Catalyst – Photography Assignment

The following are my 5 photos for submission for Media Objects photography assignment, and the 500-word reflection. I will also be sending the 5 photos to you (my tutors) in a separate email, in case WordPress compresses the photos.

Water

Water

Earth

Earth

Sun

Sun

Love

Love

Heat

Heat

I approached the given theme ‘catalyst’ by reflecting my interpretation of it. For me, catalyst is first and foremost changes in chemistry. This led to me to think about growth and decay – the life cycle of a plant. However, as the project called for still images, and I had a limit of five, I could not do time-lapse – not did I have the time to do so.

I thought about the aspects that affect plants – namely the four elements. I altered ‘air’ to ‘sun’, because sunlight is key in a plant’s growth. For the 5th photo, I borrowed Captain Planet logic, and went with ‘heart’, or rather ‘love’. That is, the loving enjoyment of the fruits of labor – eating. Digestion is also a chemical catalyst.

Water and Earth are simple too approach but hard to execute. At different ends of the spectrum, water and earth respectively are ever moving, and completely stationary.

To capture the fluidity of water, I had to use high shutter speeds to capture the droplets to prevent blur. My main focus as a new photographer was composition and lighting, and I am very proud of this photo as the best of my series, because of the lighting of the water droplets.

I chose to capture a sprout in the soil in order to create a dynamic narrative to a still subject. This was done with a shallow depth of field in order to focus on the sprout. The same idea was behind ‘love’, by focusing on the details of the food items. Weber influenced the composition of these two photos when he said that “the most important part of any picture is a clearly recognized center of (picture) interest” (38), which is why I placed both focal items about one-third away from the edge of frame (86).

Sunlight is difficult for me to capture on camera, due to the fickle nature of light. I opted to show light through shadows instead. I am not happy with the clutter that I left in the photo, and should have removed some items to create a less noisy photo, but composition wise, I chose Weber’s suggestion to use lines as strong compositional guides (68), and used the shadows heavily to lead the eye to the focal point.

Perhaps the worst photo of the lot is ‘fire’, or ‘heat’. The lighting conditions were poor, I did not choose good camera settings for the photo, and the planning wasn’t done, meaning the photo looks amateur. I am quite pleased with how the steam wraps around the handle of the spatula.

Overall, I am happy with 3/5 photos, which I deem to be satisfactory as this was my first time taking photos while putting creative and technical considerations into practise. On my friends’ behest, I shot entirely in a 50mm prime lens in order to force myself to think of composition and positioning more, and I very much appreciate the difference in mindset this makes. On my next project including photography, I will be focusing more on lighting as well as staging a good photo.

References

Weber, Ernst A. Vision, composition and photography. Berlin; New York: de Gruyter, 1980. Pg 36-39; 44-45; 58-59; 68-69; 86-87)

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Hosting Issues

A project goes through many iterations when execution, and my CMWP comic idea has morphed to something else. Don’t worry, there will still be plenty of Meg for you to see. However, instead of a big comic book (such as a 20-ish page issue that I was originally planning), I’ve changed it to be several, shorter ‘strips’, of 4-8 panels each, with each ‘strip’ taking up 1-page, or double-page. That also means I’ll be writing several, shorter stories on Meg, which is great, because I can explore that curiously silly dog a lot more.

Another reason for my doing so, is due to considerations in distribution: namely, how I’m going to disseminate the final products on the Internet.

TUMBLR:

My first, obvious choice, was Tumblr. Apart from being a network already sprawling with an audience – younger people who love animals, and are savvy to the style of story-telling, while not too young to not get the medium of comic itself –  who’d most likely be the best recipients of the project, Tumblr also provides an interesting format of consumption in terms of images.

Furthermore, Tumblr offers an unique form of image display: Photoset. As you can see, the photoset layout has given me an automatic comic gutter, meaning I can feasibly simply create the panels, size them appropriately to the dimensions of each photoset panel as required, and upload them. It cuts out the need for me to make a template with gutters for my comic.

Image taken from cynicalidealist on Tumblr.

The photoset layout also means each individual image can be viewed separately, which is an interesting workabout to achieve the panel-by-panel view that would stop large comics being unreadable on small portable devices.

MEDIUM:

The other choice for me, was Medium. WordPress was never really a choice, however I am exploring the possibilities of hosting comics on WordPress.

Medium offers a very simple model of creating and reading. There is no fiddling with various themes and HTML – it s your page, and your feed. You tag your work, you submit it to a collection of similar topics, and others read it and/or share it. This appeals to me, because the one shortcoming of Tumblr is this: Themes. While most of the audience will consume the comic via the Dashboard – a completely differently themed layout, much like a Facebook news feed – the fact is, any external audience who follows a permalink will be coming to the page that sits within my actual blog – my themed blog. Therefore, the way that my blog theme displays the work is paramount when it comes to a medium as important as comics.

Medium will cut all of that hassle out for me.

This is a web comic on Medium – unfortunately you’d have to click on the hyperlink, because I can’t in good conscience steal the Frogman’s comic and put it on here!

The simple layout means that I do lose the natural gutters of the Tumblr photoset, but instead I get a fantastic, fluid reading experience, uncluttered by anything else except for my username and comic title up the very top, and a recommended further section at the bottom.

COMPARISON:

The two sites bring me to this consideration:

Gutters.

I am incredibly interested in gutters (the white spaces between panels) in comics, because that’s what separates a COMIC from a SERIES OF IMAGES, at least for me. Looking at a lot of print comics post 90s, however, it’s obvious that the actual white strip itself is not paramount in defining a comic as such – but a relationship between panels is.

Tumblr would give me this in ample readiness – it’s there, and all I have to do is to make sure my panels will sit in each spot perfectly.

Medum, on the other hand, gives me the freedom of simplicity – I can always manually create gutters for each strip on my computer, OR I can create a comic that doesn’t require gutters at all.

This is something which I can only really decide on after experimenting on both mediums (ha). Furthermore, I do want to look at what WordPress can offer me in terms of image hosting.

Issues to consider for further along: viewing on portable devices.

There is no App for Medium, however the streamlined reading style seen on browsers carries over beautifully on mobile browsers. Having said that, it doesn’t let you select and zoom in on each individual ‘panel’ when on mobile.

The App for Tumblr, on the other hand, is temperamental at best, especially with displaying images in Dashboard. The actual blog page itself (ie, my themed blog), is accessed through the browser anyway, and depending on the theme I choose, it could either take me to a full-HTML website (completely unreadable on a mobile device), or a vertical, mobile version, which is still extremely cluttered with buttons and links that are separate to the theme of the blog.

Right now, I’m definitely leaning towards Medium more. With more exploration and testing, I’m sure that I’ll find an answer soon.

Alex.

P.S. I started using sub headings!

The Thief – Single Shot Video Assignment

The single shot video task required a minute-long unedited sequence depicting a 3-line story. Bobker asserts that “in a single scene uninterrupted by cuts, the character of the image can be changed by simply moving the camera in, our, and around the players”, meaning the focus should be on the composition and utilization of the frame and camera to tell the story (Bobker, 60).

Having never used a camera before, this was an opportunity to get hands on experience. As a result, I had to learn to operate the basic steady camera movement, since natural movement of frame can “change the character of the image” (58), but to move it unevenly draws attention away from the action and towards the act of the spectacle itself. This was my central concern upon the beginning of filming.

The 3-line plot, centering on the theme “success”, was shown thus: A girl stops to take a phone-call, and leaves her bag open. A thief comes along and pickpockets a wallet. He walks past her and around a corner, successfully having stolen the wallet.

We chose to follow the thief around a corner, because it creates a sense of depth in the video. Since the clip takes place against a giant wall, there is a flatness to the image. By allowing a character to move from afar to near, and creating an illusion of a z-axis, the audience is drawn into the depth of the frame (59). Furthermore, we chose to end on a low-angle shot, in order to frame the successful thief as being powerful. The changing angles – from straight on to low angle – also creates a sense of height within the frame.

We also opted to first focus on the girl, then move slowly back to reveal the thief – who was seen in the background earlier. In this way, the camera movement and frame acts as a character in itself – ie, the vehicle of the audience’s gaze – and also allows us to tell the story through visual alone. By tracking slowly across a blank wall, and finally revealing the thief’s face, it allows the audience to know exactly what is happening, and create a sense of tension, without needing audio. We also focus on an outstretched hand about to pickpocket – centered in the frame, and moving slowly – because it also creates tension.

The tension is furthered by showing both the thief and the girl within frame after the theft. As the thief moves along the z-axis, the frame moves to show both characters while focusing on the thief. This also softens the flat 2D feel of the earlier wall-tracking.

I am proud of the camera movements when tracking along the wall to reveal the thief, then the follow of his outstretched hand, because I feel this portion especially drew the audience into the gaze. However, the flat 2D wall-tracking was tacky, and did not make good use of spatial techniques.

Reference:

Bobker, Lee R. “Composition.” Elements of Film. New York: Harcourt Brace Jonavich, 1974. 55-61. Print.

Move Over Jeeves!

It’s part of the common vernacular to ‘Google’ something – just like you’d stop a runny nose by reaching for the Kleenex, or fixing a cut with a Band-Aid. While it’s hard to argue that Google isn’t the ‘best’ at finding results (if you find yourself in the 2nd page of Google results, chances are you won’t find what you’re looking for), there are definitely different ways in which search engines could deliver results to their users.

First I’ll get the technicality out of the way. I’m going to explain (preaching, really, to a congregation of more faith than I) how to make a certain search engine the default search engine.

Oh wait…no I won’t!

(Kidding, of course I will, it’s worth half a mark just to do it.)

How to set default search engine:

To make things clear: I will simply be outlining how to do it for PC Chrome users. It really should be the browser to use, because not only is it run by the same people who basically run Gmail, Youtube, Drive, Maps, Translate and, well, everything you ever need to pretend to be smart, it’s a very fast browser, and extremely easy to delete the whole bunch of toolbars and plug-ins that your parents got suckered into installing.

First, go into the main menu by pressing the horizontal lines to the top right hand corner of the browser, right under the big red X. Go down to settings, and enter the settings page. On the fourth heading on the Settings page, where you see the word ‘Search’, you’ll also see the button ‘Manage Search Engines’. Clicking that will open up a small box where there might be a whole list of websites that have any form of search function built in. The top section of that list is the list of “default search engines”, and hovering over the one you want to use – say, ‘Bing’ (ha) – will bring up a small choice to ‘Make default’. Click it, and now when you type into the blank searchbar, you’ll be using Bing by default. Quick, change back before you regret it!

Alright, now to the comparisons.

I am comparing DuckDuckGo, instaGrok and the mighty Google.

The search term which I used across all three engines was ‘dofp’, the abbreviation for ‘Days of Future Past’, which is the title for the upcoming X-Men movie. I used this because the theatrical trailer was released yesterday, so the buzz should be quite high.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo focuses on getting the user an answer, straight away, whereas instaGrok is about teaching the user anything they would want to know about the topic, and all the sub-topics, etc. Google will find you links to sites that would have information on what you searched, placing the most commonly accessed and/or relevant on top, so on.

Because of this, DuckDuckGo gave me an Instant Answer box, which actually told me about the original comic of Days of Future Past. Then, the third result down was the one which mentioned the film in a journalistic capacity – that is, not purely review – with the video to the trailer. The first result was actually to acronym.com, to tell me what dofp could stand for, despite the Instant Answer having told me already.

In this way, DuckDuckGo was rather useless in terms of helping me get to an immediate access to a trailer, a cast list, a release date, or news from major sites, but it did give me an immediate answer, albeit to the wrong medium.

Top results with DuckDuckGo

Top results with DuckDuckGo

InstaGrok

instaGrok is probably not built for this kind of searches. Firstly, I actually had to re-assert that I was searching ‘dofp’, not ‘dop’, but after that, things got interesting. instaGrok works like a mind-map, the kind you drew in primary school with branches that come out of a central idea. In this case, the branches that came out of my search term (when setting the search difficulty to ‘Einstein’) gave me topics such as ‘Avenger’, ‘Bryan Singer’, ‘Evan Peters’, and ‘ Film’. Film was giving a separate part of the branch, meaning that it is of a different significance to the other branches.

So, I still have no idea what ‘dofp’ stands for, if that’s why I searched it, but instaGrok has given me the opportunity to delve into other, similar subjects. Bryan Singer is the director of the film, Avenger is a franchise which is set in the same comic universe as X-Men, although the movie rights are owned by different companies, and Evan Peters is an actor in the film. ‘Film’, on the other branch, gave me a chance to go off on a whole different tangent of knowledge.

Clicking on each segment gave me a few, unexplained choices. I realized that I could look at the key concepts of the segment as defined by other users (completely irrelevant for ‘dofp’), I could look at websites that discuss the search term (still useless but more relevant in terms of gathering some information), but none of them are in any way telling me about the search term, or giving me a chance to be linked to somewhere else that could, in a sentence, tell me about it.

Results with instaGrok

Results with instaGrok

Google

Finally, Google gave me news results to begin with – great, because the 2nd one down linked me to a big site that had the trailer – then went on to give me the Wikipedia link to the comic series page. To the right, Google also had a small box, much like DuckDuckGo’s Instant Answer box, that gave me a fast tidbit to tell me it was an upcoming movie.

Top results with Google

Top results with Google

Now, I spent so long explaining the first two search engines, because the results were very interesting to me. While the search term that I used may not have been the broadest of terms, it is one which would be quite popular at the time of writing given the surrounding societal situation. DuckDuckGo is good for that instant answer, but delved into strange results, especially by prioritizing smaller or unknown sites over large, expansive ones (Joblo.com before IGN.com). instaGrok, on the other hand, was almost completely useless in this search term, but if I was to be doing research on X-Men, for example, I would given segments to explore all kinds of terms related to the in-universe as well as the genre aspects of the term.

In all, DuckDuckGo would be a search engine I use for the Instant Answer function, instaGrok one which would start a research effort, and Google will ultimately be my friend for specific information.

Alex.

I’d Raster Use Vector

I apologize for the ghastly pun. In this post, I will explore the differences between using Bitmap (Raster) to draw and Vector based techniques. This is slightly different to my discussion on digital editing techniques, because this includes creating completely new images and shapes using different software.

In Dr Jenny Weight’s lecture, she expresses the difference between Bitmap and Vector, with the former being the more “organic” form of drawing, and the latter giving a more “inhuman” look.

I use these quotation marks because either traits really depend on the skill of each artist. Bitmap drawings can look phenomenal, even photorealistic, but can only really be so if the artist has a good grasp of how to employ the software, and a good sense of artistic creation.

Janelle Monae by Christina Maniatakis

Similarly, Vector art can be used to create amazing graphic designs, but the designer would need to know how to use the software to manipulate the lines to be sharp and perfect.

90's Kid by Josh Mina

90’s Kid by Josh Mina

The two images above are examples of amateur level art created using, respectively, bitmap drawing and vector drawing. The drawing of Janelle Monae can be considered photorealistic, as the artist used layers of coloring to create shadows and texture of the subject. 90’s Kid (sic) features less texture, rather opting for blocky, cartoony coloring linework.

Neither approaches are in any way ‘easier’ than the other – to create beautiful artwork on either format requires a good set of skills in utilizing the software, and an eye for detail. It is perhaps easier to edit photos using bitmap tools than vector tools, however it is infinitely better and cleaner to use vectors for graphic design purposes. Often, a project would require the usage of both styles of drawing and editing (such as, for the hundredth time, the art tests that I did in the previous posts).

Alex.

Note: The two images above are displayed with the permission of the original creators. Clicking on the image will bring you to the original page where the art was uploaded.

ATTN: Jenny and James

Sorry to all those who subscribed and are starting to become annoyed at the constant shopkeeping posts!

As you have already marked a few of my posts, this is to let you both know that I now have new categories for my submission posts. Posts submitted under ‘CMWP Submission’ are those that I send you links to, and those to be considered for grading. They will be under the ‘RMIT’ category as well. There will be posts categorised under ‘RMIT’ but not submission. They are simply work that I’ve done that are not part of the criteria, but I thought I’d do a little brown-nosing anyway.

The tags are not restricted to these: they will all be tagged with RMIT, grad dip, and cmwp.

Alex

Touching on Touchups

In this post, I will engage with Dr Jenny Weight’s introductory post on using photo editing software. In particular, I will draw on my own experiences with both GIMP and Adobe Photoshop, and examine the issues that may come with using said software for image editing.

Before I start, I should clarify that I’d had intermediate knowledge of PS (Photoshop) from a previous VE&T course, and have long since ingrained the knowledge into my brain-space. That means that it’s become a little difficult for me to thoroughly and critically engage with such a basic overview in digital image editing, because none of the knowledge occur to me as new, nor do issues register on my radar because I automatically know how to fix them.

Before I launch on my tirade on GIMP, it is important to note that the software is completely free, and, for most casual intents and purposes, has all the features of the extremely pricey Adobe Photoshop. GIMP also has an extensive community that discuss and help each other out on the forum, where almost all the questions a new user would possibly have (mine usually began with “where can I find…?”) are answered.

In one of Jenny’s lectures, she mentioned that GIMP has a steep learning curve. To that, I say: yes and no. For someone who got used to the way Photoshop worked, and where things were and what they were called, the learning curve wasn’t so much steep as frustratingly ‘almost’. Toolbars and menus were almost but not quite in the same place, and the UI (user interface) was almost but not quite identical, meaning I sometimes found myself hitting “B” repeatedly to access the Brush tool, only to have nothing happen.

But for users completely new to the image editing scene, I think GIMP would be as confusing as a first session with Photoshop. It’s simply a new skill to think in terms of Layers – “what, you made a mistake drawing on the image, and when you erased it everything was gone? Yeah, should’a used layers” – and all the menus with “Curves”, “Color Balance” and oh, the FILTERS! Not to mention all the doo-dah over Opacity, Layer Styles, Vectors…GIMP doesn’t do anything to ease that initial vertigo, but neither did Photoshop, for me.

The major difference, at least to me, was the way in which Adobe set out an intuitive UI once the ball had successfully been rolled. Once I learned how menus were organized, and some keyboard shortcuts, Photoshop suddenly became quick and easy. GIMP (and again, this is tainted heavily by my PS leanings), on the other hand, was not. The very fact that I had to download and install scripts to use a few functions were testimony to that. (However, the additional script-fu and plug-in community is actually pretty awesome, and I wish I had explored them more.)

There’s not much to engage with in terms of Jenny’s post – the basics are the basics, and there’s not much to say about it. Yes, YouTube tutorials are amazing, but once you find yourself among this league (video below), it’s probably easier to just turn off your computer and go throw a stick for your dog.

One thing I will say: LAYERS! LAYERS LAYERS AND IF YOU’RE NOT SURE, THROW IN ANOTHER LAYER! If you want to test two different types of brush strokes…use two layers! Delete the ugly one! It’s so much easier to delete a layer than to press Ctrl+Shift+Z (er, I use PCs, but I’m pretty sure it’s Apple+Shift+Z on Macs) a million times.

Finally, here’s a (repost) of the images I edited in GIMP, and its counterpart in PS. The focus should be on the colors, not the speech bubbles, because the GIMP version had me do speech bubbles in GIMP, but the PS one had me do them in Illustrator.

GIMP

PHOTOSHOP

Please note that the images are hosted by Tumblr, but are made by me. I didn’t rip off someone else’s work, but the dog isn’t mine personally. I have permission to photograph the dog, who is a minor.

Alex.

P.S. It would seem that my broad “RMIT” category will soon be insufficient. If any tutor reads this before the final due date, but sees no extra categories, please note that I will be adding and organizing more specific categories extremely soon. I know in a professional space that this is inexcusable, because once it’s out it’s out. I apologize.