Tell a Story with a Photo Slideshow

Do you remember the Christmas Tour of Blogs? What a fun project that was! This post is about taking advantage of your photo-editor’s slideshow capabilities to tell a story with pictures and as I was browsing for appropriate photos to use in my example, I stumbled onto my photo “cards” that I used in the tour. So, of course this project gets a Christmas theme!

Just about every photo-editing platform has some form of slideshow feature. If yours doesn’t or it’s too clunky for you, then put your Power Point/Keynote presentation app to work instead. Either way, you can build a fascinating story to share with family and friends. Let’s start by taking a look at the finished slideshow.

Tell a Story with Pictures – The Christmas Tour of Blogs from Moultrie Creek on Vimeo.

There’s no rule stating that a slideshow can only be made from photographs. Why not use your scrapbook skills to create graphic images – which can contain multiple photos – and use them in your project? I’m using iPhoto’s slideshow feature with the Vintage Prints theme. This theme worked best with my portrait-oriented images and it did the least bit of auto-cropping. The background music is Deck the Halls by Richard Freitas – a $1.99 purchase from Vimeo’s Music Store. It’s license lets me use it for public projects such as this without worrying about the DRM-Nazis screaming for my head. The track runs right at 90 seconds so I set the slideshow to time itself with the music. That gives the viewer time to read the captions as well as look at the photos. Once the slideshow was finished, I exported it to video and uploaded it to Vimeo. The entire slideshow part of the project took less than 30 minutes to complete and much of that was experimenting with the various themes to choose the right one for this project.

While the slideshow only took minutes, the cards took a bit longer. They were built in Photoshop Elements. The card background was created using a layer of my red background color, then placing a stylized line graphic over the background and adjusting the graphic layer’s opacity to have it fade into the background. The background was saved as a template file. Photos then had to be selected, each cropped to the same size, placed on the background template and saved as a separate image file. The light colored border around the image gives the look of a beveled edge to the card and the text color matches it. Once each of the cards was finished, it was saved and imported to iPhoto. The toughest part of the original project was cropping and sizing the images to fit in the template.

iPhoto lets me export the slideshow project in sizes ranging from small (fits an iPhone screen) to large (tv and large monitor screens). Nothing says I can’t export multiple copies – each in a different size. I can then email one size, share another on Facebook, post to my family blog or display a larger version on my tv using Apple TV or a Roku box.

Whether simple or complex, a photo slideshow is a great way to tell a story.

Side note: I don’t know about you, but I import a “finished” copy of just about every graphic/scrapbooking project I create into iPhoto. Not only is it inspiration for future projects, but as in this case, it can become the content in a new project.

Finding Your Waze

I fell in love with Waze [Android & iOS – free] long before I got my iPhone so I was delighted to find it also available for iOS. Waze is unique in that it depends on its users to provide information on traffic and road conditions, accidents and related news. Your view of Waze will show other Waze users around you and you can even make a direct connection with them. It may look too cute to be serious, but it does its job beautifully.

Waze offers both audio and visual turn-by-turn navigation and, on the iPhone 4S and 5, Siri can be used to provide limited voice controls for tasks like reporting traffic conditions or accidents while you drive. You can set set up a navigation route with multiple stops. We put that to work recently while on a junk store tour and it worked beautifully. I just plugged in the addresses of the shops we wanted to visit and arranged them in the order we wanted. Waze got us there with ease.

It can be used to find nearby gas stations (and offers crowd-sourced gas prices), banks, restaurants and more and, if you have someone else in the car, you can even chat with other Waze users nearby from within the app. But it doesn’t stop there. If you notice an error in the map, you can edit it yourself. No, not in the mobile app – you’ll make your changes from you desktop using the online map editor.

It’s the crowd-sourced content that makes Waze so special. Those of us who live away from large metropolitan areas are often left out of the whistles and bells built into location-based apps. Waze users are reporting from everywhere. I’m in no rush for the new and improved Apple Maps because Waze meets my needs beautifully. I don’t see myself changing anytime soon.

Personal Publishing

I consider myself a family historian rather than a genealogist. I have no credentials in anything to do with genealogy but I do have decades of experience with the history of my family. Growing up in a small town that also just happened to be the oldest city in the United States, genealogy wasn’t a study but a social structure defining where you fit into the community. I was “Bubba’s eldest” or “one of Tot’s girls”. Many families could trace their local heritage back 9 or 10 generations, but ours was a family of newcomers who didn’t arrive here until the 1920s. I grew up on a creek that 300 years earlier was used to float coquina (a local shell-rock) across the bay to build the Spanish fort that still dominates the city’s bayfront. Like genealogy, history is also part of everyday life here. It’s not unusual to find pottery shards and other historical artifacts anywhere and before you can do almost any kind of construction within the city limits, the city archaeologist comes to look for anything of historical significance.

Although I enjoy chasing elusive ancestors, most of all I want to preserve and share the family artifacts and stories that have been a part of my life. I want those stories to be fascinating as well as factual with the appropriate source citations. And, I don’t want to restrict myself to one format. A “coffee table book” of family art and treasures is a project already in its initial stages and my artist uncle recently presented us with a beautiful watercolor collage of my father’s maritime career. There are many other project ideas yet to take off. My current focus is on the people I have known personally. They were extraordinary, ordinary people (I love that term!) and I want to show what made them so. It’s a challenge.

Having also spent a few decades in the technology world, I’ve enjoyed watching the genealogy community embrace the tools that have allowed us all to expand our research horizons and capabilities. Technology that was once both expensive and complicated has become accessible, affordable and user-friendly. I’m just as delighted to see the same thing happening in the publishing arena. For me, personally, it offers a broad range of options for building more than project ideas. Most of all, it’s opening up publishing to everyone. The technology is here and functional, but we’re blasted with so many choices that it’s awfully distracting. The challenge is to find one or two options that fit my needs and support my work style. I’ve found one – blogging with WordPress – but I’m still looking for book-building and multimedia options.

Just like research tools, publishing tools are a personal choice. This app isn’t better than that one, it’s just that I find it more suited to the way I work. There are many options out there and more arriving every day. The geek in me wants to try them all. The family historian wants to tell some stories. Looks like both of them are going to be very busy.