The amazing world of 3D, plus some other random stuff.

Remember playing with your Viewmaster when you were a kid? I had a red one, and I loved that thing. You'd drop in one of the circular slides, and the pictures inside would come to life in glorious, full-color 3D. Scooby Doo, Gumby and Pokey, Batman and Robin...I had a ton of them.

At the time, I had no idea how they worked, but when I was old enough to understand it, I was fascinated that your brain was capable of creating a 3D image from a couple of pictures shot at a slightly different angle.

Turns out there was even a bunch of cameras in the 50's and 60's that could do this. The Realist was probably the most popular one. You'd send your film off in the mail, and they'd send you back your 3D slides.

My wife and I have a wedding anniversary coming up, and since she's impatient, she gave me my present early. She bought me this antique stereoscope, the precursor to the venerable Viewmaster.

Some of the old cards that came with it are pretty cool, and for almost a century, it was the way people who couldn't afford to travel experienced the world. I liked the old shots, but I really wanted to take my own personal pictures. (No, not that kind, although I'm really surprised that Viewmaster porn never became popular back before the internet.)

Here's my first one, taken using the decidedly low-tech "cha-cha method." You lean your weight on one foot, take the picture, then you lean your weight on the other foot (while still looking through the viewfinder and keeping it as steady as possible), and take the same picture again. Slap them together in photoshop and print them out. It works like a charm.

You can even view them just by crossing your eyes until the two pictures overlap and form a third picture in the middle. Here's a shot I took of our back yard (click on it for a bigger version):

I am still fascinated by this, even after all this time. I don't know why. I can't wait to take some more of these sort of shots on our camping trips next month. In my search for some sort of slider bar for my tripod, I found out that Fuji is making a digital camera that takes these automatically. I also stumbled on a company that makes a lens you can put on your SLR, I'm seriously thinking about buying one. The benefit to both of these is that you can shoot moving objects since both shots are taken at the same exact instant.

On a completely unrelated subject, this google ad was served up on my site today, and it caught my eye:

I clicked on it, because it intrigued me. Here's what I got:

It makes sense to me now, but honest to god, before I clicked on it, I was wondering why anyone would have so much spaghetti that they needed some sort of tank to store it in.

Also, I'll bet this was a highly contested debate:

"Hi everyone, and welcome. I'll be your moderator for today's debate. One my left is a group of surfers who support legalizing marijuana, and on my right is ... absolutely no one. Surf's up!"

And lastly, what the hell is up with this cover, Rolling Stone?

I opened my mailbox this morning and almost puked. I've never seen the show, but apparently they are very messy eaters.


  1. Like Mitch Hedberg said, "I can't eat spaghetti...there's too many of 'em."

    I have a viewmaster that was my dad's when he was a kid -- circa 1940s -- all the slides are photos of national parks and still in relatively good shape. I thought that was old school. Your stereoscope is awesome.

  2. Mike J8:20 PM

    Without showing her the picture, I asked my girlfriend what she thought "spaghetti tank" meant. She immediately knew it was an article of clothing. As a guy, I'm kinda glad I didn't know what it was right away. I also wondered by anybody needed a big container for spaghetti.

  3. I tried crossing my eyes, but I couldn't quite get the 3D effect. I promise I'll try again later. I've seen those stereoscopes at various antique shows and I've always been fascinated by them. Not only is it a neat trick, but I always found it amazingly sweet that this provided entertainment for a whole generation of people. Good luck with your efforts.

  4. Anonymous9:01 PM

    Ahhhhhhgggg! My eyes are crossed and just like my mom said, they can stick that way! Nice yard though.

  5. I did the "eyes crossed" method and the effect was amazing! What a cool thing.

  6. Gaaah, I haven't had to make my eyes view a Magic Eye picture in years. That was kind of painful. But reasonably cool.

  7. As soon as I read that you can make 3D pictures that easily, I got up and did it myself. And IT WORKED. Thanks, Internet!

  8. Grandma had a stereoscope. God, that thing was cool. We had a pile of cards for it, but none were labeled. Mostly white dudes in unflattering suits standing next to steam engines and crap. She went nuts one day and sold all of her cool, rusty old stuff to some predatory antiques dealer. I didn't mind that the rusty cherry pitter disappeared, but I always mourned the loss of the stereoscope.

    And even more so now, because I could cross my eyes all day and not get one imagine from your two pictures. But after trying for so long, I'm getting two images from this one comment box.

  9. A friend of my Mom's had one. They had lots of pix of India in the early 1900's. I had the exciting adventure of traveling through India in the early '70's and when I saw these pix I was surprised at how little has changed. The bottom class of life there is still the same. In 3-D you could see the elephants and market places in that cool sepia tone color - yeah steroscopes are awesome. You have a great wife.

  10. My SLR happened to be right next to me, so I stopped reading and tried it right away. I think I've found a new favorite thing.

  11. Emily2:43 AM

    My first thought when seeing that ad was how they could create a tank out of spaghetti... then I realised it was talking about the article of clothing. XD

    Still, a spaghetti tank...? Possibly the most delicious war ever.

  12. CharmingDinnerGuest11:14 AM

    The 3D picture was great! It actually worked for me. I had no idea it would look so perfectly 3D.

  13. Anonymous12:26 PM

    Oh man, I love stereo photography. Here's a supplier: http://www.3dstereo.com/

    and here's a PDX artist working with the medium: http://www.vladmaster.com/


  14. i run across stereoscope photo cards from time to time - i'm a photo curator, it's part of the job. we even have a few monstrous viewers in museum storage, but i'm not sure where they came from.

  15. The True Blood vamps are very messy eaters, but even worse, they are messy die-ers. When they go, it's a mess. Fun show.

  16. It took awhile, but I was finally able to see the pic in 3D, it was awesome. and you do have a very beautiful backyard. Thanks for sharing. :-)

  17. Upstate Broad11:16 PM

    Viewmaster porn - snort - hahahahahahahahahahahaha heheheheheheheheh. Snort - giggle - guffaw. Damn, gotta go before I pee myself!

  18. The confusion over the spaghetti tank ad really got me in my sweet spot this morning. I had to comment.

    It also may have caused me to snort my morning tea through my nose. Hilarious!

  19. and here I thought a "spaghetti tank" was something to be found in the Italian Army....

  20. Anonymous6:01 PM

    I have a ViewMaster. It's my "Home Theater System."

  21. Sadly, I didn't get the spaghetti tank at first, either! There has GOT to be viewfinder porn out there...remember Blue Lagoon? Your backyard is very pretty. Chillit! That's my word verif. yo!

  22. Come on JV, drag out the old original Beatles albums. Was it Magical Mystery Tour? Had a photo of a very large lady and a spaghetti tank. they were using a freaking rowing oar to laddle the stuff out.....

  23. Wow - I sat here with my eyes crossed for five minutes and suddenly it POPPED into 3-D! That is utterly amazing. And your back yard is just gorgeous!

  24. They are not sexy, the one on the right looks Arnold, King of Calefornia.
    That is cheap fake blood.

  25. Hey JV - this is the first time I've commented, but I've been reading your blog for quite a while. Brian May from Queen is hugely into stereoscopic photography. Anyone that's interested might alo want to check out these web-sites.

    Brian May's Stereo Image Company

    A cheap viewer to help see the images.

    Some software that can help alighn the two shots for the best effect.

    Thanks for making me laugh!


  26. thats pretty cool. i couldn't get it with the larger image but the smaller thumbnail worked. nice.

  27. I couldn't even cross my eyes. So I didn't really understand the fuss. Not that I don't like 3d. I love 3d.


  28. Anonymous6:16 AM

    My head hurts from crossing my eyes too much...

  29. I'm so frustrated that I can't get my eyes to get the larger image. I can feel them moving but I can't get the images to overlap enough to make them out. The smaller one I can get in seconds. I can do any magic eye in seconds. But I can't get the big photographs to work! Ready to hit something.

  30. The crossed eyes method works with a little practice. One trick is to concentrate on getting the two birdfeeders to overlap perfectly.

    Really cool.