Saturday, 15 August 2015

Exercise Part Five - Web Slideshows.

My initial reaction to web based slide shows was less than complementary. The Slide show as the name suggests is from the time of 35mm (in the main although I have seen 6x6) transparencies being projected onto a screen or white wall. The slightly more upmarket slide show was an audio visual where commentary and/or music was played during the projection. This could be quite complicated with multiple projectors and an automated trigger system to change the slides with faded changes, multi image projection and sometimes the inclusion of entertainers and dancers. Large motor companies often employed the techniques to launch new products and the experience with loud music and creative lighting was the forerunner of the promotional video. The experience then was limited really by the technical prowess of the artist or photographer. At an amateur level the camera club slide show was a way of the members showing their work with one projector and at the other extreme a corporate extravaganza. It is likely that in some small way this still exists but in the main projected images are now from a digital source and with computer control can be quite elaborate.

On the Internet however my experience so far in looking at them as a reader of on line news is that they serve no practical purpose other than filling some page space. That is assuming you can find the slide show. Again my experience so far is that they are well hidden and not on the menu listing. This sounds a bit harsh and is applicable to the daily news rather than a feature. Daily news requires one or two photographs with a story (editors are unlikely to promote photography above copy) and at the end of a week the on line website of the publication will put all of the images together on one page and they can be seen continuously as a slide show. They have little or no connection to each other (Baby George, Hurricane in Florida, Death of Cilla Black etc) and the order they are shown is likely to be by editorial hierarchy, so maybe baby George will be shown first and the hurricane last. The man in the street reader will decide at what point he has seen enough and stop the show before the end. Photographers who are looking at the news image as a genre will look longer and maybe pause to have a closer look and consider the image technically and aesthetically.

The feature is likely to have more images and can be image driven in specialist publications and as a result if the reader wants to just look at the images without the copy then (say) 10 to 15 photographs can be seen as a slide show. In this instance the show has more content as the images are linked by a time line, geographical or low impact to start and high impact at the end. Skill is required in editing the images into a suitable number that can deliver the story in full and at the same time not have that many that the viewer becomes bored. Determining this length of the show can be judged by knowing the audience and understanding their needs. A Sunday supplement has a casual readership, perhaps a person using an iPad, looking a a story with a passing interest but also wanting to see the quality and depth that a broadsheet is likely to produce. It should be interesting and informative and give enough to allow the viewer to explore the story or subject later with further reading. On the other hand a specialist publication will need to provide more images with more detail. The readership of say a F1 on line magazine will want photographs of drivers, their team, the car from every angle, close ups of technical features and plenty of action from the circuit. For the enthusiast it will be difficult to over produce.

Looking closer at a selection of on line slide shows I have chosen the following:

Unfortunately if I comment on the photographs shown here today they will be different of course when the link is opened next week. That doesn't matter because why I choose Reuters is to show how first class their photographers are and the production qualities of the website. Somewhat strange however is that here there are two slide shows. The first is called "Photos of the week" and is a good selection 21 images covering everything from the explosion in China that killed 50 plus people to a greased pig competition in Canada where the contestants wrestle with pigs. It is all spoilt by having to see adverts every 6 pictures but we live in a commercial world. The next slide show is "Editors Choice" and is 32 images of the same stories. I then wonder who edited the first show and wonder why there are two with similar content. Reuters continue with more slide shows further down the page. The shows now become more focused on a subject rather than the general news. Included at the time I write this are features from Gaza, Cuba, Prince George and an archive going back some time. It is clear that Reuters with the pedigree for producing outstanding images are keen to promote the work of their photographers.

The Guardian is one of my favourite daily broadsheets in the UK. I don't necessarily align myself to their politics but their photography and its editing is some of the best. The Internet has spread the Guardian to a worldwide audience and the link above takes me to their home page for slide shows. The coverage of world events is almost the same as Reuters and this is to be expected. Images and copy from world events came be transmitted in seconds to any news desk in the world so the days of a "scoop" by a journalist working for a single publication are probable over. There are thousands of amateurs and freelancers who can do good work and their contribution is encouraged by many. The Guardian site does have one feature that I like and that is the vertical scrolling of the images rather than horizontal scrolling. To just use the down arrow key is much simpler than having to point the mouse at an arrow on the screen. Reuters and The Guardian are similar in some respects as they are both considered "serious" news organisations and their work is presented in an authoritative way, well edited, well post processed and perfect image quality. Another feature of both is that they are not actually slide shows. The user decides the speed of the show by clicking to get the next image. This is far preferable to the automatic show where just as you are looking at the image, its gone and the next one comes up. With the auto slide show you can go to settings etc and adjust the timings but who wants to do that?. The viewer should not be asked to make adjustments. Far better to allow the "page" to be turned as you would with paper copy.

 Moving on from the daily press I intended to look at the Sunday press, in particular the supplements where I would find a different type of image. I was hoping here to see the feature in all its magnificence, where a top quality magazine can use the best photographers and the best equipment for taking and output. This turns out to be disappointing because there is nothing free to look at. The Sunday Times Magazine, a maga zine that I hold in high esteem for quality in every sphere is pay to view. The supplements were available so can be seen on line in theory but as soon as detail is clicked, they want money. 

It would seem then that since this course module was put together there has been a closing of doors in the on line media world and we cannot view as much as we once could.

The exception however is also a classic. Time Magazine.

The page layout is classic, white with plenty of space and no gimmicks. The content is enormous and the whole experience of looking at photographs here is sublime. It has an almost academic feel to it and is a joyous experience with hours of content.

The Media as they now call themselves (it was The Press when I worked there) have bigger pockets to fill and I guess with everyone having a mobile phone, wifi, 4G etc there is a possibility that the paper copy of these publications will die if the on line version is free. With advertising space being sold I would have thought there was a case for free distribution of news and the advertising will pay. An advertiser will reach millions through on line advertising as apposed to the news in print which has a limited circulation. The on line version is also much more flexible as there is no print deadline and the stories can be changed in minutes as the news happens. Some such as Time do a first class job, others a good job and there are others who without paying we will never know.

A while ago this year I was asked to revisit the photographs that were held in stock for advertising at a small hotel in Menorca. A few new shots were taken and to offer something to the client slightly differently I prepared them as a slide show. It is still a work in progress operation and I think it will never be finished as there are changes that my work shows that make it unsuitable. The show needs some music and perhaps a bit of editing but I include it here as evidence of me having attempted a slide show. 

Biniarroca Hotel

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