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!)