Saturday, January 30, 2010

Photography Bucket List

After reading this article dredged from the mammoth backlog in my Google Reader I decided it was a good enough idea to steal.

So here is my bucket list.

A really good portrait
Solomon on the mound - Day #67
If you've browsed my photostream you'll see that portraiture isn't my thing. There are probably three photos with people up there in total. This is a shame because I quite like portraiture. So why not go out and get more? Well I hope to. In fact in the not too distant future I may be pestering you with my camera.

That waterfall
In the wicklow mountains - Day #90
Yes it's a massive cliche. I still want one. I've even had the chance a few times, but it's never been exactly what I'm after, which is a lot of water flowing captured with a slow shutter speed.

One of those slow motion coastal shots - Again a cliche but these are just great when done properly. Here's a good example example.

A wild fox - To be honest any sort of wildlife photography would be a bit of a dream. A fox is just the top on the list. They're elusive buggers though and without a super telephoto lens this is probably never going to happen. I'd best start saving.

A studio shoot - Another dream. Someday i'd love to rent a studio out and have the right equipment to do justice to a shoot. I'd probably go for a proper fashionesque model and see what I coud get of her.

Let me know what you'd like to shoot. There are plenty of other shots I'd love to get. I'll probably expand this over the year.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Flickr - The numbers game

I've been using flickr for a little while now and it's become apparent that while easy to use it is somewhat limited as a service.

Flickr is a great way to share your photos and find great photos easily. It has a clean layout and if you pay the $2 a month fee then you get unlimited storage.

On the other hand there are some major things wrong with flickr.

Black and White
The biggest problem is it's design. Flickr always shows every photo against a white background. Sadly most photos look better against a black backdrop, and this can have a bigger effect on your shots then you might think.

Take this shot and it's displayed on black version. You should immediatly notice the diference. The reason for this is a little odd. The human eye actually has no default value for white. When we look at a scene we immediatly take the brightest value we can see as white. What this means is that photos on flickr that have areas that appear white on a black background look less bright and slightly off white against flickr's white backdrop.

Poor Stats
Stats on flickr cost money. Ostensibly it's what you pay for when you spend money to make your account PRO. Sadly stats are severely limited. The main problem is a lack of options. You can't really compare shot stats, or try to understand what you did to get a photo seen more widely. THe graph flickr does provide you only goes back a month but the biggest problem is that the stats don't give you any depth; You can't tell how long someone looked at your shot and flickr has no built in system to let people rate your shots.

Groups - Too many, not fit for purpose
Groups on flickr are a great idea. With them you can collect together photos on any subject, style or quality. However flickr hasn't adapted to what groups are most comonly used for: competitions.

On flickr we generally post to groups to get our photos seen by a wide group of people. The easiest way is to post in a group where the rules of the group insure people look at your photo before they post theirs. However competitive groups are a mish mash of moderating and silly award images and despit having been around for years flickr hasn't made an effor tto improve them.

The addition of facilities to give group awards through flickr would majorly improve the service. As would the addition of a photo rating system.

The numbers game
If you do get into flickr you will probably be sucked into the numbers game. As with any website or social network we all tend to get slightly obsessed with how many people see our efforts and contributions.
On flickr this takes the form of individual views, comments, favourites and the holy grail, intrestingness.

Hits on flickr aren't that dificult to get, provided you are willing to put the spade work in. Hits are basically decided by the quality of the photo (actually not as important as how good it looks small) and how much you promote it. The easiet way to get hits is to post lots of photos into lots of diferent groups every day.

When posting into groups your shot needs to look good in a very small format. What this boils down to is that there has to be high general contrast (i.e both bright and dark areas), there has to be large details as opposed to small, the colours should be warm and vibrant and the shot should preferably be easily discernible at a small scale.

I generally post shots to about 20 groups a day and on good days get about 500 hits as a result.

Comments are received en masse in a similar way to hits. If you want useful constructive comments then you're best to post in groups where part of the rules is that you must comment and rate other photos. These groups give you useful feedback about your photos. Be warned however, not everyone on flickr knows what they're talking about and people will present themselves as experts in comments by using technical terms (Depth of field, exposure, selective contrast) when in fact they themselves are not great photographers. When in doubt check them out.

Favourites are much much harder to get. Really this boils down to contacts and the quality of your work. I have a simple method of boosting contacts and one that is beneficial to all. I add as a contact anyone on flickr who adds me first and anyone who has a shot I deem worthy of a favourite. Over a short time I have accumulated around 500 contacts who will see my photos on their contacts page and, if they like them, will give them favourites. In return I regularly check my contacts page and comment and favourite shots I like.

Intrestingness is the holy grail of flickr. We all like to get our shots into the top 500. Sadly intrestingess is hard to achive. Even your best shots won't make the list on a good day. The real way to make the list is to have loads and loads of contacts and then don't promote your photos at all intrestingness is about the ratio of favourites to views, so the fewer people who see a shot but the more who favourite it the better. This can seem a little counter-intuitive but it makes sense if you assume that the best shots don't need to be shouted about, news about them will spread no matter what.

Any and all questions in the comments

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Nightmare coming

There is a nightmare I have
of our future coming.
Of government corporations
where all decisions
are made by the bottom line.
no people,
just employees and customers
and the endless war
but long hostile take overs.

I see its beginnings
free speech for the unliving
giving voice to greed;
Voltaire turns in his grave.


They came, footsteps crunching out
A slow rolling beat.
The tolling thud of thunder
Thumping in time
To their low chant.
They did not shout for change
They had shouted too often before.
The disenfranchised and the forgotten
Held banners woven of their tattered dreams
Stitched with tears and lined with broken promises.
On each face the battle marks of lives wasted
By men who knew it all
And knew it all could be taken for themselves.
Men who preached democracy,
The rotting carcass of a broken system,
Purporting to empower the people
While keeping them down.
Taking our power to decide from us
And calling it a mandate.
There were children in the crowd.
Who saw ahead a future as hard as their parents past.
All were resolute in the face of threats and weapons
They were laid out by bullets, gas canisters and riot gear.
Inside each and every one of them a minor miracle
Had fornicated with their last remaining hope.
The fucked up offspring of delusion and despair
drove them to die for a cause only they could believe in.
Fuck change. Fuck government.
Their legs pump as the stoic silence parts to angry venom
Peaceful protest finally gives up and dies
And rage spills out onto the streets.
Fists pump as sheer numbers push back men
Who until the last moment think they do their duty.
Angry words turn into angry action
And then there is change.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why terrorism works.

I don't plan to talk about politics much on this blog, but there are some things that just need to be said.

Right now, terrorism works.

That’s right. If you want to change the world for the worse, to scare the 'West', to lessen our freedom or to inspire fear then all you need to do is sneak a bomb onto an aeroplane. It's not that hard. There are all sorts of explosives and if you're really prepared to die for your cause then it can't be that dificult to cause a plane to crash.

Sadly this isn't why terrorism works. Terrorism works because of our reactions to it. The aim of terrorism is to make us afraid, to take from us our freedom. No terrorist alone can do this. No, it takes the complicity of major world powers (I'm looking at America and Britain here) that, as soon as there's a terror threat, hit the panic button and removes more of our 'democratic' freedoms. It works because we start thinking of ourselves or our children and we decide that having everyone's private lives examined or being strip searched to fly is a price worth paying.

It isn't. Whether you have nothing to hide or not your privacy is sacred. It's sacred because without it there is no democracy. Anyone who won't to do something because of fear of their government doesn't live in a democracy and anyone who gives up their freedom for temporary safety deserves neither.

Law is not fear of government. Law is enforcement of a moral code we choose to live by with penalties set out before hand. I’m not afraid of being given a parking ticket; I just know that that’s what happens if I park illegally. I shouldn’t be afraid to read a book or write a blog because it might draw the eyes of my government and what I say or do shouldn’t be tracked by them.

Terrorism isn’t the man on the plane with the dynamite. Terrorism is what we do to ourselves after the dynamite goes off, or doesn’t.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Written in mild delerium

The soft curves of a slight smile,
and a naughty sparkle in your eye.
The warmth of your body,
pressed close against mine.
Your lips as inviting
as an open fire,
and a glass of wine.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Swift illness

Cloying smoke curls
in my battered throat.
coal weighs down my eyes
and every muscle aches
like a week on the rack.
My skin is old leather
my mouth the dregs of a blackboard.
My neck two bowling balls in a canvas sack.

Sleep is both fantasy and nightmare,
each breath relief for my lungs
and death for my maw

Swift Illness, unquenchable thirst.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Some other day

Screaming at the sun -
as the sun descends,
Turning, toppling, twisting
as I reach the end.
Oxygen starved
and out of control,
Feeling like a prisoner
passed by for parole.

Lost and silent
and out of my mind,
Why argue with reason
when reason is blind.
Broken hearted
and man does it hurt,
Left like a spoon,
lying in the dirt.

Setting a benchmark
for crazed and confused,
When you leave yourself open
you're easily used.
Delerium stricken
you're strictly unkown.
A forgotten king
on an empty throne.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The beauty of the sun in the hawthorn tree

Sunlight strikes dew drops on a hawthorn tree,
a beauty no lens of mine can capture.
The golden fingers stretch towards the sky
and the flaming orb obscured by branches
casts brilliant spells upon the frozen grass.

A blackbird searches chicken-like in the frost.
Stalked by a hungry cat.
The bird wins this encounter.
While above a finch watches
picking at food we have left it
for this long Winter.