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Create photographic camera sensor interference with magnetic fields

  1. May 3, 2013 #1
    Hello everyone,

    I'm a photographer and am developing a project in which I'm needing some help. I went to some engineers friends first but they told me Physicians would be the ones who would have the answers I need.

    I'd like to know how can I interfere in the way my camera's sensor registers the photons it receives, but it's important for the work's concept that I do not make any modifications to the camera body.

    I thought about causing some sort of disruption with magnetic fields, but I've been told there's no way to do it without completely wrecking the camera. I wouldn't mind if it was altered permanently, but if it cannot create a final image it would be useless.

    I'm not trying to achieve any effect in particular, the goal of the project is to discover what the images would look like if the camera was affected by an external force that did not alter it's body (at least not in a way our eyes could capture).

    If there are any suggestions or alternatives, I would be more than glad to hear them. My knowledge on physics is close to none, so I'm sure there's a lot that could be done which I simply have no idea of.

    Thanks in advance for those of you who take your time to help me out!


    Here's an explanation how the sensor work: http://www.astropix.com/HTML/I_ASTROP/HOW.HTM

    And a brief description: A digital camera takes light and focuses it via the lens onto a sensor made out of silicon. It is made up of a grid of tiny photosites that are sensitive to light. Each photosite is usually called a pixel, a contraction of "picture element". There are millions of these individual pixels in the sensor of a DSLR camera.

    Each photosite on a CCD or CMOS chip is composed of a light-sensitive area made of crystal silicon in a photodiode which absorbs photons and releases electrons through the photoelectric effect. The electrons are stored in a well as an electrical charge that is accumulated over the length of the exposure. The charge that is generated is proportional to the number of photons that hit the sensor.
    This electric charge is then transferred and converted to an analog voltage that is amplified and then sent to an Analog to Digital Converter where it is digitized (turned into a number).
  2. jcsd
  3. May 3, 2013 #2


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    So is the goal of your project to add some artistic effects to the photographs taken by the camera, without altering the camera itself?

    I don't think magnetic fields will change anything in the CCD sensor images (others can correct me if I'm wrong. You might be able to alter the images with a large electric field, but I'm not sure what the effect would be -- perhaps it would just partially wash out the image.

    What kind of effects are you hoping to achieve?
  4. May 3, 2013 #3


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    Could you, during the exposure, bounce a laser off of a diffraction grating substance into the lens to achieve what your want? Or what about just using a flexible lens and jiggling it?
  5. May 3, 2013 #4


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    Perhaps fill the camera body with water to mess with the refractive index. Probably just ruin a good camera and produce a junk picture.
  6. May 3, 2013 #5
    Thanks for your replies!

    Berkeman, I was hoping to make things as far away from what we perceive as possible.

    If I could mess with the colors, with the definition and quality of the processed image, noise, statics, etc. I'm not looking for anything specific, only as much change as I can make without altering the camera body and lenses.

    I'm part of a study group of conceptual photography, and we are always discussing the truthness of images, how they represent reality. I'm looking for a way to interfere with the pictures in way that shows how our perception is determined much more by our senses than the external world itself.

    Since the camera is an emulator of our visual system (specially the digital ones since they also use electricity to synthesize received data), I thought that creating a change in the way it process the data input, not the light, the body, or the lenses, would be the best way to express my point.

    That's why I say i'm not looking for anything in particular, because I don't know what I could possibly expect. I'd just like to change it as radically as possible while still being able to have the image stored in the memory card, and having enough information to look at.

    If you have any idea on where can I look for answers too that would be much appreciated!

    Danger I liked you idea but I guess it would be a bit out of what I was looking for, but I I could surely try it out. Could I use a regular laser beam, like a pointing laser? And what substance would you recommend to shine it through? The lens idea is a good one but it's overused, I don't know if would cause a lot of reaction.

    Thanks a lot!
  7. May 3, 2013 #6
    CWatters I know a place or two where that would come in handy, but I don't think it's gonna work for me haha
  8. May 3, 2013 #7


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    I was specifically thinking of a pointer when I wrote that. As opposed to shining through, I was more along the line of skipping the beam off of something like a CD. If you want a transmissive rather than reflective medium, you can get little Fresnel lenses at any drugstore. I carry one all of the time. It's the size and shape of a credit card, in a little pouch, and you use it as a a hugely powerful magnifying glass. (It's so much more convenient than carrying my reading glasses.)
    I just got another idea, though. If you can manage to make friends with an electronics guru, how about customizing your processor chip? I'm thinking that with a tweak or two at the proper synapses, it could be like your camera has taken LSD. If you want to, you could even put that as an accessory port device so that it processes a copy of the original photo while the original itself is still intact in main memory. (I have absolutely no idea of how that can be done, if it can be at all.)
    I'm very disappointed to find out that I didn't just invent flexible lenses. It never occurred to me that they already exist. :redface:
  9. May 3, 2013 #8
    Hey Danger thanks a lot for your info man! I'll check everything out for sure.

    About the flexible lenses, I thought you were talking about something like tilt/shift lenses or like those really huge old cameras with a bellow.

    Sorry about that lol
  10. May 3, 2013 #9


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    No, I was thinking that a lens could be made out of a clear polymer which could have a normal double convex or whatever shape when undisturbed, but then bend like rubber under an external force.

    As I understand it, a lot of "art" photographers actually prefer those old "view" cameras, particularly using glass plates rather than film, because of some quality that is lost to modern technology. I guess that it's the same as audiophiles demanding that they listen to their tunes through vacuum tube amplifiers.
    Last edited: May 3, 2013
  11. May 3, 2013 #10


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    Hi Camero!

    In trying to formulate some response to your inquiry, I looked up the word you used, "truthness" ("of images") in about eight dictionaries, and all said the word is "not in this dictionary", except of one, that listed it as being "Obsolete". Did you and your group make up that word? However, you did add the phrase, "how they represent reality" which helped me get your meaning.

    Photographic images can deceive the viewer. Surely you've seen E. M. Escher's images that defy spatial logic. No laws of Physics need be invoked to fool human observers! And, there are many examples of experiments in perspective that deceive the viewer.

    As for your specific question: There is a limited number of fields that project "action at a distance". Whether your digital camera is susceptible to an external field is open for you to discover. You might experiment with High Voltage fields, Magnetic fields, and Acoustic fields, for example. If any of these perturb or otherwise affect the results your camera detects, those effects will be stored in the digital memory, and will not be the same as an unperturbed photo.
  12. May 4, 2013 #11


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    Presumably you have exhausted the possibilities of Photoshop?? And there's always the Lensbaby, which fits all major camera makes, ifiak.
    But there are dozens of ways of messing with (no offence ) a high quality picture. Lens manufacturers spend their lives reducing distortions as much as possible. Adding predictable distortions may be more of a problem for you haha.
    But the answer to the basic question is that EM waves do not interact under normal conditions. You would need extreme values of magnetic field and a non-linear medium in order to affect any image.
  13. May 6, 2013 #12
    Danger Now I get it! You are right about the use of older mediums, but that depends on what your intentions are. The choices and ways of production of the final image are just as important (at least in what I'm doing) as the resulting photograph. I guess I'd be willing to use one of those if wanted to depict something very beautiful and intricate, show all the details and get really great colours and tones. Of course there

    Bobbywhy I'm sorry about the "truthness"! english in not my first language, and when I was writing the reply it just sounded right.

    I sure know what you're talking about, but photography is peculiar in the sense that when we see it, we know that what it depicts exists somewhere. People's reactions towards photography are stronger than with other kinds of images because of how it is made, and twisting that notion would be nice.

    Thanks a lot for your response, I'll check into your examples.

    sophiecentaur Photoshop would just show a visualization, not the thing in itself, which is what I was hoping to get.

    No offence taken! With all the responses here I'm seeing that I'll have to adapt my idea to my possibilities, but I'm trying some things anyway. If nothing works, I'll go with the lenses. It would also deliver some great stuff for sure.

    Thanks for your reply, I'm checking into other things as well.
  14. May 7, 2013 #13


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    I just thought of something that would be very labour-intensive, and probably won't suit your purpose, but I'll mention it anyway.
    You told Sophie that you wanted a (may I say "warped") reality rather than an artificially created one such as PhotoShop produces. I don't exactly see the difference, but that's beside the point. If this fits into your idea, how would you feel about taking pictures of pictures that you've previously taken, with various types of lenses, speeds, and apertures at each stage. That way it might be considered to still be a "true" image, but with pseudo-random results.
    By the way, Stephen Colbert of "The Colbert Report" did coin the word "truthiness" several months ago in relation to his mock journalism. :biggrin:
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