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Creative Devices and Creative Places: Photography

One thing I realized as I was taking the 120 or so photos that I took for this assignment was that I do not have an eye for photography. That being said, I think some of the photos were decent, and I was thinking about creative devices when I took them.

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The sun sets on Casper Mountain, looking west from Lookout Point.

 

This photograph (above) is titled “Distance”, and the dominant creative device in it is the creation of depth. The depth in this photograph draws attention to the comparatively greater detail of the nearest trees, highlighted by the sun. The sense of infinity that is created as the photo becomes less distinct and fades into the distance is also aesthetically appealing.

This photo also makes use of contrast. The trees in the foreground, accented by the sun, stand out against the darkness of the first curve of the mountain, and dark against the snow in the distance.

 

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A tree is lit by the setting sun while a road winds past Casper Mountain and back toward the city.

 

 

This picture, titled “On the Road Again”, uses leading lines as its primary creative device. The road that cuts through the land helps draw the eye up through the photograph. The road leads twice into the tree that takes up the right-most third of picture, leading the eye up the tree’s length and finally into the distance.

This photo also creates distance by cementing the viewer behind the lit tree and by the way the background becomes indistinct. All of these creative devices serve to make the tree stand out in the photograph.

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A plastic covering shredded by the wind hangs off of a snow-filled grill near a shelter at the Shirley Rim Rest Area between Laramie and Casper.

 

 

 

 

In this photograph (right), titled “Abandoned”, I attempted to use balancing elements.  The grill and the shredded orange plastic are balanced by the presence of the red on the shelter. The dark shelter also serves as an anchor for the photograph against the bright sky and white snow that take up much of the space, helping to balance the grill.

The vivid orange against the black grill grabs the viewer’s attention. The lines between the bricks of the shelter and the grooves in the red roof draw the eye toward the grill as well .

 

 

 

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The sun reflects off of flecks of dirt and water on a car window on Casper Mountain Road, just before dusk.

 

This one (above) is titled “Splatter”, and mostly relies on focus for its appeal. The picture focused on the glass between the camera and the landscape, and in doing so details the many specks of dirt and dried water on the window. In this case, the focus draws the eye to a barrier between the viewer and the outside world.

The sun at the center of the picture becomes a center for a kind of explosion of the defined splotches, where the brightest ones are nearest to the light source. This draws the eye first toward the sun and then away from it, until at the edges the spots are fewer and less distinct. The contrast between the bright spots and the dark mountain also helps the spots to stand out.

 

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This bubble wrap, unceremoniously tossed on the floor of a dorm room, is lit by the light of an open door behind the photographer.

 

The last photo (above) is titled “Poppable”, and the primary creative device in it is texture. The viewer’s eye is drawn to the texture of the bubble wrap in the foreground, where the many bumps and wrinkles of the plastic are defined by the light. The viewer might almost be tempted to reach out and pop one.

The sense of distance created by the point of view of the camera almost lets the bubble wrap take on the appearance of a landscape. It also creates the illusion that the dark, out of focus furniture in the background is farther away than it really is. This sort of “distortion” helps to create a visually appealing photograph.

 

This assignment was a challenging one for me, because as I said at the beginning, I don’t have much of a talent for finding the right shots. I learned, though, that working hard, trying to use the creative elements, and shooting a huge number of photographs can lead to some good pictures. I was surprised at how some pictures would turn out almost independently of me, like “Splatter”, which was taken almost on accident. One thing I wish I could have done differently was take more photos at different times, like at night or during a sunrise or sunset.

That’s all for now,

Josh Geiger

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 3:16 pm in Photography

 

Science and Art Together: Carol Prusa

On a cold night at the end of January, a large auditorium at the University of Wyoming’s Visual Arts Center filled with students, educators, and interested community members to listen to visual artist Carol Prusa speak about her experiences with art and her view of the universe.

Prusa currently has an exhibition on display at the Centennial Complex on the University of Wyoming campus. Though she has dabbled in many different kinds of media, right now she makes hemispheres, painstakingly decorated with free-hand designs and accented with fiber optics and LED lights.

Her work is deeply thought provoking and contains a level of detail that only comes from a process that takes her many hours of careful, precise effort. But she did not come to this point by magic – the artistic journey that brought her here was a long one, filled with experimentation and self-discovery.

The Centennial Complex, where Carol Prusa’s exhibition “Emergent Worlds” is currently on display.
Photo courtesy of the University of Wyoming Art Museum’s blog.

“Pushing the dirt around”: Prusa’s Journey

Carol Prusa grew up in Chicago and described herself as an “odd child”. She talked about how when she was a kid she used to close her eyes and try to figure out what was real by erasing things from her mind.

“How many things can I get rid of?” she would ask herself, starting with the house and slowly erasing things until all that was left was herself, inside her own mind.

She grew up wondering why things are the way they are. She was originally a scientist, and earned her B.S. in Biocommunication Arts from the University of Illinois. Next, she moved on to painting, and earned an M.F.A. from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Carol Prusa at work in her studio. She works on her art 40-50 hours a week. Photo Courtesy of the artist’s website.

At Drake, her teacher was Jules Kirschenbaum, a man who challenged Prusa to explore more. This led to Prusa’s first artistic experiments. She did a piece that involved choreographed dancing while she, working around the dancers, constructed the stage out of cinder blocks, moving them constantly to change her message in time with the dance.

She described this kind of art as “push[ing] the dirt around until you see what you need to see.”

From there, she did a number of other unique artistic projects, including one where she created a quilt made of balls of human hair and a second where she drew on mattresses.

Another of her projects came about because of her children. Making breakfast for them every morning, she realized that she could use a similar block of time to make art – and so she challenged herself to make a new painting on a plate every day for a year. When a 6-year-old commented that it must have been a lot of work, Prusa replied that it was no more work than his mother did to make him breakfast every morning.

While she was experimenting and becoming familiar with different kinds of unique media and projects, she was also finding herself, discovering what directions she wanted to explore and what projects she wanted to do next. This eventually led to her work with domes.

“As artists and scientists seek to explain our place, I join the most advanced daydreamers… those who embrace indeterminacy and the fundamentally unstable boundaries between infinitesimal and immeasurable realms,” the artist statement on Prusa’s website states. She acknowledged that her life, too, has been unstable.

“I just turned my life into myth,” Prusa said. “There’s a lot of mess in between.” But these were only some of the things that helped her grow into the artist she is today. Her life, mess included, defined her thoughts on art, its creation, and its inspirations.

“Basically Our Guts”: Prusa’s art

 “What interests me is basically our guts,” Prusa said during the talk, displaying photographs of her work, much of which does invite a comparison with our insides. To create these intricate, organic pieces, Prusa has developed a very specific process that leads to self-discovery as much as it does creation.

Eric Cameron, who attended the talk, admired Prusa’s process and dedication.

“There’s forethought. She looks at a piece and thinks, ‘there’s room for eight of these, or seven of these’. It’s not just ‘hey, look what happened’.”

But while Prusa does think a lot about her work before she makes it, her process isn’t as rigid as that sounds. Prusa explores complex ideas and abstract thoughts in her art, and so too does her process.

“We don’t have to look outside ourselves to understand who we are,” Prusa said. Art is simply a matter of “consuming your own self.”

Cameron thinks that she feels this way because she is looking for something very specific in her work. It’s not that her work lacks creativity or exploration, but that she has a process for discovering that creativity.

Some of Prusa’s Hemispheres. Photo courtesy of the artist’s website.

“Symmetry is more what she wants,” Cameron explained.

Prusa’s work, though sometimes inspired by science and math, does not lack imagination. She utilizes science and math because she thinks there is a certain kind of beauty to those subjects, but she emphasizes that her own work is art, not numbers.

“It’s not something I have to strategize. I have to make it to see it.” Instead of defining what she’s going to make beforehand, she views her process as “a conversation with the work”.

Prusa is also always looking for a new challenge, which is why she has changed both her medium and her style so many times in the course of her life.

“Whenever I feel like I know what I’m doing, I switch it up,” Prusa says. In this way, her art and her life never stagnate. She’s always working with some new material or new concept, and so she is always moving forward.

Sarah Maddy, another student who attended the art talk on January 31, found this part of Prusa’s talk especially interesting. She likened it to Benjamin Franklin’s attempts to reach perfection, knowing that it could never actually be reached.

“She wants to be challenged any time she thinks she might have mastered something,” Maddy went on to say.

Besides Prusa’s interest in “our guts” and as a part of her constant journey to challenge herself, she draws inspiration from many other sources, as well. This includes her background as a scientist, her degree in Biocommunication arts, and her affection for science fiction.

Between Science and Art: Carol Prusa’s “Emergent World”

The gallery that Prusa has on display at the Centennial Complex is called “Emergent Worlds”. This is a fitting name, as one of the driving inspirations for the exhibition and Prusa’s work with domes is the idea of multiple and alternate universes. Prusa is an avid reader of science and physics articles. She finds that scientists and physicists are artistic, and that their conjectures are often “beautiful”.

The Borg Seven of Nine inspired
one of Prusa’s hemispheres.

According to her website, Prusa’s hemispheres “are provocative symbols that invoke the idea of the universe and physical objects that allude to real-life structures. In my ‘canopies,’ I explore a number of mathematical models that physicists developed to explain our universe.”

Several times during the talk Carol Prusa brought up examples of science fiction that had inspired her. She talked about “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, referring specifically to the scene in which Richard Dreyfuss’ character Roy starts playing with his mashed potatoes. Like moving the dirt around, Prusa used this as an example of a way to explore the world through art.

Another piece of inspiration she brought up was that of the Borg Seven of Nine, a part-human, part-machine character on the television series “Star Trek: Voyager”. 

“[In the series, Seven of Nine] plugs herself into a resuscitation unit. We all need that sometimes,” Prusa says. She used this idea as the inspiration for one of her domes.

While some students found the references to science and science fiction odd, Prusa believes science and art mesh together perfectly. She combines traditional artwork (painstakingly drawing the designs on her hemispheres with silver point) with modernity (not only does she utilize fiber optics to add lights to her pieces, but some, like this one, even include videos). Her work is a combination of the creativity of art and the precise exploration of science.

If you are interested in seeing her work, Carol Prusa’s exhibition “Emergent Worlds” is on display at the Centennial Complex at 2111 Willett Dr. in the University of Wyoming Art Museum until May 11, 2013.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2013 8:58 pm in News Stories

 

Coal, Multimedia, and Usability.

Today I am thinking about coal, and specifically the multimedia website Coal: A Love Story. For this website, I conducted a usability test on myself and my brother to test the site’s navigation.

My own experience with the navigation was nonlinear, though the website is designed so that it could be approached linearly as well. After scrolling over the whole website, I first clicked the link about midway through the page that allowed me to calculate my own coal use, because it was interactive.  From there, I went back to start the beginning. I remarked favorably on the fact that this didn’t take me to another page or a popup, but just a window that I could easily exit out of to reach the main page. I then looked at a number of videos in no particular order. I stumbled upon a link that referred to Wyoming that I had scrolled past several times, because it was specifically relevant to me.

Then came the job of locating a way to contact the creators of the website. This is where I ran into issues. The first place I looked was at the bottom of the page, for a “contact us” link. None presented itself, so I started clicking on “about” links, to News 21, The Carnegie Foundation, and others. I ended up jumping around these sites with little luck. I started exploring the original page, looking for anything obvious, but still found nothing; I threw up my arms at about the 10 minute mark.

Other than being unable to find the page creators contact page, I liked the navigation. At the same time, in light of some of the rules we learned about navigation, I found that the smaller, “learn more” links below some of the main topics were difficult to notice – they felt out of the way. I also failed to notice the “next” function on the videos until I had watched a number of them. I found the odd way that they changed the size of each section  distracting and a little confusing. Are the larger rectangle stories more important?

Courtesy of Poweringanation.org; Coal: A Love Story

Courtesy of Poweringanation.org; Coal: A Love Story

Next, I did the same usability test on my brother. He began by watching the second video, and then used the next button. After this, he explored the page and tried clicking on the link “Energy Viewpoints” at the bottom of the page, only to find that it was a dead link. Not surprisingly, the last link he went to was the one referring to Wyoming.

During his exploration, he commented that he “liked the style” of the page. Specifically concerning navigation, he commented favorably on the fact that most of the links didn’t lead him to another page. He also praised the fact that it was as easy to explore linearly as it was to take a nonlinear approach.

When I asked him to figure out how to contact the people who made the page, he had no trouble. Whereas I had found myself frustratingly digging through related pages and finding nothing, he noticed the link “About Coal: A Love Story” and immediately found contact information.

His and my experiences were similar, in that we both explored the page in a nonlinear manner, picking and choosing what appeared most interesting. Though it could be viewed linearly, there was no specific reason why that experience was better than just exploring the page. For differences, I explored a little more randomly than he did and he found and clicked on links that I never even noticed(including a dead one). Most pronounced was the fact that he had no trouble navigating the site to find a contact page: is that page difficult to find or not? I have no idea.

Powering a Nation’s “Coal: A Love Story” uses some good navigation. They shouldn’t change how the videos open in pages that are easy to close, or their non-linear approach to the story. In addition, the inclusion of next buttons and a navigational bar on the left makes the linear approach possible as well. This facilitates different ways of approaching the story, and that’s good.

Not everything about the site is smooth, however. I think that the way they alternate the sizes of the sections is confusing, and that their subheadings (“Learn more”) are easy to miss, and that should be fixed. Finally, there’s no good reason for a site like this to have dead links. (I’d suggest leaving an obvious “contact us” link at the bottom of the page, too, but perhaps that’s my own issue…)

Signing off,

Joshua C. Geiger

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 7:00 pm in online journalsim

 

Analyzing Multimedia Penguins

The first thing that struck me while looking for a multimedia story is that there aren’t very many of them. Most stories I ran into (and run into) have a simple formula when reported online : big picture at the top, story text beneath it. Often, there aren’t even more pictures in the story, though there may be some links. I just found that interesting, given how conducive the internet is to multimedia journalism.

Photo courtesy of BBC news.

The story I finally chose to analyze I found at BBC News. It was a story I had found on The Guardian, except that BBC’s report was multimedia and The Guardian’s wasn’t. The story is about a study on penguins’ hunting, which was conducted using cameras strapped to penguin’s heads.

The story focuses on what the study learned about marine foraging behavior. It accomplishes this mostly in the text, with a handful of pictures of the Adelie penguins, and including some of the footage that the Japanese scientists got during the study. The footage is certainly interesting, if not particularly enlightening. It doesn’t include any kind of audio track. The pictures add to a visual understanding of the penguin’s habitat and serve as a good shift in the article’s topic focus.

Other than the basic scrolling nature of the article, it also links to several other videos of Adelie penguins on BBC. Other than being informative and about the same penguins, they have nothing to do with the story. Navigation wise, I don’t know what they want to accomplish with the links inserted into the body of the story (as opposed to the sidebar), because clicking on them takes you away from the story completely.

As a matter of a scientific interest story, the subject matter is engaging, and including high quality photos and actual video from the study makes it more engaging. The story of overcoming past problems with studying animal foraging and the penguins specifically was interesting, too. Some of the descriptions of what the scientists looked for could be seen on the video. In addition, the pictures provided an understanding of the penguin’s world, and the attached video links provided more information about the penguins themselves.

On the other hand, the video was not of the highest quality, and provided no additional information with an audio track, which may have been useful. The photos were also pretty and relevant, but not complete. When the text described the sensors and camera that were attached to the penguin, it would have been nice to see a clear picture of the things. I was left wondering exactly how a penguin still hunted effectively with a video camera glued to its head.

A happy penguin.

Despite those complaints, the story itself was fairly satisfying. It provided me with a fairly complete but not overly technical description of the study. It also added more trivial but interesting information about the penguins themselves, linked to videos with more information in the article, and described unfamiliar animals.

One of the important things that this story reminded me of is that even if the video is not great, an article about a video like this should have that video included if possible. Another thing is to use resources that the news organization already has, for instance the other videos of the Adelie penguins included in the “Antarctic oddities” aside of the article. Most importantly I learned that Adelie penguins are super good at hunting camouflaged fish.

Personally, if I had done the article I would have liked some small audio description of the video, if only something along the lines of “oh, there he got something”. Any audio, from reporter or scientist, would have made it a bit more engaging, but perhaps that was unrealistic, which I understand. I also would have changed the title of “Antarctic Oddities” to something like “More on Adelie Penguins”. They already have a ‘related’ section, but that way it doesn’t look quite as much like it’s a part of the story.

This article, though it utilizes different media, comes off as mostly a print story. An audio accompaniment or even complete video or audio segment could have been included. A photo gallery of the penguins during the study or even just as penguins could have been included, acting much like their external videos do.

Multimedia successes and criticisms aside, penguins just make good news.

Signing off,

Joshua C. Geiger

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2013 6:29 pm in online journalsim

 

My News Sources: An Introduction

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As an avid internet user and member of the electronic generation, I don’t think it comes as a surprise that most of my news sources are internet based. For most of my daily news, I use Yahoo! and a specialized homepage that highlights politics, science and technology. For more in depth news I also use the New York Times and Real Clear Politics . I trust these new sources because they are widely used, because I find Yahoo! especially to be timely, and because they haven’t yet crushed my trust in them with lies or bad reporting. I don’t read news in print or watch much television news. I also have specific websites I use for art news (DeviantArt.com) and for gaming news (TrueAchievements.com).

I find that Real Clear Politics is the least bias of the news sources, because it collects a wide range of articles from across the political spectrum. Yahoo! does not always do a good job of including pictures or integrating other media into their articles, and they also report a lot of less valuable entertainment news. The New York Times is much better in quality, but I believe that it often has a liberal slant in its articles, and especially in its op-eds.

Except that I would often categorize Yahoo! as entertainment news, I don’t trust entertainment sources as real news. They may sometimes be informative or at the very least interesting to read or watch, but I don’t personally find a lot of value in them.

In using the internet for much of my news diet, I also do most of my news discussion on the internet. Via Facebook, I talk to my father (whose opinion I trust to be well thought out, if usually deeply conservative).  My father and I link each other to news and talk about it almost daily, and my mom (who is deeply liberal) shares news articles via Facebook, though I often avoid discussing the articles with her because we usually disagree politically. When I talk to my friends about the news I usually just talk out difficult concepts or issues, and try to avoid serious conflict when I realize our opinions differ.

Despite talking about the news daily, I don’t read that many articles. I could also use a greater variety of news sources, and I don’t like watching videos. I am guilty of mostly reading articles that agree with my own political bias (as well as getting frustrated with articles that don’t). I’m also guilty of mostly discussing news with people I agree with. I think I could improve my news diet by going to a source like the New York Times first instead of Yahoo!, and probably by discussing the news with a wider range of people.

So that’s the news on where I get my news.

Signing off,

Joshua C. Geiger

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2013 11:16 am in online journalsim