Flickr

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!

 

Flickr Reinvented

I don’t normally publish two posts in a day. But…wow. Flickr just completely reinvented itself. I do mean completely. So many changes that it’s all a bit much to take in. I guess the first thing most people will want to know is that everyone now gets a free terabyte of space. That’s huge. In full resolution. No shrinking your images. For free. Ok, for free, plus the ads they’ll run.

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I’m a Pro user, so what does that mean for me? Unlimited space. Although, to be quite honest, I am decades away from the point where a terabyte will be insufficient for my purposes. But I get my Flickr account ad free, as well as unlimited. And stats. Free users don’t get stats. Want to go Pro like me? You can’t. No more new Pro accounts will be allowed. And I could, if I wanted, step back to the free account and get a pro rata refund. But I’ll keep my Pro status thanks, and I’m pleased to see I will be allowed to keep renewing. Good move, Yahoo.

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The next things I noticed? Wall to wall photos with a customization banner up top. Do I like it? Hmmm. I’m not sure. I guess I like the banner, once I’ve created something a bit funkier. You can choose one from your photos, but it’ll only let you select a recent photo. Perhaps offering us the chance to dig deeper into our collections would have been nicer. I’d like a little bit more space between each image as well. Is it just a bit too busy? I do hope I can get rid of the text on that banner though. I don’t feel I need my name, joining date and how many photos I’ve taken displayed quite so prominently.

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There’s infinite scrolling on the Photostream page. But not on the Sets page, which is disappointing. It’s quick and easy to see full screen images and slideshows. That’s a positive step.  The background is black. Most people prefer that. I am the odd one out. I prefer white, or grey backgrounds. Can I change it? Are there any new features I’ve missed? I always wanted the option of a custom domain. You know that new photoblog site that I just launched? That could lose it’s garydenness.com domain real quick…

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There’s plenty of news on this on the blogosphere. Flickr’s own blog (currently hosted on WordPress, but you’d imagine coming to a Tumblr blog near you soon…) has the full scoop. Flickrite Thomas Hawk offers his early impressions. Mashable chip in with the story too. I’m told that once I’ve finished typing this and go to my cell phone, I’m going to find a super duper all new Android App for Flickr waiting for me to play with.

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There’s one more button that’s quite prominent. It’s ‘Edit’, up on the banner. Click it and you get the layout above. But if you click on Photostream, it goes back to the normal layout. What’s the deal with that? I don’t know. But I guess I’m going to have plenty of fun trying out all this new stuff. And checking that the good old stuff still works. I checked the Organizer straight away – it’s the most powerful online photo management tool on the web. It’s still there and works just the same. So. Anyway. I’m off to check out this new Android app. The question is, for you non-Flickerites out there…..has a terabyte of free hi res apce tempted you?

Two Thousand

This is my two thousandth post. Across very almost ten years – that milestone is just a few months away. That’s about two hundred posts a year. Where do I find the time? I find I have less time here in the UK for such frivolous activities than I did in Mexico. Writing posts has become as much a habit as a hobby. I should cut back. I don’t though. Partly because it is profitable. But mostly because I like the people who hang around in this corner of the virtual world. Cheers to those of you who’ve ever commented. And to those of you who haven’t too. Especially to those of you whom I have met in person. And those of you whom I will meet. Beers all round.

I did once before reach the two thousand post landmark. That’s because I merged my 365 photo project into this blog. But I had a change of heart and un-merged them. I’ve also ‘lost’ a fair few posts over the last decade too. Some disappeared into the ether back in 2005 when I self hosted everything, and forgot to do a complete back up before cancelling my hosting plan. Duh.

Other posts of a commercial nature, hundreds of them, were left behind on an old blogging platform when I switched to Blogger from Opera. Blogging has been profitable over the years. How much is it worth. Tens of thousands of dollars. Not enough to live on, but certainly enough to have some fun on. But they don;t make good reading. Those who didn’t much like my guest posts will be pleased to hear there will be no more of those. Although I will still explore other lucrative avenues.

How to celebrate this landmark? Every post needs a photo. It’d be too much of a drag to go find my 2000th upload to Flickr, although that would have made a nice matching pair. How about my first ever upload to Flickr? It certainly wasn’t the first photo I ever took with a digital camera, nor my first photo in Mexico. When I joined Flickr, I sent an experimental batch to the service to see what it looked like.  I wrote yesterday of my need for some sunshine, so it’s a fitting photo…

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The Gallery

Flickr is very much a permanent fixture in my photography life. Not least because I have invested so much time and so many photos (11,065 at last count) that a move elsewhere would take a huge amount of effort. But I’m happy with Flickr. It remains the best value photo storage site on the net. It also remains the most powerful photo organised  And retains the largest and most active following of all dedicated photo sharing sites. Development had become stale, but in the last year Yahoo has started reinvesting resources into the site.

Every now and again I do ‘shop around’ though, just to see what alternatives there are. Just in case I want to move. There are some of the same old faces, some of which are better than others. Photobucket has improved. From absolutely awful to sub par. Picasa is still there, and still has a split personality. Smug Mug is great but pricey. Only for  serious pros who are really there just to show off their own stuff. There are the relative newcomers too. Google+, which is the other half of Picasa’s split personality. Why can’t they just turn the two of them into a single offering, and ditch the hideous Picasa interface?

Slick Pic in also fairly recent to the scene, having caught my eye last year, and looks nice. Looks can be deceiving. Their free offering allows uploads at smaller resolutions than even two year old cell phones produce. Even the next step up on the price scale will shrink (thus partially destroy) images that most compacts will produce. Their Pro offering? Geez, we’re on Smug Mug money. Slick Pic subscribers, perhaps, are more Mug than Smug. But that’s a little unfair. For the casual amateur or novice who isn’t too fussed what happens to their images in the long run, it does a job. But it’s a big step down from Flickr, so it’s not for me.

However, Flickr isn’t quite enough. I need other places to share my photos. Two other places. One for my mobile photos, and I’m currently weighing up the pros and cons of Facebook v Google+. They both have their pros and cons. Secondly, I like to keep a site for my best photos. My own little Gallery to showcase my successful efforts. For the last couple of years, and the foreseeable future, that place is 500px. The free option limits you to the number of photos you can upload, rather than by damaging your shots. The interface is nice. The community is quite lively, and my fellow 500pxers are a talented bunch. It’s pretty easy to lose time browsing through recent uploads.

There are pro options, at $20 and $50. The $20 option is Flickr territory and whilst the photo management tools aren’t as powerful, they’ll do the job for most photographers out there. My 500px profile is here. I keep intending to take up the $20 plan, but just haven’t gotten around to it. Soon. Perhaps. Till then, I leave you with one of my ‘better’ shots that made it to my 500px collection, from Marrakesh. We’re off again tomorrow on another whistle stop city tour. We’re heading east this time….