Merry Christmas, Alex!
I decided that this year I wanted to make someone's Christmas a little magical. I surprised a former student of mine and current teacher at BMC Durfee High School with a new Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. I hope that it aids him in a profession that's stressful and not always rewarding and in any future endeavors. Perhaps it was a little cruel to surprise my unassuming friend, who thought was only helping showcase the product, but his reaction was worth it. The event was captured on video, which I happily had recorded.
Merry Christmas, Alex!
Though the Yoga is a consumer device, it is clear Lenovo is also targeting the device to professionals: “From writing proposals and building presentations, to emailing and online shopping,” Lenovo promises that “the enhanced performance features of the Lenovo YOGA 3 Pro" will "help you get more done.” As such, I decided to use the laptop as I would as a student in an academic laboratory. I will very briefly describe the various features I liked about the Yoga.
In 2010, while a student in Dr. Erin Bromage’s lab, we made the switch from paper notebooks to electronic lab notebooks (ELN) using Microsoft OneNote; similarly, when I started working in industry, they had switched to ELN produced by Waters. Using OneNote proved to be very useful: Cutting and pasting images into the document could be done in an instant without tape and scissors, Excel files (or files of any type) could be inserted directly onto the page of the corresponding experiment, searching for keywords was possible, the fear of misplacing/staining a notebook no longer existed, and my PI could look at my progress in real-time (a mixed blessing) and provide advice from a remote location.
There were, however, some downsides to switching to an ELN. Though it’s often very convenient being able to type and insert shapes, sometimes it’s quicker to scribble a few words or sketch an arrow. Moreover, my T400, at over 4 pounds, was considerably more heavy and bulky than paper notebooks. With the Yoga, both of those complaints are negated.
Aside from being a lab notebook, my Lenovo T400 was my workhorse. However, data analysis involving densitometric scans of gels, for instance, and editing images for publication were done on separate monitors with more accurate colors, higher resolutions, and better viewing angles. In contrast, the Yoga’s 13.3-inch screen at a 3,200x1,800-pixel resolution is stunning and does not suffer from the color inversion that my old TN screen suffered.
Outside of lab work, as is the case for all grad students, I had to keep up with the current scientific literature. The majority of the time, I would print the articles out—at least for me, there’s something reassuring about ink on paper, being able to read a few articles comfortably during a commute, and being able to jot a few notes directly on the paper. Though I’m not confident any device will ever cease my predilection for hard copies, the Yoga 3 Pro makes me one step closer. As mentioned previously, a selling point of the Yoga is that it conveniently converts to a tablet, which I find much more pleasurable for reading; and when reading a pdf in tablet mode, the Yoga automatically switches to ‘Paper’ mode, mimicking the look of ink on paper. As this is a touchscreen, it is possible to take a few notes on a paper.
Last, it was common for us to learn the principles of a technique by watching online videos, often on a separate monitor. The tent mode works perfectly for such situations. I can picture my lab mates and I gathering around my Yoga 3 (so cozy) with its great viewing angles and its JBL speakers providing loud, clear audio over our jokes and gossip.
I think it's clear that I like the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. While it's a fun device that many consumers will enjoy for media consumption, social networking, in addition to work, I see it more as a serious professional device. It is durable, light weight, flexible for many applications, and powerful enough for everyday use. Though I have demonstrated how it could be used in the lab, it is easy to imagine how it could be used in many different professions like teaching--for instance, it would be great to prepare a lecture in laptop mode, rehearse the presentation in tent mode, brush up on material in tablet mode, and ultimately present the lecture in stand mode.
Joining Lenovo's effort to create the world's first 360° selfie to spread some holiday cheer, I decided to keep things simple with my kitty who just turned twelve years old. As much as I loved my trip to South Africa, an astounding vacation that I will describe in a future post, one thing that surprised me was the casual attitude towards Christmas...I didn't spot a single real Christmas tree, only an occasional street was decorated, homes weren't festooned with strings of lights, there were no Christmas manger scenes. Being a New England boy, I love Christmas...and there really is no place like home for the holidays.
As beautiful as Cape Town was, I will never equate summer in December with Christmas. This video was taken during my trip in South Africa.
In addition to shooting 35mm film on vintage cameras, I also enjoying making cyanotypes of the images. Though the cyanotype process is now used in alternative photography to make prints from negatives, it was primarily used from the mid-1800s into the 20th century as a low-cost, simple method to produce blueprints. The process uses two chemicals, ammonium iron (III) citrate and potassium ferricyanide, instead of the typical silver halide salts used in photography; when combined, they create a sensitizer that, when exposed to light, ultimately produces ferric ferricyanaide, also known as Prussian blue (as a piece of trivia, remember that Prussian blue was used in medicine as a sequestering agent for heavy metal poisons and is used in histopathology as a stain).
I’ve always been interested in the chemistry behind photographic processes (as long as my limited chemistry comprehension allows me to grasp the reactions). For the chemistry geeks out there, here’s the reaction that takes place:
Now, what drew me to cyanotypes was not only the unique blue prints, but also their use by Anna Atkins, regarded by some as the first female photographer, to document ferns, seaweeds, and other plant-life in such works as Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843) and Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns (1853). Atkins placed her specimens directly on the sensitized paper and the result was a silhouette effect. Sadly, throughout my career both as a student and scientist, I gained only a minute understanding of botany; much of my exposure, from vascular tissue to hormones to plant life cycles to the titillating Casparian strip, was actually in high school by Dr. Sandy Mitra, a graduate from Cornell University who taught at BMC Durfee High School. Later, I would learn about the immune system of plants. From high school to the present, I’ve always had an appreciation for my green friends (I will write about creating anthotypes in the future), but whether you want to create silhouettes of leaves or prints from negatives, this tutorial should be helpful.
· Ferric Ammonium Citrate and Potassium Ferricyanide. (A liquid cyanotype kit containing both solutions can be obtained online from Photographers’ Formulary for $18.00. The kit can produce an estimated twenty-four 8x10’s.)
· Watercolor paper (recommended, but other paper works, as do textiles containing at least 50% cotton)
· Teaspoon (or a graduated cylinder or pipette for those fortunate enough to work in a laboratory setting.)
· Scotch tape
· Hake brush (recommended, but paint brushes or foam brushes are fine)
· Transparency sheets ( used for printing negatives on) or objects for creating silhouettes (e.g., leaves, ferns, paper cut-outs)
· Glass plate large enough to cover image to be printed
· Running water (from a sink, for instance. Note that hard water will affect the final image color)
· UV light source (the Sun works great and is free, but a UV light allows for greater predictability of exposure times)
1. Prepare the negatives or objects you wish to use to create the print. If using objects, objects must be flat enough to be sandwiched beneath a glass pane; creating these silhouettes (photograms) is a great introduction to the cyanotype process, since it is nearly impossible to overexpose the image. If using a negative to reproduce a photograph, create a negative by inverting the color of a digital image (e.g., "invert color" in Microsoft Paint) and printing on transparency sheets; make sure to choose "transparency" for the paper type under printing options.
2. Mix the chemicals in a room free from natural light: If using dry chemicals, create a 25% (m/v) solution of ferric ammonium citrate and 10% (m/v) solution of potassium ferricyanide. Combine the solutions in equal proportions. If using The Photographers’ Formulary Kit, simply combine the two solutions in equal proportions—from my experience, ¼ teaspoon (1.2 ml) of each solution produces enough volume to coat about half a sheet of watercolor paper (note that the sensitized solution should be used soon after preparation).
3. Prepare your work area and the canvas: Let’s avoid a mess here. Spread some newspapers over the work area and possibly get yourself some gloves. Now, in a dimly lit or tungsten lit environment, coat the paper as evenly as possible. Allow the paper to dry in the dark or hasten the process with a hair dryer.
4: Print the cyanotype: Once the paper is dry, do not touch with bare hands. Secure your objects with scotch tape on the coated paper; ensure that it will be possible to inspect the progress of exposure without loss of registration (for example, secure the top and a side of a transparency). In the sunlight or under a sunlamp, place the glass frame on top of the negative/object and allow for the cyanotype to print-out—exposure will likely take 10-20 minutes, but may vary considerably depending on the intensity of the sun. Check the print periodically, and expose until the high values have more tone than desired in the final print and shadows have begun to reverse. Highlights will lighten upon washing; thus, an apparent overexposure is necessary. Note that underexposed images will wash away in the next step; overexposed images will be too dark.
5: Process and dry: When the print has been exposed, process your print by rinsing under running water for at least 5 minutes. This removes any unexposed chemicals, ceasing the process of development. Oxidation will also be accelerated, bringing out the blue color. The final print can now be hung to dry. The image is colorfast, so enjoy showing it off!
Cyanotype Toning (Optional)
Because of my little experiencing toning images, I recommend following the tutorial found on this site https://mpaulphotography.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/cyanotype-toning-the-basics/
My Toning Method
I've had fun experimenting with toning my cyanotypes. A quick method that has provided interesting results for me is soaking my dried cyanotype in diluted Clorox bleach for several seconds. Once the color shifts from blue to beige, I immediately rinse the paper under running tap water (the color will continue to fade during this time until the bleach is fully rinsed out). To tone the image, I've found that soaking in red wine for several minutes has provided a dark beige color that I find pleasing. I have tried toning in tea, but I find the image to be more black than brown, and not particularly to my taste. A word of advice--if you tone and do not approve of the color, give it a quick rinse in bleach and tone again!
About Gregory Costa
Gregory Costa is a decent biologist, mediocre writer, terrible formatter, but true Lenovo enthusiast, who admires the use of their products in both the academic and industrial setting...when he's not busy delighting himself in science, nature, or his OkCupid profile.