Facebook Steps In It

Over the weekend Facebook stepped in it in a big way. One of the earliest sites breaking this was A.V. Club:

Scientists at Facebook have published a paper showing that they manipulated the content seen by more than 600,000 users in an attempt to determine whether this would affect their emotional state. The paper, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” was published in The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. It shows how Facebook data scientists tweaked the algorithm that determines which posts appear on users’ news feeds—specifically, researchers skewed the number of positive or negative terms seen by randomly selected users. Facebook then analyzed the future postings of those users over the course of a week to see if people responded with increased positivity or negativity of their own, thus answering the question of whether emotional states can be transmitted across a social network. Result: They can! Which is great news for Facebook data scientists hoping to prove a point about modern psychology. It’s less great for the people having their emotions secretly manipulated.

This issue has grown across the net and is now being covered by the major media, so this is building into a possible flash point. For reference, the full paper is here.

I’ve had an increasingly frustrated relationship with Facebook over the years as they continue to change the site from a place where people interact with each other to one designed primarily to push brand advertising into your face while you are never quite sure if people saw what you posted or not (and chances are, increasingly, no, they didn’t. Unless you paid for placement).

My first reaction to this was — I’m done — but I realized I was reacting from anger, so I decided to sit on it for a few days while we waited for more information to come out. I was also somewhat fascinated by how I (and many of the people I talked to) reacted very viscerally to this. There were early questions whether Facebook and the researchers followed protocol for approval of this study (answer: yes), and if you step back and think about it objectively, most of us who build and run web sites have done A-B testing and done work designed to encourage one behavior instead of another, so I think one big unanswered question for the industry in general is where draw the lines between that kind of operational behavioral management and, well, this.

Because it’s clear most of us think this kind of manipulation is over that line, but I doubt any of us can explain where the line is. That’s something we need to grapple with and find consensus on. Much of the web is doing behavioral modification in some way or another — but this was explicitly studying emotional modification. The two are very closely related, so where do we draw that line that one’s okay and the other isn’t?

My problem with this is == Well, beyond that nobody was told it was being done to them or had any option to opt in or out — is the possible side effect of someone already fighting depression having  their account tweaked here to condition their mood more negative. What if that pushes them into a suicidal state, folks? This isn’t “hey, if we make the button orange, sales go up 3%” territory.

On top of that, the results were trivially small — and some researchers think the study was so badly designed it was worthless. So the impact was small enough I don’t think it was statistically useful, and even if it was, reading through the analysis of the study, the data is crap.

I think  Business Insider nails the essence. Those of us reacting to this aren’t reacting to what they did, but the fact that Facebook did it.

Even Susan Fiske, the professor of psychology at Princeton University who edited the study for Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of America, had doubts when the research first crossed her desk.

“I was concerned,” she told me in a phone interview, “until I queried the authors and they said their local institutional review board had approved it—and apparently on the grounds that Facebook apparently manipulates people’s News Feeds all the time… I understand why people have concerns. I think their beef is with Facebook, really, not the research.”

After thinking about it for a while, she’s right. I’m reacting to this because it’s Facebook.

Facebook’s initial response was pulled from the big book of generic responses, and focussed on privacy, which came across as tone deaf and completely missing the point. That hasn’t helped settle this controversy at all, and to me reinforced that Facebook seems oblivious to the larger issues a study of this type touches. That, unfortunately, doesn’t surprise me one bit.

I am probably leaving Facebook

I’ve had a muddled relationship with Facebook for a while. I removed any reference to my Facebook account from my sites over a year ago to discourage anyone from following me there. There are lots of things they do I’m not happy with, from their Terms of Service and their rights grabs on content to their continuing manipulation of feeds that make it hard to actually use it to stay in touch with each other — they’ve effectively killed the ability of a small or medium-sized business to use it as a marketing site unless they want to start paying for placement, for instance. I’ve been using it less and less over time, putting less content on it. The primary use I have for it now is to keep track of people I can’t keep track of anywhere else.

I’m going to give it another week to think it through, but as of now, I believe this is the last straw, and this camel’s back has had it with Facebook. It’s not about the study, per se, but about Facebook’s attitude toward it’s users, and from watching the reaction out on the wide web in general, I’m not alone feeling like Facebook doesn’t see it’s user base as people, but as things to be manipulated to improve the revenue stream.

My bottom line is that I keep looking for ways to spend less time on Facebook because I get very little value for the time spent there — I’d rather put that time into more productive things. Facebook just isn’t that interesting or useful, and I’m not thrilled with their tendency to set policies that ignore the needs and interests of their users in favor of things that benefit Facebook.

So I think I’m done. But it’s not something I want to make a final decision on until I see how (if…) Facebook responds. Maybe they’ll surprise me. This controversy is growing fast enough it really needs a strong response from Zuckerberg to get some control over it again. I’m going to be really curious to see if that happens.

But assuming nothing changes my mind, a week from now, I’ll be closing my Facebook account. If you follow me on Facebook, you probably ought to hook in with me somewhere else. And you should ask yourself if you really get value out of the hours you invest in Facebook every month. If not, maybe you should consider a change of venue, too.

We need to figure out where to draw the lines in the sand

A more important issue is this: A lot of companies are doing a lot of manipulation of a lot of people online, and there’s a lot we don’t know about what that does to the people involved — and if your team does any A-B testing at all, you’re part of that.

Most of that manipulation is harmless, of the “Red buttons generate more sales”, but there’s a huge amount of knowledge we don’t have about the impacts on our users. The Facebook study could have been an interesting step in the direction of filling some of those gaps, if it’d gotten good data and had been well-designed, but it was neither.

We as a community need to figure out where we cross that line from simple tweaking of a users preferences to encourage a specific action and into manipulating a user at a deeper level in a potentially dangerous and damaging way. We have no clue where those limits are, and there is no standards or oversight for teams experimenting in these areas or building sites that use these techniques. We need them.

The question is, who’s going to bell that cat? I have no idea, but I felt the question had to be asked.

 

 

 

Posted in Computers and Technology

Getting the blog going again.

I think life has settled down again to get the blog going and back on a schedule. Moving to Cisco, making sure Cisco Live! and our first Devnet Zone succeeded, then running off the grid to Yellowstone, and then dealing with the inevitable deluge of stuff from being off the grid for a week. Oh, and I’m in the middle of a reorganization of the home office, which has grown well beyond the original scope (and the UPS guy is starting to hate me, I think, from the various pieces being delivered. Almost finished with the boxes, guy. honest).

Oh, and the Google+ Bird Photography group passed our 10,000 member mark, and is well on the way to 11,000. Our contest celebrating that was a big success! You can see the winners and our honorable mentions here:

I was quite happy with the quality of the submissions; that group sees a lot of amazingly good photography from around the world.

I’ve published the first set from the Yellowstone trip, and again, I’m quite happy with both the trip and the results I came back with (more on that soon):

(For what it’s worth, I’m brand new to doing these kinds of shows, and I know I can do better. Currently I’m using Animoto, but I plan on doing more study to take more control over the shows down the road. I think Animoto does a fine job, but I think I want to be able to do more to personalize these shows — once I know what and how to do. Fortunately, Creative Live has a class on this coming up, and I’ve signed up for it….)

I’ve been working through my plans for the rest of the year, and looking at what I’d planned on doing prior to changing jobs over to Cisco. That’s made a big enough impact on things that i really needed to rethink everything. I want the blog on a schedule, and I’ve decided to try to keep to the following:

One Long piece on Photography (a before/after, a piece of the Getting Geeky series that got put on hold, or some independent piece)

One Long piece on some other topic (technology, hockey, or whatever).

A weekly review of something (about 50% photography, at least for now) to drop every Wednesday

I’ve figured out my next attempt to build a useful thing around the curation idea I tried to solve with For Your Consideration. I have no idea if this one will work, so we’ll try it together and see. I do think that last experiment taught me a lot about what might work with all of you, though. this bit is still in the “coming soon” pile, but you’ll hear more shortly.

There are a whole bunch of things going on beyond this, of course…

I’ve been digging into podcasting and broadcasting/producing them since I got back from Yellowstone, partially for work, and partially because I’ve had a number of suggestions that the Before and After series ought to be done with video. I think there’s some good and bad aspects of that, so I’m experimenting with using Google Hangouts, and whether it makes sense to turn them into an interactive Q&A format — and perhaps do other people’s images as well. (and as an aside, if the before and after series is at all interesting or useful to you, please check out David duChemin’s About the Image podcast series as well.

The podcasting stuff and some other things I can’t talk about have got me digging once again into video editing, which has me diving into Final Cut Pro, and so I’m taking a FCP class right now, which will be eating my evenings for the next week or two…

As part of the office reorganization I tore down the hockey shrine on my wall (details of that were on my twitter feed) and put it into storage. But now I have a big section of wall to clean up and then cover again with more prints, because, well, that’s the background for the webcam for all these videos and for my home office conference camera. And the current wall is ugly. So I have printing to do.

And I haven’t even started writing up the Yellowstone trip, or figuring out how to use the images beyond that first slideshow, or… And all I know is there’s a lot of material there to use and explore. If you haven’t looked, I uploaded the portfolio-quality images to my Smugmug site, and the extended set is over on Flickr.

Next up: Laurie and I are taking the fall foliage workshop out of Lee Vining taught by Michael Frye. I’m home-based until then.

I have been trying to figure out what my next major photo trip will be. Right now, the Grand Canyon is winning, but I have a good half a dozen options under consideration.

I have about 500 blog entries I want to write based on what I saw, did, and learned on the Yellowstone trip. It’ll keep me busy… I will say the Fuji XT-1 exceeded my expectations and worked wonderfully.

Lewis Lake, Yellowstone

So did Yellowstone itself, which totally blew me away.

I’ve also decided it’s time to add a “read the blog by email” option, which I’ve had a few requests for. I’m also trying to take some more time on the photo of the day postings to make sure they have better descriptions and commentary on them, and when they’re images where I have prints for sale, I’ll be making sure to note that. I’m also working on updating the watermark and formatting of the images I put online (that in itself is its own blog post…)

Apologies for being away from the blog so long. Maybe some day I’ll be able to treat this as my “job”… (if you want to help that happen, I’d like to suggest either buying a print from my Smugmug site, or use the Amazon links on the site to buy yourself something. Right now I’m lucky if the site covers the hosting charges every month, and so when time crunches hit,  sometimes the blog has to wait. The more revenue the blog generates, the more I can justify putting time into it instead of other projects….)

 

Posted in About Chuq, Photography

State of the Sharks, the “Oh my God We’re All Gonna Die” edition…

(but first, a quick digression. Because of my Yellowstone trip and going off the grid for most of that week, I never posted my prediction for the final round of the playoffs. I did, however, predict the Kings to come out of the west and I did predict that whoever came out of the West to win the cup, which in fact happened. In the earlier rounds, I was 9-3 and the only significant miss was Boston doing better than it did, and picking Boston for the Cup. Ooops. I did pick the Kings out of the West, and I was 2-0 in the conference finals and had the ultimate winner in the final round, meaning that my picks this yuear in the playoffs were 12-3. My best playoff prediction series in a long time)

It has been an interesting off season for the Sharks. When the season ended I did a “Now what” piece on them suggesting what I’d do. A number of things I got right (Wilson and McLellan back, for instance), a few I didn’t (re-signing Brown, but when you think in terms of being a black ace and locker room influence, it makes sense. His attitude is the one they are trying to build into the entire team, so in retrospect, I was wrong and Wilson’s right here).

They killed Drew! You Bastards!

A big team-but-not-player change got announced this week, in that the Sharks announced that Drew Remenda wasn’t returning. They haven’t announced the official broadcasting lineups, but I’m guessing Jamie Baker moves into the TV role full-time, and Bret Hedican can join Dan Rusanowsky to do color if he wants to go full-time. Baker’s turned into a really good color-type broadcaster and is more than ready for a TV role, and Hedican’s also improved a lot, and I think he’d do fine as a game color guy. We’ll see how this falls out, but with or without Drew, this is a really good and interesting broadcasting team.

But why did they take Drew out back behind the barn? There’s a lot of speculation about this, but if you’ve been paying attention if shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Honestly, I’ve been expecting this for a few years. Drew insisted (because of family) to split his time with some radio work and his home in Saskatoon, and that complicated things for the Sharks. I think this is mostly about setting up a broadcast team that is committed to the team full-time, and local.

That said, I’ve been a bit less of a fan of Drew the last few years (and before people start throwing stuff at me, if I were to give out letter grades, it would be a shift from A- to B-. He’s still a damned good broadcaster and interesting to listen to). There were times when I felt it was less about the team and more about Drew. There were times when I felt he was getting more strident and less interesting, in that “I’m Don Cherry and I’m right so shut up and agree with me” way. I found him a bit louder and a bit less interesting over the last couple of years. And… I’m sure Drew has rubbed a number of people the wrong way and said things people within the team wish he’d kept to himself. I’d argue that most of the time, Drew was right, too, but I could see him wearing out his welcome — not just because of his criticisms, but because of the hassles and complications his time-split with Saskatoon caused the team. At some point, I understand why they would consider fixing that problem.

One thing this isn’t is a case of a team replacing a critic with some cheerleading homers, because if you’ve listened to Baker and Hedican much, you realize neither of them is exactly shy of speaking their opinion on this team. But both of them do it with less sandpaper than Drew did at times.

I’ll miss Drew. He and Randy Hahn had good chemistry and broadcast a very interesting game. I would have brought Remenda back, given what I know. Please don’t mistake “I’m not surprised they did this” with “I am happy they did this”; I’d rather have Drew broadcasting. But I also think a broadcast with Randy and Jamie on TV, Dan and Bret on Radio, and Brodie doing the beat-guy thing is still a pretty darn good broadcast. It’s a strong, deep team, and they’ve done a good job of mentor and developing their talent from within here.

The ‘move the team’ boogeyman has arrived

Another fun off-season not-really-a-crisis has arrived when Mark Purdy did a column about the Shark’s lousy television deal, and Purdy brings up the idea of the Sharks moving because of it.

He’s correct about how bad the TV deal is. It’s interesting to speculate on the fact that this deal was done in the final year of Greg Jamison’s tenure, and that pretty much the entire business team involved with signing it has been dropped from the team. I wonder how related those two items are, and whether the new ownership came to realize just what a bad deal Jamison locked them into. Bad enough, evidently, that it seems Gary Bettman is exploring ways to convince Comcast to rejigger the deal — and one wonders what kind of quid pro quo they’ll have to give Comcast to consider it. Something to watch.

But as part of that, Purdy did the “oh my god the team might move!” dance, to which I respond: this is something fans should pay zero attention to.

Here’s the thing. The Sharks have four seasons left on their lease in the San Jose Arena. Barring a new agreement, after that, they’re free agents and are free to move to a new building. Lease extensions can be a time consuming and complicated deal to work out, so this is about the time I’d expect the Sharks to start negotiations with the city. It’s actually a very good time, since we’re about to see Chuck Reid leave office and a new mayor will be taking over in a few months. Now would be a good time for the Sharks to quietly encourage the local press to pass a message along to the candidates that this is an issue they’ll need to deal with, and if it becomes an election issue for November, even better. Some rabble rousing and saber rattling makes sense to get the attention of the politicians here.

This deal isn’t one Reid would have taken on, knowing he was leaving office, and given that part of the negotiation is going to be how much money San Jose will fund in capital improvements, any deal during the worst of the budget nightmare in the city would have been political suicide for both sides. Capital improvement funding has always been a point of — discussion — between the Sharks and the city going back almost to the day the arena opened (note, for example, my interview with Jamison in 2003 when he and the city were arguing over who would pay for the scoreboard upgrade to HD video; the city ultimately did).

Now would be the right time to start these talks, and I’d guess a new deal would be likely announced in two years, giving both sides enough time to keep it from becoming a real crisis. But the capital fund is going to be a political football and I expect this won’t be an easy (and possibly not a friendly) deal, so expect more of this kind of talk over the next few years.

The reality, though, is that I can’t see the Sharks go anywhere. They can’t leave the Bay Area because there is frankly no NHL-capable building available for them to move to except possibly Kansas City, and I can’t imaging that happening. They aren’t going to move to whatever building the Warriors build in San Francisco, because they don’t want to be the secondary tenant — being the landlord is where the money is. And assuming the Warriors do move to San Francisco, it leaves the Oakland Arena empty of a major tenant, but honestly, that building really sucks for hockey; it always has, it always will, and it’d be like moving back to the Cow Palace in all its glory. Not gonna happen.

So the reality of the “Sharks moving” rumors is to get the mayoral candidates attention and start the process of negotiating a new lease, which is going to take a while, is going to be somewhat acrimonious, and threats and bluster are part of the negotiating tactics on both sides. So is trying to mobilize the fans to put pressure on the city to keep the team, which is part of getting a better deal for the team. So when this stuff comes up, the best thing you can do as a fan is pay zero attention to it, because ultimately it doesn’t matter and the new lease will get done. So unless it’s three years from now and we still have no lease and it’s getting really serious and nasty between the two sides, just assume that any time this ends up in the press, it’s part of the negotiating strategy for one side or the other. Because it likely is.

And hopefully that’s the last I’ll say about it until the new deal is announced. (The TV problem is more serious, but can’t make the team move, because that’s governed by the lease. I’ll be curious as hell to see what Bettman can do about this…)

But… About the Players

But it’s gotten really interesting, and lots of the pieces of the puzzle are still undecided. Somewhere along the way the language Wilson has used has shifted from “we need to make some changes to push this team forward” to talking about this being a full rebuild. I find that fascinating. It’s confused a number of writers who don’t understand why the Sharks are taking the rebuild route (here’s a good piece by James Mirtle, for instance). Mirtle’s view is this:

If anything, the Sharks are a team that’s better positioned to succeed now than ever.

He’s both right and wrong, and there are two big reasons why now is a good time to time in a rebuild. Reason one is the Los Angeles Kings, and reason two is the Anaheim Ducks. When I first heard Wilson talk about this being a rebuild, I felt like Mirtle, but when I took a step back and thought about it, here’s what I realized: it’s not enough for the Sharks to change out a couple of pieces and try to get a little better; they have to get enough better to take on both the Kings and the Ducks and beat them and still have enough left to be competitive in the conference final. Can they do that?

I think the Sharks took a long hard look at the team and the task ahead, and came to the conclusion no. The window has closed on this current team — the Marleau/Thornton/Boyle era, good as it was, simply never quite got good enough, and no amount of tweaking is going to push it over that final hump. Not with an aging and potentially unreliable Niemi added to the mix.

And the fact is, if they did rearrange the deck chairs again and then not pull it off, they risk outright fan revolt. Right now, the fans are really grumpy, but we’re now at that point where if they swap four or five players but keep the core in place — and don’t get to the conference finals — it’s an outright failure again. And with LA and Anaheim in the way, the chances of that are low. It’s a high risk play with major downside if they come up short again in terms of really turning off the fans. The fact is, this team played really well for a long time, came really close, always came up a little bit short, and ended this last season with a faceplant. That, to me, sounds like a good time to announce a rebuild cycle.

What does a rebuild cycle do for San Jose? Lots of things that may or may not be related to actually improving the team:

  • The biggest thing: it resets fan expectations. The Sharks have come out and said “one step back to take two forward”, and even made mutterings about not making the playoffs. In other words, they’re telling the fans they’re going to suck (or suck more) for a bit. This buys them some time to put the pieces in place and takes the pressure off of doing it next season.
  • Which is good, because LA and Anaheim are in the way and not going to get out of the way easily. But in two years? They’re still going to be good, but there’s a decent chance that as those teams age they’ll become a bit less dominating and a little easier to beat. Or maybe not. But if I had to bet on the Sharks winning the conference final next year or in three years, I’ll bet on three years because i think the competition in the western conference will be less insanely tough. (this does not take into account other teams ramping it up, too, and I don’t expect Vancouver to suck for long, and Colorado is a team building to be a scary one — but it’s NEVER going to be easy to make it to the Cup final. But right now, looking at the talent in the west, I don’t see how a patch job is going to get it done).
  • As Mirtle notes, the team is loaded with good young talent; I actually called for a leadership change and want to give the captancy to Joe Pavelski next season. But what’s better for the long term development of the younger kids? Throw them in the first next year with a high risk of failing expectations, or taking some pressure off and giving this new core some time to build into a killer team? The Sharks seem to be picking the latter, and I agree with them.
  • Change in leadership and culture. I called for Pavelski to take over the captaincy next season. I speculated on whether or not Marleau and Thornton would want to be on a team where that happened and take on lesser roles. The rumor mill here in San jose has made it clear that the Sharks want both to move on, no movement clauses notwithstanding. Marleau si rumored to be willing for the right situation, but Joe Thornton has raised a bit virtual middle finger to the team and made it clear he has no intention of going anywhere. It’ll be interesting to see if this develops into a full conflict or if they figure it out, but it’s clear what the team wants, which is a fresh start. (god help the next player that wants a no movement clause from Doug wilson. He’s been very conservative in handing those out, and now, two of the few he did are biting his butt. That won’t make the next one easier). I sympathize with Thornton — after all, he negotiated and earned that clause in his deal — but honestly, the big problem with the team the last couple of years has to be seen as leadership, because the only thing missing was a killer instinct — and that comes from leadership, and that leadership was Joe. Can the Sharks rebuild culture around a team with Joe on it? I dunno. But we need to change it.
  • Don’t forget the Sharks have a goaltending challenge. They dno’t know how good or reliable Niemi will be. They don’t know if Staylock really can be a #1 goalie. They’ve given Staylock a new two year deal, which is saying “now is your time to prove it”, and I expect going into next season the starting role is Staylock’s to lose, and who plays how many games will be a function of which goalie earns the starts. I’ll bet on Staylock, by the way, to play 50+ games next year, but until he shows it, it’s hard to see next year and conference finals as a high probability.
  • Don’t forget that this also sends a message of “this is not acceptable” to the players. Getting ripped like this has to piss them off. Given how they lost out in the playoffs this year, getting ripped and being pissed are more than acceptable — and don’t think Wilson isn’t up to pushing a few buttons to bring the team in angry and grumpy next season. To some degree “we have to rebuild” is an insult to the players coming back next season. Wilson is probably hoping of a bit of “I”ll show you” from them. We sure need it.

So in my mind, announcing the rebuild cycle is a smart hockey move. If the Sharks figure it out next season and do well, that’s great. If not, they’ve set expectations down a bit to take some of the pressure off the players. that seems like smart hockey. I do think the Sharks are capable of figuring it out and stepping forward, not back — but I think it’s a prudent thing at this point to undersell and overdeliver and not the other way around, because unfortunately, the sharks have been under-delivering for a few years now.

There are still a lot of shoes to drop in the off-season for the Sharks. I expect them to be somewhat busy at the draft, perhaps that’s when Marleau is moved. The Thornton situation is less clear, given he’s pushed back and doesn’t seem to want to cooperate on being moved. I’m curious if this will turn into a big rift, and if so, whether it’ll impact the team’s play if he stays (I expect, at some point, Thornton reads the tea leaves and accepts a trade; he did leave himself an out). And then free agency?

Hang on, it’s going to be a fun ride to october. Well, fun for those of us who watch. It won’t be for anyone in the Sharks organization, except maybe Staylock, who has his deal and knows he’s been given the shot at being the starter…. Now all he has to do is be ready, play and win…

 

 

 

Posted in Sports - Hockey

Winners of the G+ Bird Photography ‘Chasing 10,000′ Photo Contest

For the last month the Bird Photography community I founded on Google+ has been running a special contest. Our membership was growing towards 10,000 members and we wanted to do something to commemorate it, so we asked members to submit their best images to the contest, and we have community members vote on it.

The group is now well past the 10,000 member mark and growing at about 1,000 members a month, which is awesome. I spent the weekend counting up the results of the contest, and I’m thrilled to be able to announce the results.

Based on member plusses and comments, we selected the top three winners, and then a winner for each of the four weeks of the contest. In some cases one of the winning photographers would have won multiple awards, and since we wanted to show off the diversity of the community, we gave those images special recognition (and some award money) but only formally awarded their highest-winning work.

I then selected a list of honorable mentions from the images as the awards from the moderation team. In all, we recognized 40 images with awards. The grand prize will receive a $100 Amazon gift card, the 2nd, 3rd and weekly winners will receive $25, and the special recognition images will receive $10. If we have a member who can’t use an Amazon gift card we’ll work with them to find an appropriate alternative.

I am absolutely thrilled with the results and the quality of the submissions and the winners. The final choices were not easy for the honorable mentions.

Grand Prize — Susan Wilkinson, Killdeer

Susan Wilkinson not only won the contest, she could have won two of the weeks with her images, and her fourth image was chosen as an honorable mention. She hasn’t been photographing that long, but she’s one of the most talented photographers I’ve had the pleasure to meet and has a natural instinct for composition that I love. She was a moderator for Bird Photography for the early months as we were figuring out what the group could be and is now back spending her time behind the camera turning out images like this. Her images invariably blow me away, and I’m not surprised she won this contest.

2nd Prize — Caroline Matricciani, Zebra Finches

Caroline is one of our members who has been living in Australia and has shown us a consistently high quality set of images from down under. She’s back in the U.S. and starting to settle in and shoot her new locale again.

3rd Place

Third Prize — Randall Patterson, Prothonotory Warbler

Randall is a texas-based photographer who shoots a lot of the tough smaller species like warblers and wrens. His work always pops out to me for it’s sharp focus and his ability to isolate the birds from the background.

Week 1 Winner — Les Imgrund, Red-Capped Plover

Les is another Aussie and the first winner who makes a living with a camera. His work is very diverse and many of his images show the birds in the environment around them. His action shots are consistently superb.

Week 2 Winner — Randall Bruce, American Avocet

Randall is a Las Vegas-based photographer who shoots a wide variety of birds while documenting the species that inhabit and migrate through the Nevada desert.

Week 3 Winner — Harshal Marathe, Red Vented Bulbul

Harshal is one of our Indian photographers that are documenting that area of the world for us. The Indian subcontinent is the second region in the world in terms of postings to the community after the U.S.

Week 4 Winner — Heinrich Wagner, Bee Eater

Heinrich is an Austrian photographer who posts a wide range of bird images. He shoots an incredible range of species incredibly well and does a lot of action-based flight shots that an aspiring bird photographer should study to learn how to shoot these kinds of images well. He also manages the Google+ Bird Gallery which curates and promotes the best bird photography on G+.

Special Recognition — Susan Wilkinson, Carolina Chickadee

Special Recognition — Susan Wilkinson, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Special Recognition — Les Imgrund, Red-Necked Avocets

Honorable Mentions

Posted in Photography

Back from Yellowstone

8 nights on the road, 3050 miles driven, 1400 images taken, 135 images added to the library.

What an amazing trip. I’m worn out, but energized. Emphatically glad to be home, looking forward to going back.

Still sorting this stuff all out, but here’s a taste. Lots to show, lots to talk about. But first, sleep (and a shower).

 

Elk, Yellowstone

Pronghorn Antelope, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Bison Taking a Dust Bath

 

Posted in Road Trips