Course: Honors 260 - Patterns in Nature: A Photographic and Philosophical Journey

Instructor: Dr. Alan Hale (SC134, 606-4666 x3510,

Meeting Time: Friday 1-4 (At times it will be later if it's a distant field trip; these will be announced well ahead of time. Two Saturday trips have been set up in place of Friday trips. See schedule for specific dates.

Course Description: Butterflies, daisies, raindrops and crystals all exhibit characteristic patterns. So do billions of other natural entities on our planet. Throughout this course we will be walking through fields and forests searching for patterns in nature. We will also be searching for explanations, which will lead us into the realm of mathematics, physics, biology and philosophy. The course is designed for students from any discipline, though one should have an interest in contemplating reality, a desire to hike and photograph for hours on end, and a sincere interest in appreciating the beauty and complexity of nature.

Burton, J. and K.Taylor. 1998. The Nature and Science of Patterns. Gareth Stevens Publ.
Briggs, J. 1992. Fractals: The Patterns of Chaos. Simon and Schuster.
Fitzharris, T. 1998. The Sierra Club Guide to Close-up Photography in Nature. Sierra Club
(Optional): Barrow, J.D. 1995. The Artful Universe: The Cosmic Source of Human Creativity. Little, Brown

Other Materials
Camera: It is highly recommended that you have your own camera. Point and shoot cameras are quite inexpensive (e.g., $50). If you are unable to secure one, arrangements will be made to circumvent this void. Please note, throw-away cameras contain print film; we will be using slide film throughout most of the course.
Film: Elite Chrome 200 (color slide film) 24 exposure; the campus bookstore sells it for $7.49 (you may be able to find a better price elsewhere); developing the film runs $2.45 at the bookstore (good price).
Small Notebook: You'll need a small notebook or memo pad that you can take into the field with you. A small memo pad (less than $1) is probably the best because you can easily carry it in a pocket. You'll be using it to jot down your thoughts, observations, and photographs taken.

Course Web Site: In case you're looking at a hard copy of the syllabus, it can also be found in living color at

Bulletin Board: A third of the bulletin board between my office and the MacLab will be used for this course. I will be posting interesting web sites and news articles. Take a break once in a while and check it out.

Grading: Grades will be based on four presentations given throughout the semester. Each presentation is worth 25%. One absence will pass like a cloud at night during a new moon. However, five percentage points will be subtracted for each additional absence. Presentations will be graded on the basis of (1) depth of understanding, (2) effectiveness of the talk, (3) photographic quality, and (4) creativity.

Presentations: Having presentations allows us to share our encounters with nature with everyone else in the class. Each presentation will be 10 minutes long, and will include the projection of one or more slides and a detailed description of a very specific pattern illustrated in the slide(s). The description will draw upon one's readings on the topic, and will include one or more perspectives (art, math, philosophy, humanities, evolution, etc.). A slide projector will be available for all presentations; a computer projection system will be available for the fourth presentation, this will allow students to use images that have been modified in some way (e.g., composite panoramas).

Class Schedule - Fall 1999

Sept 3 Friday/1-4 p.m. Expedition*
Sept 10 Friday/1-4 p.m. Nature Photography:
Sept 17 Friday/1-4 p.m. Expedition*
Sept 24 Friday/1-4 p.m. Presentations
Oct 1 Friday/1-4 p.m. Scanning Slides & Adobe Photoshop
Oct 9
(in place of Oct 8)
Saturday/8 a.m.-2 p.m. Expedition*
Oct 15 Friday/1-4 p.m. Composite Panoramas:
Making Wide-Format Images with Adobe Photoshop
Oct 22 Friday/1-4 p.m. Presentations
Oct 29 Friday/1-4 p.m. Expedition*
Nov 6
(in place of Nov 5)
Saturday/8 a.m.-2 p.m. Expedition*
Nov 12 Friday/1-4 p.m. Presentations
Nov 19 Friday/1-4 p.m. Expedition*
Nov 26 No Class Thanksgiving Break
Dec 3 Friday/1-4 p.m. Expedition*
Dec 10 Friday/1-4 p.m. Presentations

*Click on here for a detailed list of our expeditions.

Alan B. Hale (
Last updated: 16 August '99
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