The other machine

It sits there, quietly. Unused but waiting.

Sometimes while working on the fractal machine, I look over at it. Our eyes meet. I say nothing and return to the fractal machine.

Before I discovered fractals my hobby was making seamless background tiles and web graphics in my graphics progam.

I made thousands, maybe ten thousand tiles. It was a lot of fun taking any kind of image and working it over with filters and effects then hitting the "make seamless" filter.

I used the GIMP because it's the most graphics program you can get for free. Photoshop probably has more capabilities but I couldn't justify paying that much for something that was just a hobby.

I'm not trying to boast or anything, but when you make ten thousand unique background tiles over the course of three years, working for a couple of hours every evening, you aquire some familiarity with your graphics machine. If I had practiced the piano or guitar that much, I'd be a reasonably good musician. Anyone would be.

But then I discovered fractals and the effect of the seamless filter didn't "become" them. I made one seamless fractal tile early on, and despite many hours of subsequent work, couldn't make another that looked appealing.

So with the arrival of my fractal machine.... dust settled on my graphics machine.

Occasionally I sparked it up to make some web graphics to accompany my new (and ever-expanding) fractal gallery. Sometimes I would embark on a weeklong binge of "tinting" old photos I got off the internet (public domain).

I never fed one of my pristine fractals into the titanium teeth of my graphics machine, ever. Never. Stop it! Stop looking at her like that! You filthy graphics program!!!

It wasn't for any ideological reason, like I was against "post-processing" or anything like that. It was just that the fractal programs I was using, Sterlingware and Xaos, produced such wonderful images on their own that I didn't see any use in adding a second machine to the process.

Also, the process of creating fractals was a very complicated one and meant that you needed to see the results of any parameter adjustments right away and then make changes to the basic image (zoom in or out). All I could do in a graphics program would be to add graphical effects to a single image. If it didn't produce anything worthwhile, all I could do is go back to the fractal machine and start over again.

Xaos actually incorporates two styles of edge-detection within the program, and good, random palette generation. And what could my coal-burning graphics factory add to the refined imagery made on a fractal Stradivarius like Sterlingware?

Nothing but crude effects and general graphical graffitti.

But things change. I changed. My fractals changed. I went from making super-crisp photorealistic images in Sterlingware to making flatter, more abstract, silk-screen like images.

My fractals started to look more like the "tinted" or post-processed photographs that I liked to make. I was getting closer to producing the same type of imagery with two different machines.

Maybe I could process a fractal image the same way I processed a photographic one? If I could turn an old National Wildlife Service photo of the desert into a glowing green moonscape, maybe I could put a fractal "photo" into a similar orbit?

A dull, ho-hum, recycle-bin grade fractal
Should have been anti-aliased, but who cares?

Whoa! Beam me up Scotty!
It's the..
Alien Portal to the 4th Dimension!

I resized it up to 400x200; reduced the palette to 8 colors with a dithering thing; applied the "oil painting" filter; and then took the rest of the week off.

Some times it works, and sometimes it doesn't. But when it does, it's like turning straw into gold. And if that happens often enough, it's worth the extra time jolting, zapping and irradiating a fractal the other machine.


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