Flickr

Project Panagor Part 3

Allow me to introduce you to the photographer behind this project, my grandfather. His birth certificate says William. Everyone knew him as Bill. Except me and the other grand kids, to whom he was known simply as grandad. He served in World War 2, getting through it without a scratch to speak of, although there was an unfortunate incident when he was caught milking a cow. Such antics were frowned upon in those days, what with rationing and all.

I remember him as being ridiculously well presented. Shoes that shine like mirrors. He’d be dressed in formal gear to do the gardening. And everything was in its place. Including all his photos and slides, carefully labelled and sorted. He later worked for British Airways and its earlier incarnations, for some 30 years I believe. He loved travelling, so the free tickets he got via BA were a boon. Alas, he married a woman who wasn’t as keen on flying as him. He made up for this with his love of technology and photography.

I also remember the holidays in Kent in that caravan you see down below. We’d pitch up in a field and then head off to explore towns and castles or just spend a relaxing day on the farm. I made friends with the farm boy one year and went hunting rabbits with nets and ferrets. I brought some back to the caravan, and we dined on rabbit stew. He’d tell us war stories. He always had a new war story to regale us with. Alas, he passed in 1994, just over 20 years ago,

Also featured is my grandmother. Irene, or simply Nan. Not the extrovert than my grandad was, but the sort that keeps order and discipline. She didn’t technically serve in WW2. I say technically, because the reality was that every man and woman served in WW2 in one capacity or another. All hands on deck sort of a thing. Must keep the Hun at bay.

Unlike grandad, she didn’t escape the war unscathed. Exiting a cinema when the air raid sirens went off, she was caught in a blast. She passed a few years ago with shrapnel from that blast still embedded in her back. It was shrapnel from a British anti-aircraft shell that went wrong. We’d call it friendly fire today. Back then I guess they call it unfortunate. On the plus side, as badly injured as she was, she made it through to tell the tale. As a direct result, I’m also here today, to retell the tale.

She was a careful sort of person. When grandad was gone, his secret stash of receipts for cameras, lenses and other assorted boys toys that he’d secretly acquired were discovered. He lived for the moment. She planned for the future. A bit like me and Mrs P really.

There’s the photo of him with his organ. He used to spend what seemed like weeks and months building them. It probably was weeks and months. Then he’d upgrade and build a new one. I saw him putting his organs together far more often than I saw him playing them. There’s also a photo of him with a gas fire. I found a number of them, with both taking it in turns to pose with the gas fire.

I am assuming that it was a new feature for the house.  Something we take for granted, which was a luxury ‘back in the day’. I suspect that the arrival of the fire coincided with the arrival of piped gas in their neighbourhood. Fortunately, the arrival of indoor toilets wasn’t given the same photographic treatment.

There’s also a group photo there. It’s in Prague. He made friends with a Czech pilot during the heady days of the Cold War, and they kept in touch till the end. My family remain in touch with them, on and off. I think it’s now on a Christmas card basis. The pilot passed away just recently. Months ago, not years. The photo of the little boy? Not me. My younger brother, Richard. You’ve no idea how delighted I was as a child when I found out that a short version of Richard is Dick.

Can you imagine what my grandfather would have made of it if you’d told him back in the 50s, 60s or 70s that I would one day photograph his slides with a smartphone camera and share them with the entire planet on the internet, organised in virtual folders on the internet, available to view 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? Smartphone? Internet? He’d not have a clue what I was talking about.

But he’d most definitely want to know all about it and to have a go. He’d have had a whale of a time. My nan, most likely, would be grateful they lived in a pre-internet era. Mrs P would probably share that sentiment. I’m supposed to be cooking dinner at the moment…

I also wonder what will happen to my photos. It’s great that they’re on the internet and so readily available. But, 20 years after I’ve passed, and half a century after my earliest snaps, what will have become of them? There will be no boxes of slides for someone to look through and puzzle over how, exactly, they transfer them onto a modern format for viewing.

But perhaps they will still exist. Maybe Flickr will create accounts that you purchase ‘in perpetuity’. Meh. I’m not holding my breath. But I would definitely love to know how we look at photos in half a century from now. How they are created, stored and viewed. Perhaps technology will allow us to walk into photos, reproduced as holographic representations created from the 2D images I’m taking today. How cool would that be?

For now, Flickr will have to do. Click here to see the entire set in all its glory. Hopefully I’ll get to have a look through more boxes of slides in the future and see what else is hiding away, and bring it into the 21st century. Maybe I will even make an updated version of my slide duplicator. A deluxe model, sort of thing.

Downloadair – Flickr to HDD

I don’t know how many times I’ll put myself in this position. I have all my photos on Flickr. But I need to have them on a local drive too. I have a partitioned hard drive, and a special folder. And every now and again, my hard drive dies, or I accidentally  delete the folder somehow. An then I have to download all my photos from Flickr again. Which is a whole load more hard work than it should be. You’ll need a third party app, because Flickr doesn’t provide a facility to download your entire photostream.

There are plenty of apps. Most of which haven’t been updated for years. Some of which contain malware. Others fail to download exif data, or turn sets into folders or are otherwise intensely laborious to use. Bulkr is great but costs $30. FlickrEdit, the tool I’ve previously used, is now too buggy. Should you find yourself in a similar situation, I can vouch for Downloadair. Running on Adobe Air, it’s got a pleasant UI, is easy to use and works well.

There are only two downsides. You have to click on each album to download it. I have more than 400, so it took a while. And it adds a string of unwanted numbers to the file name. Very irritating. But it’s free, and does everything else perfectly. It even picks up where it left on mid download if the PC crashes. So I can live with the flaws.

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Flower Bay

Isn’t summer just the most fabulous time of year? Here’s a shot I took recently of the bay as it sweeps past Bournemouth to Old Harry Rocks. With early summer wild flowers blooming along the cliff top. I posted this to 500px, where it got quite a few views, likes and faves. I’ve noticed lately that shots I’ve uploaded to 500px have been getting a lot more views than normal. Why, I do not know. I didn’t renew my Plus membership, so I have only the basic free account now. And I stopped creating sets when they changed how sets are displayed on the front page. In fact, it was so ugly I removed all my sets.

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Every now and then I’ll look at the stats page on Flickr too. And every now and again there’s an enormous spike in views. I have no idea why. There is a box showing referrers but they all just come from Flickr. It seems odd that the norm of 500 to 1000 views a day is suddenly and inexplicably interrupted with a 6000+ boom in visitors. But they are all welcome visitors. Especially if they are buying. Which, sadly, they are usually not.

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Adios 2013

This is my final published photo of the year. It’s a bit crappy but the best of a poor bunch. And a reminder that I really do need to get myself a decent lens. It’s also photo number 1685 for the year. So it has been quite a productive twelve months, bringing my total tally on Flickr up to 12,257. Happy New Year to you all, and a phototastic 2014 :)

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Flickr – Your Best Shot 2013

It’s that time of year again. The end of the year. Time to sift through the last years snaps to choose my finest effort and upload it to the Flickr 2013 Best Of group. There’s a few to choose from, taken far and wide. Marrakech, Krakow, Brighton, Bournemouth, London, Amsterdam, Arundel and more. I’ve had a nice half hour on a photo tour of my last year, picking the ones I like and then whittling them down to a manageable number. I picked a Baker’s Dozen as the final candidates for my photo of the year. Here are the 12 runners up…

However, I can submit just one photo to the group. Some of the photos above were ‘almost great’. The two ladies at the wedding? And someone else’s elbow. The photo of Mrs P was nice. But her face needed just a bit more light and clarity. The bird in the pond, just too little definition of its feathers for my liking. The Auschwitz photo came out nicely, but it is oh so cliche. The castle shots would look great in a magazine. But would they suit a gallery? Methinks not.

The reflection of river side houses in Krakow was definitely a possibility. But in the end I decided against it. I picked a photo that is, like the Auschwitz sigh, potentially a little common. But I had used a few filters to give it an arty twist. And it just looks nice. Perfectly printable. And so, I present to you, my Best Shot 2013 – a capsule of the London Eye in mid flight. Now, what was your best shot of 2013?

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Flickr Forward

Yahoo’s renewed enthusiasm for Flickr under Marissa Mayer is a continuing work in progress. There have been several developments recently. The first is their photo view page. This was introduced in a beta mode a few months back, but with a whole load of features missing. Too many features missing to make it usable as far as I was concerned. But they’ve fleshed out the photo view page substantially. You can still opt out if you wish. But I’ve opted in, and will stay in. It’s now good enough. I can now view different photo sizes and add to galleries, the lack of which was previously the deal breaker for me.

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You can now also create photo books directly from Flickr. This is an obvious addition to make, and quite frankly you’d have thought that Flickr would have had an in house book/calender/poster/canvas printing solution sorted out long ago. There’s a problem with the photo books though. The design features are limited. So limited that Blurb and others are still the better options as far as I’m concerned. The second failing means that a Flickr book definitely won’t be heading to my coffee table for the moment. They ship only to the US, So why even give me the option? Yahoo knows I’m from the UK…

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Every now and then, my Flickr stats go crazy, with sudden spikes in traffic. Usually it’s just for one day. This month I’ve had a huge increase in traffic, with several spikes in the last few days. I’ve looked deeper into the stats to try and find out why, but am none the wiser other than Flickr themselves are the referrer. I’d love to know where they all come from when this sort of thing happens. Still, I’m not grumbling.

So all is good in the Flickrverse. Except for one thing. Which is becoming a real sore point. Load times for photos. Flickr takes far too long to put photos on the screen.

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Flow versus Judder

My last post was about ‘The Flow’ in 500px. I omitted to say it was a new version of their Flow. Replacing what was already an excellent wall of beautiful photos.  Compare this to Flickr, which tries to do something similar. But with Flickr, it’s more of a judder. As the title of the post rather indicates. I’ve looked at my photos on different computers with different OS and different browsers. And all too often with the same result. This….

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And this, on the Sets page…

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I’m not impressed. At best, Flickr loads slowly and patchily. At worst, it sometimes fails to completely load every image at all. I know the Flickr team are working hard to make things better. But all too often it’s one step forward, one step back…

Triple Faves

I can measure how popular one of my photos is on Flickr. I can see how many views a photo has received. I can see who is sharing/using a photo. And visitors can also ‘favourite’ a photo if it really takes their fancy. Some photos get multiple ‘likes’. A long time ago, I created a set to store photos that had been favourited three times or more. There isn’t a huge list of them. Not so many people bother to press the favourite button.

There’s quite a mix of photos in the set. You can see them by clicking here. Some of my better photos are there. And a few odd choices too. But hey, I didn’t do the choosing. The latest entry is one of those odd choices. A prize for the person who can name the location without checking the Exif data…

 

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Flickr’s New Photo Page

I started this blog a few months ago, railing at the new Flickr. The things I didn;t like still grate a little. But I’ve come to tolerate them. As much as I was angered by that horrible banner, I still can’t see a digital photographic life entirely outside of Flickr. It’s also clear that the Flickr gang are still working on the site. One of my peeves was that the new look was incomplete, laid over the old infrastructure which was still visible.

They may be about to solve some of that. There’s a new Photo View page on the way. There’s a screen shot above. And another below, showing the rather slick sharing option. I had a good poke around and I officially give it my thumbs up. The old Flickr is gone from this new view. It’s all new Flickr. That’s a good thing. It has to be new or old, not bits of both.

Having said that, I’ve opted straight out. It’s work in progress that they plan to implement later in the year and is currently missing some key features. I need some of those features, including the ability to download the image in a size of my choice. They do say they’re adding the old features back in. I greatly look forward to the finished article.

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Flickr Blogging

If I were a pure ‘stats junkie’, I’d use Flickr not just for my photos, but to blog from to. I get far more exposure there than I do here, or on the Mexile proper. Check out the screenshot above. Only twice in the last month did I get fewer than 200 views. Eight days saw more than 1,000 visitors. One day topped 3000. Th rest were mostly between 600 to 800. It won’t be long before I hit half a million views in total.

I might experiment one of these days, and write a blog post to upload with a photo. Just to see if it increases views on that photo and whether I get much interaction from visitors. I’d be interested to see what happens. I won’t make a habit of it though. While you can blog from Flickr, the comments system is a bit meh, and the whole operation is nowhere near as slick as WordPress. But perhaps I should try and utilise those views more, given my desire to monetise my blogs. Perhaps just adding my web address to each photo I upload.

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500px Photo Page

There’s a new, updated look to the photo page of 500px. The old look was already slick and professional. The new look is more about evolution than revolution. Thankfully. If something works, build on it. Don’t break it and trash it. Are you listening Flickr? I like the new look. 500px goes from strength to strength.

Not that there isn’t room for improvement. I wish the export tool in Lightroom would pick up the photo number as the title, rather than leaving the title blank. Or, as it happens, ‘No Title’. A proper import tool would be nice too, but I’ve been over that. The Organiser definitely needs beefing up. It sucks that I can only deal with one photo at a time.

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Twelve Thousand

I’ve been knocking Flickr a bit lately. The changes have irked me. But you know that, if you’ve read my previous posts. And I might be uploading sets to the more beautiful 500px. But I’m still uploading everything to Flickr. I’ve just reached another milestone. The photo below, my 12,000th photo uploaded to Flickr.

 

Dear Flickr

Flickr reinvented itself recently. I’ve posted about the large scale changes that occured. Some of them I liked. Some I didn’t like so much. My biggest bug bear? The Windows 95esque top banner and white text that’s scrawled all over it. Hideous. I’ve tried a few things to mitigate it. I’ve given it time, to see if it would grow on me. Or if I would at the very least get used to it.

No, it’s still utterly hideous and is quite frankly ruining my Flickr experience. My latest effort at beautifying (or making less ugly) that banner was to upload a fairly common bokeh wallpaper. Someone else’s work. On my Flickrstream. Urgh. And people are complimenting my work and favouriting it. Which makes me feel worse still about it.

So I should move. I should dump Flickr and take my collection elsewhere. After all, it’s one of the best things I own. If someone came and took all your photos out of their beautiful leather bound albums and chucked them willy nilly into plastic sleeves with go faster stripes and bling all over them, you’d move them to, right? Oh, and Flickr are rolling this out too. UK accounts seem to be unaffiliated with this disease so far, but I suspect it is contagious enough that it will reach these shores before too long.

And yet, it isn’t as easy as that. The new place has to boast three features. Firstly, it has to be an aesthetically pleasing site. Like Flickr used to be. It must look nice! Secondly, it has to be reasonably priced. I pay $25 a year for Flickr. I’d move to $50 a year if the destination was good enough. Thirdly, it has to have the facility to import nearly 12,000 photos from Flickr without losing the sets, tags and titles. This needs to a be a one or two click facility. I don’t have time to manually upload my hundreds of sets.

It turns out that there’s not much competition to Flickr on the market place that does all three. Google+ isn’t pretty enough. SmugMug and Zenfolio are a little pricey, but manageable. They both do Flickr imports. But they are both pretty ugly themselves. True, they are also highly customiseable. But I’m looking for a natural beauty. Not one which needs a ton of makeup. SlickPic? Less ugly, but with silly prices. They do a $25 option, I hear you say. Yes, they do. But they’ll shrink your photos into the bargain. Strictly for those on the bottom rung of the amateur ladder.

There’s one site that is beautiful out of the box. And priced right – $20 a year. That option is 500px. I’m already a paid up subscriber. But it too has a drawback. It’ll import photos from Flickr, but it’ll not handle the sets. 500px also houses some of the most beautiful photography on the internet. I would almost feel guilty about uploading my entire collection there.

Still, I may well use 500px as my showcase going forward. Perhaps not for my back collection, until there is a decent import option. Or until there is a new kid on the block who meets my criteria. What does this mean for my Flickr account? I’m still going to use it as a storage silo. I’m unlikely to give them any more money. I’ll downgrade to the free option and live off the free terabyte of space they offer.

WordPress has some beautiful themes with superb galleries. I don’t know why no company has come out with a simplified photo sharing site option to utilise some of those themes, without the hassle of the hosting package etc.  But Flickr should be on notice. If I find a company who wants my business and gives me the tools to transfer, then my Flickr account has a delete button, and I wouldn’t be afraid to use it…

 

Flickr Ad

Flickr is seriously going for it. A TV ad? Has a photo sharing website ever had a TV ad campaign before now? I’m all for the growth. And there’s many things about the new Flickr I really like. The Android app is slick too. But I’m really struggling to get past the hideous banner and text. Really, really struggling. Let me put it this way. If there were an easy way to export my entire Flickr catalog into 500px, I would. But there isn’t.

And I also have to consider just how invested I am into Flickr. How many of my blog posts contain Flickr embeds. It would be a wrench to leave for many reasons. So I continue with Flickr in the hope that they will sort out that banner.

New Flickr: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good

It’s a change. Everything needs to change from time to time. Some users have complained for a long time that Flickr had grown stale. And yet it remained massively popular and much loved – testament to the fact that the original design was so good. A masterpiece, even. But change has to come, and change is good. It means it’s still alive, cared about, being nurtured.

I’ve been shooting 16:9 format for several years now. I liked the symmetry on Flickr. I avoided shooting portrait, squares or any other format. Just to keep it all neat. That doesn’t work so good with New Flickr. The never ending flow benefits a mash up, montage style, of photo formats. That’s great. I can be more adventurous now with my framing and cropping. I’ve already been at work doing just that, and it looks great in my opinion.

That wall of photos is awesome. It makes the absolute most of your monitor, with shots from border to border. This is all about photography, remember. There’s been a lot of negative stuff about the changes, and most of the comments I’ve read seem to have forgotten it’s a photo site.

New users get an incredible 1 terabyte of space. More than 99.9% of people will ever need. I’ve worked out that at my current rate of shooting images, it’ll be more than 300 years before I used all that space up. There’s a few caveats to that approximate figure, but the point remains, it’s a huge amount of space.

I’m a Pro user and have been for years. I get Unlimited space. Which I like, even though, as per the last paragraph, that is completely irrelevant. But I also got an ad free experience. New users will have to pay $49 bucks to get rid of the ads.  Good on you Flickr, for doing the decent thing and letting me keep the terms I originally signed up for.

The new Android app. Beautiful. Period.

The Bad

New users get unlimited HD video uploads, with each video allowed to last 3 minutes and use up to 1gb of that 1 terabyte of space. Fantastic! For new users. For us Pro users? We’re still capped by the 90 second 500mb limit. That, frankly, is a bit mean. I like the Flickr video player, and I could be persuaded to switch from You Tube to Flickr. But this doesn’t persuade me. Nor, Mr Flickr, does it persuade me to abandon my Pro status – just in case you were hoping that that would be the case.

The new look feels more like they’ve skinned Flickr, rather than released a new Flickr. That’s because, basically, they’ve skinned Flickr, rather than released a new Flickr. It’s a bit of a Frankenstein job. Flickrstein? Click on an image in my Photostream. Scroll down…there’s the old Flickr! The old Flickr is to be found all over the place, completely unchanged. Broken links too. To be fair, I imagine the engineering behind any change on a site as massive as Flickr must be a nightmare. The opportunity to break things must be legion. But still. It’s Frankenflickr.

The Ugly

That banner at the top. You choose one of your images and then move it till you like it. Oh my. I didn;t like it no matter what image I chose and how much I moved it around. It’s not nice. It’s really not nice. What else they could have done, I know not. But almost anything would have been nicer to look at surely. Marissa Mayer came from Google, a company whose ability to make things ugly knows no bounds. And that top banner is oh so very Googleish. I really haven’t taken to it. At all.

What I have done is too create a banner to try and deflect from it’s ugliness. But there’s no hiding the white text. My name, my sign up date, my photo totals. If you try and upload a white banner, you’ll find that there’s a grey to white gradient along the bottom, so you’ll be defeated. I’ve done what I can, by creating an all black banner with The Mexile written across it. I’ve also taken the opportunity to use the same banner to ‘beautify’ my YouTube page.

And by the by, the main Flickr homepage is hideous too. Large image squares with thick black lines at top and bottom or on the sides….work to be done there.

The Verdict

I have mixed feelings about the update. I love many elements of the change. I love that the site is being worked on. And I love the direction they are taking….in the hope that this is not the final destination. I’m fine with the new free account/pro account grandfathering. I’m a little disappointed that the change is a little half baked. I’m distraught by that banner. Please Mr Flickr, do something with that banner. My suggestion. Allow users to turn off the white text. And allow us to determine the height of the banner. If I could have my existing banner up then, sans text, and a whole load narrower, I’d be a ton happier.

And do keep working on the site in general! I hope Flickr is a labour of love for you in the same way photography is a labour of love for your users. That would make us the right match!