Synthetic Landscapes - created using Fortran

The images shown here were created using a Fortran program I have writen which builds up the image pixel by pixel, and allows manipulation of pixels in an ordered fashion using computational formulae with built in randomness. Each pixel of just about any photographic image on a computer is (basically) made up of a set of three values for each pixel (normally representing the amount of Red, Green, and Blue. I use 'ppm' image format which has number values for each pixel. The program manipulates these values.

I do this by creating colour washes, then adding details such as areas with random highlights or shapes, as well as shapes I have 'drawn' in terms of their co-ordinates which I can re-shape and fill with colour. The aim is for landscapes that look plausible, whilst being 'pure' in terms of their elements and composition. The elements of construction I use are:-

  • Colour washes over a vertical portion of the image - eg from the top to 40% down the image. The colour changes from one to another, and randomness of colour is added to give texture
  • 'Sparkles' of light (or another colour) randomly dotted around an area. I use small crosses
  • Elipses of another colour over some of the image. I use an elipse as it can range from a circle to a very elongated shape. They can be at any angle to the horizontal
  • A predefined shape, made up as a set of co-ordinates. These can be singular or repeated at different sizes, and angles

While there are potentially no creative limits, there are practical limits to what a programming language of any type can create from scratch. I started with what is simple and then added more complex elements when I thought they would add to the potential for 'realism'. These images shown here are very small and lack detail, but an advantage of this approach is that very large images can be created.

St Ives Bay   St Ives Bay - Detail
St Ives Bay with gannets, oystercatcher and Godrevy lighthouse + Detail

Isles of Scilly light   Isles of Scilly light - Detail
Isles of scilly light with gannets + Detail

Whitesands Bay, 
Sennen Cove, Cornwall
Calm sea at Whitesands Bay, Sennen Cove, Cornwall

I think the results give the appearance of printmaking more than photography. I think it's the sharp outlines of the features like birds that I put in that do this, and probably because in some cases the colours are more 'pure' than in photography.

I generally base the images on photographs that I've taken and use colours that I've taken from real photographs. The image on the left below is a photograph, and the one on the right is a synthesised version - actually the same 'pattern' as the larger image above, but without the oystercatcher.


I can easily change the colours and place objects in different places. The folowing image are the same 'pattern' but using colours sampled from different photographs and altering the locations, widths, heights and angles of the gannets.

Fortran is a computing language that was widely used in the 1970s, mainly for scientific uses. It is fairly basic and quite similar to the computing language called "Basic". It is not designed for dynamic or interactive computing that more modern languages are capable of. But for creating and manipulating numbers it works well. I use it here because I learnt it when I was younger and don't feel that any other language I know would be better for my purposes. I also feel that as many aspects of computing become history it's good to keep old traditions alive!

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