New Photostream on Flickr

Shortly before the end of the fall semester junior Erik Boeselager emailed the link to his photostream on Flickr. Erik is an advanced photography student at West and over the past two semesters his images have become stronger in both composition and subject matter. Enjoy a few of Erik's images below and look at the rest of his photos here.


Foreign Exchange Students Love Photo 1!!

It seems, consistently, for the past several semesters that I have had the sincere pleasure of teaching foreign exchange students that have been taking classes at Topeka West. I have had students from Poland, Turkey, Japan, two students from Germany, and this past semester a young woman from Venezuela.

I'll be honest, every time an exchange student takes a photography course I get very nervous! I always feel like I am going to cover the material too quickly or the student is just not going to understand anything that I am trying to teach them. Fortunately, the exchange students have been some of the best and most memorable students!!

Now that I have started the Photosynthesis blog I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to showcase unique students like Rossmary. I asked her to write a short summary of her experience in photography and I have also provided a few of her photographs that she created this semester. Enjoy!

"I’m Rossmary, I’m a foreign exchange student from Venezuela, and I was a Photography 1 student this semester at Topeka West High School.

The photography class more that a subject was a challenge for me. I used to think that just knowledge and imagination were needed to get the perfect photo, but during this class I realized that get the perfect photo also involves ability, time, patience, and luck!

When you shoot, your days become very special. But it’s even better when you create unique and creative images that capture not only the visual but also the intangible feelings and expression.

I always considered the experience of studying abroad attractive, so when I decided to be an exchange student, I knew that I was going to be able to take subjects that were not available in our educational system and definitely Photography was my best choice!"

–Rossmary Del Valle Márquez


Just in time for the Holidays...

Are you looking for a digital camera to add to your Christmas wishlist but don't want to break Santa's checkbook? Well, just in time for the holidays, David Pogue (the personal-technology columnist for the New York Times) reviews the top nine digital cameras for under $300!

Mr. Berryman recommends the Sony Cyber-shot, but which one will David Pogue say is the best bet for your money? Click here to find out!


A Reflection on Tougher Economic Times

Last week CNN.com, obviously reflecting on the economic crisis in relationship to the Great Depression of the 1930's, posted a story about Katherine McIntosh, a child of Florence Owens Thompson. Ms. McIntosh's mother was the woman who was featured with her children in one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. The photograph, titled Migrant Mother, was created by Dorothea Lange while she traveled around the state of California photographing migratory farm labor for the Resettlement Administration.

In the February, 1960 issue of Popular Photography Dorothea Lange gave this account of the experience:

"I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it."

Though times are much different in 2008, the stories of those struggling during this current economic downturn are much the same. Please remember them during the upcoming holiday season. Merry Christmas!!


Montana or molehill?

Earlier this year famed celebrity photographer Annie Liebotvitz took photos of Miley Cyrus (a.k.a. Hannah Montana to the tween-base) for the June issue of Vanity Fair magazine. Liebovitz captured images of Miley and her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, and then photos of Miley by herself. Even before the issue was released on newsstands one image in particular instantly became "controversial". But who actually started all the controversy?

Days after the Vanity Fair release Miley Cyrus released this statement: "I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be 'artistic' and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about."

Liebovitz, of course, defended her portrait of Cyrus by saying: "I'm sorry that my portrait of Miley has been misinterpreted. Miley and I looked at fashion photographs together and we discussed the picture in that context before we shot it. The photograph is a simple, classic portrait, shot with very little makeup, and I think it is very beautiful."

What do you think? Feel free to answer the poll by selecting one of the white circles and then clicking the VOTE button. Leave a comment as well if you would like to explain your answer further.


Let's get SYNTHY!!

One of the most basic concepts of any photographic medium is that the three-dimensional world in which we live is transformed into a two-dimensional construct in the final image (basically, photographs flatten everything!). Now, what if you could take your two-dimensional images and with the aid of some computer software create a three-dimensional space? Well....you can!

Using any type of digital camera you can take tens to hundreds of photos, each one slightly overlapping the other. Upload those photos to www.photosynth.net to create a 3-D environment from your 2-D images. The finished product is called a Photosynth and the idea was hatched at a little company called Microsoft (which is one of the most original ideas to come out of Microsoft in a long time!). If you have a couple of minutes, watch a short video by David Pogue showing you how the process works.

To view your completed Photosynth (or "synths" created by others) all you have to do is install a very minor plug-in for your web browser. If it is not installed Photosynth.net will guide you through the process. Unfortunately, at this time, the Photosynth viewer will only work on Windows and you have to view your finished work (which is also viewable by everyone) on the Photosynth website. This is just the beta version and the team at Microsoft Live Labs is continuing to work on "adding support for more browsers, more platforms, and more hardware, and just making the experience that much more amazing."

Take a look at some stills of a Photosynth that was created by senior advanced photography student Nick Scott:

How cool is that?? If you would like to see the completed Photosynth, go to www.photosynth.net, install the plug-in for your browser, and (using the search bar on the Photosynth website) search for C307...that's the photography class room at Topeka West. AND...if you would like to create your own Photosynth be sure to check out the Photosynth Photography Guide to make sure your creation is as "synthy" as possible!

Update: Mr. Berryman also created a photosynth of C307 and it is available on the Photosynth website as well. A search for "C307" should bring up both versions (Mr. B's and Nick Scott's).


Alternative Photographic Printmaking

For the past two semesters senior Kelli McGuire (a third-semester advanced photography student at West) has been experimenting with two different alternative printing techniques to create her images. When Kelli was enrolled in Advanced Photography in the fall semester of 2007 she worked with a process called the cyanotype (sī-ān'ə-tīp'), which is a printing process that yields a cyan-blue image when the paper is exposed to the sun. Kelli, intrigued by the process, decided to take another semester of Advanced Photography to concentrate on creating more cyanotype images. The photograph below is an example of one of Kelli's images created during that semester.

Currently, Kelli has started working with a new process called the kallitype (kal·ə′tīp). It is similar to the cyanotype process but is much more extensive in the technical steps to creating a finished image. Kelli is the first student ever at West to work with this process and she has created an impressive body of work! Take a look at one of her finished kallitypes:

I asked Kelli to write up a short summary about her work over the past two semesters. She had this to say about working with the two processes:

"I first became interested in the cyanotype process in Advanced Photography with our alternative photographic technique assignment. My older sister had tried a few cyanotypes when she was in advanced photo at West, and I thought they looked cool, so I decided to try it. Cyanotypes make a fairly easy alternative photo, because they only require two chemicals (potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate) and water. After my first semester in regular advanced photo, I took advanced, advanced photography and focused on the cyanotypes. The method is pretty easy to become familiar with and begin perfecting particular preferences. I experimented with different subjects for my negatives as well as different ways to make the negatives. I found that converting digital images into negatives seems to be the easiest method; I have also found that I prefer stone or simple building structures for my subject matter. I think good, clear detail in stone objects or buildings give nice prints and a good range of the blue tonal values of cyanotypes.

I read about kallitypes in an alt. photo technique book when I was researching more about cyanotypes. By this time, I had been working with cyanotypes for a few months and was really enjoying the process and results. The kallitype process sounded similar, and I really liked the final images, so I decided to try the process. Kallitype printing requires MANY more chemicals than cyanotypes, so it takes more time to become familiar with. The kallitype also offers more variety for the final image. Whereas cyanotypes are only blue, kallitypes can be developed and toned to result in brown, sepia, and black, as well as red and gold tones. The kallitype sensitizer is also much more light-sensitive than that of the cyanotype, so it required a bit of adjustment on my part when I first began the working it. Also, instead of just washing the print with water like cyanotypes, kallitypes go through an entire development process just like the basic printing process. The same type of negative is used in both methods, and I like the same subject matter for both methods.

So far I’ve spent about a semester working with each method, respectively, and I honestly like them both. The cyanotype process yields really nice blue images if done correctly, and it’s simple. While the kallitype method is much more of a time commitment and requires more dedication, it is just as fun for me. There is more variety in the final image, and it also produces good tonal values for the particular developer if done correctly."
For more information about these and other alternative printing processes visit David Chow's blog Alternative Photographic Processes or AlternativePhotography.com.


New Polling Widget

On the right-hand column (beneath the welcome message) you will find a new addition to the page. I would like to get an idea of who is reading the blog. So while you are here if you would please take a second or two to answer the poll I would greatly appreciate it (and don't forget to click the VOTE button). I will be adding another poll in a week or two relating more to the topic of photography that everyone can vote on! I do hope that you are enjoying the posts and hopefully telling all your friends and family about the new Topeka West photography blog!!


Low-fidelity Photography

During the semester Photography 1 students usually ask me (at some point) about Advanced Photography. Is it a hard class? Do they get to work with color? Can they come up with their own assignments? Well, it depends; yes; and of course they can!

But one of the main ideas behind Advanced Photography is that I want to open students minds to the "art" of photography. Photography 1 students get so locked into making the perfect print, which is fine at times. But a beautiful photograph can also be created with a very basic camera. That is why I have several different types of cameras available to advanced students. And one of those is the Holga:

The Holga is considered to be a toy camera because of its very basic functions. It only has one shutter speed (controlled by a spring action), two aperture settings (Sunny, approx. f/11, or Partly Sunny, approx. f/8), and a focal length that is a guess to approximately how far away your subject matter is from the lens. The Holga takes what some consider to be very bad images. The subject matter is usually only in focus at the center of the image and the plastic lens is so cheap that it usually fails to spread the light evenly across the film plane, resulting in a darkening of the corners of the image (also known as a vignette).

What I like about students shooting with the Holga (or any other kind of basic camera) is that it frees them from many of the technical guidelines (that they learned in Photography 1) and allows them to concentrate on the image.

For the past three semesters senior Elizabeth Akins has been shooting solely with a Holga and fell in love with the camera so quickly that she bought her own! Her images continue to amaze me and her fellow classmates. Take a look at a couple of her photographs:

For more fantastic photographs shot with Holgas and other low-fidelity camera equipment browse through the galleries at www.toycamera.com. Or, if you are interested in purchasing your own cheap camera for yourself, a friend, or family member check out Urban Outfitters online or Freestyle Photographic Supplies (which now offers Holgas in a variety of body colors!).


Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a short post today. I am currently watching the parades on TV while getting ready to have Thanksgiving dinner over at the in-laws' house. So I thought I would quickly share an excellent video I watched on YouTube the other day. It showcases the extremely bustling life of Annie Liebovitz, one of the highest-paid portrait photographers currently working. In the video she is preparing to photograph the Queen of England (<-- click the link to see one of Liebovitz's photos of the Queen). Enjoy the video and have a wonderful holiday break!!


What the Duck?

Somewhere before I have viewed Aaron Johnson's comic strip What the Duck...I just can't remember where. While browsing through photography blogs this morning I happened upon a link to his website. You have to look through his archives! For photographic humor, Johnson's wit is spot on!


The Devil Came on Horseback

For some time I have been wanting to watch a documentary titled The Devil Came on Horseback, only because I assumed it profiled a photojournalism photographer (hence the movie poster to the right). After watching it today what I found out is that it is so much more than that. The photographer shown is actually retired Marine Captain Brian Steidle who after leaving the military (and not knowing what to do next with his life) answers an ad online to become a military observer for the African Union. Armed with only his camera, a notebook, and a pen Capt. Steidle flies into Sudan, Africa to document the "ethnic cleansing" of black Africans at the hands of Janjaweed militias funded by Sudan's Arab government that is taking place in the western province known as Darfur.

This documentary is a film that should be watched by everyone. We take so much for granted in our day to day lives that most of the time we become blind to the atrocities that are taking place half-way around the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the documentary and rate it 5 stars. It is not rated but does contain some graphic stills of Steidle's images. Think about watching the film. It will bring a nice balance to your usual Hollywood experience.


And speaking of Flickr.....

Yesterday Maci Loughrea, a Photo 1 student at Topeka West, left a comment here at Photosynthesis and she provided a link to her page at Flickr. There are some very cool images posted there...thanks Maci!!

Also, Erica Hildebrand (in the same class as Maci) provided a link to her Flickr page. Both young ladies are amazing up and coming photographers!

Online Photo Storage/Sharing Sites

Digital cameras are quickly becoming more and more accessible to younger students. Digital media cards are now able to hold hundreds (if not thousands) of images at a time. Parents may not want all of those images cluttering up the home computer. So where is a student supposed to store all of their images?

For the past few years sites have been popping up online to create an answer to this question. And photography companies have been quickly following suit. With the onslaught of digital cameras, from point-and-shoots to digital SLRs, there needs to be a place where digital media storage is simple, fun, and easy to access.

Last summer, Nikon launched an advertising campaign called Picturetown. Nikon arrived in Georgetown, S.C. and gave away 200 of their new D40 digital SLR cameras to show that anyone can take high-quality digital pictures.

Along with this campaign Nikon also introduced an online photo storage website. my Picturetown is a free service that provides users with 2 gigabytes of image storage while also providing a simple and easy way to share your photos with friends and family.

Some other photo sharing sites that you might already be familiar with are flickr, photobucket, or deviantART. All three are fantastic sites to browse through just to see what other amateur and professional photographers are creating!


Then: Google image search, Now: CoolIris

When searching for images online via Google's image search feature, do you ever find yourself getting really tired of clicking through page after page after page of images? The format never changes and after awhile all the images start to look the same. Would you like to be able to search the images all at the same time? Or look at a "wall" of images that seems to never end? Starting today, change the way you search for images online and point your browser to CoolIris.com!

CoolIris is a web browser plugin that transforms your image browsing into a full-screen 3-D experience. Jackson Chung (via makeuseof.com) wrote a terrific review of CoolIris titled "Take a Closer Look at Your Pictures with CoolIris".

Cooliris’ party piece which is really very impressive, is the endless 3D photo wall. Trust me, after using the 3D wall, regular browsing will never suffice again. Suppose you were searching for something on Google Images, only 20 results will be displayed on a page at any time. By using the 3D wall, you can view all of the results at once.

Unfortunately, Cooliris will not work on every site with photos, only certain Cooliris-enabled sites like Flickr, Picasa, Google, DeviantART, Yahoo!, SmugMug, Photobucket, Facebook and MySpace. The next time when you’re browsing through your friend’s photo album on Facebook, hit the Cooliris button and you’ll be instantly rewarded with the photos on the 3D wall - no more clicking on ‘Next’.

Cooliris will also work with videos from YouTube. It arranges the videos as it does with photos. Be warned, browsing YouTube with Cooliris is very addictive since it shows you all the search results next to each other. It’s very tempting to just sit there and watch all of them! Granted, YouTube isn’t the same if you can’t read the comments of others or go through the ‘Related Videos’ - two essential features which are missing from Cooliris.

Besides providing a very powerful image browsing experience CoolIris also includes a Discover feature that helps you channel surf the latest news and other exciting media from around the world. You can keep up to date with politics, sports, Hollywood, and even the latest movie trailers.

CoolIris is currently supported on Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari. Take a look at their site...download the plugin...take a few seconds to intall...and experience a completely new and exciting way to browse images online!!


Continuing a tradition of excellence...

A couple of weeks ago a colleague of mine (who has connections with Washburn University) invited the advanced photography students of Topeka West to submit current work to Washburn's literary journal inscape. The submission deadline date was rapidly approaching, so several students quickly scanned their pieces (or resized digital files) and I emailed about 45 images to the editors.

We waited (impatiently) and I (probably prematurely) emailed the staff at inscape to ask when we might know who had been selected for their journal. The editor-in-chief, Huascar E. Medina, promptly emailed back stating:

"We are deliberating today. Thank you for the submissions that we have received. They are amongst the strongest that we have to discuss. The quality of work that is being generated by your students is impressive. Thank you for your interest in inscape. I will send emails out before the end of the week. I really do appreciate the talent level of photographers at Topeka West. I hope your artists will consider submitting next year as well."

Unfortunately, the editors did not email back by the end of the week so we had to wait. Fortunately, we did not have to wait long. Huascar emailed me again today............drum roll...........and Emily Park's photograph titled Reflection has been chosen to be published in the 2009 copy of inscape!!

inscape's editor-in-chief wrote:

"After much deliberating we have chosen to accept the picture titled e_park07 for print within the pages of inscape 09. Only four pieces were chosen. This piece will join two university art students and an art professor as an example of the rich artistic community that exists in Topeka. Art was submitted from across the United States for publication in inscape 09. Please reply with the students name and their title for the photograph. This student will receive a complimentary copy of inscape 09. We will be releasing inscape in early 2009. Upon its release a release party will occur at Washburn University where literary and visual artist will be given the opportunity to share their work with the northeast Kansas writing community. Once again, I thank you for all your efforts and the work of your students. The talent level is impressive at Topeka West High School. I find it necessary to say that."

Boo-yeah!! Congratulations Emily and a huge thank you from me to the rest of the photographers who submitted their work. This is yet another chance to show just how awesome the students of Topeka West really are!!


The Bob Blog & Idea Attic

So what do you think of the blog so far? I've been slowly getting the word out and have introduced the blog URL to half of my classes so far. Hopefully several of my students took some time to give it a look over tonight while they were online! I'm planning on sharing the site with the rest of my students tomorrow....and again, please feel free to leave a comment telling me what you think!!

For today's post I'd like to introduce a really cool blog that I have been following since the beginning of last summer. It is called The Bob Blog and it is authored by, obviously, Bob who works for Apple, Inc. and is an IT major from Youngstown State University. The guy is amazing! He is a graphic artist, photographer, and "dabbles" in web-page design (look at this site that he created for New Albany, Ohio!!). His blog covers a wide-range of topics but mostly photography.

If you would like to check out more of Bob's photographic portfolio (including the series shown above titled "Tiny Planets") he has created a website called Idea Attic. His work is very contemporary and has a certain style that will certainly appeal to the younger crowd (for example, Bob's Adventures of Kenny series)!


Student websites

Many students have graduated from Topeka West and continued on with their photographic experience. I truly enjoy keeping in contact with these students so that I may continue to see how their work changes and grows. It is amazing to see just how good these students become!

Josh Mishler graduated in 2000 and quickly became an up-and-coming genius photographing custom-built hot rods. He now works as Head Photographer for Buckaroo Communications. Josh has created his own website called Juxtaposed Machines that showcases his exceptional photographic talents. His work is really top-notch and if you know a friend or family member that is a fan of hot-rods you can even purchase a print directly from the site!

Caitlin Seals Schwanke graduated in 2007 and has been very eager to enroll in a photography class while attending college. She informed me a few days ago that she is currently enrolled in a class that will start in the spring semester! Though she is not currently taking a class that has not slowed her down! Last month she photographed her second wedding and continues to take portraits of her friends and family. Caitlin has created her own website using a .Mac account (now called MobileMe). It is crisp, clean, and clearly showcases her talent for capturing exceptional images with her camera. Check it out here.

Finally up and running!!

Thank you for checking out the new Topeka West blog dedicated to the art of photography! This blog has sat dormant for several months with all the best intentions in the world. It finally took an inservice presentation for me to finally get it up and running. I used this blog (along with Dr. Rolfs' blog about her trip to Japan) as examples to share with the rest of the Topeka West faculty. Once I showed them how easy it is to update and share ideas through this format I finally decided it was time to share it with everyone.

I plan on sharing a variety of information within this blog. Links to photography websites, tidbits of information about cameras and the world of digital (and film!) photography, student work, class handouts, and whatever else I can think of (or others share with me) will be added to this site. I hope you enjoy what I and the students of Topeka West have to share with you and please tell all your friends and family about this blog!

(If you would like to submit an idea for a post please feel free to email me at jberryma@topeka.k12.ks.us. If you would like to post a comment on any of the posts, please do so! Comments are open to all viewers, though I would really appreciate if you leave your name...that way I can keep track of who has been viewing the blog!)