Week Four-Video Storytelling


1. Reflecting on Roger Ebert’s “How to Read a Movie” and several videos on movie-making.

Perspective, Perspectives

2. Reflecting on a scene from “American Psycho.”

A Triple Take on American Psycho

Daily Creates





Video Assignments

1. Self Documentary- This was definitely my favorite assignment of the week, summer camp is a big part of my life at the moment and it seems to be the only thing I really talk about anymore, it’s something I want to share with the world. This assignment was worth 4 stars.

Summer Camp Matters

2. Time Lapse Activity- In this assignment, I finally fulfilled my dream of cleaning my room up at super sonic speed, ain’t technology amazing? This assignment was worth 4.5 stars.

Your Room is a Mess


1. https://jbelodeauds106.wordpress.com/2017/07/23/kelly-oubre-jr-is-the-g-o-a-t/comment-page-1/#comment-35

2. http://smcsally.com/assignments/instant-replay/#comment-57

3. http://ds106jake.jakobwaterman.org/blog/assignments/video-crack/

4. http://simplytellingstories.com/assignments/the-not-so-exciting-life-of-me-video-assignment/

Video Storytelling

This week was even more fun than the audio storytelling week. In comparing the power of visual storytelling to that of just audio storytelling, I can easily understand why movie video has prevailed over just about every other form of storytelling. In my own projects, particularly the Self Documentary assignment about my job as a camp counselor, my story came to life so easily because of all the senses that the media accessed. It didn’t hurt, either, that I was using my roommate’s high quality iPhone 7 camera.
Creating the content for this week’s assignments went smoothly. I had expected at some point to be very frustrated with editing, but the projects I chose did not require a lot of alterations to the footage I collected. I did struggle somewhat with the iMovie tools and was unable to splice a sequence of film the way that I wanted to but the final project came out the way I had hoped.
My reflections and movie reading attempts were extremely enjoyable. I have always loved film and I want to learn more about producing it and analyzing it. I hope to one day take a film study course, but until then the advice of Roger Ebert was very insightful. Although I found his writing a little difficult to follow, the lesson on intrinsic weighting was very useful, and I immediately recognized its effects in the movies that I have watched since. I think that I will probably approach film much differently than I have in the past now that I have learned a little more about the analysis process.
In the future, I would love to spend a little more time on video production, I may even want to attempt to create scripted videos. I hope to invest more in the audio portion of film, working on a musical score and adding in some sound effects. I think that my projects were effective and are enjoyable to watch but I definitely wish I had planned a little better for my documentary project. I had a general idea of what I wanted to capture, but I was not prepared for what the project entailed and in the end I think the project had a lot of potential that it did not fulfill. Nevertheless, I am proud of what I produced this week and I am looking forward to incorporating what I learned through video production into my final project.
With this course coming to a close, I want to revisit my projects that I have produced so far and find some points that I want to improve upon, and use those as goals for my final project. Although I am not planning on following a fictional character, I may want to incorporate and aspect of fiction into my work. I want to start early since the assignments will be due sooner in the week than usual, to ensure that I still produce high quality projects. Ultimately, I’m hoping that by combining the four topics we have worked through during this course, that I can produce a compelling and exciting final project that would be interesting to all consumers. At this point in the course, I feel like I have learned an exceptional amount of skills that I will be able to use in the future, and I’ve also regained some of my artistic instinct. I’m excited to see where that will take me next week for the final project, and beyond.

A Triple Take on American Psycho

Visual Only-

The opening is simply a shot of the man sitting on a chair, there is little action occurring but the scene is well balanced. Everything seems simplified and clean, from the mans sharp outfit to the empty bottle and unopened cigar on either side of the man. Although his expression and slouched posture give the impression that he is uninterested, the scene seems very sterile and tense.
Even as the main character looks over to someone out of frame, the camera and focus remains on him. The full view of the second man in the room is delayed slightly during the take, creating minute suspense. When the second man comes into view, he appears confident and his movements are quick, appearing contrived and planned. The man’s confidence is even more clear as he watched himself in the mirror.
Several times in the clip, the camera pans so that it focuses directly on inanimate objects. First on the CD case, then the glass and prescription and then again on the shiny metal ax head.
Without dialogue, it’s difficult to understand the context of the scene, but the man with the ax seems to be shifting between moods. He is confident in the beginning, then suddenly he dances around the room, seeming jovial but slightly insane. As he begins to wield the ax, his presence becomes somewhat threatening, his demeanor is suddenly much heavier and intense.
The choice to show only the killers face as he murders the first man with the ax was a powerful means of showing both the man’s insanity as well as the intensity with which he carries out the action. His face is full of rage, and each motion is deliberate.
At the end of the scene, the killer is positioned so that the blood on one side of his face is completely hidden, giving the audience the view of a seemingly normal man. I assume that this was to further convey the impression that the man shifts from murderous to normal member of society rapidly and without warning. In the final angle change, the murderer is shown sitting in an armchair just like the victim had been sitting in moments earlier, smoking the cigar. The camera angle is from below, looking up at the murderer from the dead body. While the murder is casual and calm, the view from the dead body instills an overwhelming sense of dread.
Interestingly, the murderer is always in the background whenever he is in the same frame as the victim. According to Roger Ebert, this conveys a dominance to the victim. However, when the killer is alone, the camera angles are mostly focused on his face, there are not many elements surrounding him preventing distraction from his intense expressions. During the actual murder, the camera angle is shot from below, similar to the style often seen in Quentin Tarantino films, giving the audience a point of view that lies to the left of the victim as he is murdered.

Audio Only-

The first and only sound of a CD player in the clip precedes the first voice, a confident and optimistic sounding man that is a stark contrast to the second voice which sounds lethargic and tired. I assume that the confident sounding man is the murderer. Just as he appears in the beginning of the video, the murderer’s dialogue seems very much scripted and unnatural, though confident.
The sound effects are limited to the natural sounds of the scene (which I’m sure were enhanced by a Foley artist). The sound of the CD going into the player, the case being set down and the footsteps of the murderer are very clear and loud, taking up as many decibels of volume as the dialogue seems to. Interestingly, the scene goes on with a discussion of the musician on the CD without the music playing. The sound of shuffling feet and a jacket being pulled on competes with the clarity of the other sound effects from earlier on.
As the murderer continues speaking, his pace quickens and he sounds more and more excited. The interchange between the two characters is brief and the victim does not sound worried, rather he still sounds tired and slightly perplexed. When the music starts playing, the murderer sounds increasingly unnatural in his speech, and his footsteps are still clearly audible over the music. It is unclear whether the scream came from the killer or the victim. The sounds of the ax hitting the victim are dull but have a very visceral effect, the sound of blood splatter is not excessive allowing the whole scene to remain realistic.
Finally, when the man is dead the murderer can be heard returning to his seat, again the small sounds like the click of the lighter and the exhale of cigar smoke can be heard over the extremely loud music. The song that played throughout the duration of the scene is jovial and fast paced, contrasting with the severity and darkness of the scene that just unfolded.

Audio and Visual Together-

I did not expect the combination of video and audio to give me a new and distinct interpretation of this scene from American Psycho, but there are several aspects of this film that were not apparent to me until the two media were united.
As the movement and the dialogue of the murderer are put together, he seems to lack seriousness. Everything again seems pre-coordinated and he seems even more frightening.
I did not initially recognize that the victim isn’t tired or legthargic, rather he’s intoxicated. I should have been clued in by the empty liquor bottle in the scene, but his movement is not clearly drunken and his tone simply appears tired.
By bringing together audio and visual I also realized that the murderer moves his hands in unison with the breaks between words. He moves and speaks emphatically in coordination, emphasizing his excitement for what he is about to do.
Although it’s now clear that the murderer was the one who produced the scream at the end, I still can’t fully discern what is said immediately after the first strike of the ax. The only word I can hear clearly is “extortion.” When the sound of the ax is combined with each strike against the body of the victim, the murder is even more disturbing and realistic.

Perspective, Perspectives

Film is a great medium to venture through on the course of education. The greatest learning occurs when we are active and engaged, film has a huge potential to instill this in viewers. Hitting every sense simultaneously, we cannot help but be engulfed in what we are seeing. Visual imagery has immense power to not just create emotion but to pull emotion out of our cores, make us feel even more vividly what was already within us. But video can also wash over us passively, letting us soak up what we’ve seen like a sponge, with equal potential to let it all go again.
I love that Ebert says that he became a teacher as part of his own path of education in film, there is no better way to learn than to teach. As a teacher, you are forced to truly believe that there is information to be interpreted and analyzed. You can’t allow what you study to come over you passively. Ebert speaks of “intrinsic weighting” in film, the tendency of visual imagery to spontaneously have a certain impact. The creator of the content need not manipulate imagery directly or intentionally in order to have a specific effect. But despite the passive means by which these effects take place, fully conscious attention is required to recognize these effects and what elements of the film caused their occurrence.
It is compelling for me, as a neuroscience student, to believe that the intrinsic weighting phenomenon of visual art, and the ubiquitous patterns seen regardless of the culture that produced the film, has something to do with how we all use the same basic neural processes to understand the simplest parts of our visual world. The neurons that make up our visual cortex are designed in a hierarchical system which combines individual sensory stimuli into more complex representations of our world. We have been able to demonstrate through single cell recordings that there are neurons which respond solely to vertical lines, and neurons which respond solely to horizontal lines. Both of these neurons will then, perhaps, converge onto a single neuron which will recognize the corner that is formed by the perpendicular lines. That images in the foreground are stronger than those in the background, and the imagery on top is considered dominant over what lies beneath it is reflective of how we take in the world around us. These are some of the most rudimentary processes of visual perception, and they apply unanimously to all normal, sighted people.

The impacts of these process are retained at much more advanced levels of visual interpretation. These simple steps in perception are a part of how we interpret film, and the intrinsic weighting of the films we watch are nearly universal because these rudimentary perceptions influence our overall perception. So even though some of us may think that the scene was a metaphor for the fragility of existence and others may think it was a political commentary on the devaluation of human life, we will all interpret the foreground as dominant.
When I think of the movies I’ve seen that really qualify as cinematographic art, I think of Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers. Although I really do consider these directors to be true artists, I know that I am missing out on some of the most brilliant artists in the film industry. But the intrinsic weighting Ebert talks about is most certainly used in the films of these directors. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the first film that comes to mind.

Throughout this film, the characters stand in almost unnatural rigidity, their position within the frame is obviously deliberate. Anderson uses intrinsic weighting in the scene above in particular to give M. Gustave an authoritative appearance. He often stands to the right on set drawing the eye towards him, and he also is found in the foreground, appearing dominant.

Perhaps one of the most impressive methods in cinematography is the “long take.” These are clips that are uninterrupted sequences of acting, the camera follows the action of the film as if from the point of view of one of the characters or as an omniscient presence that is not interrupted, distracting the viewer from the fiction of the story. This is an impressive method for several reasons, but especially due the coordination that it requires. Every member of the scene must remain entirely in character and respond to the actions of their counterparts with the proper timing. As impressive as these scenes are, I often find that they are so unlike every other scene in a film that they can seem out of place. The long take is exhibited in the first three techniques analyzed by Oscar Feivan in this video:

I have seen the shining several times, but have never truly noticed the use of zooms in the film. This is a wonderful element for creating suspense, but with the sound effects and music score of the shining it has the effect of being extremely unsettling. The scenes move when they seem as if they should remain still, conveying a sense of imbalance and uncertainty. It’s as if you might suddenly slip, but you only drift slowly back from the scene, moving without gaining any distance, never quite reaching safety.

The Shining – Zooms from Ian Kammer on Vimeo.

The use of point of views from below is pervasive in the films of Quentin Tarantino. This could have the effect of making the viewer feel small, insignificant and childlike or it could convey the point of view of a character on lying on his back (as is often the fate of many of Tarantino’s poor characters). However, I think that Tarantino so consistently incorporates this effect into his films because he wants to place his viewers in a position that they generally do not occupy when enjoying a film. This angle is not particularly flattering of the actors or comfortable to the viewer, and placing his viewers in discomfort seems like one of the greatest goals of Tarantino.

Tarantino // From Below from kogonada on Vimeo.

Listen Up

As tempted as I was to listen to an episode of RadioLab for this blog assignment, I opted for “I Was Just Trying to Help,” an episode of  This American Life. Although I’m very familiar with Ira Glass’s voice, I’ve never quite felt the intrigue to listen to his work. I was always frustrated by talk radio as a kid, because the topics went over my head and there wasn’t enough stimulation to dazzle me. The journalistic integrity and organic nature of these types of shows were lost on me, and in a way they still are. Unlike RadioLab, stories from This American Life are told much more like a news story is. There are no characters or scenes, they are purely factual and to-the-point.
RadioLab is, for the record, nonfiction but it is so well developed and crafted that it plays like a fictional story. The producers use strategic editing to create the images they want you to see and the emotions they want you to feel but they do so without ever straying from the reality of the anecdote. It’s almost as if they create a fictitious world of wondrous sounds in which they can set the stage for the truth and reality. Moon Graffiti, a completely fictional story, could have passed for an episode of RadioLab. Every emotion could be felt with the added sounds alone, no dialogue required. You can sense the imperative air of desperation to do something followed by the solemn realization that nothing could be done at all, implied by the music and sound effects.
I think this is why I love RadioLab so much, they take extremely important stories, especially scientific ones, that might not be getting the attention they deserve and present them in a context that demands your attention. These stories grip you, within minutes of listening you will find yourself transported to an entirely new world, one that you have created in your own mind. As Jad Abumrad has said, these mental images are a means of forming a connection between creator and consumer. But more importantly, it gives power to the story itself. Each and every person that experiences this story will hear the same dialogue and edits but will also see something completely unique. The story takes on a unique meaning for each listener, there is far more left to interpretation in audio stories than there is in visual stories.
This American Life is compelling too, but in a call-to-action kind of manner. When I listen to This American Life, I’m not usually drawn in as rapidly as I am with RadioLab. The style of storytelling is much more formal and has fewer frills. This does not make the stories themselves any less interesting, there is simply a sense of journalistic seriousness with this show. Every episode is produced with the purpose of bringing a major issue to the attention of the listener with objectivity. There are fewer opinions given and thus less need to “set the scene.” The producers of this show aren’t trying to throw you into the world of this story, that would almost be an interruption. The stories are not told through broken narratives as described by Rob Rosenthal and while they are edited with music, all background noise is authentic from the setting of the story.
Neither means of storytelling is superior to the other, I just happen to be particularly fond of the RadioLab methods, and I plan to make my audio stories reflect my preference. Even if I want to approach something more like a news story, I will probably do it through the broken narrative, including as much scene-setting sound as possible. Despite my usual lack of interest in This American Life, I did find myself getting hooked to the story somewhere towards the middle. I think that regardless of the method, audio storytelling is just so dear to me. It is the ultimate form of storytelling which brings to life what text alone cannot, and forces mental acuity and ingenuity. I can see a whole new world, just by listening a little closer.

Create Sound not Noise

There is a lot of depth to the sound bits in any RadioLab episodes, as can be heard in this compilation. Behind dialogue, there are many sound effects that set the stage. They are more than simply ambient sounds, these are purposeful nudges from the creators that steer you towards creating a mental image that matches the one they hoped youd see. The dialogue itself is so much more than a two way conversation, often times Jad speaks as if he is talking solely to the listener, other moments he is in debate with Robert and yet in other moments he has side conversations with the scientists and guests he interviews. These multidimensional conversations always being with and return to the anecdote while constantly building on the original story with ongoing questioning.
Robert Krulwhich is an interesting counterpart to Abumrad, he often disagrees with Jad or guests of the show, whether he is simply playng devil’s advocate or not remains in question. But his role is essential, with perfect agreement the discussion would always stop short. But his contesting leads the story onward and in new directions, but they never fail to return to their original thoughts. This show likes to do more than just conversation and background noise, they aren’t even necessarily attempting to create an artificial visual experience. They’re trying to create something new and different, one of their most impressive uses of audio to tell story is in their episode called Emergence (listen from 46:30-56:00). This is an episode that discusses the phenomenon in neuroscience whereby organized, coordinated outcomes arise from chaos without any obvious director or leader. They used a choir bursting into harmony after a suffocating cacophony as a demonstration of this process, bringing understanding of an extremely complex topic to the general public.
In the”dissection” of the interview with a papermaker, I feel as if I got a better understanding of why my podcasts have not been very successful yet. I have yet to find a way to create the broken narrative that Rob Rosenthal describes. This was definitely a component of radio storytelling that I have been subjected to before without being fully conscious of it. As frustrating as it is for me to realize so late something that is really somewhat obvious, I am excited about how this will impact my future attempts at storytelling. I know now that my approach to interviews has been wrong all along. Rather than proposing a strategy and schedule to seek out stories and interviews, I have been recording spontaneously whenever I find myself in the midst of something intriguing. These interviews are, at least, not contrived but their utter lack of structure makes them kind of useless in storytelling. I need to plan and approach people in advance so that I can interview them in their true habitat. To create the broken narrative, I’ll need to collect content that includes the sound of their work with and without descriptive dialogue, as well as discussions that extend into other aspects of their life and are unhindered by background noise.
It is completely possible to tell an audio story without the addition of any sounds from external sources, in the story on the papermaker, that is precisely the style of the interview. I’ve always found these types of interviews particularly pleasing, they’re far more authentic and give the impression that you’re simply sitting in on a conversation. But the power of storytelling truly reaches an apex with editing, you can imply certain emotions with background music or sound effects as can be heard in this TED Talk intro. At the beginning of the clip, the music is jovial and the mood of the story matches the music. When the music suddenly stops, the mood shifts completely. There is a sense of sadness and desperation in the speaker’s voice that went completely unnoticed before. It is tempting to believe that something about the woman’s tone of voice changed, but if you listen closely that is not the case. The woman speaks with the same intonation throughout the entire clip, only the mood of the music changes, influencing your interpretation of the clip.
Sound editing such as the one heard in the TED Talk clip is subtle and serves a metaphoric purpose, but foley artists are much more deliberate in the sounds they create:

This is an outdated method of sound production, but it is no doubt an art form, and it would be quite an interesting task to attempt. The foley artists have to be extremely intentional with each noise they produce, they don’t merely step up and down to create the sound of footsteps. As the man in the final sequence stumbles away from the fight, the foley artist steps up and down, mimicking the exhausted and injured gait of the man in the clip. But just like the other types of sound editing, these have very nuanced effects. To create a fully encompassing audio experience, sounds editing in storytelling must be well thought out without being over-produced. There can absolutely be too much going on in the background. This is the art of creating sound, not making noise.

Radio Isn’t Dead

My bed isn’t like the one in the front room. My bed sits on a metal frame with tiny plastic wheels that carve into the pale blue carpet of my shared bedroom that faces the backyard. Breezes drift through my open window, carrying the fresh scent of young green leaves which does little to dispel the staleness of my cluttered, cave-like quarters. I don’t choose to spend a lot of time here, this is where messes are made and dreams are had. But in the front room, everything shines with an off-white cleanliness. Oversized chestnut furniture with outdated stains surround a queen bed, I am just tall enough to hoist my body onto this sea of pillows and blankets. The mattress is a foot and a half thick, draped in a quilt, the heavy kind that traps you under a loving weight of comfort and is lined with cool silky edges.
I like to lay here and let the sunlight that can’t quite reach my own bedroom touch softly against my cheek, forcing my eyes to close. No matter what time of day it is, the sunlight that enters this room is always gentle, it flits through drapes that flow gingerly in the breeze like tired ghosts. I close my eyes and embrace the light, and just listen. Outside I can hear the jovial shouts of skin-kneed kids as they dart across sidewalks, their dirty bare feet slapping the pavement with each nimble step. The sound of traffic is distant from my little cul-de-sac, occasionally an airplane rips through the silence overhead, if you stay long enough you’ll hear train whistles too.
From a small wooden radio, a full voice is speaking neutrally over some topic I don’t care to understand. But I listen to the clarity of his voice anyway, unhindered by any background noise he speaks on and on until calling on another voice to join him. These voices come with ambient sounds, resonating in the distance. I never take in what words anyone says, but the radio is always on in this home. In the kitchen, it’s music of the 1940’s, harmonic songs that always seem just a little off pace. But in the front bedroom, it’s always talking, just talking.
The voices of Carl Kassel, Ira Glass, Jad Abumrad, Robert Krulwich, Kojo Nnamdi, Peter Sagal and Paula Poundstone are part of my home. In any language, their voice would be recognizable and comforting, I don’t need to understand them to feel their warmth, excitement and passion. Talk radio has followed me throughout my entire life, I can recite the intros to RadioLab, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me and NPR fundraising pleas by heart. And even with all this listening, I don’t know what makes a good story, but even the experts don’t seem to know. Storytelling is not a consistent experience, because experiences worth retelling are not consistent.
Storytelling through audio alone has always been extremely compelling to me. I figure that if you can capture someone’s with simply your words, then you’ve stumbled upon something significant. Being a huge fan of podcasts, my friend Ian and I are currently in the process of attempting to make our own podcast, so hearing what Jad Abumrad and Ira Glass have to say about storytelling is incredibly important to me. I’ve begun recording sound clips whenever I can, even when there is no discernible dialogue. I thought that maybe this would be the key to stumbling upon a great story, but all I have are a handful of relatively meaningless audio files. As both Jad and Ira discussed, good stories must be sought after, they won’t simply come to you. And once you have them, you need to mold them into something worth experiencing.
I don’t think there is any particular strategy to finding good stories, the most structure you can give to this process is to create a schedule for yourself that forces you to be out in the world, talking to people and listening to the world. I think it must be particularly difficult to keep up with the task of storytelling, already Ian and I have become sidetracked in our attempt to create our own podcast. We have the desire but few ideas, the potential but not dedication. But Glass and Abumrad have me feeling inspired again. I recently interviewed a man who has hiked the Appalachian Trail and is currently hiking the Pacific Crest trail. The interview is not necessarily interesting, but I felt a bit of a thrill just attempting to capture the essence of our brief conversation. I’ve listened to my collected audio content again and again, not knowing if it’s worth listening to or not. And If it isn’t, I don’t know how I’ll find the courage to throw away what doesn’t work, but I know that I must find the will to do just that. This week’s audio storytelling creations will draw me back in to my original projects, and with Jad and Ira’s advice, my podcast might actually live.

In addition to Jad’s video on how radio creates empathy, I also watched this video and included my reflection of it in this blog post:

Social Media Scavenger Hunt: Some Multimodal Introductions

Visit my twitter page (https://twitter.com/saradigitellsit) to begin the hunt for who I am online! Pay attention to the descriptions of my content to find the link to the next site.

This hunt will take you on a journey from my twitter page, to my first Soundcloud playlist (https://soundcloud.com/user-811051809/sets/hi-my-name-is-sarah-roche) to my first video on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/223965801) and finally to my first album on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/gp/156122246@N05/cpc8d5). Hopefully this gives you an honest glimpse into my world!

Shutter Speed

For my Photoblitz assignment (http://ds106.jenpolack.com/?p=1902#more-1902), I decided to take pictures in the house I’m staying in currently. The house has lots of windows and I decided to take my photos a few hours before sunset so the lighting in the house was ideal. This assignment was very challenging for me, I felt stressed and a little frantic as soon as the time started. I wanted to be sure to stay true to the assignment hoping that the time frame of fifteen minutes would force me to get creative. Of all the photos I took, the most difficult to think up was the one of my inanimate object. I was a little dissapointed by how basic that photo ended up being. I was particularly fond of the photo I took to represent joy and the photo for the perspective of an ant. The Joy photo is the pages of a book, stretching out toward a sunlit window. I hoped that this would be symbolic of the great joy of reading. I like my perspective photo because of the way that I chose to focus the camera, leaving the background blurred.

The Photo I chose as a metaphor for complexity was based on the complexity of a staring eye. Looking into the eyes of a stranger can begin to give you a sense of their own life and personal challenges. The object in the foreground is a hanging window decoration that adds distinct geometrical elements to the photo and deliberately frames my eye and outlines my head.

My most inventive photo is probably the photo for “Two Things That Don’t Belong Together.” Rather than placing two unlike objects alongside each other, I wanted to find some conflicting objects that were already standing side by side. This was my last photo that I took and was particularly difficult to settle upon. I had walked past these two photos numerous times before recognizing their contrast.

This assignment was more challenging than I thought it would be, the time constraint did however force my hand. I always want to maintain a particular aesthetic when I take photos. However I was in such a rush for much of this assignment that I had to think and act quickly, sometimes ignoring my instinct to take the most beautiful picture possible.

Reflections and Best Photo

When I really want to capture a moment, I use my 35 mm film camera. This makes me a stingy photographer. The expense of a single photo produced by that camera strongly influences what moments I consider worth photographing. With my iPhone in my hands, I liberally snap photos often without even thinking. Just glance through my camera roll, the most recent photo is of my friend’s foot resting on my knee. The photo is grainy, in low light and difficult to discern. I would never have taken that shot with my 35 mm. The first tip in “Becoming a Better Photographer” (http://ds106.us/open-course/unit-5-visual-storytelling/#becoming-better-photographers) in the ds106 handbook is to get picker and is the guideline I feel most compelled to follow. I will be shooting probably all of my content for this course with my iPhone and rather than sifting through dozens of takes, I hope to be able to visualize my ideal final product before I even take a photo.

Additionally, I want to focus on perspective. I have a tendency to approach everything with the same point of view, it’s difficult for me to see things in a new way after my first glance. It’s not that I feel reluctant to take on a new view, it’s that my initial understanding of a scene is steadfast, and I often miss out on the beautiful aspects that are hidden there. Finally, I am often criticized for me tendency to overuse filters on my photos posted to Instagram. I love for my pictures to have a slight blue tint, but I hope to gain practice in achieving the aesthetic I desire without having to edit the images I capture.

The early topics of the “What is Visual Literacy” video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O39niAzuapc&feature=youtu.be) are not news to me, but I had not fully considered the implications of our increasingly image-centered culture. I have assumed; without proper statistical analysis, that our interactions with images has increased greatly, just study meme culture and it becomes quite obvious. That we are expanding in every form of media other than reading is impressive, though concerning. The rapid growth of internet-based communication and interactions is unlike anything we’ve seen before, we need not speak the same language in order to relate to the ways in which we’ve begun to describe our worlds visually. The animated GIF has become a hallmark of visual literacy. On twitter, thousands of GIFs are in circulation and are widely used and recognized by people all over the world. These are typically short clips of a person’s facial expression changing in response to some unknown occurrence behind the camera. As an online community, we have used these images again and again in order to represent our own reaction to events specific to our own lives. These GIF reactions are so incredibly relatable, it’s tempting to think that there is a complex process behind what makes them so universal that they overcome language barriers. However, these genius little clips are simple extensions of what the vision centers in our brains have been evolutionarily wired to compute. Just like we can recognize that a person is happy when they smile or sad when they pout, we can associate a common human emotion in a GIF reaction and give it context.

As discussed in this video, time is incredibly important in both the creation and interpretation of the visual world. I will need to slow down and allow myself to take in what I see, to allow events to unfold and simply observe rather than conduct the premature analysis that is my tendency.

Having read “The Story Behind…Migrant Mother,” (https://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/11/06/dorothea-lange-migrant-mother-elizabeth-partridge/) I was most struck by the Dorthea Lange’s quote: “’Isn’t this just more of the same?’” Dorthea Lange’s questioning of the validity of continuing her work, capturing the same images of people suffering through the depression, is eye-opening. She almost did not capture her most iconic photograph. We should not brashly attempt to record as much as we possibly can, rather we should take our time to notice and appreciate a moment as it unfolds. Lange could not have recognized that her photo would become what it became. She must have empathized so deeply with the family in that moment so as to realize that despite the hundreds of photographs she had taken of the people in the pea camps, each captured image relayed a unique sorrow. Each image, lacking the color and clarity of modern photography, still crisply delineates the harrowing pain these people suffered.

Putting the tips to the test-

The photo above is one I took while kayaking. This photo is a success for me in that I was able to manipulate the scene around me to achieve the desired perspective. Littered along the surface of most of the lake were boats and jet skis, but I was able to position myself and the camera in a manner that excluded these extra elements. In doing this, the photo gives the impression of a lone kayaker, miles from anyone else. I am pleased with how I was able to slow and take a new perspective, as well as dominate the color scheme with a completely natural and unedited blue tint, however I don’t think this is my best photo of the week. The picture lacks depth and angles, the mountains appear unimpressive and almost two dimensional.

This next picture is an image of my roommate and best friend Ian as he sips his morning coffee, I would consider it my best photo of the week. Ian is my biggest critic when it comes to the way that I take and edit photos, he tends to think that an unedited photo is far superior to one with a filter, although I think he must be a little biased since he has the high quality camera of the iPhone 6s. I was inspired to take this picture almost three minutes before I actually pressed down on the shutter button. I first experimented with placing focus on Ian in the background and then shifting that focus to the foreground. Placing focus on the pillow that was on my lap at the time makes for a more compelling photo. The texture of the pillow can be seen in vivid detail, it becomes the subject of the image, slightly distracting from the only animate being in the frame.

There is an implied directionality from the angles found in the pillow that point in Ian’s general direction. The slight indirectness is further complimented by the blurring effect of the light pouring in from the window display behind Ian, nothing about his presence in the photo is particularly clear. His stance appears unnatural although he did in fact strike and hold that pose for several minutes without prompt. The angle at which this photo was taken was my attempt to assume a different perspective in the moment. The natural light was enhanced by my refocusing of the camera on the foreground rather than the background, which negated my incessant need for a filter. The most important achievement in taking this photo was that I allowed the moment to unfold gradually before deciding to take my shot, I allowed the image to evolve on its own while I simply manipulated the view to achieve the softness of the image.


I will begin my very first blog post with honesty: I have very little idea of what I’m doing or what to expect. I’m not good with digital technology, I visit approximately three different websites regularly, and one of those is my Email. I prefer to work with raw materials, I’ve always used my hands to build my world but my world is being digitized regardless of how I like things to be done. I’ll be blogging from my summer location of Lake Tahoe in California and most of the stories I produce will likely involve my job as a camp counselor and my outdoor adventures. So hopefully I’ll figure all of this out and become at least a small part of this digital world.