Here it is – my final project (at least the preliminary attempt) for presentation tonight. I would appreciate any and all comments. It’s been a whirlwind of a semester – learning HTML and CSS, Photoshop and ideas about design. And I admit to being just a little bit tired. But it is gratifying to see my very own website appear, and not look horrible!
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As Beth G. has intelligently pointed out this week – a website is different than a webpage. So my design assignment, posted here, is simply that – a webpage with the nascent hint of a website. View it first here. I used the original Digital Portfolio navigation to get to the final project, and then changed the navigation to better suit the “new” site. I tried to keep the design as simple as possible, without overdoing it (since this is a national history sort of site). I’m not wed to the font – still searching for something a bit thinner and more “stately”. And I’m still trying to figure out how to change the color of the font. All of my research and tools, and I haven’t been able to fix it. Perhaps someone in class might be able to help? But all in all, it’s a start.
As suggested by Professor Petrik, I am going with something “new” (so you will see no women in the military!) and I hope you enjoy this very different sort of topic. This was also a research paper for a former class, but I am planning to make it applicable to use on a website by changing some of the format and focus. After all, this is supposed to be a digital history website, not a research paper pasted into HTML. That would be terribly boring.
Beth G. and Kirk both paused for a moment to reflect. Since plagiarism is the greatest form of flattery, I will pause for a moment as well. With all the challenges this semester has brought, I was admittedly pleased to find myself able to construct a basic webpage this week without tearing my hair out. I was even more pleased that I was able to manipulate (even if it was in minuscule amounts) the CSS to change the navigation, move things around and attempt to make the page look cleaner. It’s absolutely gratifying NOT to have an entire page crash just because I attempt to change the line-spacing. I am working on another site for a different class, and was even more pleased to see that I could confidently go into Omeka, click on the “HTML” button, and insert some of my own code! I felt like a real (almost) website builder!
So, thank you to Clio II for giving me these tools. As with all things really worth having, none of it was easy. And the journey is not over yet, but I am glad to see the light at the end of the tunnel and that the journey proved fruitful after all.
This week I posted on Beth G’sblog.
The unceremonious approach seems to have worked well for other people’s submissions, so I will follow suit. Here it is, and as Kirk stated, prepared not to be blown away. . . but, I was impressed with what I have learned in Photoshop, since I started with such humble beginnings. Enjoy, and please have fun laughing at my hand colored photo of the military women. Obviously, I have some work to do! http://womeninmilitaryhistory.com/image.html
Ah, coloring. It was so fun as a kid. Pick a crayon (it didn’t even have to “match” whatever you wanted to color) and go to town. The littlest kids don’t even have to stay inside the lines.
My world has been turned upside down. Coloring has (hopefully only temporarily) lost its magic. Not only do I have to stay inside the lines, I have to create the lines! Our experiments in class were very helpful, though at times frustrating. I thought I would be able to replicate to some extent what I had done in class, but hand coloring a photo has completely escaped me. I will continue to try, and hope to have something vaguely resembling what we accomplished in class by tomorrow night.
In the meantime, my other experiments have fared a bit better. Please take a look at my Image assignment page http://womeninmilitaryhistory.com/image.html to check it out. I realize the outcomes are modest, but am glad to have made the progress I have made and look forward to getting better with practice!
One of the things I thought about was “what does ‘fix’ mean?” Much like Kirk and Beth Garcia, fixing marks and blurs I found relatively easy to do and easy to accept. Beyond that, I had a harder time decided exactly what to do to ‘fix’ Cat and Man. Do I take out the frame, like Kirk did? Do I focus on the marks and blurs? So I did a little bit of both, and then had some fun. (see next post)
The more I thought, and the more I played with Photoshop, the more I was reminded of something in one of the Lynda.com videos. When someone asks how much it would cost to “fix” a photo, the narrator asked back, “how much time do you want me to spend on it?” We could spend an infinite amount of time fixing photos, but what are we trying to get out of it? Do we want to add context or texture? Or do we just want to bring out some of the details? As with anything, we need to think about our audience, our purpose and the second and third order effects of our “corrections”.
This week I commented on Kirk’s blog and Beth’s
Photoshop has always intrigued me. Once we start “fixing” pictures, or changing them to make them “better”, what are we really doing? Are the pictures still “real” or are they fake? Are they works of art or interpretations?
The readings this week spoke directly to those questions. I had thought that historical pictures were supposed to be “real” and was unsure how I felt about applying Photoshop techniques to those pictures. What do we lose when we change a picture, especially when we go beyond basic cropping (to focus on one aspect of the picture)? How do we know that we are fixing something the correct way? Or does it matter? At the end of the day, the real question (for me) is – what is the purpose in applying Photoshop to a picture?
Errol Morris tries to make the case for objects that bring reality into our living rooms. The adjustments and settings that make Arthur Rothstein’s pictures so compelling also seem to detract from their credibility. This really made me look at historical photos in a completely new way. They are subject to interpretation just as much as the written word. They require research, thoughtful analysis and critical thinking just as any other primary source document might.
Another question that occurred to me – can pictures become secondary sources due to the nature of their original purpose (whether propoganda or otherwise), or their updated purpose (once subject to the tools of Photoshop)? Perhaps so.
As challenging as it has been to use Photoshop, there are more tasks ahaed of us. Before we open up a picture to “fix” it, we need to first think of what we want to accomplish and why.
So this week I actually delved into Photoshop – and became a little less scared of it. Beth’s comments from before Spring Break were very appropriate. It turns out you really do just have to jump in and try some things to figure out a) you cannot break it (I always ensure I save the original as a distinct name, because I’m paranoid that I will lose it forever if I don’t) and b) you can’t really understand some of the concepts until you try to employ them.
The Lynda.com videos definitely helped, since they guide you through many of the functions step-by-step, and show you what each tool looks like along the way. This significantly increased my comfort level with Photoshop, and encouraged me to try a few of the tools. To build my collection of images, I went to the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs website. For photos, I searched for women in the military, and found many World War II images of women working, whether actually in the military or in wartime production plants, etc. For the engraving, I broadened my time period (for obvious reasons) and found some images from the Civil War era that were interesting. So, I have a group of images with which to work.
Wading into the shallow end of the pool, I went for the cropping function first. I purposefully kept my expectations low. As a consequence, it was almost impossible to be disappointed with the results! With a sufficient amount of confidence-building done, I kept going. I quickly understood what Tim Grey was talking about when he said that you could conceivably spend an inordinate amount of time “fixing” an image. Instead of asking how good he wanted an image to look, he took the approach of how much time do I have to work with this image, and what is an acceptable level of improvement. This helped to scope his efforts, and prioritize where the image needed the most help. I think this will prove crucial in our projects.
Next, I tried my hand at an engraving. Again, I kept my expectations low since I was just starting to work with the application. I successfully navigated the steps contained in the reading, and was pleasantly surprised to see significant improvement in my image. (see below)
One of the things I noticed as I went through the images – I started looking for the message I wanted to convey. Cropping an image to focus on a particular aspect, highlight some portion of an image or sharpening the focus to highlight another feature became a central part of the process. Photoshop does not seem to be just about “fixing” pictures, which is always what I had assumed it to be. Making images better is an obvious, and should not be understated, use of Photoshop. However, there is more. Using the tools (and I have not even scratched the surface), a person might convey more meaning and more context than the original image alone may have done.
See my comments on Beth’s blog.