Annnywaaaaayyy… I love Wired. I’ve been a subscriber for years. I’ve justified my growing discomfort with the magazine’s insidious sexism and entrenched superiority by telling myself it’s the best avenue to good, thoughtful tech writing and bite-sized gadget reviews. Well, I’ve had it. From the high-texture, low-saturation, well-lit photography to it’s snack-sized snark snippets, I’m done.
This is nothing against the brilliant writing. Pieces by Chris Anderson, William Gibson, and countless others whose names I don’t remember have moved me and made me think. This rant is directed squarely at the editors who design all the snippets on the cover and tables of contents that suck readers in.
What does this have to do with Apple and Dr. Who? There is a small snippet of text on the upper-right corner of the August 2010 issue, which I can’t link to because it’s not on their website yet. The text reads: “#ATTFAIL: Inside the iPhone Network Meltdown.” And just like that, Wired moves from being Apple champion to shitstorm-bringer. Seeing this snippet peek at me from the countertop reminded me strongly of the end of “The Christmas Invasion,” David Tennant‘s first full episode as Doctor Who. The Doctor, incensed and appalled by Prime Minister Harriet Jones’s order to blow up the Sycorax, says to her assistant, “Don’t you think she looks tired?” The ensuing media shitstorm results in the fall of her government.
It doesn’t matter that the Wired article is well-written, fairly unbiased, and very interesting. It doesn’t matter that they are trying to break new ground with their iPad edition. With “#ATTFAIL: Inside the iPhone Network Meltdown,” Wired has placed itself in the anti-Apple camp, which will continue to pull its readers–largely male gadget- and hacker-types, I’ll hazard to SWAG*–down the snark-fuelled, soundbyte-driven path away from mainstream humanity.
That’s not to say that I’m particularly an Apple Champion, either, nor am I an Apple Detractor. Macs have been my primary computer since 2004. Apple has beautiful, well-functioning products that I truly like and that have revolutionized mobile computing and music. BUT. But I’m bothered by the DRM, by the walled-garden attitude (is that the right metaphor for “if it doesn’t work, too bad, you can’t get in there and poke around?”), and the extreme propriety. So, I’m a fan, but not a fanatic. They are a company that provides products that I use and like, but they have their foibles and frustrations.
*SWAG: speculative wild-ass guess. Yes, I’m being sardonic.
Twitter is rife with complaints about the chatter surrounding LeBron James’ choice to leave the Cleveland Cavs for Miami. I’m here to defend those who are outraged and singularly occupied by this obvious betrayal. Why? Because it’s easy. Let’s take a quick look at what else is going on in the world:
The Oakland Riots. I much prefer hating on LeBron to thinking about the Oakland Riots because the latter involves cops and race issues. Police officers are scary, and race issues are icky. If I look into my heart and mind, I might find opinions there that make me uncomfortable. And we don’t want that.
The Gulf Oil Spill. LeBron vs. tar-covered shore birds. Simple: LeBron. Aside from some indigestion in Northern Ohio, LeBron is not actually making anyone sick. Looking into my dependence on NBA excitement (and the products it makes me want want want) does not make me uncomfortable, like thinking about my personal dependence on petroleum products might. Nevermind that Nikes are actually made with petroleum products. Too close to home.
The wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. Oh it’s *easy* not to talk about these, because they started, like, years ago. Is anyone still paying attention? These also succumb to the distance rule–if someone dies who’s thousands of miles away and doesn’t look, talk, or believe like I do, I don’t have to care, right? The exception, of course, is that I Support Our Troops (TM) and hope that Johnny and Jane come home soon. Next!
The Economy. Hm…. this one is tougher, as I have opinions about money. As in, I need more of it, and it annoys me that athletes and coaches make so much of it. Whoops, there’s LeBron again. It’s much easier to grouse about his inflated salary than it is to make a decision whether to support the federal extension of unemployment benefits or federal financial reform.
And with that… it’s time to settle in and watch some TV. Specifically, some sort of science fiction, because reality is just too yucky. Hey, isn’t there a game on?
Three years ago, at the ALA Annual Conference in DC, I wrote this blog post. I was a month into a new job and trying to find my way into the impenetrable depths of the seemingly endless ALA. My past experience in other associations told me that Woody Allen was right when he said that eighty percent of success is showing up: associations like ALA and its chapters and divisions depend on volunteers to get business and planning done, and there are never enough volunteers. So, looking back, what have I learned?
In sitting down to write Part 5 of this series, “Turning Images into Objects,” I realized I’d gotten ahead of myself. If you’ve beenkeeping up with this series, you’ll know that we’ve covered photography basics, what the modes on your camera mean, and ideas for using your camera creatively in the library. Before we can think about prints, greeting cards, business cards, stickers and other interesting and practical things that you can make from photos, you have to get them off the camera and onto the web. Simple, right? Well…. It can be, if you plan ahead a bit. Here are some tips that may help. Read More…
I use Flickr all the time personally, and my library has two accounts, a general library account and a University Archives account. Flickr has been around for a few years now, and librarians all over the world use it to share images from their personal and professional lives. Flickr is more than a great place to post and share photos with your community; it’s a community in itself, and a starting place for all sorts of activities. Read More…
MPOW has purchased BePress’ Digital Commons, and today we’ll be thinking about what to call it. Below is a visualization of what the majority of BePress’s customers call their own installations. Interesting food for thought.
I’ve been working today on a TechSource post about creative ways to use a digital camera in a library and have been wowed and awed by all the great programming that is being documented by libraries on flickr. There’s the usual–storytime, gaming events, Meet-the-Authors. My favorite so far is an event held by the London, Ontario Public Library: “Human Book.” Community members from all walks of life volunteered to spend a few hours at the library posing as “human books,” meeting with interested “readers” and telling their life stories. Regardless of how many books we circulate, articles we download, what matters most (IMNSHO) is the impact that we have on each other. Fabulously done, London PL.
OK, so I’ve been thinking a lot over the last couple of years about love. The different kinds of love, who we have love for, how it waxes and wanes (or not). Sounds pretty stupid, I know. Sappy. Love is for Twilight fans, readers of bodice-rippers, those who like to have Kleenex handy when watching a movie, right? Well, no. Love is for all of us, and the more we say so and let ourselves write and talk about it, the healthier we will be. Let’s just say that I buy into J.K. Rowling‘s view of love. Rest assured, Dear Reader, that this is all I’ll say for now on this topic.
I’ve had this video open in a browser tab on my home computer for several days:
It’s a short film (illegally uploaded, ahem) written and directed by one of my favorite novelists (and library champions), Neil Gaiman, whose novel Neverwhere I first read quite a while ago. I’ve watched “Statuesque” several times, and I have to admit that the first time, the Neverwhere fan in me was waiting for something horrible and bloody to happen. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised at this wonderful little tale of simple love.
There is so much to, well, love about this video, start to finish, from story to music to acting to set. My favorite bit? Bill Nighy gives a brilliant performance without saying a word.
Modern digital cameras, whether small hand-held models or digital SLRs, often have more modes and options than the average picture-taker needs, but knowing a bit about how modes work can improve photos.
As explained in the previous post, three measurements work together to ensure a properly-exposed photo: ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Most cameras have various modes that enable photographers to give weight to either shutter speed or aperture, while allowing the camera to dictate the other measurements. If you aren’t yet comfortable experimenting with aperture or shutter speed, you can try using some of the automatic modes. Ever wonder what those little icons on the settings dial mean?
Below is an explanation of typical camera modes:
Auto or Program – these fully-automatic modes allow the camera to set the shutter speed and aperture based on the light measured by the built-in light meter. Fully-automatic mode typically also uses the on-board flash when there is not enough ambient light for an exposure. You might have to rely on this mode during library events if you are in a dimly-lit room or if you are unsure whether you can get away with turning off the flash. Newer Fuji point-and-shoot cameras have an automatic mode that will take two exposures–one with flash and one without.
Portrait (head and shoulders icon) – this mode is best used when taking close-up photos of an individual. Portrait modes typically default to wide apertures so that the subject is isolated from the background. Many small digital cameras have face-detection technology and will adjust the focus and exposure to give faces priority. Some cameras can even detect cat and dog faces.
Landscape (often a mountain icon) – use this mode to take photos outdoors or of an entire room, where the entire scene is the star of the show, rather than one person or object. Landscape mode usually defaults to a narrow aperture so that more of the photo is in focus, from foreground to background.
Macro (usually a flower icon) – this mode is used for taking extreme closeups, particularly of small objects like flowers or insects. Some digital SLRs have a macro setting, but hard-core macro photographers tend to use special lenses as well.
Sports mode (a running person icon) – this mode defaults to a low ISO and fast shutter speed and is best used to capture action, as at sporting events or of small children.
Night modes -the camera to the right also has two night modes that would assist in taking photos in low light. A night portrait mode is useful when taking photos of individuals in front of a sunset: the camera exposes for the sunset, then uses a brief flash to shed light on the people in the frame.
Using portrait mode when taking photos of only one or two people, but switching to Auto or Landscape mode when shooting an entire room full of people may result in a better end product. The biggest secret in digital photography? Take as many photos as is required to get the shot that you like best.
Partially-automatic modes offer some control for the photographer. With aperture priority, the photographer sets the desired aperture, and the camera sets the shutter speed needed for a good exposure. Speed Priority or Time Value mode lets the photographer set the desired shutter speed, and the camera sets the aperture needed for a good exposure. Many digital cameras also have a fully-manual mode, but for point-and-shoot cameras, what “fully manual” means can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Typically, the camera’s built-in light meter will provide visual feedback as to whether the dialed-in setting will result in a proper exposure.
There are three measurements that work together to make up a properly-exposed photograph: ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. These three measurements are to a large extent dependent on one another; changing one setting requires that at least one other be changed to compensate.
ISO is roughly equivalent to what used to be the “speed” of film, but in digital terms, the ISO is the measurement of how much light has to hit the sensor for an image to be exposed properly. Lower ISOs are used in bright light; higher ISOs are used in low-light situations. Be aware that raising the ISO, particularly in older or less-expensive digital cameras, can introduce undesirable noise, or speckles, to images.
Understanding and knowing how to manipulate the other two measurements, shutter speed and aperture, can produce widely varying images. Changing the shutter speed can freeze action or introduce the suggestion of movement; varying the aperture dictates how much of the image–front to back–is in focus. The latter concept is called “depth-of-field.”
Shutter speed is the measurement of how long the shutter is open and is usually expressed as a fraction of a second: 1/100, 1/13, 1/1000. Lengthening exposure time allows more light into the camera and captures the subject over a longer period of time. Decreasing shutter speed freezes action or movement, but slower shutter speeds require a brighter setting or a change in aperture or ISO to ensure the proper amount of light hits the sensor.
Take these two photographs, for example:
The photo on the left has a shutter speed of 1/13th of a second. The streams of water look smooth, and the people walking on the left in the background are slightly blurred as they walk by.
Now consider the photo on the right, of the same fountain, taken at 1/1000th of a second. The lines of the fountain no longer look smooth, and it’s not only possible to discern individual drops of water but to see the tiniest droplets that have bounced up off the surface.
The aperture is the part of the lens that opens to let light into the camera. Also known as the “f-stop,” the aperture setting can vary in size, with subsequently larger openings (smaller f-stop numbers) letting in more light than smaller openings (which, confusingly enough, have higher f-stop numbers).
Consider the fountain images again. In order to capture the first one at 1/13th of a second, the aperture was stopped down to f22, the smallest opening possible for the lens used. The bottom image, captured at 1/1000th of a second, was shot at f2.2. Notice the crisp background in the first and the blurred background of the second. A small f-stop limits how much of the image is in focus and is great for portraits. A larger f-stop is good for group shots, like capturing a crowd at an event, or taking a picture of an entire room.
Depth of Field
Depth-of-field is an expression of how much of a photograph, from front to back, is in focus. Changing the aperture can result in two different images of the same scene:
The image on the left has a very narrow depth of field; only the flower’s petals are in perfect focus, as is a relatively small length of the tape measure. When the lens is stopped down to the smallest aperture, f22, the entire tape measure is in focus, as is the flower.
Setting a camera to capture a narrow depth of field is particularly useful in isolating the subject of a photo against its background, as in this photo of my fellow TechSource blogger, Jason Griffey:
Narrow depth of field is ideal for portraits, whereas wide depth of field is required to capture details in a landscape or interior, although narrow depth of field can be used effectively in architectural photography as well:
(Left: f20; Right: f3.2)
As mentioned above, changing the aperture changes the amount of light that it let into the lens. The shutter speed must be changed accordingly to compensate. Most of us rely on our cameras to make these adjustments for us, but here is where knowing a bit about how your camera works can help you dictate what sort of photos you get, instead of the other way around. For a more in-depth explanation of depth of field and its concomitant terminology, visit BernieCode.
Note also that the lion’s face in the photo on the left is slightly elongated. I haven’t yet researched why this is, but I suspect it has to do with differing focal lengths. These photos were taken with the same lens.
Applying these principles in your library
In a library setting, a higher shutter speed would let library staff capture fast-moving toddlers at storytime, while a slow shutter speed (and sitting the camera on a tripod or other stationery object) would make for a great night shot of the building.
I already mentioned that a smaller f-stop makes for great portraits or other photos where it’s necessary to isolate the subject from the background. A larger f-stop is not only great for group shots but for taking photos inside or outside the library building, for brochures or websites. We have exciting events and beautiful buildings; show them off with pictures!
One of the biggest advantages of digital cameras over film cameras is that it costs little-to-nothing to take dozens, even hundreds, of shots. Experiment with your camera by shooting the same scene, changing one setting at a time. Any digital camera will have different modes that allow the photographer to fix one value while varying another; it’s a great way to learn.
Up next: Cameras and modes explained
About the “Take Pictures, Tell Stories” series
This summer, I had the pleasure and privilege of participating in a LITA Preconference session with Michael Porter and Helene Blowers titled, “A Thousand Words: Taking Better Photos for Telling Stories in Your Library.” Michael and Helene shared great tips for using and reusing photos to record and relate the stories of our libraries and our communities, and I explained and illustrated the basic principles of photography and that pictures can be improved by understanding how these principles work together to produce a properly exposed image. There was a ton of content shared over the day; over the next few months, the “Take Pictures, Tell Stories @ Our Libraries” series will share some of this and other photo-related content with TechSource readers.