Monthly Archives: October 2010

Are Portraits a Window into People’s Souls?

Recently, while listening to one of the podcasts I subscribe to, Philosophy Bites, the subject came up discussing portraits and some various thoughts on portraits being and insight to a person. It isn’t very long and I recommend it.

The podcast resonated with me since it, in some ways, echoed my thoughts of portraits and the people being photographed. I make no claim to have some sort of superpower which allows me to stare directly into the subject’s soul, but I do feel that there is something I learn about the subjects in the act of taking their portraits. Self image, imagination, self-reflection and willingness to take risks come across very clearly during a session.
This is no less true when taking portraits of groups. In general when shooting groups I first ask the people to arrange themselves in a way that feels right to them. Most of the time, aside from some adjusting on my part, they are very close to being spot on. It is very telling about the family on how people position and posture themselves in relation to others in the group. Who stands next to who? What spacing do individual impose? What are they doing with their hands and arms? That says a lot about the dynamics within a family. I am not saying it is a perfect window, but it is very telling.
So, next time you look at a portrait, even if it is a family snapshot by uncle Ray, look at the arrangement, see what things you can pull from that photo, you may be surprised. Likewise, when you are being photographed, what are you telling the world about yourself?

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 31, 2010 in Musings


Tags: , , , , , ,

The iPad: Is the Honeymoon over?


Jeff-Jones-And-iPad–8433, originally uploaded by ecfman.

Last time I wrote a rather long blog regarding my impressions of my newly purchased iPad and promised a follow up. Well, here it is. Before you go any further I need to give attention to some details, I have not read the review since I posted it. There may be some overlap between the two reviews but I feel this is necessary to keep me from thinking too much.

Before purchasing, I knew I would like this device, I just never comprehended how much I would love and use it. The reason for buying the iPad was to get me out of the dungeon of my basement (where my normal computer resides) and bring me into the light of the upper world. To that extent the iPad is a complete success.

The purpose, as in the designer’s purpose, was to be almost strictly a media consumer device. In other words, a very simple computer for browsing the web, reading emails, looking at pictures, listening to music and watching movies. To this end, the device performs admirably. While you can do all the above with a laptop, the iPad’s weight, battery life, lack of heat generation and greater portability often makes it superior for these general functions than a laptop. One can hold the iPad easily in one’s hands thus reading ebooks, emails, browsing the web is like, well… reading a book. The controls and functionality make this a very enjoyable experience. While you can lay on the couch with a laptop, it is not nearly the same experience.

While the design and intent was NOT for content creation, a large body of users are making this a platform to that end. There are word processors, spreadsheets, presentation programs as well as a myriad of other productivity/business application out in the market. I am attempting to see how much of my work (as in work at Caterpillar) can be done solely with the iPad. I have a feeling once I get a few things ironed out the amount may be around 90%.

What do I Love?
The low cost of programs (called apps). Generally they are less than $5 and almost always under $10. AND, and…..many of them are FREE!

The vast number of apps. There is almost an app for everything. Given the low cost, it makes trying apps fairly risk free.

The battery life. The company states 10 hour life and I think they are right.

The interface with programs. Touching and physically interacting with the screen is a better experience with many programs. The interface is very intuitive and designed for easy of use.

What I don’t like.

No file folder system. Unlike most computers, files are not saved in some folder that can be accessed by any program on the iPad. Instead, you can create folders, but always within the confines of the individual program. For instance, with Filebrowser I can download a file from my network to my iPad, but it saves it to the folders I create in Filebrowser. To open in Goodreader I need to tell Filebrowser to open it up in Goodreader but then Goodreader creates its own copy in its own folder. Now when I edit that pdf in Goodreader it is NOT making changes to the file in Filebrowser. To make matters worse, some of the older applications force you to email yourself a copy in order to open the file in another application (ala Carbonite). I sure do hope the upgrade to iOS eliminates that..

Lack of Pivot Tables/Charts for spreadsheet programs. This is HUGE for me. This functionality is probably the greatest uses I have for spreadsheets. Without this functionality, there is no way I could ever replace my work laptop.

Multi-processing. I do a lot of shifting between programs to create content. For instance, going between the Notes, a bible app and a pdf reader means shutting down one before going to another. While this does happen rather quickly, this shifting back and forth is very clunky when done often. This should be fixed with the next iOS upgrade.

iTunes – It is perplexing how a company known for innovation and technology interfaces would put out such a MISERABLE PIECE OF SOFTWARE. Come on! This is more than a music management software, this is the method for syncing, backing up and managing files on the iPad/iPod devices. While I get around with it fairly well, it still is a cobbled up piece of software.

Writing on the screen with the finger. The device is very sensitive to touch, but that of a finger tip. I don’t know how the screen registers contact but it is not via pressure. A normal stylus will not work. There are a number of apps that allow writing on the screen with the finger, but this doesn’t work well for a number of reasons. I may purchase a special stylus to see if that helps.

Overall, I find this device indispensable for the reasons noted above. Even with all the apps released, I don’t think the power of this kind of device is even close to being fully utilized. With iPads being on the market for less than a year and with a whole slew of tablets from the “other guys” we are bound to see prices drop, features increase and innovation increase. While the iPad is not a total computer replacement for most people, it definitely will replace a good part of our home usage.

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Reviews


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Thoughts on Black and White Photography


Batman Jack-8184, originally uploaded by Jeff Jones.

I like black and white photography. I might even go so far as to say, in general, I prefer black and white photography over color. Obviously, not all pictures work best in a monochromatic format but black and white photos produce a certain vibe that color can never produce.

It is rather ironic that, for something like 100 years, photography either did not have the ability to produce images in color or could not do so in a cost-effective way. In the days where “everything” was black and white people went through great lengths to add a color palate to their images. My parents, who graduated high school around 1950, had their photos painted, or at least touched up with some dye. Some red for the cheeks, some brown for the hair and maybe some blue for the dress. It wasn’t perfect, but it provided a splash of color that people felt were missing.
Once color hit the portrait studios, TV screens and movie studios, there was no looking back. People wanted, nay demanded, that their consumption media was in color. In order to increase viewership of older movies he owned, Ted Turner even when so far as to go back to the classics digitally rendered them in color, much to the dismay of movie buffs.

But yet despite that it is a technological throwback, many still enjoy black and white photography. Why is that?

It forces us to look at the world in a different way. Most of us see the world in color and are used to viewing objects and backgrounds tinted in the unlimited pallet of colors and hues that this universe offers. The act of taking a picture compresses the three-dimensional world to that of a flat piece of paper. Because we remove the important element of depth, we are left with fewer visual clues about the picture. The flattened picture becomes less about subjects and objects and more about interplay of color. It is no longer a green dress against a beautiful green grass, but rather a splash of red against a swath of green. Even with a person’s features, it is more of an interplay between colors more than about the subject itself (i.e. the blue of the eye against the pink tone of the skin)

Stripped of color the photo allows us to pay more attention to the lines, the textures and the shapes of the image. The interplay of the elements of the picture changes, it becomes a different animal all together. With portraits, monochromatic treatment allows us to concentrate on the subject and the characteristics of the subject.

Also, since we don’t see in black and white, black and white photography causes us to look at subject in a way not found in nature. While the term “abstract” is not correct, there is a somewhat abstract to black and white that facilitates introspection rather than a passing glance.

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 22, 2010 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , ,