifacts rather than extrapolating from the actual pixels in the original image.

As I understand it, a tool like Adobe’s new Enhance Details has been trained to “know” how to accurately reproduce fine details without introducing artifacts.  Similarly, Lightroom’s current auto-tone control has become “smart” by being trained to mimic the way skilled photographers make tonal adjustments.

I suspect more tools based on machine-learning will be appearing in post-processing software in the near future.  What about an intelligent sharpening tool that automatically applies the optimal amount of edge contrast, detail, masking, and noise reduction to make an image (or a selected portion of an image) as sharp as it can be without introducing artifacts?  Or color controls that recognize and then adjust for several artificial light sources that illuminate different areas of a night scene?  Or resolution multipliers that analyze an image and then recreate it with many more pixels than the original?  (The last of these are already starting to appear online; I’ve tried a couple, and they’re quite impressive albeit not perfect.)

As these “artificially intelligent” tools become increasingly capable, some of the craft that all of us have spent time mastering may indeed be replaced with automation.  But you could say the same about automatic focus and exposure adjustments in cameras, and—at least, when they are used appropriately—I don’t think many of us consider them as undermining our creativity.  If anything, having powerful tools to manipulate an initial capture in order to produce an interesting final image should make it easier for the photographer to concentrate—quoting Slobodan again—on “the art of seeing."

rabanito

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Re: NArt
« Reply #17 on: February 21, 2019, 05:29:32 pm »

As I understand it AI SW does what it wants with my pictures.

The Adobe Ps or Lr SW  (tools), do what I tell them. For good or worse.

A big difference IMHO

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LesPalenik

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Re: NArt
« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2019, 01:04:09 am »

All if this is nothing new.  All post processing programs have these styles and effects from oil-look, pencil-look, etc.  In any case, the programmer is the artist not the photographer.

Not exactly, Alan
The photographer takes the original picture, the programmer designs the presets, but the image manipulator can create his own look.
Using Topaz Impression plugin as example, there are many different styles and presets (more than 100), and each preset you can further customize - brush width and length, opacity, etc. On top of it, you can add one preset on top of another, use layer blending and masking, and other similar techniques, so unless two persons use exactly same presets at their default values, each artist (if he takes time) can create his own distinct look.   

Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: NArt
« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2019, 01:13:43 am »

... there are many different styles and presets (more than 100), and each preset you can further customize...

Ahmmm...

"plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"*  ;)

*the more things change, the more they stay the same"


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