my first conscious contact with fractals was when i was 17, thanks to my philosophy teacher.
one day he handed me a magazine with a mathematical description of the process of complex dynamics, which was also full of beautiful images of spirals. i photocopied the article, run home and spend a couple of days trying to make sense of the articles. writing algorithms, doing maths. thankfully for me complex number were introduced to us by the age of 16, so i could sort of figure out what the maths were about. and indeed after two days of trying algorithms and stuff, i got my first images of the Mandelbrot set fractal ever. these would take hours to compute at full resolution (which was as small as 320×200, something you don’t find anymore, not even in the most modest of the mobile gadgets around these days). little i knew that would change my life forever. i’m still grateful to Angel, that teacher of philosophy.
after that, a color screen arrived. after that, a 486 processor. after that, a powerful compiler. and after that, Javier Barrallo, a singular and special guy who happened to be an international expert on fractal rendering algorithms, and a great artist. i didn’t met him randomly, i contacted him cause he was the only expert om fractal rendering in the country i could ask for advice and direction. amazingly enough, he happened to live in the same city i was living during weekdays. furthermore, he was living in the same street. and in fact, in the same street number. it was difficult to believe that such serendipity could just happen, that the only one person in the whole country that i could talk to on advanced fractal rendering techniques, and ask advice to, was living nowhere but two floors above me.
one of the first things he taught me about were the “orbit traps”, a new technique just invented back then (mid/late 90s) to bring extra structural details of fractal shapes, which also brought a great variety of new options for artistic expression. that one evening he talked to me about these “orbit traps”, i left his apartment and run downstairs to my room for a compulsive long typing session in my 486. i spent all night programming and rendering images. i think that was the no return point, the night i became a night person forever, to this day.
anyway, the first time i ever realized that going beyond mathematically or technically interesting pictures, i could pursuing something aesthetically pleasing as well was thanks to Javier and discovery (and soon invention of extensions to them by myself) of these “orbit traps”.
i don’t have any of the very first images i produced, but they’d probably look something like the one below, which i made last night during dinner again as a way to both rememorate those good old days (well, “good old nights“) of coding and discovery, and as a way to succeed on making, once more, my mathematical image of the week.
(make sure you are reading this blog with Chrome or Firefox if you wanna see the image below. also, make sure hit “play” to see it moving)