Photography

Doubling down on Flickr

I’ve made public declarations on Facebook and Instagram that I will not publish on those platforms frequently anymore. I’d like to say that Facebook’s drunken-pirate behavior with our data finally pushed me over the edge, but I can’t. On Facebook I finally had enough of the political tribalism. On Instagram, about every fourth post is an ad. I’m not anti-advertising but that’s too much.

I’m not deactivating my accounts. I’ll still check in from time to time, if for no other reason that I still promote this blog through a Facebook page (here if you’re curious) and share from that page to various Facebook groups. Like I’ve said before (here), Facebook remains the most effective way I’ve found to promote my blog. I still promote the Historic Michigan Road through Instagram (here).

But I want to look at photographs, especially film photographs. When I make time to really study a good photograph, not only does it deepen my enjoyment, but it can teach me something about photography that I can try on my next roll of film.

If I follow you on Flickr, you might have noticed that I’ve starred more of your photographs lately. I’m shifting to Flickr as the primary place I go to view photos and (outside of this blog’s comments) interact with photographers.

Flickr isn’t as fun as it was when I joined in 2006. But I want to believe that new owner SmugMug means what it says and will revitalize the community. I see no ads there, and I’m not aware they use my data beyond what is necessary to operate the service.

I’ve always been able to look at photographs there as easily on my desktop as I can my phone. And now that SmugMug has increased the maximum upload resolution, I can study photographs there in ways not available on any other platform I’ve used. Facebook and Instagram can’t touch Flickr here.

If you’re active on Flickr I’d like it very much if you’d leave your Flickr URL in the comments, unless you’re sure that I already follow you there. Here’s my Flickr stream if you’d like to follow me. Thank you!

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Film Photography

Why I have trouble editing my own photographs

A school of thought says to edit (in other words, delete) your photographs ruthlessly. Keep only the ones that represent your best work.

I’ve kept every film image I’ve ever made, including the abject failures. I never know when I’ll change my mind about an image, or thanks to better tools be able to improve one. But even more importantly, I never know when revisiting a bad photograph will reconnect me to a good memory.

Building a bridge

I didn’t like this photograph after I made it in 2012. The bright sun washed out some of the roadway behind these machines, and I thought then that it ruined the shot. According to that school of thought, I should have deleted it.

I looked at this photograph again only because I was updating my review of the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80, which I used to make this photograph. Looking at it anew, I saw much to like. The tones are good. The machines create pleasing intersecting planes, the big arm of that Caterpillar machine adds strength, and each machine offers much detail to study.

I brought it into Photoshop — a tool I didn’t have in 2012 — and toned down the highlights to help that little patch of pavement not shine so hard. It helped a little. You might not even notice it now if I hadn’t pointed it out.

Looking around in that folder I found several forgotten photographs from that roll. By “forgotten,” I mean that I never uploaded them to Flickr. That means I thought then that they were failures. But looking at them again, I’ve changed my mind.

This is one of those photographs. It isn’t going to win any contests, but it’s evenly exposed and, after a judicious crop, balanced in its framing. This is a little tree in the landscaping at Juan Solomon Park in Indianapolis, a place I used to visit often for photography.

Tree

I was out on my bicycle that day. (That’s the beauty of a camera the size of a bar of soap. Into a side pocket, onto the bike, off for fun.) I hadn’t yet learned to notice when my shadow was in the frame. Also, bright light from the low sun behind me reflected strongly off my bike’s fenders. I can’t do anything about my shadow but Photoshop toned down those reflections enough.

Bike

I enjoyed remembering that early-evening photo ride, especially this portion along that closed street, exploring a nearly finished new bridge. (That’s why I was able to photograph all that heavy equipment in the first photograph above.) It makes me want to do more photo rides when spring comes. I might have lost that memory without this photograph.

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Blogosphere

A couple weeks ago I published a mini-review of the new Gutenberg editor in WordPress. I said there that there was no clean way to embed images from Flickr.

I was wrong. It’s stupefyingly easy. You just paste the Flickr embed code directly into an empty block. The image appears instantly! It also hyperlinks back to the Flickr page from which it came, per Flickr’s terms of service.

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Flickr image embedded instantly into WordPress Gutenberg

This is far easier than how we all had to embed Flickr images in any previous WordPress editor. Given that I use Flickr to host my photographs, Gutenberg is making creating posts significantly faster for me!

Embedding Flickr images in the WordPress Gutenberg editor

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Photography

How does Flickr’s new limit of 1,000 photos for non-paying users affect you?

Photo-sharing site Flickr is back to making controversial decisions about how its service runs.

Flickr-LogoFor years, Flickr has had free and paid tiers. Since 2013, the free tier gave an astonishing 1 terabyte of storage, but showed users advertising. The paid tier offered unlimited storage but removed the ads.

New owner SmugMug has announced that they will soon limit free accounts to 1,000 photos. They want to change their business model to drive less revenue from advertising and more from subscriptions.

They say that this is also about encouraging Flickr to be a stronger photo community. I’m not sure how this does that, but it’s a nice idea. Flickr’s community used to be so rich, and it’d be great if that could come back somehow.

I work in the software industry and know how hard it is to come up with a viable revenue model and the corporate and product strategies that support it. I never understood how Flickr could make money offering a terabyte of storage to everyone.

Flickr’s blog post about this change says, “The overwhelming majority of Pros have more than 1,000 photos on Flickr, and more than 97% of Free members have fewer than 1,000. We believe we’ve landed on a fair and generous place to draw the line.”

Yet in the photo forums I follow, many photographers are upset about this change. Perhaps it’s hobbyist photographers like us who make up that 3% of Free users who’ve uploaded more than 1,000 photos.

I’ve been a Flickr Pro user for years now with 15,863 photos uploaded as of today. (See my Flickr stream here.) I’ve found my Flickr Pro subscription to be worth every penny just for my ability to share my work anywhere I want to on the Internet, including and especially on this blog. I’m grandfathered at the old $25/year rate, but even if they bump me to the current $50/year rate I’ll pay it and keep on Flickring.

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Photography

On having your work featured on Flickr Explore

Each day, Flickr showcases 500 photographs from among that day’s tens of thousands uploaded. A super-secret algorithm selects them based on their “interestingness” for other Flickr users to explore. Today’s Explored photos are always on this page for your browsing pleasure.

Many people do browse Explore every day and click Like on the photos that grab them. That’s where being Explored gets fun: your email blows up with notifications of all those Likes. Flickr otherwise gives you no heads up that your photo was selected. If you think one of your photos was Explored, the Scout page at the Big Huge Labs site (here) will tell you.

My first Explored photo was a quick image I made to illustrate a blog post. I didn’t arrange the subject especially carefully. I didn’t even bother to remove clutter from the background (such as the bottle of aspirin). But Flickr called it interesting just the same.

Kodak Brownie Hawkeye and expired film *EXPLORED*

Canon PowerShot S95, 2013

I’d been a Flickr user for six years before that image was Explored. But that seemed to open the spigot, so to speak. Seventeen more of my images have been Explored since then. I’m sharing them all here, in chronological order.

I’m happy this one was chosen — I think it’s a wonderful image. This is part of Oldfields, the Lilly family house on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Evening light at Oldfields *EXPLORED*

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100, 2014

After a while I stopped trying to guess how Flickr chooses images for Explore. I just enjoy it when one of my images is chosen. Experience has showed me that only the first, or maybe, maybe, the second, image in your photostream is eligible. This has led me to upload photos in smaller batches, always placing the photo I’m happiest with at the front of the batch. It has somewhat increased my success rate.

Still life with fan *EXPLORED*

Canon PowerShot S95, 2014

Sometimes an image can become un-Explored. It’s because Flickr’s algorithms keep calculating on each image forever, and each day’s Explored images are ranked. If another photo becomes more interesting than yours, it moves your photo down the ranking. If your photo’s rank falls below 500, it falls off that day’s Explore. That’s what happened to both the image above and below. They entered Explore at numbers 498 and 496, respectively. After a few days, other photos somehow became more interesting and replaced them in the rankings. The Big Huge Labs Scout page tells you the rank at which each of your Explored images started, by the way. To see images that fell off Explore, click the Include Dropped link.

Farmall *EXPLORED*

Nikon F2AS, AI Nikkor 50mm f/2, Fujifilm Superia Xtra 800, 2014

I especially like it when my film photographs are Explored. A lot of what makes Explore is heavily Photoshopped native digital imagery. My work is so elemental and minimalist in comparison.

851 *EXPLORED*

Yashica Lynx 14e, Arista Premium 400, 2014

I’m especially amused when a photo of one of my old film cameras gets Explored. I shoot these images for the reviews I write on this blog and don’t mean for them to be especially interesting.

Nikon F3HP *EXPLORED*

Canon PowerShot S95, 2014

But when I shot that roll of Fuji Velvia 50 slide film, I certainly aimed at interesting! At least interesting to me. I was happy Flickr agreed on this photo.

Red tree parking lot *EXPLORED*

Nikon F2, Fujifilm Velvia 50, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, 2014

One of my Explored photos resonated so well with viewers that it racked up a whopping 36,000 views over a few days. I shot this in Garfield Park in Indianapolis. Someone had written these words on these steps and I had the good sense to compose a photo around them.

Every step of the way *EXPLORED*

Nikon N2000, 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2014

Once in a while one of my old-camera photos turns out just great. As I’ve written before, I’m not always thrilled with how they turn out, but I use them in my reviews anyway. This was one of those photos, and I was pleased that it was Explored.

Kodak 35 *EXPLORED*

Canon PowerShot S95, 2015

I use my point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot S95 primarily for family snapshots, road-trip documentary photos, and other non-artistic work. But it’s a worthwhile camera when I want to do serious work. I’ve made many pleasing images with it. This was one of them, and I’m happy it was Explored.

Publix Theatre *EXPLORED*

Canon PowerShot S95, 2015

The afternoon of a challenging day I spooled some Kodak E100G into my Yashica-D and shot the whole roll in my front garden. It was photo therapy. I didn’t take great care in composition but this photo was Explored anyway.

Yellow and purple lilies *EXPLORED*

Yashica-D, Kodak E100G, 2015

I don’t think this photo from the cattle barn at the Indiana State Fair is all that interesting, but Flickr’s inscrutable algorithms disagreed sharply. I can’t tell whether this photo was Explored despite the light flare, or because of it.

Moo *EXPLORED*

Nikon Nikomat FTn, 50mm f/2 Nikkor H-C, Arista Premium 400, 2015

Two images from the same roll of film were Explored. It’s my personal best. The first is above and here is the second.

Fencepost *EXPLORED*

Nikon Nikomat FTn, 50mm f/2 Nikkor H-C, Arista Premium 400, 2015

The more experience I gain as a photographer, the more control I have — I increasingly know what a photo will look like, in my head, from the available light and the settings I chose. But this photo from under the 38th St. bridge at Crown Hill Cemetery turned out far better than I envisioned. I was very happy with Flickr’s Explore algorithms agreed.

Tunnel *EXPLORED*

Nikon F3HP, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Plus-X, 2015

This photo from inside the Methodist church in Woodstock, Illinois, was another that fell off Explore after it was added. Too bad.

Inside Woodstock First UMC *EXPLORED*

Nikon N90s, 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor, Arista Premium 400, 2015

I didn’t think this photo was anything special at all, but Explore featured it anyway. If you’re ever in Indianapolis, you’ll find this house on Cold Spring Road just west of Michigan Road.

House on Cold Spring Road *EXPLORED*

Minolta Maxxum 9xi, 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Minolta AF Zoom, Kodak Max 400, 2016

In contrast, I really hoped this photo would be Explored, so much did I like it. But I was in an Explore dry spell. Seven of my 2015 photos were featured, but only two in 2016.

Leaves on the iron bench *EXPLORED*

Canon A2e, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF, Fujicolor 200, 2016

My dry spell correlates to a several-month period when I used Lightroom to upload photos. I recently got frustrated with Lightroom’s maddening interface and quit using it. I returned to uploading photos with Flickr’s Uploadr, and almost immediately one of my photos was Explored. It was this one, from the Olympus µ[mju:] Zoom 140 I reviewed recently.

Praying angel *EXPLORED*

Olympus µ[mju:] Zoom 140, Fomapan 200, 2017

Did using Lightroom really have anything to do with my Explore dry spell? Who knows. Maybe if my acceptance rate goes up now, I’ll have some evidence. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a fun surprise when one of my photos is featured.

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Photography

How do you back up your digital images?

I could live without a lot of things I currently own. I know this to be a fact because I sold, gave away, or otherwise lost most of my possessions during my divorce ten years ago. It shocked me how much I loved the lightness of not owning things.

pict0069-proc

This terrible exposure is one of the few photos I took of my grandfather. He’s relaxing in his home. It was the summer of 1982; he was 66 and I was 15. This connects me to so many pleasant memories. I’m so happy I still have this photo.

But I don’t want to live without my photographs. Thankfully, every last photo I took as a kid and young adult survived. I keep them in boxes; I digitized them all a couple years ago. They connect me to memories I might otherwise have lost.

Since the divorce I’ve returned to photography in a big way. Between film and digital photos, and including scans of all of my old photos, I now have well north of 20,000 images on my computer’s hard drive.

Holy backup, Batman! And I do back them up, to a wee external hard drive. But if my house burns down, both computer and external drive are toast.

So I became interested in uploading my images to “the cloud” (i.e., someone else’s server, via the Internet).

I investigated a few solutions, none perfect, but quickly settled on Flickr. As a Flickr Pro customer, I have unlimited storage. And their Flickr Uploadr automatically uploads every new photo. It marked them all private so you can’t see them.

It was occasionally useful, as it let me find an old photo much faster than searching through folders on my hard drive.

But I use Flickr primarily to host images I share here, and those private photos just clogged my camera roll and intruded into every search result. And because I upload for public consumption a processed version of each photo, I see duplicates everywhere.

It made Flickr hard for me to use. This week I decided I’d had enough. I uninstalled the Uploadr and deleted all of the private photos.

And so I’m back to looking for a way to store my photo collection in the cloud. Do you do this? If so, what solution are you using and how well is it working for you?

 

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