Straight Shooting

Melissa Paugh
September 01, 1998

With the click of a mouse the students in the Digital Photography Studio capture a thousand words. They are taking a picture with a digital camera.

"Watch your step. It's like walking in a mine field in here," says Gerald Lang. He takes an exaggerated step over a black metal box with thick cables that stretch across the floor. Attached to the cables are large umbrella-like lights, two huge cameras, and alongside them, two Macintosh computers. Lang, professor of Visual Arts and director of the Digital Photography Studio, supervises the 30 or so student photographers.

Inside the cool concrete walls of the ground floor studio, the buzz of computer monitors and the popping camera flashes are only part of what entices students to take Lang's class two or three times. For them, it is an opportunity to perfect their photographic vision using sophisticated digital imaging technology available at only a handful of other universities in the country.

"Throughout the history of photography, technology has influenced image making," says Lang. "The ways this new technology will alter photographic vision, how photographs are used, and what new opportunities digital imaging will provide are all integral parts of the research underway by students in the Digital Photography Studio."

"It's so interesting to watch them work," whispers Lang, as he steps back a bit to observe. "The instantaneous image on the monitor allows them to really be creative with their photography. They can shoot and see exactly what they got, right away. The students become very theatrical—it's amazing to see."

One student poses inside a large cardboard box as the sturdy metal arm, mounted with the camera, extends up from the floor. The arm hinge is carefully bent to produce an angle that looks straight down into the box from nine feet up. The image that the camera sees is displayed on the computer screen. "That's one of the great things about these digital cameras," says Lang, "you have the monitor, so you don't have to look into the actual camera.

The mouse clicks, and the lights flash as a sheer scarf falls over the model's cheek. Four necks crane to see the dramatic image on the screen. "A little more light," says one, as the crew adjusts the equipment. "I'm not really digging my nose in that shot," says the model from her box. "But that's okay. That's what Photoshop is for."

Around the corner, students use Macintosh 8600 computers to review the images they have stored on a one gigabit Jaz storage disc—almost like a digital photo album. Using Adobe Photoshop—a computer program for photographic imaging, they can edit the image, correct, interpret, enhance, and if they want to, creatively add or subtract components of it before printing it out on a digital printer. "We can cut and paste images on the computer like you can in a word processing document," says one student from his computer. "Potentially, you can change anything—color, size, contrast, anything." The model from the box can even have the cute button nose she wants.

Gerald Lang is professor of Visual Arts in the College of Arts and Architecture, 210 Patterson Building, University Park, PA 16802; 814-865-0444; gxl7@psu.edu. The Digital Photography Studio receives support from Calumet Photographic Inc., Bensenville, IL; The Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, NY; and Megavision Inc., Santa Barbara, CA, and Digital Image Capture. All digital photographs by credited photographers.

Last Updated September 01, 1998