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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: Photos on tablets come closer to print version experience

By Tom Warhover
April 20, 2012 | 5:08 p.m. CDT

Dear Reader,

Editors are still fiddling with online photos on ColumbiaMissourian.com. They're getting closer.

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I'm sure you noticed the new display of photographs on the home page and with story articles. Multiple photos can display in a kind of slideshow format. They rotate every few seconds, or you can click an arrow to get to the photo you want.

The time between photos is simple to change, and a couple of readers have made suggestions.

Captions are tougher.

Last week, you might have seen captions eating into a photo; in one digital rendering, outgoing Law School dean Larry Dessem looked a little like the famous Kilroy Was Here drawing. His glasses and nose seemed to peer over the top of the caption wall.

On Friday, several photos ran unencumbered by captions. The problem: A sea of black space before the caption. Part of the challenge is to make the same photo work with multiple devices, and that just drives designers (and executive editors) crazy.

Have I told you how much I love technology?

Newspapers on the Web aren't particularly friendly to photos. Templates often drive photo sizes and shapes, even when the coding is just right. Every platform creates limitations, but sometimes the Web stretches to near breaking the motto that content should drive design.

With photos, the printed page still rules supreme. Good designers and photo editors make a greater whole from the sum of individual photos. In an instant, you can sense priorities among the images. A single detail complements a wider view of a person or event.

On a single page or across two, you can find beauty.

The fierce eye of a goshawk dares you to turn the pages in last month's Boone Life photo feature of falconer Larry Temares. The picture is played big — big enough to see what looks like blood on small feathers below that eye. It looks left, and as you follow, the story pans out to other photos that show the relationship between the hawk and the man who handles her.

The pictures can be taken as a whole or studied individually. You won't find that on the Web — unless it's a digital replica of the print page.

Tablets come closer to print. Apps for Kindles, iPads and such most often display a single image at a time, often in slideshow fashion like Web versions. You can't take in everything at once.

But tablets exceed the capacity of a press in some ways. The clarity and sharpness of The Guardian's "eyewitness" iPad app will take your breath away. The photo of the day Thursday: shepherds along a river in Iran's Kurdistan province. If I wanted to, I could count the number of sheep on the hillside. I can feel the warmth of the sun peeking over the mountain and the chill of the clear stream.

I think, surely they can't make these tablets any better. Then they do.

Have I told you how much I love technology?

Tom