05 July 2008

Layers? Who Needs Layers?

Well, I think the short answer to that question is basically anyone who creates images with any given fractal program. The days of aesthetically pleasing single layer images, with very rare exceptions, disappeared a long time ago. I very rarely see an image that is a single layer that I find attractive.

Of course, opinions may vary, and they obviously do given some of the criticism offered by OT about the layering capabilities of Ultra Fractal. Take this comment as an example,

My criticism of Ultra Fractal as a fractal art tool has always centered around that issue -- that users tended to get creative by layering fractals rather than by exploring new formulas or experimenting with new rendering techniques.
While the negatively is clearly directed at UF in this comment, it is misplaced. The criticism should be placed on the users of UF that use layers in a way the author doesn't like. It is obvious that people can use the capabilities of any particular program in any way they choose. Personally, I care little for marginal fractal images that are processed with image processing filters. But, that's my preference, and if any particular person likes images created that way, knock your socks off.

So, why direct the critical comments at a program, rather than users? I don't know, but the answer to that might prove insightful.
But what does this mean for the label, "Made with Ultra Fractal"? Well, if done tastefully and intelligently like many of the examples that Mark Townsend has displayed using Sprite as a plugin for the previous version, Ultra Fractal 4, then little has changed and one can just assume that whatever was made exclusively in Ultra Fractal is exclusively "fractal".
Well, you really haven't been able to "assume" that any given images is exclusively "fractal" since UF has been around. Its advanced formula language has allowed creative formula writers the ability to create formulas that are not exclusively "fractal" for a long time.

The bigger question, IMO, is why this label matters so much?

I suppose, for some, this gives more credibility to some images over others. I suppose if there is a particular "contest" or calendar that is labeled as "fractal" that it might exclude some images over others.

Why is this a problem?

If a contest or exhibition wants images that display fractal qualities, or appear to be mostly fractal, why should anyone have an issue with that? If you make images that are post-processed so much that the original fractal properties are obscured, why should you be upset if your images are excluded? You shouldn't be. You made the choice for your image, so accept that it might not fit into a category that you want it to.
But I've noticed that it's pretty rare that anyone uses layering with any intelligence or taste in Ultra Fractal. There are exceptions and I've reviewed such exceptional fractal art here before.
Well, from the images I look at, this author needs to broaden his viewing. True, there have been a couple of instances reviewed at OT, but there are a great many more examples out there than this comment implies. Even many of the "fractal pancake" images look better to me than filter processed images. But, that is my taste, yours might vary.

But, this brings up an interesting question. If layering is good, and can be put to good use and effect, why does OT continue to ridicule classes offered that teach users how to more effectively use the layering features of UF? Wouldn't one think that learning how to more effectively use this capability would be a positive thing? I posit there is something else behind the continual ridiculing of the classes and people that take them. What exactly, I don't know.

Laying can be put to good use. Filters can be put to good use. Both can be overused and abused. I suppose it is really personal taste that says which is which.

1 Comment:

WelshWench said...

The phrase "grasping at straws" come to mind when reading here what OT is currently saying.

Does it never occur to them that some of the non-UF images they have praised use layers? Oh, silly me,of course it has but that wouldn't fit their prejudices.