Welcome to Peter Pham's Blog

The mission statement of this blog will be to share items of interest with my students, family, and friends. I have managed many blogs in the past, and for a while dumped them all in favor of other emergent social media (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter)  The current state of Social media posting (the ability to block/ignore/sometimes not even see feeds, people with hundreds or thousands of friends, etc.) I have decided to revisit the blog, in the hopes to better share items I believe to be helpful.

While this is a personal blog, there is so much crossover in my daily life with my career (instructor in the technical college system) that most of the posts are related to my work life, moreover the discussion of philosophical and design-related ideas that permeate my brain. The items posted here are not officially endorsed or supported by GTC. I welcome all netizens of like interests to follow and share.



I was recently at the GATEWAY TECHNICAL COLLEGE S.C. JOHNSON iMET CENTER, hangin' out in their FABLab.  John Zehren (of the FabLAB ) had sent out an invite to folks to stop by and apply the technologies to artistic printing processes… something he,  David Jones (of the Center for Collaborative Research in Kenosha), and others had been piloting at the iMET center's FabLAB.

Its a refreshing application of a technology that "standard thinking" could lead you to believe is reserved primarily for Industrial Design early prototype fabrication.  

I instantly recognized Jones from a trip I had made with Carthage undergrad and graduate classmates many years prior to Chicago's Columbia College Printmaking space, which he had been operating at the time.
Its a wonderful thing when the utilization of a set of tools can expand beyond one's presumptions. I was able, with Jones and Zehren's support, to make some wood block prints of a design I created in Adobe Illustrator.
I intend to take my students there in the future.



I remember seeing a Scott Robert Lim video (he is a Big Time Photographer  with a truly inspiring  story) where he recounts the tale of one of his visually potent photos. He was with an Asian-American couple on their wedding day, driving around between the ceremonies and reception. Red (and gold) are potent colors in many Asian Cultures, and Lim wanted the couple against a striking background that would communicate well with the couples' outfits.

As I recall, Lim says he saw a convenience store or gas station sign (and it looked a bit run down), and asked the driver to pull over to take a photo of the couple. The couple looked a bit puzzled and concerned… had Lim lost his mind?

The result was an amazing photo of the couple in front of a striking red background. The lens compression and the cropping gave no indication where the actual environment was. The result spoke volumes for the method.

Flash forward several years, and this image (shared by "DrBatookhan") graphically communicated the exact same principle. The top is the "roadside setup," and the  bottom is the result (click to enlarge).

Nothing cooler to me than to see how these guys think when they compose.




I'm a visual communicator. I got edjuhmacated in the 1980's, when the nom-de-mode was graphic designer. I'll admit that graphic designer  has a certain 'cachet' about it that 'visual communicator' seems to lack.  It somehow implies a discipline that is more purely visual, with less dependency or regard for the mass-communicative (and also 'marketing' goal-based) properties of the field.

That being said, for my undergrad we had two solid years of fine-arts curriculum. So perhaps Graphic Designer is a more appropriate name for what I am. 

I was fortunate enough to attend college when they had a gaggle of Bauhaus instructors– one of my professors actually met Gropius, and another had been a product/disciple of the Black Mountain School. This for the price of a public university education!

So there is certainly a thread of the fine artist that runs through my soul.

You can imagine my joy when, on an afternoon car trip, I got to hear this podcast.
I highly encourage you to check it out.

and in the same vein…
I heard this podcast about the disagreeable relationship between Gropius (the Bauhaus founder) and the wife of Lazlo Moholy-Nagy.
I guess all your creative heroes die.
I learned the truth about Hitchcock a couple of years ago, and now Manet and Gropius join him in the realm of being "merely human." If someone finds some stuff on Hopper,  I will probably sink into a depression.

[link will take you to the article page, click in the "play" triangle in the upper lefthand part of the photo for  the podcast.]



Here are some tips on creating Instagram photos.
A lot of photographers are increasing their use of mobile phones in photography (some are even using them exclusively)… and with the new features [controlling f-stop appearance, dof effects, and virtual shutterspeeds] the phone-direct-to-Instagram route is as popular as ever. While a camera is  shown here, you can certainly use the principles with almost anything.




Photography can be expensive…but it doesn't necessarily have to be.
If your a pro, you more than likely need pro equipment—and it ain't cheap.
if you are an amateur, or a part-timer (maybe a graphic designer who does a handful of product shots and the odd headshot or two here and there;-) you can set up your studio with some "McGyver" ingenuity and a few bucks.

There are tons of "photo-teacher-celebrities" now on Youtube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion who have some great ideas of how to start. I personally have enjoyed the "stick-n-stones" photo studio guy, Joe Edelman with his T-8 fluorescent (pseudo kinoflo) track panels [and later LED ones btw], and many, many others.

I personally have discovered the joy of reading labels. For example, not any fluorescent tubes can be used! T8 fluorescent tubes (with their higher refresh rate, 85 or better CRI rating, and daylight color-balance  of 5800 -6200K) are best.

The SLANTED LENS offered this one up a while ago, but with several students asking how to get by "on-the-cheap,"  I think it bears re-examining.


F-stoppers article on "HOW TO CRITIQUE"

Anyone who has ever taught a class (or taken one for that matter) can feel the pain of a poor critique.

There is always the one student who "likes it," or "just doesn't like it," without any clarification as to what specifically they are identifying, and as to whether it is a personal preference or an overriding technical or compositional error.

Then there is the other who is worried about being perceived as "the jerk," preferring to identify every single piece as worthy of hanging in the MET… whether that is the case or not.

You often have to give guidelines for critiques, and this article by F-Stoppers' Mark Bowers focuses primarily on photography, but much of it rings true throughout all visual art.



The following is a blog post from ERIC KIM. In it, he makes some compelling arguments about iPHONE/Smartphone photography (after all… the best camera is the one that you always have on you) while mixing in some common sense photography foundations, and advice on how to achieve those foundations in a smartphone sphere.

He also sells products (workshops and literature), but I think the free stuff on this site is incredibly useful for budding iPhone-photographers.

While I'll readily admit that the commercial market may not be ready for product shots done on a smartphone (save for viral marketing/social media campaign types of things), in the fine-arts sphere, It is no less valid than any other form of image production.

With entire group shows at fine arts galleries across the world, and even full-length movies being done on smartphones (and tablets), why resist the technological marvel that you likely have on you at all times. It certainly exceeds many of my early cameras.



Business Card Inspiration

As an instructor, I post quite a lot of this type of site— the "inspiration sites." I love the craft of designing a business card, and often the examples I refer to  take the format of the business card to completely new dimensions: stainless steel cards, cards printed on wood, innovative shapes, and incredible folding forms.
Every so often though, I like the more restrained. The reality of being a designer is that the vast majority of clients aren't amenable to spending a small fortune to print on custom fabricated fiber-glass and aluminum cards using specially formulated ink. The parameters of the pragmatic job also require occasional external inspiration.
Here's a site that focuses on that.

10 Powerful Photoshop Techniques every Photographer Should Know

I recently came across this video on a Photography site that I frequent (Petapixel). Its provocatively entitled "10 Powerful Photoshop Techniques every Photographer Should Know."
Many times (as Petapixel contributor DL Cade states) these articles are a bit of a letdown. I found a few of the approaches in this video pretty interesting and not too basic nor too difficult.

Its worth a view on a lazy weekend, and at 36 minutes long it covers several topics.

  1. Face Aware Liquify Filters | 0:53
  2. Color Lookup Tables | 4:30
  3. Transform a Selection | 8:07
  4. Frequency Separation | 9:03
  5. Calculations for Selecting Hair | 15:06
  6. Selective Sharpening w/ High Pass | 20:46
  7. Color Range on Live Mask | 24:12
  8. Curves | 27:21
  9. Combine Adjustment Layers with Blend Modes | 29:50
  10. Camera RAW filter on anything (Use Dehaze for interesting contrast) | 32:28

of course, this is a sample for a product that the video's authors (Tutvid) are hawking for a small fee...but I don't mind the free teasers that these places toss to us every so often. Enjoy.