By Jim McCloskey
Making the transition from printed magazine to digital newsletter has been interesting, to say the least. I never thought I’d even think something like this, but there are so many advantages to the “new media” approach that I wouldn’t even consider doubling back to ink and paper at this point.
One limitation that always bothered me in print, for example, was the fact that my art director and I had to select from among so many nice, wonderful, big photographs and crunch them down into tiny spaces. To be sure, we balanced the small ones with lots of large ones, but I can’t think of too many features in which I didn’t wish for extra
pages so the images really had a chance to jump off the page.
That boundary is now gone, and good riddance. With the gallery feature we use with most of the multi-image digital articles posted to WaterShapes.com, almost every image jumps up to full-screen size with a click and boasts all of the visual advantages that flow from being lit up on a screen instead of appearing on glossy paper. It’s not three-dimensional (which would be really cool), but digital publishing is kind to images in ways paper publishing could never be.
Another barrier that occasionally frustrated me was that the magazine was, of necessity, both still and quiet. In lots of cases, this was not an issue. But when the subject was a water-in-transit system or a fountain or a stream or waterfall and the images were static? I couldn’t help thinking that the elements of motion and sound were too important to be denied. Yes, we as readers could fill in the blanks with our imaginations, but no, we could never put ourselves in the space and make the things we were seeing come to anything more than an approximation of real life.
This boundary too is a thing of the past. By now, we’ve already established digital links to dozens, maybe even hundreds of videos of fountains, streams, waterfalls, vanishing edges and more, and I have to say that the inclusion of sound and motion is particularly valuable in conveying a genuine sense of a space.
These specific issues were very much on my mind when we pursued WaterShapes TV back in 2001. It was the Tisherman project covered in our pilot episode that led us to pursue broadcasting: We’d covered that watershape and its surroundings in a series of three detailed, richly illustrated articles that really set the tone for “The WaterShapes Approach,” but there was one passage I’ll never forget where we had to use words to describe the effect of rounding a corner at the end of the long pool and hearing the sound of a babbling brook created by careful placement of rocks in the vanishing-edge trough.
The magazine’s words fell short in my estimation in an instance where five seconds of video would have “said” it all. At the time, of course, the Internet wasn’t too good at video either (hence the TV pilot), but experiences of this sort put thoughts in my head I never managed to shake. Now that WaterShapes is fully digital, I am able at last to realize my dream media solution in words, sounds and images.
The above is something of an introduction to a new video series we’re launching in the current edition of WaterShapes EXTRA: Eric Triplett’s PondCraft 101, a multi-part video course on the design and installation of fish ponds that will be linked through every issue of this newsletter for most of the year to come.
Whether you’re a pond pro who wants a visual way to introduce new staffers to the dynamics of design and installation or a homeowner who wants either do-it-yourself guidance or the information needed to interact effectively with a contractor, this is a great way to go – and it comes, naturally, with a constant flow of big, full-screen images and ample sound and motion.
This is where I’ve wanted to be as a media guy since way back in 1999, and I hope you enjoy the full, authentic experience as much as I do.