100 favourites

For the first time, one of my photos has reached 100 favourites on Flickr:

Flood dancing couple - 7

By most metrics, this is by far the most popular photo I’ve ever taken. It regularly gets posted to blogs / adapted in mashups, and was also used on the cover of an Australian folk album.

I took it on the day Stratford flooded, but I really really wanted to stay in and read the newly-released Harry Potter 7, and I honestly remember thinking “what are the odds I’ll take something any good anyway?”. Went out anyway, and saw this couple salsa-ing in the floodwaters. I took a bunch of shots, but this is the one people seem to like most. I gave the couple my card, and they’ve had equal share of anything I’ve received.

It’ll be a while before this happens again – the second-place photo has 8.

Uganda photos: finished

Isaac Newton School #260I finally finished processing the Uganda photos/videos this afternoon. Hooray! It is quite the relief, not least because now they’re in the cloud I can stop worrying about hard drive failures taking out my summer’s work.

Much as I love Flickr, I have to admit it’s easier to browse the shots on Facebook. FB’s new album layout makes everything look pretty, and the refresh-less Next/Previous is very pleasant. Flickr has the edge in pretty much everything – quality, information, accessibility – but FB is hard to beat for quick browsing. The albums (of selected shots) are here if you’ve a login. If not: Mustard Seed School, Humanist Academy, Isaac Newton School, Elsewheres.

Everything’s neater on Flickr, though, and there are far more images: the collected albums are here, with just the highlights here.

I’m pleased with how the photos turned out, and hopefully the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust will find them useful. After six weeks of editing it’s easy to notice the mistakes, and the shots I didn’t take, but that’s just all the more incentive for next time. I was hoping to go back to Uganda before the end of the year, but I don’t think that’s going to happen – no money, for a start, and finding the time would be tough. But I’ll make sure the schools get prints of all the shots.

The plan is to have an exhibition – with the focus on raising money for the schools – early next year. With a bit of luck I’ve now taken all the images for my final major project, too – I just need to sell it to my tutors.

Intermission

Hello! I’m still here, really I am. The quietness is more to do with being neurotic than busy. I have plenty of posts drafted on brainstuff, but the moment I consider translating them I feel guilty about the many, many university things I’ve yet to complete, so I go away and don’t do them instead.

I’ll be in London all this week, sitting in the university library trying to find people who’ve said something about Flickr that isn’t pretentious beyond imagining. 2500 words seem a long way off. Once that’s done I’ll be putting in a Blurb order for my big practical project, and really hoping their printers don’t break down next week.

May 5th is the deadline – well, ish –  and I shall endeavour to pop in from time to time before then. I’m also always about on twitter.

Finally, apropos of nothing, I took this picture in Hyde Park, and I quite like it1:

Hyde Park Tulip

  1. feels a bit vain, but what’s a blog for? []

Year 25 Project: Complete

Year 25 Collage - SmallThis evening I uploaded a picture taken on May 18th, and with that my Year 25 project is complete. I took a shot every day but one: an inexplicable m0rk on December 17th.

I have mixed feelings about the final result. In some ways it’s not what I intended. I wanted each picture to represent the day, and many don’t. Plenty were taken at 2330 when I got home and realised I hadn’t done anything. I intended the project to force me into taking pictures of places and people I don’t normally photograph, but this rarely happened. For example, I started uni in September, but there are no proper images of my fellow students as I never plucked up the courage to ask them – despite them also studying photography.

There are also way too many taken on my mobile phone. This always seemed like a good idea – usually because of some rationalisation about not getting my camera out of my bag due to safety/annoying people / whatever – then I’d get home and realise the results suck.

But, having said all that, there are still plenty of photos that do represent their day, and were taken with a proper camera. I’m happy with many, and am glad I actually managed to complete the thing.

I’ve also definitely improved over the year, and I can see the images evolve. I taught myself the basics of balancing flash with ambient light, I now understand the concept of formal image composition, even if I’m not very good at it, and I’m slowly getting better at predicting the look of the final exposure before clicking the shutter. I also finally sat down and learnt how to use Lightroom, and suddenly I could properly control the shadow and highlight points while editing – I think there’s a marked improvement in the image quality thereafter.

It’s also had the intended memory-bank effect. I checked over the set this evening – there were a few omissions / duplicates, and my pride at the final 365 total was dented when I realised it’s a leap year – and kept spotting and thinking about little events I’d forgotten, which is quite pleasant. My 25th year had sad days, happy days, scary-exciting days, celebrities, and plenty of monkeys – it’ll be fun to dig through in a few years.

So it’s a mixed bag. There are more than a few images that made me wince while uploading, and again now, but there are some that came out better than I remembered, and a few I’m very happy with. I didn’t learn as much from it as I hoped, but it wasn’t a waste of time either.

I’m going to make a Blurb book of the results. I don’t have a properly colour-balanced setup, so I’ll have to play the odds and just hope they resemble what I see on screen. I’m currently struggling to download all the images and keep them in order (I don’t have a local copy, sadly), but I’m sure I’ll find a way. However it turns out, it should make a neat little momento.

Is there a Year 26 Project? So far, yes. I’ve been toying with 52 Portraits or similar, but as I’ve got into the habit I see no reason not to continue for the moment. Objectives for this year:

  • Be brave
  • Take fewer, better shots, on decent equipment
  • Check and double-check the goddamn focus (I hate hate hate it when the focus is off)
  • Learn more about lighting, and put it into practice
  • Take more portraits
  • Be brave

I think that’s enough to be going along with.

The Victorian tightrope-walking violin-playing street entertainer

I was looking for pictures of tightrope walkers this evening. Flickr kept thinking I meant ‘tight rope’, which brings up very different results. *shudder*. Still, I found some cool stuff, but kept being drawn back to this guy:

Tight rope

Now that’s street entertainment. There’s something about this shot I really like – maybe it’s that he looks like a visitor from the past, and I’ve always had a thing for Victorian London. Whatever, it simply rocks.

I like this shot too – yikes.

Flickr Video

Flickr launched their new video functionality last night, and it’s nicely implemented. They’re calling videos ‘long photos’, which is a decent way of approaching it. There’s a 90-second limit, only Pro members can upload, and they integrate into photostreams just like any other picture. It’s fairly snappy (although the FAQ says some older computers may struggle, in which case ‘just go to Best Buy dude’) and nothing plays automatically if you don’t want it to. Their charming FAQ explains the ins and outs.

Digital SLRs can’t record videos, so the only footage I have comes from my old Canon G3 – lost/stolen/beamed-up in a field in 2004. I had a dig through and found a surprising number of clips, but they’re almost all of my ex-girlfriend and I’ve no desire to re-visit them. Maybe in a decade or so. I did find this, though, taken on Prague’s Charles Bridge in 2003:

The upload process is a breeze compared to the morass of YouTube, and the – admittedly short – clip processed in only a few seconds. I tagged / geotagged it just like any regular photo, and it slotted into my photostream without issue. Neat, especially as their servers must be getting hammered about now.

I don’t envy the job of policing video uploads, but I’m impressed with the implementation. It’s obviously early days, but video fits into Flickr better than I expected. Their blog has a few decent examples. I can’t see me using this feature much, at least until I get a cameraphone with better video quality, but I’ll be interested to see where people take it.

PicLens

PicLens should be gimmicky, but somehow isn’t. It’s a browser add-on for viewing images (plugin for IE, extension for Firefox), that understands the major photo sites. This means it can display all relevant pictures, rather than just those currently visible. It’s easier to explain with an example:

I was making mockups for a uni project this evening, and needed a picture of a juggler, with specific criteria: it had to be a full-length, side-on view. I searched for ‘juggler’ in Flickr, and the search results showed me 20 pictures per page. This was a bit slow, and by page 10 was getting frustrating – it turns out most people don’t shoot jugglers this way. Eventually it occured to me that PicLens might help. It places a small ‘play’ icon over images from supported sites, and once clicked brings up a full-screen, 3D wall of images:

PicLens screenshot

PicLens understands that I’m on a Flickr search page, so performs the search progressively as I scan along the wall. The scroll wheel zooms in, and dragging left/right pans along at variable speeds. This is approximately a billion times faster than going through individual pages. I glanced at hundreds of pictures before spotting something appropriate, at which point I double-clicked it. This downloaded the high-res version and displayed it full screen – I could then jump to the photo’s Flickr page via a button at the top of the screen (although I only discovered this later after watching the tutorial video – it could do with being a little more obvious).

I’ve been merrily browsing my contacts’ photostreams and sets all evening – the wall is visually gorgeous, and it’s just good fun. Plus, photos generally look better on darker backgrounds. It’s technically polished, too: the wall appears extremely quickly and I’ve experienced no processing delay when browsing, which is impressive for a full-screen app1. It’s possible to scan faster than new images can be downloaded, but they appear fast enough that this is rare. I should mention that it’s stalled on me a couple of times, but re-clicking the play button solved it.

PicLens supports Google Images, Yahoo Images, YouTube, Facebook and deviantART, amongst others. There’s also a WordPress plugin to add support to individual blogs. I predict somebody will buy this company pretty sharpish. Definitely worth installing if you spend any time browsing images, imho.

  1. having said that, my Firefox install is less than a week old and everything’s quick at the moment []