chronicwnderlst

A place to indulge an affliction


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Final Project Summary

For the past seven weeks, I’ve struggled with a topic to storify for my final project. My ideas have ranged from randomly simple (Gorillapod) to bewildering (DMV) to complex (Medicaid). Still, when I’ve tried to flush each of these out, nothing was sticking. During weeks 6 and 7, a topic idea started to germinate. I don’t know what triggered it (perhaps a story on NPR? Or, an episode of The Amazing Race?), but the phrase “melting pot” kept popping in my head. As a first-generation immigrant to the U.S., I have not been comfortable with the phrase to describe an end goal for the immigration story. I understand the importance of integrating and assimilating, but I feel it is a disservice to everyone if each of us lost our identity and melted into one indistinguishable blob. I used to prefer the term “salad bowl” over “melting pot,” because each ingredient in a salad retains its own identity, but together they make for a delicious meal. Now I prefer the term “sangria pitcher,” not only because sangria is similar to a salad where each ingredient retains its uniqueness but also because “sangria” is a term derived from “sangre” meaning blood. No matter how different each of us are, we bleed the same. It makes a melting pot of whatever ingredients sound flat, doesn’t it?
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So, where am I going with this and what does multiculturalism have to do with my final project? I storified my sangria recipe to serve as a metaphor for how I see multiculturalism. I personified d the strawberry, the main staple ingredient in my recipe, to act as the central character in the story. I named it Strauss Behre. I humanized a strawberry by adding eyes and a nose using bits of a blueberry. I also personified a navel orange and a yellow mango by adding eyes, ears, and a mouth using grapes.

O. Range, Strauss Behre, and Manny Go

O. Range, Strauss Behre, and Manny Go

Strauss Behre

Strauss Behre

Strauss Behre’s story follows him from his farm origins to his last adventure at Assateague Island National Seashore. The story spine of Strauss Behre’s story is as follows:
Once upon a time, there was a berry named Straus Behre. Every day, he lived on a farm, basked in the sunshine, and enjoyed the soil. Until one day, he was picked along with other mature berries. Because of that, he was able to leave the farm, go to a different location, and meet other fruit. Because of that, Strauss became an ingredient in sangria, a portable drink. Because of that, Strauss was taken to a beach camping event. And because of that, Strauss met his demise at the teeth of a wild Assateague pony.

I used Windows Live Movie Maker to create a video of Strauss Behre’s story. I downloaded two videos from YouTube to follow a strawberry’s lifecycle. One video showed the phases a strawberry went through from planting to packing. I split this video to insert a timelapse video of a potted strawberry plan growing. I also created four short videos of me cutting the fruit, marinating it in brandy, and talking about the portability of the libations. However, I only kept the video narration on one of them. I eliminated the audio on the three other videos. I added a newer version of the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” as the soundtrack to the video. I found it appropriate and befitting an adventure/journey story. I found that with Windows Live Movie Maker, I can also split an audio track like I can to a video clip. Below is the screenshot of this work:
WLMM_Sangria Story

I designed the sangria recipe using some of the design elements previously discussed. I used Comic Sans for the font, to convey informality and funb. For the graphic, I used one of the photos I took of the sangria pitcher at a friend’s party. I recolored it using Photoshop, so that only the contents of the pitcher are in color. Below is the screenshot of this effort: Photoshop

I have thoroughly enjoyed myself in this course; the assignments were interesting and challenging, and more importantly, gave me the opportunity to be creative.

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Week 6 and 7 Summary

 I’m glad we had two weeks to complete the video assignments, because I need that time (and  more) to not only make sure I had all the necessary tools but that I also knew (or remembered) how to use them.  I did not realize until last week that I never had Windows Live Movie Maker installed in my laptop. Fortunately, it was a quick download from the Microsoft site.

I found the inspiration video, Ken Burns: On Story thought-provoking, particularly, “Truth is, we hope, a byproduct of the best stories, and yet there are many, many different kinds of truths. And emotional truth is something you have to build.”

Until this course, I had not thought much about cinematic techniques. After viewing the various examples of camera angles and techniques, my appreciation for cinematic techniques increased.

Spurred on by Ebert’s How to Read a Movie, I did a comprehensive analysis of a clip from Pearl Harbor (2001). It strikes me that the movie was released a few months before the terrorist events of 9/11/2001. The audio of a foreign-accented male voice talking about sacrificing his life to serve his country  by attacking the United States resonates across generations.  The sentiment expressed was as applicable in 2001 as it was in 1941.  The audio and video in the clip both contributed to effectively telling the story of how America was caught unaware by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

I was initially intimidated by the Chaplin foley assignment, since I could not think of what story to re-imagine the video clip into. As a result, I procrastinated on it. I finally decided on using the Darwin Awards angle, having been inspired by the assignment posted by a former DS106 student.  At first, I was overly concerned about lining up the foley to each segment of the video clip. That took a lot of time. Then the lightbulb came on and I realized that this assignment is for a Digital Storytelling course, not a Sound Editing course.  So, while the foley sounds don’t exactly line up in my assignment, I did come up with a possible, if not anachronistic, explanation for Chaplin’s actions in the clip.

I enjoyed completing the two video assignments because it allowed me to think of new stories. For the first assignment, I picked actors in A Few Good Men (AFGM) who are still active in the entertainment industry to create a “where-are-they-now” story for each of them.   I avoided using the obvious (e.g., Kiefer Sutherland in “24;” Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible,” etc.)  so that their post-AFGM story  was a complete departure from their AFGM role.  I am pleased with the stories I created for these characters. I am less happy with the second assignment, because I imagined it differently than what it turned out to be. Using the video assignment prompt for “Sardonic Tours,” I created a video of a tour of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, from the perspective of an interior decorator working for HGTV. I suppose I could have been more creative in this if I wasn’t under a time crunch. One idea that came to mind is similar to what I did for one of the visual assignments, the historical selfie. I could’ve had one of the Byzantine emperors time travel to the present and marvel at the changes in the Hagia Sophia. Maybe next time…

I’ve enjoyed reading classmates’ blogs. Because most, including me, tend to submit assignments at the end of the week, feedback provided and received also comes later. Feedback provided by classmates are helpful in spotting things I may have missed in the final review process. As you know, when you’ve been looking at something for so long, you tend to miss certain things. It’s always helpful to have someone else’s fresh eyes. The feedback I’ve received from the professor as well as other classmates have been positive and motivating. They are what spurs me on to spend time on each assignment and create a good product.


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I needed a lot of sense(s) for this assignment

For this assignment, I chose a clip from Pearl Harbor titled “We Got a Large Haze“:

I have seen this movie multiple times and in 2012, I had the privilege of visiting the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Historical Monument on O’ahu, Hawai’i. As such, I felt I had more than enough context to complete an analysis of this 3:44-minute video clip:

 

Cinematic Technique/Camera Angle Used How does the cinematic technique tell/guide the story?
00:00 – 00:15 High angle shot showing an island beneath the clouds during daybreak. Scene transitions to a young Asian man who places his head on his hands. Scene then transitions to a religious shrine with candles. An object has Chinese characters. The high angle of the daybreak shot as well as the shot of the religious objects convey spirituality and closeness to a higher being intertwined with the mission
00:16 – 00:30 Panoramic traveling shot of a roomful of young men getting dressed. Camera focuses on a young man sitting at a desk with paper and writing instrument in front of him. Scene cuts to a young Asian military officer with a fierce expression waving through a group of running airmen. Scene switches to a liquid being poured into a drinking bowl. The panoramic traveling shot and the switches show that this is story is both of one person and an entire nation
00:31 – 00:45 Camera shot of military personnel toasting with the drinking bowl. Military personnel are shown putting on bandannas emblazoned with the Japanese flag. Camera pans to a scene showing weapons being transported and loaded to aircraft, and senior military officials overseeing this process. Cinematic techniques convey that the operation shown has been planned in advance and being executed with ceremony and precision
00:46 – 01:00 Close up shots of the propellers and long shots fighter plans set the stage for an impending air attack Use of frantic zoom foreshadows military action involving airplanes
01:01 – 01:15 A pilot wearing the Japanese flag headband is shown inside his plane giving a “ready”signal. A plane is shown taking off from an aircraft carrier. Another plane is show taking off to sea Cinematic techniques clearly show that attack planes are being launched from the sea (via aircraft carriers)
01:16 – 01:30 Panoramic traveling shots of more fighter planes taking off from the aircraft carrier. Horizontal panning of a fleet of Japanese fighter planes flying past the entire length of the aircraft carrier. A pilot is shown flying past the rising sun. Horizontal panning shows the might of the Japanese Navy. Shot of pilot with the rising sun in the background is symbolic of the Japanese flag where the red disc represents the sun
01:31 – 01:45 Long take of the fleet of Japanese fighter planes flying through clouds. A zolly was used to show a coastal hillside from overhead and then a group of naval ships anchored on a bay. Long take of a sailor in dress whites sitting on coiled rope on a sailing ship in front of an American flag. Cinematic technique tells the story of an impending surprise attack from the air
01:46 – 02:00 Long take of a man in a motorcycle approaching a mountainside doorway. Zoom in to a roomful of men in front of radio equipment. Rapid zoom of airplanes in the clouds, an instrument panel, and Caucasian man sitting in front of an instrument panel while on the phone. Long track shot of Japanese fighter planes in air and American fighter planes parked on the ground. Cinematic technique contrasts previous scene of tranquility (and unreadiness) with scene of military personnel monitoring operations around the island in a hidden location. Contrasting scenes of Japanese attack planes in the air and U.S. military planes parked on the ground.
02:01 – 02:15 Tracking shot of a military man at his desk. He is speaking on the phone held in one hand while his other hand moves a chess piece on the table. His feet are propped up on the desk. He takes his feet off the desk , sits up, sets the telephone handset on his should, turns around to take a clipboard, reads the clipboard, looks up. Low angle shot of Japanese fighter planes. Cinematic technique shows a person who is unconcerned and relaxed in their office, despite the short moment where tension is infused in the scene
02:16 – 02:30 Rapid zoom of the men in the radio room talking, marking the instrument panel, fighter planes in the air, and men playing golf. A Jeepful of military men arrive on the golf course. A man dressed in Navy brown uniform jumps out from one of the Jeeps and salutes one of the golfers. Quick zoom of fighter planes in the air. Cinematic techniques employed   show the relaxed atmosphere on the island and among leadership (the salute conveys that the golfer is an important man)
02:31 – 02:45 Military man in brown Navy uniform continues to speak to the golfer he saluted earlier as a tracking shot of fighter planes flying over water is shown. High angle shot of a person typing on a typewriter. The words “REFUSAL TO COMPROMISE” are typed across a tape. A worried looking, middle-aged Caucasian man wearing glasses reads the tape. Cinematic techniques convey that news of an impending attack is reaching U.S. military leaders
02:46 – 03:00 Zoom in to a young Caucasian man in Navy uniform with a headset typing and the words, “PEACE TALKS USEL…” are typed across a tape. Close up and quick zoom shots of the middle-aged man reading the tape; a telephone handset being picked up; the man, now without his glasses, speaking on the phone; the young Navy man continuing to type and the middle-aged man continuing to speak on the phone. Cinematic techniques introduces new characters in the drama personified by a junior and senior U.S. military officer
03:01 – 03:15 Zoom in shot of the middle-aged man continuing to talk on the phone. High angle shot of a single Japanese fighter plane over water, with shadows of other planes nearby. Close up shot of the wing of the fighter plane showing the Japanese flag. Low angle shot of the Jeep pulling in front of a building. The golfer jumps out of the vehicle and tracking shot is used as he walks rapidly toward the building. He is met and saluted by another military man in brown uniform and handed a piece of paper. Interchanging shots of the major players in the drama make rounds out the story, emphasizing how the U.S. military was unprepared for the attack by the Japanese military
03:16 – 03:30 Tracking shot of the golfer as he continues to stare at the piece of paper. He stops walking and camera zooms in as he looks up with a worried expression. He turns to speak to the man in the brown uniform. Camera zooms in to a black and white photo of a naval ship captioned in Japanese characters and Roman letters underneath it that reads, “U.S.S. Oklahoma.” There is also another black and white photograph of an Asian woman placed to the upper left of the ship photograph. Low angle shot, then zoom in of the Japanese pilot wearing the bandanna and looking determined. Cinematic technique of zooms and tracking shot clearly shows that the Japanese attack planes have assigned targets
03:31 – 03:43 Long take, tracking shot of island underneath white clouds, with a group of fighter planes swarming towards it Aerial shot of the island reminds brings the clip to full circle as it reminds the viewer of the aerial shot of the island at the beginning of the clip. This time, the Japanese fighter planes are shown descending on the island as a group, instead of taking off individually from the aircraft carrier. The shot intensifies the drama and creates a feeling of impending disaster.

 

Audio Track Analyses

For the audio track analyses, I let the video clip run in the background as I had a Word document on screen. I noted the audio elements I heard in the Word document. When listing out the dialogue below, I used Navy acronyms: ADM for Admiral; CDR for Commander; and LT for Lieutenant. Through various audio elements such as human voices and mechanical sounds, the story of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor unfolds. There were a few things that I missed when I viewed the clip with the sound off that were clarified for me when the audio elements were turned on. The dialogue revealed hierarchy of the various people and the locations of the scenes.

The clip begins with flute music which fades to the background as a male accented voice speaks in English about destiny, honor, and service to the nation:

“Revered Father, I go now to fulfill my mission and my destiny. I hope it is a destiny that will bring honor to our family. And if it requires my life, I will sacrifice it gladly to be a good servant of our nation.”

Background music switches to drums beating and male voices yelling. Steady beating drum. Engines revving, music escalates, propellers and planes taking off. The drum beats fade away.

Male voice with an American accent, states uncertainly,  “Hey I’ve got a large haze. Propellers That’s too big to be planes, right?”   This is intertwined with increasing sound of propellers.

Male voice with American accent speaks in English, “Is that what you want to do? Knight to knight 5. Boom. Wrong move! “ Sound of small object being moved on a desk.

Another male voice in American accent urgently states, “Lieutenant, radar’s picking up a large return moving in from the northeast. “

LT: “Relax! A flight of B17s is coming in from the mainland.”

More propellers .

Male voice with American accent states in English, “That’s a heck of a lot of B17s.”

Golf ball being hit. “Good shot, Hot”  Sound of a vehicle slowing down and braking.

This better be good, Commander.”

CDR: “One of our destroyers reports having fired and sunk enemy submarine attempting to enter Pearl Harbor at 0653.”

ADM: “It’s 7:20 [a.m.]”

CDR: “We had decoding delays, Admiral.”

ADM: “Relay this to Washington. Recall the staff.”

The sound of propellers and flying planes gets louder then fades.  Sound switches to mechanical typing .

Male voice in American accent reads, “Failure. Peace talks useless.”

Handset being picked up. Male voice in American accent states urgently,  “Thurman here. Tokyo transmitting to their embassy in Washington: ‘Discontinue use of your decoding machine and dispose of immediately. Special emphasis on destroying important parts.’ Do you read that? Acknowledge!”

High-tension music. Propellers. Overland vehicle parking.

Breathless American male voice states, “Admiral, Naval Intel intercepted a transmission to Tokyo from their embassy in Washington instructing to break apart all decoder machines and burn all secret documents.”

ADM: “Japanese are expecting a war. Should we?”

Increasing sound of airplanes and high-tension music. Video clip ends.

“We Got a Large Haze” Analyses

With both auditory and visual senses engaged at the same time, I was able to get a more powerful story from the video clip. When I only had either one of these two senses engaged, I missed some parts of the story. For example, without any sounds or dialogue, I could not distinguish the ranks for the American military, nor could I place some of the scenes in context. Without any visual, the sounds tended to mix together and if I had not viewed the video clip beforehand, the sounds alone would not have told me a coherent story. Because of my previous viewing of the video clip, I was able to associate the sounds to scenes I remembered from the viewing.

When I viewed the entire clip with both audio and video elements, the story was more intense for me:

  • In the beginning of the clip, when you hear the accented English saying, “Revered father…” and you see a young man put his head on his hands as if in supplication and the camera pans to altar-like table, you wonder if he is praying to a God he is calling father or if he is addressing his parent. Only later on, when the accented voice mentions “…honor to our family…” and you see a young man writing at a desk do you realize that the “father” being addressed is a parent.
  • The scene that shows young Japanese air men running, torpedoes being loaded onto planes, the ceremonial toast, and senior military officials overseeing the activities is immediately preceded by the accented voice ending his letter with , “And if it requires my life, I will sacrifice it gladly to be a good servant of our nation.”
  • Interchanging shots served to provide a contrast between scenes and emphasized how well-planned the Japanese attack was and how unprepared the Americans were.
  • The scene immediately preceding the Jeep arriving at the military headquarters was of a Japanese plane in the air and the mechanical sound of the propellers blended in to the mechanical sound of the Jeep slowing down and braking. I would liken this to the “match cut” camera technique.

By turning off the audio the first time I viewed the clip and then not looking at the video when I listened to the clip, I was able to notice more of the audio and video elements used. As a result, I appreciated the techniques used when I viewed the entire clip with both video and audio elements.

In keeping with the travel/history theme of this blog, below is a slideshow of the photos I took during my 2012 visit to O’ahu. The slideshow includes photos of the USS Oklahoma Memorial. The USS Oklahoma is depicted in the video as being target of one of the Japanese attack planes, as shown in 03:24 – 03:25 of the clip:

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Gaining Cinematic Technique Literacy

All story is manipulation…

-from Ken Burns:On Story

I admit that I’ve never really thought much of cinematic techniques in play when watching movies, nor how much I have been manipulated into liking a movie through these techniques (e.g., such as orienting the viewer).  This DS106 section on “Reading Movies” has been an eye-opener. I feel I’ve gained some literacy in cinematic techniques! Of the 12 short videos on filmmaking, I watched the following five:

I found Kubrick’s one-point perspective interesting and creepy at the same time. The one-point perspective is when the movie is seen from one perspective, the viewer’s. As the viewer, I felt that I was the only static entity there; everything else happened around me. It gave me a feeling of helplessness and being out of control, as the camera angle seemed to trap me in place and I could not move to avoid uncomfortable scenes. I appreciate how effective this technique is  in making creepy movies. I have not seen many of Kubrick’s work but from what I’ve read about him (in websites and magazines, not movies :-)), this is just the type of cinematic technique he would employ.

I may be the last person on earth who has not seen The Shining. I have seen stills of the movie, especially that iconic one of Jack Nicholson peering through a crack in the door, but I have not seen the entire movie. As such, without context from the story, I could not appreciate the zooms employed as cinematic technique in the montage I watched.

I enjoyed viewing both the Top 20 Cinematic Techniques and the Camera Angles and Techniques videos.  Both provided me as a view with different perspectives, however the terms cinematic technique terms included assumed that one was familiar with them. I had to look each of them up to fully appreciate the value they added to the films. I did a Google search and found the following resources helpful:

I selected only six of the 20 videos from Top 20 Cinematic Techniques to analyze below, specifically, the movies I had previously scene, having the context helped me appreciate the cinematic techniques employed the selected scene:

Film Technique/Camera Angle Value
Children of Men (2006) Long Take, Doggicam With the doggicam technique, the camera moves freely 360 degrees and shows the rioting on the street from the perspective of each of the four characters trapped in the car. The camera also allows the view to see each of the character’s reaction to the chaos.
Children of Men (2006) Long Take, Tracking Shot The tracking shot allows the view to see the chaotic scenery from the perspective of one character (Clive Owen) as he observes first from a window, then through a doorway, until he eventually unsteadily crosses the street while dodging danger.
Ato)nement (2007 Long Take, Steadicam With the steadicam technique, the camera becomes the perfect observer as it moves freely like a person through a scene. However, unlike the doggicam, the movement is one-directional. The long take in this scene shows the landscape.   Because of the steadicam, instead of focusing on the two characters walking forward, the viewer’s eyes (and emotions) are riveted towards the background scene where the horses are being shot point-blank
Star Wars IV (1977) Extreme Establishing Shot Shows the “distance” the spacecraft, the Millenium Falcon, traveled, past a few planets. One shot shows Earth (blue planet) in the distance then the planet gets larger. The Millenium Falcon enters earth, hover over Tikal National Park in Guatemala, and landing by a Mayan pyramid
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001) Establishing Shot The scene shows Hobbiton, with the sun shining and a gentle breeze blowing over its green hills, as Gandalf arrives at Frodo Baggins’s house. It establishes Hobbiton as an idyllic place that Frodo will eventually leave to go on his quest.
Cowboys and Aliens(2011) Pan The camera pans through a chaparral landscape that seems abandoned (completed by audio of insects) and the viewer is lulled into thinking that it is a peaceful scene, until Daniel Craig’s character is jolted awake (and so is the viewer)

 

In April 2009, I visited the Tik’al Mayan ruins in El Peten, Guatemala. The national park’s claim to fame has always been being in Star Wars IV (see 01:35-02:04 of the Top 20 Cinematic Techniques video). Having been on the same spot on top of Temple IV as that Rebel in 01:57-02:01 of the  video, I can further appreciate the cinematography involved. Those ledges are narrow! I’m sure George Lucas and his film crew used all sorts to equipment to get the camera shots they wanted. What damage to pre-Columbian Mayan temples caused by modern equipment during filming, I hope was offset by the fact that Tikal National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, two years after Star Wars IV was released. I’d like to believe that the film contributed to Tikal being listed. If George Lucas had used the wrong cinematic technique, would it have taken Tikal National Park a few more years to make it to the UNESCO World Heritage list?

Film and Travel is a great site that highlights places around the world that have been featured in TV and movies. There’s a post on Star Wars IV and Tikal National Park, but I thought I’d post my own photos to this blog:

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On SoundCloud Nine!


I successfully created a new account on SoundCloud today. I also personalized my settings, using the same username (chronicwnderlst) and avatar that I have on this WordPress blog, so that they are connected. Prior to this DS106 class, I had not heard of SoundCloud. The only previous experience I had with recording myself was for the IDT class on Game Design and Gamification, when we used Screencast-o-matic. I generally don’tenjoy hearing myself on a recording, but I had to get over that in order to meet the class requirements.

In keeping with the overarching travel theme of this blog, for my first recording on SoundCloud, I decided to read aloud a fake travel-related news report. The best source for fake, funny news is The Onion. I found one that was posted on March 31, 2014, titled, Flight Attendant Quietly Informs First Class Passengers Where Real Emergency Exits Are.

Screenshot of The Onion article mentioned in this post

Screenshot of The Onion article mentioned in this post

I printed the article and practiced reading it out loud before I started recording. I had to re-record four times before I was satisfied with the results.

When I replayed the recording, I was surprised at the clarity of the sound. I had a fan going in the room, and I did not hear it in the recording. I also did not use a fancy microphone, only this:

The microphone I used to make the recording

The microphone I used to make the recording

The tutorial on embedding SoundCloud tracks to WordPress provided with GMU Week 5 DS106 instructions was very helpful. This is the earliest I’ve completed an assignment for DS106 and I’m on cloud 9! Keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to keep this up.


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Design Assignment #2: Carmel Chameleon and Baboon

When I first heard the Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon,”  I thought the song title was “Carmel Chameleon. “ Because it contained my first name, I instantly liked the song. Later, when I realized the actual title, I still appreciated the song because I think chameleons are cool animals. So, when I saw the snaps I took of a chameleon in Zimbabwe (while doing a photo safari among my travel photos for the first design assignment), I knew I had to use that photo for my second design assignment submission: Paste Someone’s Head On An Animal Or Vice-Versa.

In November 2011, I was on a group tour in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and during a break, one of tourists in the group found a tiny, green chameleon. The chameleon was friendly enough to crawl up this person’s arm, so a few of us took photos of it. My favorite, albeit somewhat blurry, photo is the one of the chameleon getting up close and personal with the camera lens. When I rediscovered this photo, a chameleon “selfie” came to mind. I was also reminded  of the Culture Club song, so I decided to paste my own photo to create Carmel Chameleon.  I viewed the Compositing-How to Put Your Face on an Animal   to understand the steps involved. The one takeaway I had was that one had to work with high resolution image. Unfortunately, the chameleon photo was not, so I had to find a photo of me that was about the same resolution quality. I decided on one of me and a camel taken in Moroccan desert.  I had difficulty achieving the steps mentioned in the tutorial (e.g. creating a mask), so in the end, I used the Eraser tool as well as the Free Transform to paste my head onto the chameleon. Consider the composite photo an homage to my love of the camera.

Carmeleon

Carmeleon

Below are the original photos I used:

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After this, I was inspired to create another composite. In keeping with this blog post title, I used another of my photos to create a composite with a chacma baboon. Both photos were taken in South Africa’s Cape Peninsula in November 2011. The photo of my face is from a photo of me behind the Cape Point sign. Instead of using my full face, I only pasted my sunglasses and lips onto the baboon.  I wanted to create a happy demeanor in this baboon.  I used the same Photoshop tools as in the photo above: Lasso, Free Transform, and Earser tools. With Free Transform, I also flipped the photo orientation to match the direction the baboon’s head was directed. What do you think of this Carmel chameleon?

What are you all doing in the back of the van?

What are you all doing in the back of the van?

Below are the original photos I used:

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Keep reading if you want to know the story behind the additional baboon photos: I was with a group of tourists on a day tour through Cape Peninsula, South Africa in November 2011. On our way to Table Mountain National Park, we spotted a family of chacma baboons on the side of the road. There were other tour vans nearby that had stopped and a few intrepid tourists had left the confines of the vehicles to go near the baboons. Our tour leader, a sweet older lady with years of tour guide experience, told us it was fine for us to do the same. She pulled the van off the side of the road and we all disembarked, cameras in hand. All of a sudden, a few of the baboons broke off from the group and started approaching the tourists. Our tour leader urgently told us to return back to the van and we complied. I was the last one in and unbeknownst to me, was followed inside the van by a male baboon. As everyone, scrambled towards the back of the van away from the baboon, I snapped few photos (no flash!) as I inched slowly backwards. Meanwhile, Mr. Baboon ignored us and sat in the front seat (where I was sitting). He looked over at our tour leader (who had gotten in the driver’s seat, ready for us to leave after we were all in the van). Fortunately, Mr. Baboon chose to ignore her too, and she was able to leave the van without any incident. As Mr. Baboon was looking around the front part of the van, the rest of us who were huddled in the back managed to exit without any incident through the still open side door. After we had exited, a tour guide from another van came with a fire extinguisher and used it to shoo Mr. Baboon off the van. He exited eventually and we all climbed back into the vehicle. I then noticed that my red backpack, which was set on the floor in the front passenger seat, had been opened and a Ziploc bag of granola bars was sitting, unopened, in the center console. So ended Mr. Baboon’s food foraging attempts.

Roadside baboon warning

Roadside baboon warning

Action items in smaller type

Action items in smaller type

 I will tie this design assignment with the earlier Design Safari assignment. All over Table Mountain National Park were signs warning  tourists about the baboons. However,  the sign that urged  tourists to keep their vehicle doors locked and windows closed(above photo) was situated on the side of the road with notable typography. The typography is rendered ineffective by the text-heavy signage and smaller print of the action items; the sign is difficult to heed when one is driving by it up a curvy road. However, one can argue that the typography is effective in that if one were to only see and remember the bolded letters, it would read, “BABOONS WILD DO NOT FEED.”

Baboon warning sign at the base of the Cape Point Lighthouse (South Africa, Nov. 2011)

Baboon warning sign at the base of the Cape Point Lighthouse (South Africa, Nov. 2011)

Within the park itself are rather simple signs stating that baboons are attracted by food. Not really much of a warning; if the baboon incident had not happened before we got to the Cape Point Lighthouse, I would not have noticed these signs.


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Beavers and Blossoms: A Design Safari

Cherry blossoms sunrise photo trek by the Tidal Basin (April 1, 2010)

Cherry blossoms sunrise photo trek by the Tidal Basin (April 1, 2010)

This is my favorite time of the year in the D.C. area and I took the opportunity during this morning’s sunrise photo trek at the Tidal Basin to also complete the design safari assignment. One of the first signs that interested me was this one, reminding visitors not to climb the trees or pick the blooms:Image

The first question that crossed my mind was, “What’s a beaver go to do with cherry blossoms/cherry trees?” I didn’t think the National Park Service (NPS) would randomly choose the beaver as a mascot, so as soon as I got to the office, I did a Google search. I soon learned that in the late 1990s, beavers killed several cherry trees at the Tidal Basin by gnawing on the trunks. I also learned about Paddles the Beaver, official mascot of the Cherry Blossom Festival. Despite this new information, I was still not impressed by the design of the sign. It fails in its attempt to use Symbols/Metaphor. A cute, cartoony beaver was not going to deter someone from picking the blooms or climbing the trees. And if one was not aware of the history of beavers at the Tidal Basin, the choice of animal would seem odd. I think the sign would be more effective if it showed a beaver gnawing on a cherry tree with a red diagonal slash across it and in text,“Don’t be a beaver. Do not destroy the Tidal Basin cherry trees by climbing them or picking the blooms.”

I made a mock up of this sign idea below, using ClipArt and a Google Image search for “beaver gnaw cherry tree.”:

A better sign for the Tidal Basin?

A better sign for the Tidal Basin?

During the photo trek, I saw another (beaver-less) sign requesting visitors to assist with preserving the cherry trees:

HELP US preserve these cherry trees

HELP US preserve these cherry trees

This sign employs great use of typography, exemplified by the capitalized “HELP US” text. That’s how I first noticed the sign. The bulleted details succintly convey the information. Unfortunately, the sign is posted low to the ground and not noticeable by visitors who are looking up and about admiring the cherry blossoms.

Placement of the "HELP US preserve these cherry blossoms" sign (April 10, 2014)

Placement of the “HELP US preserve these cherry blossoms” sign (April 10, 2014)

In any case, enjoy these cherry blossoms:

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