Step Up Your Video Conference Background Game With GotYourBack

Video calls and conferences are fast becoming the new normal, in both our work lives and everyday lives. While you may not mind your colleagues or friends getting a glimpse into your home during a chat, GotYourBack can help you up the cool factor of your video meetings with custom backgrounds contributed by some of the world’s best artists, designers and museums. From the GotYourBack site:

Whether for work or personal use, many of us spent the last weeks in and out of video conference calls.

Far from ideal. But it sparked an idea.

GotYourBack

An ever growing collection of virtual backdrops for use in video call apps. Expressions of optimism and art by the world’s best designers, illustrators, animators, photographers, filmmakers and artists.

Adding some much needed creativity to video conferences whilst also raising awareness for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and promoting artists and their art. Everybody benefits.

The backgrounds include colorful abstracts, whimsical photo manipulations and illustrations, fine art paintings from the Dutch Rijksmuseum and breathtaking photography. There are even several animated backgrounds, if that’s your thing. The site’s FAQ gives instructions for using the backgrounds in Microsoft Teams and Zoom, and they are also perfect for desktop wallapers.

All of the backgrounds on GotYourBack are available to use free of charge, but you can make a voluntary donation to the COVID-19 Response Fund when you download.

Via It’s Nice That.

The Art and Science of Cyanotype

Cyanotype by photography pioneer, Anna Atkins

Looking for a fun, kid-friendly (or maybe just easy-for-adults) art activity to occupy some of your quarantined day? Something that functions as a science lesson, as well? Look no further than cyanotype printing.

Although cyanotype is, technically, a photographic process, special chemicals or a darkroom are not required. In its most basic form, all that is needed is some easily-obtainable, specially-coated paper, some interesting objects (leaves, flowers, glass trinkets, lace) and sunlight.

The basic process is simple and safe enough for even very young children. Simply pick a sunny spot in which to place the paper, arrange the objects on the paper, and expose for a few minutes (around 2-5, depending on the strength of the sunlight). Next, remove the objects and wash the prints in regular tap water to develop the image. You will be left with a light image on a blue background. Kind of like an architectural blueprint, which uses the same basic process.

While cyanotype is very simple in its basic form, you can get more elaborate with it, if you desire. For example, you can print photo negatives on transparency film with your home inkjet printer and use those to print your own photos as cyanotypes.

You can also buy the chemistry needed and coat your own watercolor paper, or even fabric and other objects. This is only slightly more complex than using pre-coated paper, but allows for some very interesting results.

If you would like to learn more about the cyanotype process, alternativephotography.com has a wealth of information, including free downloadable materials. This Instructables article details the entire process, including printing a negative and coating your own paper.

It’s simple, safe and fun – give it a try!

Hang On

I saw this in the window of a house in my neighborhood, as I took a walk yesterday afternoon. A terrible photo, I know. But, the sentiment is something I think we should all keep in mind – now and always, really. Thanks, wise neighbor.

Photo Friday, “Stag Beer Sign 2”

As promised in this post, here is a shot of this beautiful old, recently-restored sign near my house. The first time I posted a shot of this sign, I used color film in my then recently-acquired Olympus OM-10 camera. This time, I used my trusty original silver Canon Digital Rebel. I shot in RAW, which is something I don’t normally do because I don’t like having to fiddle with my shots if I don’t have to. This is the result of my first attempt at RAW developing with Adobe Lightroom, and I have to say that I was impressed with the ease of making adjustments and pleased with the quality of the result. I may have to get this one printed and framed.

Photo Friday, “Donuts Fit For The King”

Grabbed this shot while out for a short walk this afternoon. I normally wouldn’t post a cell phone pic, because the camera on my phone is not very good. But, I was pleased with how this came out – kind of reminds me of my photographic hero, Walker Evans. I have also shot this place before, with my Olympus OM-10, so more to come.

An Art Deco Eastman Kodak Store

I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought I would repost this item from before the blog reboot. It’s been edited a bit to make more sense in this context.

While most people above a certain age know how Kodak once dominated the film photography world, few are aware of the fact that the company operated Kodak-branded retail stores all over the world for many years.

Featuring a wide array of Eastman Kodak cameras, films and accessories, these often opulent establishments were something like their era’s version of the Apple Store.

I stumbled upon this Art Deco beauty while roaming around downtown St. Louis early one Sunday morning. Judging by the style of the architecture and logo, it dates from the 1920s or ’30s, but seemed to have held up remarkably well. The interior looked as if it had been vacated the previous day.

And although the photographic giant that was Kodak no longer exists, this building lives on in restored splendor as the Thaxton Speakeasy, an ‘underground lounge’ and event space. The gorgeous cobalt backlit letters are gone from the facade, but the “EKC” logo remains, as does much of the original interior woodwork and art.