Decided to Not be Dark for Once

I started off thinking I would take a darker take on this Digital Storytelling class assignment, a visual assignment called the “Make Your Own Spubble”. I took an old photo of myself, taken by my friend Dil a couple years ago (during which she had an obsession with so-called “emo” culture), which she had turned into greyscale for dramatic effect. As you may have noticed, I love black and white photography for this very reason.


However, I was in a great mood, so I decided to do a different take and follow the suggestion to make the “spubble” (a portmanteau of “speech” and “bubble” in this case, not the Urban Dictionary definition) add humor to the photo, which was obviously especially challenging in this case. I first decided a splash of color would help lift the aesthetic mood, so I selected an intense red outline for the spubble, then overlayed one of the rather limited options for spubbles available on Google Drawings. I thought the curly edges, usually indicative of thought, made sense in this case since the photo shows me not speaking.

I didn’t like the way it looked with a solid white background, but a transparent bubble wouldn’t look right either, for the letters would not have been visible in black or white against the many greys of the background…I learned that this is an advantage of black and white when words need to be superimposed on an image. I resolved this issue by making the bubble semi-transparent white, just light enough to see the black letters.

Overall I think it went surprisingly well. I may recreate this photo later, but with greater attention to detail than in the original, and with consideration of the photography tips we’re currently learning. In particular, I may want to do this photo from a different angle, giving more power to the perspective, as recommended by David duChemin, or use Jason Eskenazi’s photography in WONDERLAND: A Fairy Tale of the Soviet Monolith and analysis in Storytelling and Visual Literacy as inspiration for a more geometric composition of the figure.

A Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood: Using Tips and Reflecting on What I’ve Learned About Photography in General

Even though we got several resources to draw photography tips from, I decided to focus on the ideas provided in TEN: Ten Ways to Improve Your Craft. None of Them Involve Buying Gear by David duChemin after I found the ebook available online for free. His writing style is very visual and intuitive, and I highly recommend the book.

This is a cursory summary of how I used his ideas to go on a little photography adventure in my neighborhood, for lack of better subjects, earlier this week. (I made a compromise with myself: make the neighborhood interesting today, and this weekend I’ll go camping so I have something cool for my scavenger hunt.) All the pictures are also available here on my Flickr.


At first, I couldn’t think of any way to seek a new perspective other than to physically alter the position from which I took photos. I can’t say I’m unhappy with the results. The dizzy sideways perspective of the photo feels novel and interesting, even though its portraying the most mundane of scenes: a sunny day in a suburban neighborhood. It makes me think of a story about someone growing up in a place that’s not quite what it seems, maybe a community or family that’s a little sideways itself even though it seems ordinary and dull. A little like my life, come to think of it.

In particular, I have a better grasp on the concept of “the perspective of lines” that duChemin discusses. The sharp lines of the electric wires and the road both draw the eyes inward and upward into the photo. It serendipitously turned out that the lines seem to divide everything roughly into thirds, with the blue road being one third and the two portions of sky on either side of the electric wires composing the second and third thirds, while the green of the tree above, lawn below, and grassy yard make for three portions of green. I could see this inspiring a piece of modern art, actually, with angled geometric lines and patches of bright blue and green.

The next photo pretty much was taken in the same way, farther down the same street. I was less satisfied with it because while the perspective is unique and interesting for the same reasons as in the other photo, it did not have the same effect, quite possibly because it violates the rule of thirds as well as lacking balance and depth.



This photo utilizes the previous concept in an entirely different way. I explored the perspective of linear patterns by trying to take the photo lower down, where the grass seems to be stretching (or exploding) outward from a dense mass. It reminds me a little of a palm tree. And, of course, the fuzzy plant I wanted to photograph interrupts the background, although not completely; the bend of the end seems to let it almost fit into the outward movement of the grass. Unintentionally, I found myself creating depth, partly a result of trying to consider background and foreground.


First of all, I’d like to address the glaring problem with this photo. My dog decided that this would be the perfect moment to appear, but only so my boyfriend’s hand covered his nose.

But otherwise, this was by far my favorite photo. I was aiming to use the tip “Better Contrast Makes Better Stories” with the idea to contrast both the visual differences and the personal differences between my boyfriend, Zack, and I. Once again, things went unintentionally well, I believe in part because I stopped to think about how I wanted the photo to look and how each version looked. Paying attention to the moment really can pay off it seems, perhaps because that lets our intuitive visual literacy (as Jason Ezkenazi describes in his video Storytelling and Visual Literacy) has a chance to process things. That reminds me of a book called Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by pop psychologist  Malcolm Gladwell, which discusses the concept that subconscious intuitions often work better than explicit, conscious knowledge and analysis. Or maybe I’m overthinking it and I just got lucky.



I Need Vitamin Sea: Whining and Collage-Making

Summer always worsens my persistent cabin fever and wanderlust, especially for the seaside with its unique charm. I don’t know if I can wait until August for my “Vitamin Sea” after scrolling through all these beautiful pictures on Pinterest! But at the moment I am trapped inside, working on my projects for Digital Storytelling. Which is why I immediately chose the “You In Collage Form” Assignment from the Visual Assignment Bank, thinking of the vacation ideas I was pinning earlier (to see some, check out my travel-themed Pinterest board “Dream Passport”).

I was inspired by the casual layout that Pinterest provides to structure each board, arranging the different sized Pins so that they snap into preset spaces of varying standard sizes. However, after trying five different online collage makers, I could not recreate that effect. So I found that my best approximation was making a “PowerPoint” (actually using the Google Drive software’s Google Slides, free online with a Gmail account) that is sized to be a 3′ x 4′ poster so  I could fit everything in. If printing posters weren’t so expensive, I would actually love to print it. Then I simply added photos via url, which works seamlessly with Google Chrome’s menu option “Copy link address” and probably just as well with other browsers. I resized photos to optimize their clarity, as well as based on the importance they had, and arranged them around the frame of the background. The only involved photo-editing was turning the picture I chose for the center black and white, and cutting it into the shape of a heart, so it would stand out from the rest and break the block-y appearance it had. Finally, to make the background a little more subdued, I increased the transparency of the background image 10%, centered it, and made the slide color dark blue. And voila, a fun collage that tells you something about me.

Still wish I was going to the beach though.

Week 1

I completed all of the week’s assignments, but I struggled with the sheer amount of wok provided. I realized I have tendency to be perfectionistic, especially in my photography. For instance, I delete many of the photos I took. In the future, I will try to overcome that tendency.

I am somewhat confused as to what extent our work in this course is to reflect our creative desires versus the class requirements. My own creative impetus was to focus on the written aspect, since I think of storytelling as primarily written, even though the assignments all seemed to demand a lot of visual considerations. The same line of thought makes me wonder if the work we do has any social or cultural impact at all, considering the strict confines on creativity imposed by certain requirements. Although then again, some of the greatest pieces of art were commissioned, and yet they channeled creative tendencies unique to their creators.

My work for the week started off with creating the social media profiles for the course and an introductory blogpost with all of them. I proceeded to do visual assignments, daily creates, and photography as directed.

A link to your Photo Safari

A link to your Photoreflection

A link to your reflection on the photo safari

Links to Three Daily Creates

My first Daily Create Assignment was to “Morph Into Jim Groom” on Wednesday. Click on the image to see my post about it.


And of course it was Tweeted.




Links to 4 different visual assignment blog post





Update: I am also currently experiencing temporary internet issues, so I’m not sure the updated version will appear online, even though I continually have been trying to update this post.

Is that “dramatic” enough?

For today’s Digital Storytelling Daily Create, there were endless possibilities…but I didn’t have time to come up with any of them because I was busy with my other assignments/otherwise busy life. Then it didn’t matter because the clouds came out anyway. So I settled for “making” an old photo of mine turn into the perfect sunset photo. Like when I found out one of my neighbors (apparently a felon with multiple convictions) shot and killed a police officer, still hasn’t been caught, and intimidated all witnesses out of talking…so maybe I shouldn’t go out in my neighborhood as it grows dark. Its funny what you can learn from spending a long time in the car with someone you didn’t know well.

Anyway, the assignment, called “Into the Sun”, stated simply that we should “Make a dramatic photo at sunrise or sunset.” Sounds simple enough. But I actually think the openness of the prompt is part of what made it so challenging for me creatively. “Dramatic” can also be interpreted a number of ways. As defined by this entry on, “dramatic” is an adjective that can mean…

1. of or relating to the drama.
2. employing the form or manner of the drama.
3. characteristic of or appropriate to the drama, especially in involving conflict or contrast; vivid; moving:
4. highly effective; striking:.
Furthermore, its origin comes from the Ancient Greek word drāmatikós (N.B. the Greek has been transliterated into Roman script, with vowel length and accent noted), a term related to theater itself. Maybe my boyfriend was right to suggest I make the photo dramatic with a menacing clown in the background.
So to make a long, nerdy story short, I decided that the sunset itself is naturally dramatic by virtue of definition number 4 and possibly definition number 3. After all, sunset used to signal the end of the day’s activities and the beginning of the mysterious and possibly dangerous period of darkness that nighttime brings. Its also a time of visual contrast, with different colors, cloud formations, and interesting shadows.
With a little basic enhancement through my phone’s camera app, I managed to make the colors pop, highlighting the contrast between the trailing bits of cloud and half of the sky in cooler, darker greyish purple and the peachy tones of the polluted atmosphere. I actually like that the trees came out looking so dark, since that also helps to give the feeling of a gradient, the left and bottom corners in darkness while the moon draws the eye into the center of the composition (I cropped it a little for this purpose, but not much actually) and the soft light of the sky trails off to the right. I can imagine it being a book cover for one of those novels about redeeming oneself (or alternatively, being corrupted…the important part is the transitional bit) and the little moon on the book’s spine, right about the effusive title.
Is that dramatic enough?
P.S. I didn’t use a source for the Ancient Greek because I am actually studying Ancient Greek as a hobby.

I Am Clearly Jim Groom: Adventures in Old Fashioned Photshopping

My response to the Daily Create challenge to “Morph Into Jim Groom”. At first I thought it was a little bit of an odd challenge, but it grew on me. He’s a pretty cool looking guy. And interesting too. If you’re too lazy to Google who he is, let me just say he sounds pretty darn cool. Even though he doesn’t seem to have his own Wikipedia page, Wikipedia’s page on “edupunk” (yes, that’s a portmanteau “education” and “punk”) credits him with coining the term. Need I say more?

In case you don’t know what he looks like, here’s the picture of him that was used on the page:



I loved this photo so much I spent a long time trying to remember where my plaid flannel shirt was and figuring who to borrow a hat from, before I realized the easiest way to become Jim Groom! After all, before Photoshop there was always cutting out faces and pasting them onto your body.

But before I could do that, I had to find the right picture of myself to paste Jim Groom’s face onto, and get them the print approximately the same size (although I wanted Jim’s head to be a little bigger for comical effect, which I think was achieved); I also thought it would be a little funnier (hopefully? maybe?) if I were in a comical position already, like, say, waving a magic wand while a friend stands awkwardly in the background. Like this:


For this project, I decided to do black and white partly because that cool photo of Jim Groom on the Daily Create page was in black and white, but also because I’m starting to have a thing for the aesthetic of black and white photography in general. It really does accentuate the human figure in my opinion.

To recolor it, I simply re-scanned it in black and white, and chose the black and white version over the colored one.  I would screenshot it for tutorial purposes, but unfortunately this option probably differs between computers, scanners, and software, so its best to avoid the confusion that could bring about. Finally, I cropped the picture, figuring it was unnecessarily large, taking away from the focus on me being Jim Groom.

I know you’re stunned to find out that is not Jim Groom himself, standing next to my bff who is awkwardly smiling and hoping this photo never makes it onto Facebook! Little did she know it would end up on a public blog…oh, and my Twitter

Here’s the beautiful finished product once again, and this time not cut off by WordPress:jimgroom

King of the Dogs

My take (no pun intended) on the Selfie With Your Pet Assignment from the Digital Storytelling Assignment Bank  involves my gorgeous hunk of dog, Arthur. Originally he was named for the lovable aardvark Arthur from a children’s book and TV series of the same name. But almost every time I mention his name, someone suggests he must be named for the legendary King Arthur.

To be fair, he is pretty royal. At about 200 lbs., he is twice the upper size limit for his breed, the Alaskan Malamute. They are all supposed to be known for being loyal, friendly, and sweet-tempered creatures, bred for centuries by the Alaska’s indigenous peoples as sled dogs, and yes, quite possibly bred back with wolves, hence the appearance and tendency to howl. Unlike Huskies, they are known for being larger and more muscular, as well as for superior endurance as opposed to speed. But they were not just kept for dog sledding! Malamutes also kept watch over Inuit children while parents hunted and traveled. I wasn’t surprised to find that out, considering my dog loves children. He also has royal tastes. He won’t drink water without ice cubes and cream added (yes, we tried, but there’s only so long you can let your dog go without water). Arthur will also take his food outside and lay out a full picnic before actually eating. I still can’t think of any other reason he would be carrying his food outside and arranging it.

And, of course, he’s more popular than most dogs, especially in the neighborhood. And especially with the lady dogs!

I wanted to capture him as an equal partner in the selfie, so I tried my best to take the photo from his eye level instead of my own with my phone. He looked right into the camera the first time, but lost patience afterward, so I decided to just go with the blurry but otherwise perfect first shot. I decided not to alter anything because I liked the way it turned out so much. Its not often that one manages a candid selfie, and one with a unique perspective. I think I’ll try more selfies from unusual perspectives and angles, as per the photography suggestions in TEN: Ten Ways to Improve Your Craft. None of Them Involve Buying Gear, an ebook by David duChemin. Its a great resource, available here at Craft & Vision.

I also have this up on Flickr of course.

Rock counts as poetry, right?

I made this for my first visual assignment of Digital Storytelling, called Poetry Art, which can be found here in the ds106 Assignment Bank, in which you make a posters of a poem you like. 

I started to conceive of the idea when I saw this example of the assignment, which can be found at The black and white color scheme caught my eye instantly. I knew that I wanted to do the same. I went rifling through favorite poems of mine (conveniently listed in an old journal), but to no avail. Then I stumbled onto the page of favorite lyrics, and I suddenly knew what to do. 

The way I see it, songs are just poems with music, while poems are merely songs that don’t have music yet. After all, our generation turns to the rhythms of music the same way those in past sought the rhythms of poetry, both following the tendency of contemporary works toward free form and individual expression, and our rock stars hold the same status that poets of the past held in society. Not to say that music has replaced poetry, but I certainly find them close enough to use lyrics for this purpose.

I quoted a few lines from Lithium (see full lyrics here via AZLyrics), a song by the ‘90s rock band Nirvana. They epitomize the sub-genre of grunge, music that (according to Wikipedia) has lyrics that are often “angst-filled, often addressing themes such as social alienationapathy, confinement, and a desire for freedom.” Which in turn means that grunge lyrics are often a perfect background to the way I have viewed life since middle school or so, just as other people’s poems and poets of choice speak to how their perspective. 


I made the background with a free stock photo from Pexels, under the tag depressed; they offer some excellent photos here, many of which I may use for my next assignment if I can incorporate them, or just Pin on my Pinterest boards for art and human expressions.

But I clearly didn’t think it was depressing enough by itself, so I shrunk it and recolored it with the “Black & White” theme via Google Drawings on Google Drive (the free word processing, presentation, and image editing service that goes with every Google email account). Then I overlayed the lyrics that inspired me in the first place, in the kind of font that felt appropriate for the words. It took a lot of adjusting to get the words to be fairly visible and positioned in a way that made sense, but finally I got it to the point where it looked perfect. I just love that I got “…I’m so ugly” to trail after the man’s image, suggesting that the thought naturally completes what he was saying earlier when he looks at his reflection. Just like Kurt did when he said “I’m so happy, ’cause today I found my friends, they’re in my head…I’m so ugly, but that’s okay ’cause so are you. We broke our mirrors.”

But of course, there’s nothing like the song itself. Listen here on Soundcloud or below.