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Critique of Alyssa’s Image Assignment

For this week’s blog, I will be critiquing Alyssa’s image assignment, seen here. As you can see, there’s really not much to critique, it’s all very well done! First off, I really like the web page itself. It’s very compact and has a great color combination. The use of purple text contrasts nicely against the background,  and the text itself has a historic feel to it. Now, on to the images.

(From this point on, I will be addressing Alyssa) I appreciated that you broke it down into several sections making specific alterations to various images. That made it very easy to know what changed. The first section starts with a restored photograph. Unfortunately, the photoshop restoration appears to have a broken link, so I was not able to see the changes. I’m sure once you check that out, you’ll be able to insert a working link. As for the second image, it is very well done. The dust and scratches were completely removed. I am impressed by the removal of the stains at the top. Those seem like they could require more work than a simple click of the spot healing brush. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but I didn’t see any text that explained the techniques used to fix this image. Your text describes the capitol building, but that has the broken link. Whatever you did certainly worked out very well. I really like the way you lightened the entire photo. This makes it much clearer and is a good alternative to colorizing the whole thing. That being said, one suggestion I have would be to see some color added. Not the whole thing, but maybe just the sky to add some additional colorization.

The section on vignetting was very well done. I’m glad you put the images side by side for this one because you made some serious changes. The statue is perfectly centered, and the fade around the image looks very nice. The best part of this photo manipulation was your ability to remove the text and edges of the original photo. In the vignetted image, it seems like the statue is even bigger and really stands out. You’ve illustrated a great way to highlight a specific part of an image. You also included a concise description of what you’ve done here. That was actually very helpful to me, because I used that as a guideline for working on my own vignette. I tried a different way, so it was good to see an alternative that achieved such solid results.

The last section on the engraving was once again very good. You’ve done a great job straightening the headline. By making the background so much lighter you effectively removed the most damaged part of the image. Although the title is still smudged, it’s nowhere near as bad as it was. And I actually think that looks good because it shows that this is a very old image. I’m glad that you decided to use such a damaged newspaper print, because that seems like a common problem that historians using Photoshop will encounter. It’s good to see that not all images can be completely restored.

Overall, the images are expertly manipulated to achieve your desired results. Of the few suggestions I have, one is to add some color to the vignetting and restored photos. Perhaps that’s what you had in mind for the first image, but it just didn’t show up. Although colorizing is very time consuming, it can have some really great effects. In your vignetted image, I can see the white square background. I think it could be even better to use your site’s background color as the color fill layer in Photoshop. That way there wouldn’t be a noticeable whiteness behind the image. Lastly, I viewed this page on a few browsers and it lags a bit. When I tried to scroll up and down I found my computer stalling, so my guess was that the image size or type might contribute to that.

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Comment on Michael’s Blog

My comment’s on Michael’s blog post “Playing with Historic Photographs.

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Comment on Ben’s Blog

I forgot to post this last week, but here’s my comment on Ben’s post “Images and Photography (Week & Readings)”

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Some Fundamentals of Design

The readings and work from this week really centered on design. I think for many historians that’s not always a strong point (I know I’ve struggled with creating good designs). Design becomes extremely important, especially when using Photoshop. I’ve found that the amount of alterations that can be made to an image can be overwhelming. For these reasons I really enjoyed reading chapter 5 in Robin Williams’ The Non-Designer’s Design Book that dealt with contrast. The proper use of contrast on a web page is an excellent technique when it comes to the overall design. Without being too crazy, contrast offers a basic way to draw the viewer’s attention to the site and keep it there. Simplicity is key and it’s something that I try to keep in mind as I continue working on my project.

However, this is not to say that contrast should be totally subdued. As Williams’ states several times, if you’re going to use contrast “don’t be a wimp.” Contrast relies on things being different, so if you’re using images, colors, texts, etc. that are somewhat similar then you’re not going to get the desired result. The images Williams’ uses in the book provide solid examples of how contrast can change a document, whether it’s in print or on the web. These illustrations helped me realize the issues I’ve been having with my own site’s design. Besides my lack of proximity (which I hope has been rectified) I’ve struggled with directing the viewer’s eye through my page. My typography page was too simple and didn’t really have a starting point for the viewer. I realize now that contrast could solve that issue. I plan on spending some time working on the color contrasts as well as font size contrasts to see if I can jazz up my web page a bit.

I plan on incorporating what I’ve learned from Photoshop to enhance the design of my site. I haven’t posted it yet, but I made a change to the top part of my typography page. Rather than just a title that wasn’t very clear, I now have an image with the title “Murder in the Capitol” that I created in Photoshop. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

U.S.-Capitol-1846

Personally, I think it’s pretty cool. However, I know that personal opinions shouldn’t determine what goes up on a site that will be viewed by more than just me. For now, I’m just happy that I was able to create something in Photoshop while successfully attaching it to my html page. It’s certainly progress!

Having just watched a 3 hour tutorial on Lynda.com (here’s the link) I’m confident that I’ll be able to continue to improve my Photoshop skills. Lynda provides such in-depth analysis of how to do specific things in Photoshop that it can be difficult to retain all of that information. It always helps me to watch the video and then start messing around in Photoshop to see what I remember and what I can figure out.

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Reaction to Errol Morris’ Alarm Clock Investigation

The readings for this week were quite timely for me as they once again reminded me that there is more to Photoshop than just manipulating images. As of my last post, I’ve spent a great deal of time working with Photoshop and it’s been amazing to see the capabilities of the program. It’s easy to see how people can go overboard on the manipulation of images. The possibilities appear to be endless! In my limited experience with the program I’ve learned how to remove bits of dust and dirt, scratches, glares, and even faded parts of an image. With all of the various tools and properties, it’s been difficult to even remember how to make all of these exciting alterations. I’m sure that the more I interact with Photoshop, the more familiar I’ll become with the best approaches for specific changes, whether that is re-colorizing an image or perhaps replacing a missing corner.

That being said, it was beneficial to read Errol Morris’ series titled “The Case of the Inappropriate Alarm Clock.” I really enjoyed reading about the history behind the story. Morris examines the photos taken by the Farm Security Administration (F.S.A.) during the presidency of FDR. I was most fascinated by the discussion of the photo of the migrant mother. That’s a photo I’ve seen many times and it was interesting to hear the migrant mother’s thoughts on the photo. When I first began reading I assumed at some point Morris would discuss how old photos can be improved using programs like Photoshop. I was way off. The main point of this series questions the historical legitimacy of photography. What makes a photo believable? According to Morris, from the moment a photo is taken, it is altered from its original state. While it is easy to think of Photoshop as a threat to the legitimacy of images, the image has likely gone through its own transformation prior to even arriving in a Photoshop workspace. As Morris reveals, many photographers staged photos to produce a desired result. Does this make them less viable as a historic resource? Not necessarily, it simply changes how people react to a photo and that reaction can change depending on the culture of the times.

Photoshop, and other image manipulation programs, are yet another step in the transformation of an image. What I took away from Morris’ series is to always consider the changes that I am making to an image. This is especially important because I am creating a historical website that has a foundation in historical and legitimate research. What I present in words on my site must be factual if I want to be taken seriously (which I do). The same goes for images. That’s not something I thought of too much prior to the reading this week. While I’m excited to enact so many cool and exciting improvements to an old image, I must keep in mind not to jeopardize the integrity of the image. Just as it’s important to provide quotes with context and not just cherry-pick specific lines that support an argument, images should not be so distorted as to influence its meaning. For me, the use of Photoshop comes down to this: just because you can do something (even if it’s really awesome) doesn’t mean you should. I’ll keep that advice in mind as I move forward with my site.

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Discoveries in Photoshop

With spring break around the corner I was looking forward to some brief relaxation, but then I remembered I’m in grad school and spring break isn’t what it used to be. I’ll be spending the next week with Photoshop and Dreamweaver as I attempt to improve my website. I spent several hours yesterday working on my Type page, trying to fix up some of the design issues that were commented on in class. Chief among those was proximity. I noticed that my site felt like it was just floating on the page with no real boundaries. In an attempt to resolve that problem, I created a <div> .container within the body. This tightened up the overall look and added some more color (another issue altogether is finding a good color scheme). Of course, the main issue with creating a .container was that I then had to change the rest of my dimensions to make sure the content fit in the page. This was good practice to remind me of how to make changes in the CSS.

I also finished up watching the Photoshop CC tutorial on Lynda.com. I didn’t find this tutorial as informative as the others I have watched. It seemed like this one was aimed at an audience who would work on Photoshop and then send it to a web developer. Many of the segments were about addressing the client’s needs and less about the specifics of Photoshop. I’m really trying to learn the nuts and bolts of the software so I know what it is capable of, and I don’t feel I got that from this tutorial. I’m thinking I’ll look at some other Photoshop videos that might be more specific to my needs. However, I did find one cool bit of information! I noticed that several of my classmates have made their .containers with rounded edges. I really like that look, but couldn’t figure out how to do that for the life of me…until I watched the Photoshop video. Apparently all it takes is adding a border-radius. In a nutshell, that’s what I like most about this course: when things make sense. It’s a very satisfying feeling to have those light-bulb moments. For me, it’s like doing a crossword puzzle and all of the sudden the right word clicks into place. I’m hoping for more of those along the way.

As we approach the half-way point (or are we past that?) of the semester, I want to get some of my final website ideas out there. Right now, I’ve got this idea that focuses on the reaction to a homicide that took place on May 8, 1856 in Washington, DC. Philemon T. Herbert, a Democrat Congressman, shot and killed Thomas Keating, an Irish waiter at the Willard’s Hotel, after some heated words were exchanged, plates were broken, and punches were thrown. Herbert was tried in court for manslaughter on July 10, but during the 2 months leading up to the trial, the details and reaction to the case appeared in newspapers across the country. I’m interested in providing a visual platform to emphasize how quickly this news spread from DC all the way to California (the state represented by Herbert). I’d like to use a map with pop up points that the viewer can click to see the newspaper and the date of specific publications. My hope is to show how the reaction to the Herbert case reflected the sectional divide that dominated the nation in 1856. Some of my other pages would focus on the account of the homicide, descriptions of the main characters, and why this was a significant moment for the growth of the Republican Party. I’m still hashing out the details of how I’ll make this an intriguing website, so any suggestions are certainly appreciated.

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Comment on Michael’s Post

Here is the link to my comments on Michael’s blog post, “Spinning the Color Wheel and Topic Choices.”

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