From 2005 to 2008 or so, a great passion of mine was making fractals as art. There were (and still are) many different ways to make fractal art, but the two most popular at the time were UltraFractal and Apophysis. Being a fan of both open source things and free things, I made Apophysis my medium.
If you’ve ever poked around in Apophysis, you know that the learning curve is ridiculously steep. My first attempts were rough at best.
As I learned the program, though, it became less of random clicking and more “painting” with a vision. I was starting to learn what effect each “Transform” would have whenever I applied it to the fractal I was working on. I still had a hard time getting my vision onto the screen, but at least I wasn’t relying on the Random Mutation function anymore. The first thing I made that I was truly proud of came nearly a year after I started working with the program. Rapport was such a happy fractal, with sharp lines that weren’t threatening. Best of all, it looked better on a white background than a black one, unlike 99% of all the Apophysis fractals out there (both mine and others’).
Making fractals was incredibly fulfilling. There’s something fantastic about manipulating a cryptic jumble of triangles to create a work of art. It was something new, something unique, and best of all, it involved a love of science and math. Sure, the technical side wasn’t required, but it was fun using the numbers to predict the visual outcome.
I started college in 2006. I have no idea how I had time to make fractals so prolifically and maintain good grades at the same time. There may or may not have been some World of Warcraft thrown in there, too. One of the benefits of college was having access to better and better computers: the better your computer, the higher quality image you could render. All of the images from my first few years are less than 1200px on their longest side and are quite grainy. By 2007, I was making fractals that were 2000px on the longest side, and I was starting to be able to smooth out some of the graininess.
2007 produced some of my personal favorite fractals. It was also a time where the user base for Apophysis was growing rapidly. Some enthusiasts took advantage of it being open source and created their own transforms that they graciously distributed to their fellow artists. Midnight Lanterns is hands down my favorite fractal, and it wouldn’t have been possible without some talented peers out there.
2007 was also the year I won a very prestigious award for Brushfire. Out of hundreds of entries, Brushfire was one of the 15 winners of the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2007. I had entered Midnight Lanterns as well, which was awarded an Honorable Mention.
In 2008, school really started to pick up. I had less and less time to devote to fractal art. I still managed to render a few that I was happy with, though. And computers had advanced enough that rendering fractals was so satisfying. Growth was rendered at 4000px on a side, with a quality that smoothed out grains in even the most delicate of areas.
I’ve since moved on to other hobbies and creative outlets, but I still pick it up occasionally. I like to see what advances have been made with the program since I last made it. Around the time I stopped making fractals, some wonderful developer figured out how to render fractals in 3D space. It apparently was wildly successful, because the most beautiful 3D fractals have come from it. I did a crash course in the 3D version and created Broken Blossom.
I made some wonderful friends from the Apophysis community, people from around the world I never would have known without the program. If you’d like to give Apophysis a try, you can download the original program here (yes, that is what my first fractals were made with), and you can download the updated version here.