Saturday, May 10, 2008

Blog of note

My colleague David Weintraub, who occupies the same nook as I do oh so far, far away from the main office, has been blogging for Black Star. Good stuff, especially if you are into teaching -- or learning -- visual communications.

David is an accomplished photographer. His latest post (yeah, yeah, try not to look at the date, OK; I said I was behind) is a good recap of the joys, mostly, of teaching the beginning and advanced photography classes. Some good thoughts, I think, that apply far beyond just photo classes:

  • Here's the take-away message for me from all this: given something fun and creative to do, students will figure out the technical challenges -- this is their reward for being so-called digital natives. They still need to be taught the broad concepts: developing a story arc, shooting sequences and details, editing for maximum impact, and using audio effectively. (David was talking about having them do slide shows.)
  • The students themselves told me they need more training in basic photographic principles -- good old f-stops and shutter speeds, lighting ratios, depth of field, etc. I think I've succumbed to the "set it on auto" syndrome. ... The fact is, the current crop of auto-everything digital SLRs are so good that you can hardly go wrong by using the auto setting. But what I heard from my students was instructive: they weren't learning much from letting the camera do the thinking. They wanted to be in control and, if need be, learn from their mistakes. (That's something we all can remember as more and more of this stuff just becomes turning to a site on the Web, be it audio, video, slide shows, site creation, etc.)
  • I've found that teaching is a delicate balancing act: sometimes you provide as much information as possible, and sometimes you stand back and get out of the students' way. Knowing when to do which is a challenge.
Also, read two of his previous posts:
  • What do you tell students who want to be photographers in the age of everyone-can-do-it photography? (Hint, that they need to realize they are not just photographers, but visual problem solvers. And I like David's implicit endorsement for why many vis comm students should take my editing class: They may also be called upon to write captions, press releases, articles, and produce infographics.)
  • A solid piece exploring the bounds of ethical practices in visual communication.
As I told David, my only quibble isn't with him, but with Black Star, which has the blog set up rather weirdly. There is no way I have found to click on a link and see all the posts David has written. No archive of past posts, no clickable link on his name. And if you go into the main blog,, and click backward, I'll be danged if I see any of his posts. Unless I'm being exceedingly dense (highly likely), Black Star is running afoul of some key points of the blogging ethos. It's also making it hard to know when to go to the site to read Weintraub since the RSS feed is of the main blog only, not broken down by contributor.

On the other hand, Black Star is using Joomla, which brilliantly is one of the few content management systems that allows you to immediately download a PDF of a post (yes, it's not that hard to print to PDF these days, but this one is formatted correctly the first time -- ever run into the fun of printing some sites in a Mozilla browser? -- and is quick). Again, a small quibble that so few sites seem to get -- include a URL in that printout. Maybe I want to hand it off to someone else who wants to see the thing digitally or who wants to cite it down the road.

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At 5/10/08, 1:02 PM, Blogger Scott Baradell said...

Doug, I appreciate and agree with your feedback about searching for posts by author. This is one of the limitations of the current setup that we intend to correct in an upcoming redesign.

At 5/10/08, 3:37 PM, Blogger Doug said...


Great. Look forward to seeing the improvements.


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