# The Landscape Within and Without: Similarities between landscapephotography and fractals

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Wayne J. Cosshall, Apr 29, 2007.

1. ### Wayne J. CosshallGuest

Wayne J. Cosshall, Apr 29, 2007

2. ### achilleaslazaridesGuest

It is indeed intriguing. I think it also goes deeper. We have a
"landscape" of possible fractals once we fix the algorithm, and we
move around by changing some parameters. if we have n parameters, it
is an n-dimensional landscape. So our aim is to find the set of
parameters which produces the fractal we wish (eg which looks like a
tree, or which expresses "pain" in some sense, or whatever). We do
this either by aimlessly wandering about the landscape until we find
what we want, or by "walking around" by looking near to where we are,
or other techniques.

But generalise this a bit: any problem we try to solve (in a general
sense; it could be an attempt to write a poem) will be solved in the
same way, ie by wandering around some space of possibilities
(analogous to changing the parameters of the fractal algorithm) until
we get what we want. Doing science (eg trying to explain something) is
done this way: I know some facts, and have various ways of putting
them together; so I try various things (the "wandering around the
landscape") until I get what I want (an explanation). So is writing
poetry, in some sense: I try to express something (say); I have words,
phrases etc which carry meaning, emotions, and which rhyme, don't
rhyme, and so on, and I want to put them together in some way to
achieve my goal. It's all the same, for sufficiently general
definitions of "landscape" and "walk".

The main difference between different people, it seems to me, is how
they search around this space. Sometimes, looking just near you isn't
enough (because you have to go in a nonobvious direction to get to the
"solution"), and people who have the ability to find these nonobvious
directions do things others can't (think of Einstein, Bach etc).

Of course it is possible to generalise these definitions ("space",
"search") so much that what one says is true but useless; this is a
constant danger to all philosophers, I guess

achilleaslazarides, Apr 30, 2007

3. ### achilleaslazaridesGuest

Maybe Beethoven fits better there. Bach is more like Newton. But never
mind...

achilleaslazarides, Apr 30, 2007
4. ### TobyGuest

Interesting Wayne--I've been doing fractal exploration for a number of years
and my feelings are quite similar. I've written a number of formulae and
coloring algorithms for Ultra Fractal and a few other proggies, and as I go
exploring Mandelbrot or Julia sets I feel much like I do when I am out with
my camera looking for juicy frames.

Of course with the classic Mandelbrot there are repeating self-similarities
which are not present in nature, but as soon as that is modified by applying
various functions things change quite a bit. Finding pleasing symmetries
amidst the chaos is quite pleasing, isn't it? And, of course, there is
something weirdly satisfying about realizing that there is no end to the
detail, no matter what magnification one uses. This certainly mimics the
natural world.

I'm not trolling for views, but if you are interested in my fractals (and
some photos) have a look at:

http://www.renderosity.com/mod/gallery/browse.php?user_id=113004

More to the point, browse the fractal galleries there in general...

Toby

Toby, Apr 30, 2007
5. ### Jürgen ExnerGuest

Actually, I disagree. There are many self-similarities in nature.
Look at e.g. streams that become rivers that become creeks that become a
brook that becomes a streamlet.

Same with valleys which have offsprings which in turn have even smaller side
valleys which in turn ....

Or coast lines. A statement like "country x has y miles of cost line" is
meaningless. Did they really measure around each headland and cape into each
tiny bay? Did they measure around each rocky outcrop? Did they measure
around each rock laying on the beach? Did they measure around each grain of
sand? I think this is typical fractal nature.

And of course the prime example snow flakes, although that probably doesn't
qualify as landscape photography ;-)

jue

Jürgen Exner, Apr 30, 2007
6. ### aclGuest

In fact, turbulent flows (ie most flows in nature, streams etc) are
self-similar (eddies of various sizes coexist), frustrating our
attempts to understand it in a deep way (for some definition of
"deep"). Other examples of this type of self-similarity abound.
Someone even got a Nobel prize in 1982 for exploiting this self-
similarity in a particular field of physics.
Well coastlines are a prototypical example. Mandelbrot goes on about
this in his book.
However those are usually symmetrical, not self-similar on different
scales. Still very nice, of course

acl, Apr 30, 2007
7. ### Wayne J. CosshallGuest

Wayne J. Cosshall, Apr 30, 2007
8. ### Wayne J. CosshallGuest

Toby, you have some wonderful fractal work there. Most impressive.

As I see others have pointed out, I also disagree with you only on the
lack of self-similarity in the landscape. I see much that is
self-similar, from mountain ranges to the edge of rocks to the mentioned
by others water flows, etc.

Cheers,

Wayne

Wayne J. Cosshall
Publisher, The Digital ImageMaker, http://www.dimagemaker.com/
Blog http://www.digitalimagemakerworld.com/
Publisher, Experimental Digital Photography
http://www.experimentaldigitalphotography.com
Personal art site http://www.cosshall.com/

Wayne J. Cosshall, Apr 30, 2007
9. ### David KilpatrickGuest

So do I, because it allows Photoshop clone tool retouching of parts of
landscapes with related parts, and the eye can never spot it (image
analysis can!). The fractal nature of trees, grass, rocks etc means you
can even change scales of image parts, copy, and retouch.

We have just ordered Bryce, for my wife to mess around with creating
some imaginary landscapes. We had it years ago but it was painfully slow
on a Mac IIcx. I found the software recently, and tried it on a modern
Mac with Classic running - it was still slow, but also, the image size
was limited to something like XVGA! We are hoping that modern Bryce is
capable of big, big output files.

David

David Kilpatrick, Apr 30, 2007
10. ### C J CampbellGuest

The interesting thing is unpredictability. One might generate a
fractal, for example, that models the exact behavior of the stock
market for all of its history, but the model will still be unable to
predict the future. The same goes for the weather. It is possible to
create a fractal algorithm that predicts the past, but not one that
predicts the future. A fractal may describe the current appearance of a
range of mountains but it will be incapable of predicting what the
mountains will look like in 10,000 years.

The problem is resolution, of course. Very tiny differences accumulate
and amount to huge variations, often in a very short time. You reach a
point where the very act of observing can change the future.

Thus, a fractal can mimic reality, but it can never duplicate it. There
are fractal generators that allow a photographer to upsize an image and
maintain an appearance of reality, but it is not the same image that
would be obtained by a higher resolution photograph. The effect of
higher resolution is unpredictable.

A brush stroke on a painting can be seen as a part of a fractal image.
The single brush stroke does not seem to resemble any part of the
subject of the painting, but the combined brush strokes may create a
realist masterwork.

A photograph can never look exactly like reality because of its fractal
limitations. It can never capture enough information to exactly
duplicate the subject. If it did, it would be the subject, one in
identity with it.

C J Campbell, Apr 30, 2007
11. ### Matt ClaraGuest

Look into Vue. They have something called EcoSystem materials which can
generate vast fields of whatever 3D objects you'd like, if you make your
own, or if you use the presets, with fields of flowers and grasses, trees,
rocks, small villages, farmland, and more. There are two images I created
in Vue on the front page of my website. I also own Bryce, but like Vue
better. They are both still slow to render BIG images. I have two gigs of
ram but the only way I can get Vue to do anything over 3200 x 2400 is to
render it out in parts and then recombine in Photoshop.

Matt Clara, Apr 30, 2007
12. ### David KilpatrickGuest

Lovely idea, but it's about five times the price of Bryce - which is
affordable for recreational use, not commercial. Vue Infinite is a bit
too expensive for our needs!

David

David Kilpatrick, Apr 30, 2007
13. ### Matt ClaraGuest

http://www.e-onsoftware.com/products/vue/vue_6_esprit/
It is more expensive than Bryce, but not five times. It's also better than
Bryce, by about 10 times. Bryce has changed a little over the years, where
Vue makes huge jumps in R&D, and will likely continue to do so--ecosystems
are just that, a huge jump. I would not be surprised to see Bryce bought up
and incorporated into one of the other 3D software vendor's code, by and by.

Matt Clara, Apr 30, 2007
14. ### Matt ClaraGuest

My apologies if I appear to dis Bryce entirely; I still have several images
on my site created in Bryce, including:
http://www.mattclara.com/moonsandaplanet.html (ferns were painted in post
process with Corel Painter 6)
http://www.mattclara.com/turningpoint.html
(and a few others which should probably be taken down)

I don't think they compare favorably to my new Vue images
(http://www.mattclara.com/thestruggle.html), though, but that could have to
do with experience and a more developed eye (largely due to photography, I
might add). Also, as I said before, Bryce doesn't change much, whereas Vue
does, and that makes Vue the more exciting program, both to use and to watch
(some might say the same is true of Canon, though I believe that's a finer
point). Having said that, you may wish to watch Vue Easel for the day that
ecosystems are incorporated therein. It's only \$89, and frankly, I thought
I'd read that Vue Easel 6 had ecosystems, and that's what I was suggesting,
not Infinite. Vue espirit 6 allows you to load ecosystems--not sure if that
means you can't make them or whether it includes a preexisting library of
them--and it's running \$199 (which just happens to be what I paid for my
copy of Bryce 3D in 97/98).

Matt Clara, Apr 30, 2007
15. ### Alan BrowneGuest

Too bad you miss the point that nature suffers both chaos and entropy so
"pure" Mandlebrot sets are not seen (at least not for long).

You're also missing the very important point that while perfect
symmetry, repetition, nesting and so on are very easy in mathematics,
the complex of nature wild is not easy to model.

Introduce subtle noise or impulses into a Mandelbrot set and you will
get terminations, variations and so on that begin to better mimic nature.

is but one of thousands of examples you can find of natural
Mandelbrot-like sets in nature.

Cheers,
Alan

Alan Browne, May 1, 2007
16. ### Wayne J. CosshallGuest

Wayne J. Cosshall, May 1, 2007
17. ### Wayne J. CosshallGuest

Wayne J. Cosshall, May 1, 2007
18. ### Mr.TGuest

Possibly true, but I bet the actual data you have to support such a claim is
zilch.
Although the same claim can probably be made for most modern software
without necessarily being wrong.

MrT.

Mr.T, May 1, 2007
19. ### TobyGuest

In fact, turbulent flows (ie most flows in nature, streams etc) are
self-similar (eddies of various sizes coexist), frustrating our
attempts to understand it in a deep way (for some definition of
"deep"). Other examples of this type of self-similarity abound.
Someone even got a Nobel prize in 1982 for exploiting this self-
similarity in a particular field of physics.

But those levels of self-similarity are quite limited, compared to the
infinte levels of self-similarity in a pure Mandelbrot fractal. Tree
branchings exhibit the same self-similarity, but only up to a point.

Toby

Toby, May 1, 2007
20. ### Robert CoeGuest

My latest column is up with some thoughts about the links between
: landscape photography and fractal images:
: http://www.dimagemaker.com/specials/dimw.php

IIRC, Mandelbrot's original paper on fractals emphasized their similarity to
landscapes, notably to the shape of coastlines.

This is the first time I've seen Cosshall's column. He presents some
intriguing ideas, but someone should introduce him to a good proofreader. ;^)

Bob

Robert Coe, May 1, 2007