Three Dot Lounge for August 17, 2014

Three dot lounge is a mostly-weekly collection of things that deserve more than a retweet. Stay tuned for fascinating opinions and pithy commentary. Also keep an eye on my Twitter feed for more interesting stuff.

What Happens When a Supermodel Violates Your Copyright

What Happens When a Supermodel Violates Your Copyright

This is one of a couple of recent cases where a photographer takes an image, and that image goes viral and the they lose effective control of it (the other is the Monkey Selfie image).

The reality is that an image like this may well spin out of your control. In the article on the supermodel image, the photographer even notes they considered giving up photography for a while.

My reaction to that is — it’s a photo. Sometimes it’s worth writing it off and moving on, folks, especially when the fight is a losing one and the stress is affecting your health or impacting your ability to be a photographer. Is an image really worth that?

There’s your legal right under copyright. There’s the practical reality of a viral image and putting that genie back in the bottle (you can’t). And there’s keeping a sense of perspective that should tell you that at some point, you should focus on taking more pictures, and not on the lost fight of trying to regain control of an image where you won’t win and the payback is not going to be worth what it costs you.

I’m not suggesting you don’t try to protect and control your images. I’m saying that at some point, you need to realize it’s time to move on — especially when it’s impacting your interest in actually being a photographer. No image is worth that.

I’ll Never Fly Amazon Again

I’ll Never Fly Amazon Again

Given the fight between Hatchette and Amazon, with the authors once again cannon fodder in the middle, and Amazon trying similar tactics against Disney, I have similar thoughts to Marco. I’ve been revamping some of my affiliate stuff (to good results so far) — small potatoes given that a good month barely pays my hosting bill — but I think ultimately this is two companies strongarming each other and they’ll work it out, and I just hope the little people stuck in the middle don’t get hurt too badly as the giants wrestle. I definitely know that my choosing to not buy or sell through Amazon wouldn’t impact the decision one teeny bit — and bluntly, there’s no affiliate program that would be remotely as useful to me as Amazon. I’ve experimented with them, and only Amazon has the general access to the population and diversity of product to make it worth the hassle.

So for now, I’m moving forward as is, but not without some ambiguous feelings about it.


Posted in Three Dot Lounge

Why I threw out my bucket list. Should you?

Like many people I’ve kept a so-called bucket list of things I want to do someday. Unlike most of you, I decided to throw mine out about a year ago. I happened to run into an old copy of it in my archives this week, and it made me think about explaining why I got rid of it.

I realized the bucket list was an excuse to not do anything. It’s a fake accomplishment. It makes you think you’ve done something, by deciding that you’ll do something “someday”, so you don’t actually have to try to make it happen.

I’m at that age where far too often I get that reminder that “someday” may not come.

I decided that  matters to me is not what I might do someday, but what I should do next — and then I should work to do that.

For your amusement, here’s my bucket list from about a year ago, minus two items that I removed from it. The first was to get back to Yellowstone, which I did for a week in June, and the second was to shoot fall foliage in the Eastern Sierra, which Laurie and I are doing in October in a workshop with Michael Frye.

Will I forget something on my bucket list? probably, but if I do, then it probably wasn’t that important. I certainly won’t run out of things to do in the next decade or three, with or without the list.

  • grand canyon
  • fall in Utah
  • haida gwaii
  • polar bears in churchill
  • drive to alaska
  • ferry from port hardy -> prince rupert -> skidegate (and back)
  • yellowstone in january/february
  • banff
  • glacier
  • white sands
  • yellowstone for a month in september/october
  • File an ebird report in every county in California (and take picture of birds in every county)

Yes, Yellowstone is on that list two more times. Not a mistake, but the winter trip isn’t happening until I get down under 250, because getting outfitted would be insane.

So what’s next after the October trip? Not sure yet. I am seriously thinking of a winter trip up into the Klamath refuges, perhaps with a side trip to Crater Lake. I’m pondering whether it’s time to get to the Grand Canyon and if so, do I want to go north rim after it opens? Whatever it is, I’m going to put more energy into getting there than worrying about someday.

How about you? Is your bucket list an excuse to not do it?

What’s next for you? And when will it happen?



Posted in About Chuq

Three-dot Lounge for August 3, 2014

Three dot lounge is a mostly-weekly collection of things that deserve more than a retweet. Stay tuned for fascinating opinions and pithy commentary. Also keep an eye on my Twitter feed for more interesting stuff.

Florida mom arrested after letting 7-year-old walk to the park alone

Florida mom arrested after letting 7-year-old walk to the park alone

So a mother may go to jail for allowing her kid to walk to the park alone. On a path he rides every school day to school. With his cell phone to contact her in case something happens. Because, well, terrorists, I guess. In other news, childhood obesity is an epidemic that continues to grow and more and more research is pointing to lack of exercise as a key, perhaps the key cause.

When I was growing up, I got kicked outside and told to go run around and do things. Today’s kids are kept in strollers longer because they aren’t at risk of wandering away that way. They can’t go outside and play, they have to be in organized sporting leagues and structured situations where they’re always supervised and told what to do. Parents are paranoid about letting kids out of their site because the press way overplays the frequency of child abductions — and by the way, the vast majority of these the do occur are by people known by the (or part of) the family, not strangers.

So kids are being told to get exercise, but aren’t allowed to go and get exercise, except for the one or two days a week they get driven to the soccer field by the parent for an hour or so of mostly not moving around waiting for someone to coach them on something. And now we wonder why they’re getting fat…

It always amazes me, but never surprises me, that people get so sideways about really rare occurances and re-arrange their lives to avoid them, and then ignore the common things most likely to kill them, like smoking, driving stupid and not wearing their seat belts. And then they blame someone else when bad things happen, like diabetes in their kids…



Zack Arias takes on the “if it’s not a full-frame sensor it’s crap” myth. To which I can say “Amen”.

I’ve got two big problems with the people who play this game. One is that they’re generally using facts that were true, if we’re talking about sensors three or four years ago. Technology marches on, and so do the facts. Except when you latch onto an idea with religious fervor, evidently.

And second, most of the differences that do exist today are noticable only with larger prints. So all of you running around putting stuff online and telling us that it’s better because it’s full frame? Please cut it out. Unless you’re doing a fair bit of printing at larger than 11×14, or you really think it’s more important what the pixels at 100% look like than what the image looks like to a normal person, there’s not much to talk about.

There are some differences in how full-frame handles depth of field and bokeh, but honestly, the days where small sensors weren’t more than good enough are long gone, folks.

10 Things Google Should Consider in Launching a Standalone Photo Sharing Service

10 Things Google Should Consider in Launching a Standalone Photo Sharing Service

The number one thing I want to see out of Google about G+ is a roadmap. When Vic Gundotra left, there were all sorts of rumors about it being changed, blown up, shut down — name your favorite disaster movie. I had some projects I was planning to use G+ for; to be honest, they’re all on hold until I have some sense about whether that platform is going to be worth the time investment, and I won’t know that until I have some idea what Google’s future plans are.

I’m seeing some good things happening here: hiring John Nack, for one, gives me some comfort that they have some interesting ideas to work on. The death of the idiotic “real names” policy means someone finally got a clue about that, since it never worked and never could.

But there are still big holes in the platform. You can build a really good community there, but you can’t build a great one. There’s an amazing number of ghost towns there as well, even more than normal for an open community site, and it’s really hard to build real engagement the way the community systems are designed. Still, for photographers, you can build up a really nice community and set of relationships — with other photographers. But not, as far as I can tell, with potential customers or the general public.

I long stopped believing any of the numbers Google issued about the service. I’m hoping whatever changes that are coming stop the idea of integrating G+ into everything and trying to force people to use it, and put more energy into improving the platform so people want to.


Posted in Three Dot Lounge

Refactoring your Photo Collection

In the software world, “refactoring ” is a term used today to define what happens when a programmer goes in and cleans up some existing code. In the old days, it was called “maintenance programming” and thrown at the junior programmers. Today, it’s called “refactoring”, but now it has a fancy name to make programmers feel better about doing it.

The idea behind refactoring is to  take a hunk of something that already exists, tear it apart and re-build it in a better and more effective way. This allows your to improve an existing system over time as you learn new skills and you learn about how it is being used in ways you wish you’d thought of when you originally built it.

The idea of refactoring works for more than software, you can apply it to your photo collection as well. I believe those of us who are serious about photographer should always be striving to improve the quality of our photos. You can do that in a number of ways; the obvious one is to go out and take new and better photos, raising the average quality of the collection by adding them in.

My oldest photos started out in a very early version of iPhoto. As I got more serious about my photography and the technology improved, I moved my collection from iPhoto to Aperture (first version), then to CS3 Photoshop/Bridge (when I got tired of waiting for Aperture 2.0), then to Lightroom 2.0 (when I got tired of Bridge not making my life easier and more painless), and now to Lightroom 3.0. Along the way I redefined my keywording schemes at least three times, on at least two occasions I accidently deleted all keywords off of swaths of the library accidentally and didn’t catch it until “later”, and did the same once for captions and again once on image titles — each to a different group of images that might have overlapped but none of them had things in common. All of which ended up in the “some day, I need to fix these things” pile.

Along the way I learned a lot about photography, and a lot about post-processing of images, and I figured out tricks to improve images that allowed me to create much better images than I was previously capable of. When Lightroom 3 came out, the new processing system was also much improved, especially around noise reduction, and “simply” reprocessing images in Lightroom 3 made an image better.

One nice advantage of the digital photography environment, though, is that you can go back and revisit images and reconsider decisions you made while processing them. By doing so, you can adopt techniques you’ve learned along the way, or updated tools that give you an improved image result — and make the images you shot in the past better, too.

There is a third aspect to this as well — going back through your collection and culling the weakest images and putting them into retirement. As you mature as a photographer your definition of “good enough” changes and goes up (or it should). Shouldn’t your collection reflect that standard?

Yes, going back and cleaning up older images takes some time, but it can give you insight into how your skills are changing and refresh your memory about images you took that you realize deserve more attention. For me, it’s quite common to go back and find an image (or ten) that I didn’t think was that special, and realize that I could work with it and bring out the hidden beauty. Almost like getting a free set of portfolio winners for free!

If you use Lightroom’s publish module for your uploading, when you make changes to images, those changes can be pushed out to your online image sites, so you don’t have to go chasing down images and updating them manually. (if you aren’t using the publish modules, you really should if you are publishing to sites that lightroom supports them for. they are an amazing time saver and hassle remover). The publish modules also let you push out updates to titles, captions, keywords and other meta-data, so as you do general maintenance on your collection, those changes will be updated to your online sites as well.

Here are the tasks I try to accomplish as I refactor my image collection:

  • Make sure everything is in Lightroom and nothing is lost of missing.
  • Sit down and spend some time defining what your standards are. What kind of keywords should you use? To what level of detail? What is a “good” caption? What is a “good” title? Do you geotag images? to what accuracy? if you decide on your standards up front, it doesn’t make bringing the library up to those standards less tedious — but at least you’ll be able to make easy and consistent decisions on what needs to be done, which will simplify things down the road.
  • Go through my defined keyword library and edit it into a consistent hierarchy and bring it all up to my current usage standards; that includes fixing all typos and doing things like standardizing usage and terminology, grammar, capitalization and thinking through things like your hierarchy. And spell-checking it. Twice. Trust me.
  • Implement the publish system for the sites you upload to, and go through the work needed to sync up those services to those collections so that everything is connected and updates will go where they are supposed to go.
  • Go through the library one image at a time and bring it up to your current standards: if necessary, re-keyword it. improve the caption and title. verify it’s geotagged and the geotagging is correct. validate the metadata. make sure the embedded EXIF data is complete and correct — especially contact and copyright info (you ARE adding that to all of your images via import presets, right? RIGHT?)
  • Are the images well-processed? Do they need to be re-done? Do them. If you don’t want to lose the existing version of the image, use virtual copies and learn to use sets. Are there systemic processing mistakes you’re catching? Congratulations, you just improved your workflow on new images — you know not to do that any more, right? (I found, honestly, that I went through phases where I wansn’t just bad at sharpening, I was “driving the clown car backwards through the car wash with the windows down” incompetent; I finally took great swaths of the library and put a generic re-sharpening on them to remove the damage, and then evaluated them individually again later. And this was on images that were already on flickr and published, at a time I thought that was good sharpening. Oh, god. (wince))
  • As you fix stuff, publish the fixed stuff so that the stuff that makes you wince goes away….
  • Edit your collection. you’ve become a better photographer; there’s going to be stuff you look at and wince. When you wince, don’t be afraid to retire the image and take it offline. Don’t leave images online that you feel represent you poorly just because at one point you thought they were good enough. Edit. Ruthlessly. (in my case, I retired about 10% of my collection; a smaller amount than I expected to, honestly. In my 2008 refactor, I retired 35%, but that was when I started making the jump from enthusiastic amateur who pushed the shutter and prayed to a more studied amateur who actually tried to plan shots out….)
  • And — don’t be afraid, if you get halfway through and think of something, to back up and implement it as well. Do something you decide isn’t working as well as you hoped? think of a way to make it even better? As long as you have the hood open — DO IT. because one of the things you want to do is make sure that once you put the hood down, you don’t feel any interest in opening it up and doing this again for a number of years. If you leave something half-done, or un-done, you’ve already started your next ToDo list.

This is now part of my normal routine. Whenever I have some time I’m not using productively other ways, I’ll sit down and dig into the collection. Sometimes I’ll pick a period of time and review it; I’ve also created some tags like “needs_work”, “needs_keywording” and “needs_reprocessing”, so whenever I see an image that I think I need to revisit, I can quickly tag it and won’t forget to go back and fix it later — these all tie to smart collections so I can easily find them when I want to.

So, how to do your own refactor? The key is to make it one of those things you do in small chunks over time. Most photographers I talk to hate keywording — and most of them know their collection would be easier to use and more effective online and in stock agencies with better keywords. But the reality is, keywording isn’t fun, and the thought of sitting down for a week to fix your keywords — not gonna happen. But half an hour here, an hour there, it adds up. The knowledge of how much work is needed keeps you from getting started; think of it in terms of little bits here and there, and you’ll be surprised how quickly things get into shape.

I find these days I’m constantly tweaking stuff as I see it, or sticking it in a queue with one of those tags to look at later. Today is a writing day and I’m beating a lot of little warts into submission on my blog — but I also found four images that I felt needed to be fixed. Three were minor changes and I did the tweaks and pushed the updates, but the last one needs to be redone from scratch, so it’s been stuck in the queue for when I have time and energy to focus on it.

Keep it simple, break it down into small pieces, and do it in little bits over time. You’ll be amazed how much progress you see when you do. Better yet, taking that approach helps keep you from ever hitting that point where you realize you’re going to spend the next two weeks doing nothing but cleanup. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and trust me, you want to avoid it…


Posted in Photography

Three-Dot Lounge for July 27, 2014

Three dot lounge is a mostly-weekly collection of things that deserve more than a retweet. Stay tuned for fascinating opinions and pithy commentary. Also keep an eye on my Twitter feed for more interesting stuff.

West-side San Joaquin Valley water calamity may be unfolding

West-side San Joaquin Valley water calamity may be unfolding

While much of the focus on the drought has been on the low volumes in the reservoirs, people are starting to pay attention that we’re destroying the aquifers. Once they drain and collapse, they don’t come back, yet we’re still treating them as infinite reservoirs — it’s a completely unregulated water source in California right now.

Goodbye, Google Voice: I’m breaking up with you

Goodbye, Google Voice: I’m breaking up with you

I’ve used Google Voice as my published phone number for a while, I always thought I was more likely to have it around than my mobile number. Since then, it’s become easy (well, easier) to keep that number if I change carriers, and Google Voice has sat there being ignored by Google.

It and Feedburner seem to be prime candidates to get the “Google Reader” treatment at some point to me, and I’ve seen no indication from Google these projects are in anything but “as long as they don’t break we’ll ignore them” mode. I’m also realizing I get little real value from using Google Voice these days over my carrier’s voicemail, so why am I doing it?

Because of that, I’m starting the shift away from it, because I’d rather do it on my own terms and not under some forced deadline because Google makes the “it’s going away” announcement. Maybe it won’t go away, because I’ve been waiting for Feedburner to die for a few years now.

As I write this, the last status update for either product on their official blogs is over a year ago. Those aren’t products I want to depend on being there forever. they aren’t being enhanced, there’s no sign of any real corporate interest in them. And looking at what happened to Google Reader, it’s time to shift away from Google Voice before I’m forced to. If you’re a Google Voice user, you should take a look at the state of the product and ask yourself if you should depend on a zombie product in your life…

Things I Learned After My Photo Hit #1 on Reddit, and Why I Probably Shouldn’t Have Posted It

Things I Learned After My Photo Hit #1 on Reddit, and Why I Probably Shouldn’t Have Posted It

Online, there’s a strong culture of sharing and copying. You can’t stop that. You can fight it, but most of the time you’ll lose; as this piece shows, even if you win, by the time you win, it’s a pyhhric victory.

I don’t think the answer is not to put stuff online. I think the answer is to understand how this all works and learn to accept it and take advantage of it as you can. The fact is, msot and more of our life in general is shifting online, and if you don’t embrace it, you’re going to end up left behind, so that’s not a solution, either.

This is exactly why I recently redid my watermarks on images to include a frame and better identifying info in it; it’s that compromise between mucking up the image in an attempt to prevent it being taken (which won’t work) and keeping your identifation and attribution with the image when it gets shared. Not everyone I’ve heard from like it, but they seem to understand why I did it

I think if you’re going to put images online and maintaining your attribution matters to you, this is the way to do it. If you don’t, you’re setting yourself up for a long series of fights to protect your image that you’re ultimately going to lose, and at best, is going to waste a lot of your time and cause a lot of stress. Unless you see not posting at all as an option (I certainly don’t), you need to understand how the sharing culture works and work with it, not stand in front of the firehose demanding the water change direction…

The death of backpacking?

The death of backpacking?

Here’s a shocker, every generation sees things differently than their parents, and almost invariably, their parents don’t understand why.

My dad hated the Beatle’s and Elvis. I have never figured out why anyone listens to rap music. You need only look the rise of the X-games to see that kids don’t see activities the way us old pharts do. So it seems that the younger generations are more interested in day hikes and adventure hiking and less interested in traditional long-haul backpacking. Is that bad? Or just different?

More importantly, who’s working to get involved with these people where they are doing things and evangelizing these other activities to them? It’s easy to sit on the porch and grumble about the damned kids not getting it in your lemonade, but the way the kids get it is that people get committed and get on the ground and go out and help them learn about it. Anyone doing that?

Grumble grumble. get off my lawn…


Posted in Three Dot Lounge