Web Profiles

With so many sites on the Internet, and very little information as to content, how do you find the really great web sites? Shutterbug is featuring this column, dedicated to finding the best photography-related sites and getting that information to you, the reader. But, we need your help to make this a success. Do you have a favorite web site that you'd like to share with other Shutterbug readers? If so, send the address, along with your comments and a brief description of the site, to us for possible publication. Comments are subject to editing. Mail your site suggestions to 5211 S. Washington Ave., Titusville, FL 32780 or e-mail them to editorial@shutterbug.net.

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 www.palacespace.com/discover 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) to see.

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.