Friday, December 18, 2009

We're Closed! Returning January 4th.

Hello Arts Friends,

UCLA Extension will be closed from Saturday, December 19, 2009 through Sunday, January 3, 2010. This extended closure is due to the salary reduction furlough plan adopted by the University of California Regents in response to the State of California’s budget crisis.

For program information, or to enroll in winter courses, please visit our website at

If you are interested in a course that is currently full and would like to be placed on a waitlist, please call (310) 206-1422. Leave a message with your name, the name of the course, the registration number (which should be something like V4863) and the date and time of your call. When we return to the office we will add names to waitlists in the order in which they were received.

Happy New Year to all! See you in 2010.

If you're wondering how you'll fill the remaining days of 2009, why not check out The Year in Pictures on the blog The Big Picture. There are some stunning shots.

Part I
Part II

Part III
(via Urlesque)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


(image by Greg Keene via Wikipedia)

Up until today, tilt-shift photography was something that I would have pretended I knew about. You know how sometimes, someone will reference something, and you'll have heard of it but not really understand it fully (or at all), but you'll say "Oh yeah, that thing!" because you want to sound smart? Like, if someone says "Hey, you know the book Jude the Obscure" and you'll be like "Ah yes, the Thomas Hardy classic," even though you have not read Jude the Obscure and know nothing whatsoever about the plot? I know I'm not the only person who does this.

Anyway, that was how it was with me and tilt-shift photography. I had noticed it enough that I was like "Hey, I should do a post about this cool-sounding thing, because HOW HARD COULD IT BE?" (answer: so hard.)

The first place I turned was Wikipedia. Here's how that went:

"Tilt-shift photography...specifically refers to the use of tilt for selective focus, often for simulating a miniature scene. "Tilt-shift" actually encompasses two different types of movements: rotation of the lens plane relative to the image plane, called tilt, and movement of the lens parallel to the image plane, called shift. Tilt is used to control the orientation of the plane of focus (PoF), and hence the part of an image that appears sharp; it makes use of the Scheimpflug principle. Shift is used to change the line of sight while avoiding the convergence of parallel lines, as when photographing tall buildings."

Oh right, the Scheimpflug priciple! I'm sorry, but that sounds like something professor Frink would say (followed by "BLAVIN!"). Sometimes if Wikipedia isn't part of the solution, it's part of the problem, you know?

Luckily, I found an article on the site Cheap Shooter, which offered a clearer, less geeky explanation:

"A tilt-shift lens allows the photographer very exacting control over the depth-of-field in an image, much more than any regular lens could provide. Focus can be restricted to a single, narrow band, with everything else rapidly blurring away. This distorts the appearance and makes the eye think that distances are a lot smaller than they typically are. When applied to a large scene like a city or a museum, everything appears miniature." In addition, "Tilting the lens with respect to the film/sensor plane changes the perspective in the image: you can make lines that otherwise would converge, showing perspective, instead remain parallel or even diverge."

OH, THAT'S WHAT THAT IS! Much better. Thanks, Cheap Shooter. Hugs.

Now that we've exhaustively defined this term, let's see some examples:

(image by cloudsoup)

(image by B Tal)

(image by Jeangenie)

(image by Vincent Laforet)

Oh! The Wikipedia entry should have just said "Tilt-shift photography makes everything look like crazy fake little miniatures! It's nuts! The end."

I mean really, it's hard to believe that these are not photos from miniature movie sets. It's a pretty cool effect.

Ok, now are you ready for this? Because we still have half a rabbit hole to fall down (ie. we are only halfway down the rabbit hole by this point). Because check it: tilt-shift videos!

The East Side of Los Angeles on a Sunny Day from clark vogeler on Vimeo.

How blown is your mind? 100% blown? I have no idea how this is done, and if you think I'm going to try to find out, you're crazy. You can check out a whole gallery of beautiful tilt-shift videos over at this Gawker post - the one above is my favorite because it's set in East LA.

There is so much more to say about tilt-shift, like how there is a big controversy because people can pretty easily fake tilt-shift techniques in Photoshop so you never know what's really real, and whether you should buy a bunch of expensive equipment or just get a Lensbaby, but I'm not going to get into that, because this is already the longest post in the history of this blog, even longer than the Lady Gaga posts. But I will say that I learned something today, and I hope you did too! Isn't that nice?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Photography Quiz! Test Your Knowledge.

(image by Craig Havens)

One of the fun things about Extension classes is that there's such a diverse group of students. People from all educational backgrounds, career paths and walks of life show up to learn and make art.

Because our students are so varied in their experiences, some find it difficult to decide which level of study is the right one for them. "I've been shooting on my DSLR for two years, but have never taken a formal class - am I ready for Intermediate Digital Photography?" "I've been shooting headshots for my friends, but have not worked in a professional studio before - which lighting class is right for me?"

It can be a bit confusing, especially since so many of us who own high-end cameras are self-taught. Maybe you know HOW to adjust for nighttime shooting, but aren't exactly sure of the technical term for what you're doing.

To help students find the right level for them, instructor Craig Havens has devised a short quiz that he gives the first night of class. If students are stumped by the questions and unfamiliar with the terms used, they're good candidates for Introduction to Digital Photography. If they get half or more of the questions right, they're probably ready for the Intermediate class.

Here's the quiz - highlight the areas below the questions to see the answers. No cheating!

1. If your camera’s light meter is reading f8 at 125th, what does that mean?
Aperture opening is at or near its mid-point.
Shutter Speed is at 125th of a second.

2. If you want a different setting than f8 with this light reading, say f16, what would you have to set your camera's shutter speed to?
Two light stops down to 1/30th.

3. What is the best ISO when using a digital camera for both speed and picture quality?
640 to 800 depending on the quality of the sensor.

4. What is the highest quality setting for picture quality on a digital camera?

(Fill in the Blank - highlight to see answers)

5. When shooting in high contrast situations with film, you should expose for the___shadows_______ and develop for the ____highlights_____.

6. When shooting in high contrast situations with digital, you should be sure that the ____highlights_____ do not "blow out" and that the ____shadows_____ hold as much detail as possible. One way of doing this is to _____bracket_______ multiple frames of the same scene and checking the ______Histogram______during exposure.

7. The practice of allowing a slightly larger space beneath the image area of a final digital print is called "_____weighting______" a print.

8. When working in Photoshop always save your files in the _____TIFF____ format to avoid image loss with repeated saves.

True or False

A client owns your images until you sign a contract together stating otherwise.

You can include all costs for materials, including rental of your own equipment.

You should never ask for the total cost of your estimate up front.

When hiring paid models for any purpose, it is required that they sign a model release.

You should organize and back-up your images archives on two separate hard drives at least once a month.

All clients must sign a contract stating their understanding of licensing fees once the job is completed.
False (before!)

Ambient light refers to any type of lighting that exists upon your arrival at a location.

How did you do?

FAQs - Photography Program

Here at the UCLA Extension Photography program, we offer a variety of courses to improve your technical skills and your creative eye. Courses range from Introduction to Digital Photography to our Master Photographer Series, and can be taken individually or as part of a Certificate Program.

Below are some of the questions I often hear from students.

Q: Where can I see a list of the photography classes you will be offering?
A: You can download a PDF of the current catalog here.

Q: I've had my DSLR camera for a few years, and have done some independent shooting, but have never taken a class. How do I know what level I'm at?

A: Introduction to Digital Photography covers the following topics:
  • Aperture
  • Shutter Speed
  • Depth of Field
  • Focus
  • ISO
  • File management (including coverting files, tagging, file batching and archiving)
  • Basic Lighting Skills (including contrast, direction, color, white balance, histogram)
  • Composition (including framing and perspective)
  • Digital imaging (including an introduction to Adobe Lightroom)

If you feel confident in your knowledge of the topics listed, you are ready to move on to an intermediate-level course. If your understanding is hazy or you struggle with some of them, the introductory course would be the best place for you to refine your skills and get a solid foundation of technical understanding. Many students who are not technically "beginners" take an introductory class as a way to test their current abilities and for the challenge of assignments and instructor critique.

If you're still not sure which class you're ready for, take our Photography Quiz to find out how much you really know.

Q: What is the application process to take courses with UCLA Extension?

A: There is no formal application process. As the continuing education arm of UCLA, Extension courses are open enrollment. Students may enroll online, or by phone at (310) 825-9971.

Q: Who are your teachers?

A: Our instructors are professionals currently working in various fields of photography. They have valuable real-world experience that they are eager to share in the classroom. You can see links to their websites on the main page of the blog.

Q: Can I transfer Extension class units to UCLA, or the grad program of my choice?

A: Maybe! That is entirely up to the admissions office of the school to which you are applying. They may ask you to e-mail course descriptions or class syllabi to an admissions counselor, which we would be happy to help you obtain. If you think you might want to try to transfer course units at some point, be sure to take your courses for a Letter Grade (as opposed to "Not for Credit").

Q: Can I visit a class on the first meeting to see if I like it, even if I'm not enrolled?

A: Students may visit the first meeting of courses that are 10 weeks in duration or longer. However, many courses fill up quickly, so if you are interested in a course, it's advisable to enroll early to ensure you get a space. All students must be enrolled by the second class meeting.

Q: How many students are there in each class?

A: An average class will probably have 15-18 students - the limit for most courses is 20.

Q: Who should I contact if I have more questions?

A: You can reach our office at (310) 206-1422, or send an e-mail to

(image taken during the course Shoot and Critique with instructor Scott Stulberg).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Kodachro-oh-om, Make It Yourself At Home

Today at a photography meeting, there was some lamenting the disappearance of Kodachrome film.

Well guess what, film fans? Some dude, identity unclear (let's call him the Hasselblad Hero) built a machine called the "Filminator" that produces film stock. As he elegantly puts it: "Can't buy the film you want any more? Just make the stuff! Plastic and goop go in one end, and camera film comes out the other end. This is not a trivial undertaking."

Here are some pictures of this awesome machine. Also, if you go to the Flickr set and scroll over the first image, different parts of the machine are tagged with explanations, such as where the emulsion is chilled, and that the coating head and roller are the "business end."

Via Boingboing

Friday, December 4, 2009

Leaftist Propaganda

I should retitle this blog "The Christoph Niemann link dump" because I always end up posting links to his NY Times Abstract City pieces. But I love them!

The latest is Bio-Diversity, where he cuts leaves into shapes and gives them funny names. I have to admit, the concepts never sound that promising, but his execution is always so creative and funny. I suspect I also like them because they involve puns.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Attack of the $30-Million Production Deal

My Mom grew up in Uruguay, so whenever any of us see Uruguay mentioned in the news, we get all excited and e-mail each other, because it doesn't happen that often, because IT'S URUGUAY.

This morning Paul saw a piece in the LA Times about young Uruguayan filmmaker Federico "Fede" Alvarez. Alvarez, who runs a post-production effects house, created a 5-minute short film called "Ataque de Pánico!" (Panic Attack, for those of you who took French in High School) that caught the attention of Hollywood mainly through YouTube and word of mouth. Alvarez got on an airplane, made the EXTREMELY LONG flight to LA, and a few days later he had a $30-million deal with Mandate pictures to make a feature.

This story has so many great elements, but my favorites are the description by the Times that the short film "depicts an invasion of Montevideo by a battalion of giant robots" and the fact that it first gained attention on KANYE WEST'S BLOG (where it was no doubt discussed in all caps). Montevideo is the capital city of Uruguay, and giant robots invading it would be like an alien invasion happening in...Barstow. Or like...Fresno. NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THOSE PLACES! I'm just saying.

So bravo Fede, bravo Uruguay, and bravo Mandate pictures for taking a chance on what they think will be the Next Big Thing. Maybe soon we can all go to the multiplex to see Mate flying everywhere as Uruguayans battle aliens (Uruguay inside-joke!)

Here's the short film that started it all.

UPDATE: My Mom's reaction to the video: "It was panic inducing indeed, since every single scene took place in locations that are quintessential Montevideo, and part of my very consciousness. The little boy looks like an angel, typical Uruguayan look. Apparently the love for whole cities being blown up by invading aliens crosses cultural borders. Can't wait for the upcoming project!"

LA Times - Hollywood Has a 'Panic Attack!'

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Peter Schjeldahl And I Are Different: An Exploration

I love and cherish the New Yorker magazine, but it just. Comes. So. Often. Am I right, New Yorker subscribers? There is a lot in each issue! It's not like Us Weekly where you can knock one out during your lunch break. That thing is DENSE. And you get one and then a week later you get another? Craziness. (I'm just teasing, New Yorker. Don't ever change. Kisses.)

Anyway, I was reading the New Yorker from last April, and there was a cool little article by Peter Schjeldahl about a show at the Frick that included pieces on loan from the Norton Simon.

I feel like the Norton Simon keeps sort of a low profile in LA, but yet it's amazing. Peter Schjeldahl said something like "It has the best painting collection on the West Coast." That is a guesstiquote, because I don't have access to the article because back issues of the New Yorker online is by subscription only (cough*EVIL*cough.)

Schjeldahl's article addresses the idea that memory is inherently subjective and imperfect, especially when it comes to art. We might remember one detail in stark clarity, but completely forget another aspect of a painting. He makes specific reference to a painting by Francisco de Zurbarán,"Still Life with Lemons, Oranges, and a Rose." Here's the painting:

I can't say this painting is lighting my fire, which would probably be way #1 in which I am different than Peter Schjeldahl. He LOVES this painting, specifically the citrons (they're obviously citrons and not lemons - what are you, an idiot?) The second way I am not like him was revealed when he started talking about how the items in the painting are supposed to represent the virtues of the Virgin Mary. He was like "Yeah, strength and purity and blah blah blah, I don't care about symbolism."

People, he literally said BLAH BLAH BLAH. At least, I think he's too bad that I can't access the original article online to quote him in full. But anyway the point is that he could care less about symbolism, and just wants to talk about how the citrons are yellow and green and stuff.

I think symbolism is truly my favorite part of art. When Paul and I were at the Louvre, there were a million paintings of like, very specific scenes from myths or the Bible, or tableaux that looked like a woman carrying a basket, but were actually complicated political endorsements. Luckily, we had the museum audioguide, and I was so excited to sit and listen to the soothing British voice explain that this Flemish painting is actually an allegory condemning lust, and the fish represents immoral women and the sausage links represent wicked men, and the kitchen maid represents purity, and the dog at her feet is the holy spirit, or whatever. I mean, it was truly fascinating to me to hear how each detail was like a puzzle piece in the story of the painting's meaning.

So there you go: Peter Schjeldahl and I are different. If you want proof, here is a picture of me sitting on a bench, as the audioguide whispers to me all the secrets of the paintings.

Oh and P.S., if you are looking for an excuse to visit the Norton Simon, we have a great class coming up around Ingres's 'Comtesse d'Haussonville,' which is actually on loan from the Frick (they share!) Click here for details.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lady Gaga is Wearing the Alexander McQueen Space Alien Shoes!

People, Arts Blog is in an uproar today over Lady Gaga's new video. As we were doing work sanctioned research by watching the recently released Lady Gaga video for "Bad Romance," we noticed something that made us squeal with delight.


If you need to catch up, read this post. I'll wait.

Crazy shoes, right? Anyway, the actual video is a little bit too risque to post here (there is a part with a tushy), but you can go join the millions of people that are watching it on YouTube right now. Luckily, Jezebel has a breakdown of the video with stills, and in those stills you can see the shoes.

These are the crazy shoes that looked like squeezed out ropes of toothpaste sticking together that I didn't love at first. However, I will say that I am warming up to them a bit here on Gaga's feet.

Here is a close-up of the giant mood ring hoof shoes. She is in motion here, which is pretty awesome feat.

Here she is wearing an entire outfit that looks to be the same material and design as the shoes. Is it a little too matchy-matchy? Does it matter if you live on Alpha Centari?

And finally, the toothpaste shoes again. They definitely go with her outfit, which is a bear.

In conclusion, Lada Gaga is the parton saint of Arts Blog, and we are glad that she is visiting this planet to do good, and make catchy dance music.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Better Now? Or Now?

When I go to the optometrist, he sits me in the chair and pulls the eye thingy up to my face. Then he clicks through the lenses, saying "Better now (click) or now (click). Better now (click) or now (click)." Sometimes it's hard to tell which is better! I have to really focus (zing!) to determine which image is clearer.

These pictures from the class Environmental Portraiture reminded me of that experience, but in this case, there's no question about the better image. Instructor Josh Sanseri has set up a before and after that illustrate how a portrait can be transformed with the right techniques.

The model here is student Larry Wurzel. Volunteer in class, people! Also, these shots were taken on campus in Dodd Hall, and I can honestly say, Dodd has never looked better. So majestic! It really looks like a sanctum of learning.

If you want to know what secret photo magic Josh used to transform blah picture A into oooh aaaah picture B, take the class! I am not expert enough to say in detail, but I have sat in on enough classes to know that it probably has something to do with the white balance. Right?

Friday, November 6, 2009


For Halloween, 3-D artist and videogame designer Eric Testroete created a papercraft blow-up of his own head, and wore it over his regular head.

This strikes me as one of the eerier things I have ever seen. On his website, Eric says that he "really wanted to get the faceted geosphere look with wireframe."

Yes indeed! Apparently he was also inspired by "big head mode" in videogames, which is a secret thing that you unlock, and then all the characters' heads get blown up 150%. What?

I recommend checking out the whole set of photos, but here are some images of Eric's unholy costume, and the steps he took to create it.

Way to go Eric! David Lynch is ready for your close-up.

Via Laughingsquid

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kevin Van Aelst - Sublime Simplicity

I love and am tickled by the work of artist Kevin Van Aelst, who represents complicated ideas with everyday, mundane objects. In his own words:

"My color photographs consist of common artifacts and scenes from everyday life, which have been rearranged, assembled, and constructed into various forms, patterns, and illustrations. The images aim to examine the distance between the ‘big picture’ and the ‘little things’ in life—the banalities of our daily lives, and the sublime notions of identity and existence."

Though I don't 100% understand what that means, I love the way that these objects, which you would pass by everyday without a second glance, become magical and meaningful in the photographs.

Kevin Van Aelst Website

Friday, October 30, 2009

Go with the Flowchart

What is it about flowcharts that I find so amusing? They are so factual and grey and math-based. But combine them with pop culture, and the uncanny melding of stoicism and irreverence makes for great fun. It's like if your grumpy, musty old calculus teacher suddenly busted into the humpty dance.

Take this flowchart for the song "Hey Jude". "Hey Jude" is a great song. No one is disputing that. But break it down into its composite elements, and you get this adorable map of the lines, chorus, and of course the final, joyous Na na na NA NA NA NA. Look how fun (and surprisingly repetitive) "Hey Jude" is now! It's like a subway map, where you could catch the train at Don't and ride it all the way to Better Better Better Better WAAA.

Click to enlarge

I think this next one is less technically sucessful (as a flowchart) but more enjoyable (as an awesome song). It's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" - the flowchart.

Here is my question: where is "And if you'll only hold me tight/we'll be holding on forever"??? I realize that the whole, 6.5 minute song is not represented here, but those are vital, soaring lines.

A while ago I had a conversation with my boyfriend where he told me that the same guy who wrote "Total Eclipse of the Heart" wrote most of the songs on Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell, including a personal favorite, "I Would Do Anything for Love." I was like "Get out of town," but then I thought, wait a minute, they are actually really similar! They start of all quiet and melodic, and then in the middle they each rachet up a key and become all belty and powerful (think about "And I need you now tonight/and I need you more than ever!" vs. "I would do anything for love/anything you've been dreaming of." )

If you take away only one thing from this blog post, I guess it should be that I enjoy the work of Jim Steinman.

Via Laughingsquid

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Norman Rockwell Took Painterly Liberties

Gizmodo has an interesting post about Norman Rockwell, the "original king of Photoshop."

"Wait just a minute" you may be thinking to yourself. "I'm pretty sure Photoshop was not around during America's golden 40s and 50s."

You would be right, but as the new book Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera illustrates, Rockwell set up carefully posed and art-directed photo shoots, which he later referenced as he created his paintings. Taking a face here and a gesture there, he combined subjects into whole scenes, none of which existed in the original photos.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Photo Fakeouts: Reality is Dark and Crowded is a website that publishes hotel reviews for popular travel destinations. Apparently they have a team of people who run around to these hotels and stay in the rooms and eat the room service and go in the pools and take pictures of everything so that you can see what it's actually like to be there. First of all, sign me up for that job, etc. Secondly, I feel like is a terrible name. I had spent probably 15 minutes on the website before I realized oh, they mean "The World is Your Oyster." I'm sorry, but it just makes me think of slimy mollusks.

But anyway, they have this great feature called Photo Fakeouts. They take promotional images of hotel pools, rooms and beaches, and run them alongside pictures that their staff actually took when they visited the hotel.

I think this is just a stunning example of how staging and some Photoshop can make an average picture look completely different and enticing. The fakeouts are not egregious, but something like changing the color and light quality of the sky, showing an uncharacteristically empty beach, or pulling the old "pool trick" create images that are not representative of the experience you will have when you visit.

Here are some of my favorites:

Oops! Instead of your girlfriend's french braid, the beach has gigantic cranes. And it's dark. And there are other people on it.

I would not expect a hotel room to look exactly like, or ever particularly like, the picture in a brochure, but this is barely recognizable as the same place.

The promotional picture is so 80s, I love it! After the buffet, the promotional picture is going to a jazzercise class. Also, gross.

Poor little pool! Can you imagine if you were this pool posing for your big photo shoot, and you're so excited, and then finally the pictures are released, and you're like "This doesn't look like me at all!" Then you would burst into tears, but no one would know, because you are a pool.

Via Lifehacker