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One of the promises of the Internet is that it can be a place where
people from all around the world can learn, exchange ideas, and interact
on a variety of subjects. With that in mind, noted fashion and fine
arts photographer Robert Farber has created the 3D Virtual Internet
Workshop web site where participants can learn about photography from
a master of the art of seeing and manipulating light.
Navigating The Site. Access to the site is through the Robert Farber
Photographie Gallery web site at: www.farber.com To get there, you click
the 3D Virtual Internet Workshop banner. Unlike most of the home pages
covered in Shutterbug, this one is a paid site. You can visit the site
for a free guided tour by clicking the "Guest" icon. After
paying a modest fee, you will have access to all of the web site's
contents and much more. Information on membership fees and benefits
are covered later. When you pass through the "Members Only"
portal, you'll discover that the web site consists of many areas
or "rooms." These areas include Business Office, Darkroom,
Digital Imaging, Dressing Room, Editing Room, Equipment Room, Gallery
of Prints, Lighting Studios--including Natural Lighting and Studio areas,
Member's Gallery, Photo Resource Store, Download Page, Workshop
Directory, and a back link to Robert Farber's Photographie Gallery.
In between these areas, there are "hallways" which allow
you to navigate between adjacent rooms. Three other rooms--The Palace,
Auditorium, and Conference Room--make use of virtual meeting software
that makes the Chat Room concept seem obsolete. In The Palace you enter
into a realistic environment, maintaining real time, face to face discussions
with Mr. Farber and other members. You even get to pick your own "face,"
also called avatars, that can be any graphical character you want. Visit
to learn more about The Palace. If you find this concept interesting,
I suggest you read a science-fiction novel called, The Hacker and the
Ants by Rudy V. B. Rucker. In it he describes the use of virtual meetings
such as are supported by The Palace. It's a good book, too.
In almost all of the rooms you enter Mr. Farber speaks, after you download
the Real Networks Player plug-in, directly to you. In clear, distinct
tones, he explains the concept behind a specific room and what you can
learn while you are there. Inside the Lighting Studios, for example,
you will find an audio introduction as well as links to: the Natural
Lighting Studio, Light Table, Studio Lighting, and a back link to the
Reception Room. When you click Light Table, you get a message suggesting
that before you "turn on" the light box, you check out "Filtefilrs"
and a Film Data Sheet form Mr. Farber designed. He then gives his permission
to use and print this form if you wish. When you click on "Filtefilrs"
you are taken to another room devoted specifically to filters. Some
of the topics covered here include soft focus and diffusion along with
special effect filters. If you're acquainted with Mr. Farber's
work you know he is a master at using this kind of filtration and if,
like me, you've always wondered how he does it, this is your chance
to find out. Be sure to "turn on" the light box to view
some of the slides on display. When you select an image, you get to
see not only an enlarged version of the photograph but Mr. Farber's
thoughts and feelings about the creation of the image, along with information
about the film, equipment, and lighting used to make it.
In discussing his work, Mr. Farber's candor is refreshing. For
example, in the Editing Room he not only shows a selection of images
that include the "selects" you would expect to find but
also some of the "outs." His stated reason for showing all
the images is that he prefers to work handheld with zoom lenses, so
not every image is perfect. You get the benefit of looking at a contact
sheet showing all of the images he shot in a given sequence. After viewing
the contact sheet, you can click on "Finished Results" or
"Finished Print" to see the final image, along with how
it may have appeared in print. I wished these photographs were displayed
a little larger, but my guess is that Mr. Farber is keeping them the
size they are to minimize potential copyright problems. Nevertheless,
being able to look at the work of a master like Robert Farber and see
his thought processes expressed in each frame of a contact sheet is
almost worth the price of membership itself.
As in traditional workshops, assignments are given and your work is
requested to be submitted for critique. To keep in touch, e-mail is
sent notifying you about when meetings discussing the assignments will
be held. In The Palace environment of these meetings, you will be able
to ask questions not only of Mr. Farber but of other participating members
as well. When the assignment is complete, digital images are sent, critiqued,
and prizes awarded to the best photographs. The winning images will
be displayed in the Members Gallery for the whole World Wide Web (WWW)
Get Plugged In. In addition to the audio plug-in mentioned before, you
will need a few other components installed in your browser's plug-in
folder to take advantage of the multimedia components of this web site.
All of them are free and are available for download within the site
itself. The "Download Page" area contains a list of recommended
components that are available for both Mac OS and Windows platforms.
In addition to the Real Networks Player plug-in that lets you hear Mr.
Farber's voice, you'll need a copy of QuickTime to see and
hear movies and animation. To present animated graphics, the site uses
Macromedia's ShockWave plug-in. Of course, you will need a browser,
too. Mr. Farber suggests Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer
3.0 or higher, both of which support Java and plug-ins.
I viewed the web site using Mac OS and Windows computers and with Internet
Explorer 4.0 and Netscape Communicator 4.0. I also visited the site
using 33.6 and 56K modems and the screen loading speed with both modems
was quite good. All of these components combine with an inspired design
that make the 3D Virtual Internet Workshop one of the best--maybe the
best--designed photographic site on the WWW.