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!!