A Shortcut for Winning Composition

Light at City Hall
Rule of Thirds: focus on any of the four places the lines overlap. Photo by Mary Gow

It was at the Maine Photographic Workshops that I “got” it about composition. My vision got a tune-up there.

I had written about The Rule of Three in writing. Well, in composition there’s The Rule of Thirds (explained quite well at betterphoto.com. It works in painting as well as photography. Think of a grid of three across and three down, creating nine rectangles. Place your subject where any of the lines cross. See the grid.

The Main Thing I Learned at The Maine Photographic Workshops

Callas, photo by Mary Gow
In the middle of an intensely hot August when I was living in Austin, Texas, I treated myself to a week long workshop on “Creativity in Photography” at The Maine Photographic Workshops in Rockport, Maine.

Of note, in 2007 The Maine Photographic Workshops and the International Film and Video Workshops merged to form the Maine Media College.

Rockport reminded me of Louisiana (where I grew up) – big trees and very green, with the added pluses of more hills, ocean and not needing an air conditioner. I rented a bike for the week, and food, room and board was included in the package. I stayed in an old rickety Victorian house and to my surprise, my roommate was a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist for the San Jose Mercury News.

Through the week we had various assignments. One was to use plastic Holga cameras and think of new ways to take pictures. The teacher encouraged us to smear the camera lens with Vaseline.

The main thing that I learned from the workshop was something simple yet changed the way I composed my photographs. It wasn’t the first time I had heard of the Golden Meanwhich is the ratio 1:1.618034. At the workshop I saw it in practice more than ever before. There is a dynamism in the almost 5/8ths (roughly 8:13 ratio), in framing slightly off-center.

A New Playground for the Innovatively Inclined

If you have visions dancing in your head of new products that don’t yet exist, the new Tech Shop in San Francisco, at 926 Howard Street (near 7th Street) is where you can make your new idjit a reality.

On Friday, January 14th, the Tech Shop had a grand opening. The new facility’s parent is the original Tech Shop in Menlo Park, founded by Jim Newton, which opened October 1, 2006. A candy store for the innovatively inclined, the tech shop is a membership based, open-access do-it-yourself workshop.

The Tech Shop has grown outside the Bay Area as well, with locations in Raleigh, NC and Portland, OR. This year new shops will also open in San Jose, CA and Detroit, MI.

Classes cover the gamut if you want to create something. Before you use a specific tool you have to have proficiency of it and it may require that you first take an “SBU” class which covers safety and basic usage. Among the many tools at the Tech Shop you’ll find laser cutters, TIG welding, plasma cutters, vinyl cutters, industrial sewing machines, mold makers and more. There’s even a class on patenting your invention.

It’s couldn’t be more appropriate that the tag line for the Tech Shop is “Build Your Dreams Here.” But you don’t have to have a new product in mind to enjoy what the Tech Shop has to offer. There’s also classes like basic woodworking (I signed up for this one). In this class you learn to make a small bench that you can sit on while you put your shoes on.

This class will complete the WoodWorking Safety and Basic Usage requirements at the Tech Shop. Plus, you’ll learn to use a circular saw, jig saw, drill press, power screwdriver, radial arm saw and table saw to create a bench. Then, you can use the scroll saw or jig saw or CNC ShopBot to decorate the bench. Do you know what CNC ShopBot is?

3 Major Causes of Reading Failure according to Mary Pecci

Reading specialist, Mary Pecci, author of At Last, a Reading Method For Every Child gives a demonstration of the Pecci Reading Method on a DVD which takes you page by page through the over 300 page of her book. This could be an excellent tool for more visual learners.

Pecci says that what makes her reading method different is that it is the only reading method that avoids the 3 major causes of reading failure, which are (quoting her):

1. Difficulty making the transfer from “decodable” text (Ex. A cat sat and sat), which CAN be sounded out letter-by-letter, and “real English” text (Ex. Once upon a time there were three little bears), which CAN’T be sounded out letter-by-letter.

2. Difficulty handling the numerous sounds and exceptions for many of the letters and letter-combinations. Ex. “a” as in: cat, want, father, away; “ea” as in: real, head, great, learn, heart; “ou” as in: out, soul, soup, young, could, thought, etc., etc., etc.

3. Difficulty handling the constant infiltration of “Sight” words (unphonetic words) so that they either can’t retain the mountainous information or they are constantly confronted with the dilemma, “What SOUND does this have this time – or is it a SIGHT word?”

That’s three good reasons to get Pecci’s book. The DVD will take you step-by-step through her method and is $99 plus tax and postage. If you order Pecci’s DVD and mention my blog you’ll get a special 50 percent discount and postage paid.