Learning from “Photography Mapped”

Photography has long been an area of intrigue for me. While I have taken thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of pictures in the last few years working as an instructor for MSUrbanSTEM, I still feel absolutely lost with my camera set on anything by “Automatic”. With this background shared, it is easy to see why I was drawn to the Wired headline “Learn How To Use a DSLR Camera, With This Nifty Web Tool”.

The article provided a brief description and link to a tremendous tool that was built by Simon Roberts, a London based designer, animator and amateur photographer. Within seconds of visiting his website Photography Mapped , Roberts background in design and animation is apparent.  The site is designed to have a gorgeous minimalist feel, which accents the power and beauty of his animations.

Simon Roberts

To explain the physics and settings of a DSLR camera, Roberts utilizes a still image, as well as interactive graphics. A visitor is offered the immediate choice between viewing the poster style still graphic or immediately diving into the interactive GIF.

The still graphic provides a beautiful overview of the camera’s settings, allowing the viewer to zoom in and explore the details of photography.

Inside the interactive  graphic one can adjust settings for light, aperture, shutter, sensor and exposure,  all while seeing the results of their manipulations play out on a photograph of a helicopter.

I spent a great deal of time marveling at the site, playing with the interactive graphic and reading the still image. What occurred to me was that while I was exploring information that had probably been explained to me countless times by either well meaning photography friends, tech blogs or YouTube videos, this time I was actually understanding it. A large part of this may have been my level enjoyment, but it felt bigger than that. As Margaret Rhodes so clearly explained in the Wired article, “Reading about photography felt counter-intuitive, because it’s an inherently visual process. Online tutorials can help, but watching video is a passive exercise. Robert’s hands-on infographic, on the other hand, simulates the experience of making a photo, and lets you explore how settings relate to each other.”   

Hearing about a visual process, or passively consuming an inherently interactive phenomenon, will always be inferior to active learning. Experiences like Roberts’ Photography Mapped website are something I really enjoy, because I know that I can very easily lose site of how difficult it is for my students to learn something brand new. I can fall victim to the temptation of assuming their understanding will come from reading or listening to others explain their knowledge. Experiences like this are a great reminder that often, learning occurs when we are given a chance to mess up the settings, turn the light and ISO all the way up and take some bad pictures.

Simon Roberts

Project 366 – A Year In Pictures

It has been roughly 48 hours since my “Year in Pictures” project officially ended.

I made the decision at about 11:45pm on January 1st, 2012 that I was going to take one picture everyday for the year 2012. I completed that goal, well almost, as I came up about three pictures short. I am not exactly sure what days I missed, as some days I was better than others, but i learned a great deal about myself, my photography skills, sharing your daily life and expectations.


To begin with, I loved the task of finding something creative, fun or unique and documenting it. However, this was undermined on those days I was too busy to eat, and snapped a quick picture of the closes thing to me as I crawled into bed at night. I learned that to do this project well, I needed a reminder. This came to me in about September, as I discovered an iPhone app, InstaCC. This app was a great reminder, set for 8:30pm everyday, and allowed me to somewhat organize myself around the need to take pictures. It didn’t work all the time, but it sure helped.

Next thing I learned was that this project was not about just testing my ability to follow through on a daily task, but it was about sharing. The whole point was to share, and as I complete this project I began to realize why this is so important in my classroom as well. Why would I have my students create anything if I am the only one who sees it? This is one of my favorite realizations, as I believe that it has given me a better insight into why sharing student work is so incredibly important.

As far as my sharing, I would recommend that anyone who try this sets up a wide variety of ways to share it. I had accounts with tumblr, flickr, instagram & twitter. The beauty of the internet is that I only had to do a few simple commands and my images were shared across these various mediums.  I used the amazing tool of If This Then That, which allowed me to create “recipes” which would be triggered by simple commands, and then they would execute the actions. For example, I would post an image on Instagram, and by attaching the tag #366, IFTTT would automatically tweet the image, post it to flickr and post it to tumblr. This saved me an insane amount of time and allowed me to share it in a very easy way.


Overall, I loved this project and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys taking pictures. I am not going to do it again in 2013, as I have barely enough time to brush my teeth everyday, but I do think I might take part in some monthly challenges. I am thinking of something along the lines of everyday in February taking a picture of something new I learned. This way, I am not obligated to do it forever, but I can still have the fun of looking at everything during the day as a potential picture. If you are interested in looking through my “Year in Pictures” I have included the links below. Also, they can be seen in my previous post.

Flickr: Here 

Tumblr: Here