Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Every once in a while, I’ll find something visually arresting on my journeys through Blogland.

Yesterday, for instance, I stopped by The Dax Files to see what Mr. Montana was up to....and what should I find but a post about anaglyphs.

An anaglyph image is a two-dimensional image in which three-dimensional (stereoscopic) image data is encoded through the use of offset color layers. It’s one type of technology that can be used to create 3-D movies.

I saw an anaglyph for the first time about 40 years ago in a copy of Psychology Today magazine. It wasn’t too complicated... a spattery-looking assemblage of multicolored dots... but when you put on the special glasses (red lens on the left, cyan on the right), a sphere practically jumped out of the page. It was fascinating.

[Anaglyphs are not to be confused with autostereograms (“Magic Eye” images), which use repeating patterns, coupled with special viewing techniques, to create the visual illusion of having three dimensions.]

You can create your own anaglyphs if you have photo editing software like PhotoShop that allows you to manipulate individual image channels. Here’s how. It’s so simple, even I could do it:

Mars in 3-D
The surface of Mars. Image courtesy NASA.

Put on your 3-D glasses and it feels like you’re right there. (Except for the fact that you have a breathable atmosphere and are not as cold as a brass monkey’s nutsack.)

On a completely different tack, I stopped by El Capitan’s place earlier today, where I came across this fascinating video, a time-lapse film made by a tanker captain that shows his night run down the Houston Ship Channel, all the way from the Turning Basin to Morgan’s Point.

The landscape along the Houston Ship Channel was all too familiar to me for many years, although I never had the privilege of seeing it from the wheelhouse of a Panamax oil tanker. And that’s one honking big-ass ship, folks - 106 feet wide and 600 feet long. There are bigger ones out there, sure, but this one, at least, can squeeze through the Panama Canal.

Shooting one frame every six seconds on a digital camera allows a trip that takes about three-and-a-half hours to zoom by in three minutes. It’s just a bit surreal, that silent journey through the dark waters, with the sparkling lights of the petrochemical plants and refineries on either side of the Channel lighting up the clouds from below. At first it put me in mind of nothing so much as a trip along the River Styx with trusty Charon at the tiller.

All it needs is a Musical Background. At first I thought of lifting something from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, but that’d be wrong on oh, so many levels. And then I thought: What about the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey - that final section when Dave Bowman gets sucked through the Star Gate? For as I continued to watch the video, I began to see it not so much as a trip down the Styx, but as a voyage through some bizarro Hyper-Spatial Dimension... one that somehow managed to include the Fred Hartman Bridge in Baytown, Texas.

Try it! What do you think?

Update: This is the 3,500th post published here at Blog d’Elisson, which works out to an average of about two per day over the past (almost) five years. In unrelated news, “misuse of electrons” is now a misdemeanor in the state of Georgia.

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