2008.02.28

Photo Chaser

23.41.09 - Mark

After yesterday's long essay you just want something simple to look at, and since I haven't been posting many photos here recently (hint: I've been posting to my flickr account) I figured I'd throw up this one from last week's lunar eclipse. I had been hoping to take this series with the moon traveling to totality over pilot mountain, but being cold, windy, and insanely cloudy that didn't happen. There was about an hour reprieve in the cloud cover however, which let me shoot a couple dozen photos of the moon, from which I picked the 7 best and blended them in photoshop to create

Seven Moons - View Large (2724 x 1918)

Seven Moons

Link | 0 Comments |


2008.02.27

Atopsy of a Photoshop Demo

01.08.26 - Mark

Photoshop is a tricky program, I've been using it for years and I'm still learning stuff. Part of the problem is how massive it is, part of it is your numerous options for doing any one trick, even the level of customization it offers and then there's the lack of a "right" answer when you edit a photo. Those elements are why it's such an indispensable powerful, and praised program. It's also why it's a real bitch to teach.

The question quickly becomes where do you start? Do you do an overview of the tool pallet, talk about the info and layer boxes? Attack the menus? Memorize hot keys and command strokes? Or do we assume the learner can figure out the icons and run though the concepts behind the program and go over darkroom technique? Or should we plunge into the deep end and tackle photo manipulation? Classrooms, demonstrations, books, websites, and adventurous individuals have all tackled these questions and there's no one answer, just like everything photoshop.

I've been playing with some of these questions for over a month now, since my local photo club asked/drafted me and another photoshop user to do some demonstrations tonight, and I'm thinking about what i did right, and what I fumbled on.

Lesson one: Plan on getting there early, then show up even earlier than you planned. At the very least you're going to need to drop files to the computer you're using. If they're big files, and the system can handle it open them up in advance. That's why you get there early. The reason you show up earlier than that is the technical snafu you're going to face. Murphy loves photoshop demos. If you're using a projector, check the screen resolution and calibrate the thing - don't trust the display profiles. Photoshop needs a lot of screenspace and not all projectors adapt well. And if you're using photoshop and don't know why you calibrate the colors on your display, I'm sorry but I can't help you - go back to Microsoft Paint, you'll be much happier. Then there's everything else you may need to fix, from scratch disks to mouse tracking. It sucks when you have to do a half assed fix in the middle of the presentation, especially if people start throwing out suggestions

Lesson two: Have files prepared in advance, have a cheat sheet prepared in advance, have talking points prepared in advance. Multitasking is hard. Multitasking two tasks that both require a large part of your attention is near impossible, and despite what you may think about instruction, to do it well you need to concentrate on what you're saying/doing and how the audience is reacting to what you're saying /doing. As for photoshop, you'll be juggling hot keys, menu locations, and the image files themselves around in your head. Even if you know that you want to hit V to bring up the move tool, B for the brush, and E for the eraser and [ or ] to scale the tool sizes, the audience doesn't know that and you'll be working magic while the audience is 10 steps back. Or you'll be trying to talk while drawing a vector path and completely blank on the modifier key you need. Help yourself. Prepare the files and notes in advance then use them.

Lesson three: Practice, Practice, Practice. Yes, you know how to use photoshop, great. You probably know how to talk too. But would you give an important speech without practicing it a few times? I didn't think so. Using your prepared files and notes run though the demonstrations a few times. You may feel like you're going nuts, and you may well be, but practice the steps working with your files. Take a break and go postal if necessary but you need to practice with the files you'll be using.

Tip one: Have a few prepared ideas. That means more than one The one thing I'm really glad I did the way I did was I had three things to sets prepared. Stitching a panorama, creating a dynamic range increase photo from two exposures, and using paths and layer masks to remove the background. That's two more than I had been planning on, and ended up being one less than I needed. If I only had one of those prepped I would have flopped bad and the demo would have gotten tedious for everyone involved. By having three distinct demos ready I got to run though several concepts and was able to impart some of my knowledge, and hopefully a skill onto everyone there - from the "I don't own photoshop" guy to someone who's taken a class. It also gave me a degree of flexibility to improvise.

Tip two: Expect to improvise, and be able to improvise. Stealing one from the teaching textbooks the time when anyone, young or old, is most receptive to learning is when they're asking questions. Unfortunately that's probably the one time you're least able to teach. That's why some teacher's hate questions, and other's love them. Shortly after I arrived I was asked if I could show how to put in "ghosts" of people into a landscape. I didn't have a photo of people but because I knew how to do it a couple of ways I figured something out (a giant ghost of a cellphone floating over a greenhouse) and got to make some good points about photoshop. Thank you improvisation.

Tip three: Advanced tools for the experienced, fundamental concepts for the beginners. As pointed out above I had the whole range of photoshop users in the audience, and my demos were intermediate and up, but a lot of the concepts were on the face pretty simple. How do you make a selection? You've got the selection tools in the tool box, but let me show you the paths tool, which we can use to get better results... How do you remove the background? You could use the eraser, but that's a destructive method, and you'll loose all that extra information when you save the files. Let's use a layer mask instead, that's nondestructive. The seasoned pros get a how to on using the tool, the beginners get a better understanding of the tools and why they should ramp up their skills, and you have something to talk about when you're trying to remember what modifier key you need or why that menu item, which should be working, isn't working.

Tip four: Final product, in advance because you're not getting a good copy from the demo. Have your final product ready and separate from the demonstration files. The middle of a demonstration is not the time to be indulging in perfectionist tendencies so you will not get a good example of a finished product unless you're stupid (ignoring the audience) or lucky (self-explanatory). Your target is "good enough" because your focus should be on your audience as much as possible. If you're trying to decide if the red output level needs to be 240 or 230 your attention is not on the audience. Show them the extremes then settle in on a happy medium and move on to the next step. If you don't like that idea, have those numbers in advance so you can plop them in as needed.

Tip five: Don't worry too much, unless you're out of your league. Chances are if you're doing a demo you know what you're doing, and it's a good bit more than the audience, so don't get too hung up on your screw ups. If it's really bad they'll correct you, if it needs repeating they'll ask (just make sure to let them know questions and comments are welcome when you start) if you're moving too fast there's a better than good chance that they will let you know before their brains shut down from information overload.

Last tip: Have fun, and find your own way to teach. Seriously.What worked for me may or may not work for you. This has just been my thoughts on what I did right and what I needed to improve on when demonstrating photoshop. Just like people learn best in different ways, people teach in different ways. If you've got the skills to teach find a way you can share that knowledge and get to it. Maybe you can prepare an insanely good pdf howto, or maybe you can create a kick ass video series, or maybe its one on one tutoring.

Link | 1 Comments |


2008.02.22

Hillary Care

18.31.43 - Mark

While I wish the US Presidential campaigns would give some airtime to something other than Iraq, Immigration, the economy, and health care the last one is really getting on my nerves.

Hillary Clinton is out of touch with reality on the issue in her continued insistence on every single American buying a health insurance package or facing fines. It's almost like she's getting kickbacks from the insurance industry as a whole.

I'm not disagreeing with improving the heath care system in this country, but forcing people to buy insurance is not an ideal solution. From my perspective as a healthy (and uninsured) young adult paying for my own insurance would be far more than my current medical expenses. The national average for individual health coverage is about $220 a month. My medical bills for the last two years might total up to $600. That works out to something paying over $5,200 for $600 of expenses, and that's not accounting for deductibles and makes the assumption that the plan would cover the cost of contacts.

I know that insurance is supposed to be there for the unexpected, but for now keeping that same money in a rainy-day savings account makes more sense than letting an insurance company sit on the money. I don't need the government telling me I have to spend that $2600 a year "or else"

Link | 0 Comments |


2008.02.20

Once again, my life is an XKCD comic

10.53.37 - Mark

What do you want me to do? LEAVE? Then they'll keep being wrong!I was told by someone to stop engaging on message boards with idiots yesterday, advise that I'm ignoring because I enjoy the threads and I do a more or less alright job of not letting the flame wars bug me offline. However it's a little weird having that discussion yesterday, and then seeing this comic today. xkcd is wonderful.

Link | 0 Comments |


2008.02.15

5 Years?

10.48.08 - Mark

In most cases, I could care less about a website/blog/podcast/vidcast anniversary of any sort, and off hand I couldn't tell you the "launch" of my various excursions into owning and caring for a personal website, other than I think it was around 2000 or 2001. I couldn't tell you off hand how many videos I've made and posted (tho' I've only done one audio show and that, thankfully, is mostly buried), but I noticed a few days ago that I started this blog thing on blogger 5 years ago today after getting tired of managing almost daily posts on the old static site by hand, so Happy Birthday blog-like entity.

If I keep it up, I might get decent at this blaging thing...

Link | 0 Comments |


2008.02.13

457-55-5462

23.57.30 - Mark

I normally do a good job of ignoring TV ads, but the one for lifelock where the CEO goes around some city with his claimed social security number painted on the side of a truck piqued my interest, and I started wondering if it was real or just a good looking fake. The structure falls in to the Social Security Administrations documented structure, but I'm too lazy to try registering for the Social Security Number Verification Service so that's by no means definitive. A little light googling suggests that the guy is real and because he's stupid enough to advertise his social it gets used fraudulently, but then again over 40,000 people have claimed 078-05-1120 as their SSN since 1938 (it was a valid SSN until it was used in advertising). I wonder if Lifelock and 457-55-5462 is the new "Woolworth number"

Link | 1 Comments |


2008.02.10

A Collection of Thoughts

22.54.59 - Mark

I've been lazy this past week. There have been things I've wanted to say, but nothing that really deserved it's own post So I'm going to lump a few together. There's some other stuff that I want to get out, but deserve more thought and longer posts - like how "old media" still can't produce a useful website, even after 15 years of the world wide web and a solid five years since "new media" platforms like blogging started appearing in a big way.

First up I finished George Carlin's When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops last week, and while I enjoy Carlin's material it felt like binge reading a thing-a-day calendar. I'm pretty sure they formatted it so it was easy to stop after 5 or 10 pages, which in a way helps but for a book that has a list price of $24 (I was given the hard cover edition as a gift) you would hope there's at least a little continuity.

Next, Voice actors are amazing. Period. Almost entirely unrecognized and it's a true shame. I love animation and have been chewing though some "old" cartoons from the mid to late 90's (back before the FCC's Educational and Informational rules kicked in, when Saturday morning cartoons still existed and didn't totally suck) as well as some more recent stuff (like Futurama) and it's amazing when you watch these shows and realize that in a recording booth somewhere, these guys are having conversations with themselves. It's great when you can just see (or hear) these people working - like the Simpsons episode of Inside the Actors Studio or some of the DVD extras - The live reading of the comic on Bender's Big Score comes to mind. It's a shame that more and more animated movies want to fill ranks with celebrity voices. Afro Samurai strikes a good balance - a few big name voices supported by some voice actors.

Third, and kind of similar to voice acting I never realized how amazing Who Framed Rodger Rabbit? was, and how it's the sort of movie that would never get made today. Intellectual property lawyers, standards and practices, animators, and celebrity voices would totally ruin the thing before it got started. You would never see alcoholic detectives helping cartoons, kids with cigarettes, social commentary (the description of freeways is far from positive) the same level of animated violence, or some of the more sexual scenes and obfuscated language in the easter eggs. Maybe some of them, but not all of them. It's a treat

Link | 0 Comments |


2008.02.05

Free Flowing

23.56.18 - Mark

For a while I was doing a good job of posting something daily, a link, a movie review, a post - something. Then the weekend came and I dropped off the interwebs while I went to Raven Knob and spent the weekend in good company wandering around taking photos and having fun.

I didn't ever realize it but I was in need of a recharge. Even if things seem slow it's amazing how crazy life can get, between hobbies, projects, and the information overload that is the modern era. A weekend unplugged and a couple more days mostly off-line does wonders for the body and soul.

I think the early morning hike Sunday morning was the key. There's nothing like an cool morning (or late night) hike though woods almost entirely untouched by civilization. Particularly when the trip includes climbing around a beautiful waterfall taking long exposure photos.

Smooth Water

Smooth Water - View Large (2816 x 2112)

Link | 0 Comments |