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A Trip into the World of the Future of Photography

Written by Bill Zuk.

Editor’s Note: Local CAHS chapter newsletters often have fascinating stories that are shared with the chapter membership. Occasionally, articles from the newsletters will also be featured in the History Newsreel, beginning with the following article that originally appeared in the CAHS Manitoba Chapter Newsletter, April 2010, which details use of new photographic technology in aviation museum displays.

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A Trip into the World of the Future for Photography
by Bill Zuk


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Our last Canadian Aviation Historical Society (CAHS) meeting in March was an unusual session led by Professor Jean Vouillon. For the last six years, he has been teaching in the Multimedia Communication program at Winnipeg’s Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface, particularly the use of software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat, Dreamweaver, Flash and Director. M. Vouillon is also known by the moniker, “Pixel Manipulator” as his background is in incorporating a wide range of “cutting edge” technical electronic media innovations, literally “manipulating pixels”. See his site: jeanvouillon.com for examples of his work in graphic and photographic illustration.

After completing his Master’s in Image Art and Technology (Art et Technologies de l’Image) at the University of Paris VIII, Vouillon worked for eight years as an independent multimedia developer and 3D illustrator. Among his clients were the French space agency (CNES), the publishing house Flammarion, and the lottery corporation La Française des Jeux. During the same period, he gave many training sessions on the principal online and offline multimedia creation software for professional development organizations in Paris and Marseilles.

The main focus of the evening presentation was in illustrating the projects Vouillon has undertaken as a volunteer with the Western Canada Aviation Museum, working closely with Gary Styrchak, the Graphics and Displays Coordinator. Two intriguing projects based on the artifacts and display aircraft in the museum collection were presented, the first being High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography.

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High dynamic range (HDR) images enable photographers to record a greater range of tonal detail than a given camera could capture in a single photo. This opens up a whole new set of lighting possibilities that previously were almost impossible to duplicate. The HDR image allows the photographer to combine a series of bracketed exposures into a single image that encompasses the tonal detail of the entire series. At least three exposures taken of a subject, bracketing a “proper” along with an underexposed and overexposed image are required.

Nearly every modern digital camera has the capability to adjust for a dynamic range and the “sandwiching” of the multiple exposures creates an image that brings out detail that was previously hidden. The multiple exposures have to be merged through a computer application to produce a true HDR image. The only restrictions to this process is that to ensure three identical images are shot, a very stable camera platform (tripod or other) has to be used, and that only “still” photography is usually possible. The results, however, are spectacular.

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The other photography project at the Western Canada Aviation Museum that Vouillon has taken on is creating Cubic VR galleries of the aircraft on display, a first for the museum. Cubic VR is a 360-degree viewable panoramic image constructed with the use of a high-resolution digital camera, a wide-angle lens (Vouillon uses a “fish eye” lens), a sturdy tripod with several levels (because you need to be absolutely level when you photograph the images), and a special panoramic head made specifically for the model of camera.

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The aircraft that have become Vouillon’s subjects are the WCAM’s display aircraft that every visitor can see but not typically from the inside. His work will eventually be posted on the museum site as an interactive tour of the collection, but for now the images are found on his personal website. Taking a photo tour inside the Fairchild 71 provides a fascinating look inside an aircraft that was previously “out-of-bounds.” See: www.wcam.mb.ca/virtualcockpits/.

Thanks to both Jean Vouillon and Gary Styrchak for arranging the presentation and giving the CAHS crowd a foretaste of what the future for interactive museum displays will entail.