Reviews

Degrees of Seperation

My social media efforts are average at best. And of the many options available, Facebook is where I still have my roots firmly planted. It’s both the most frustrating to use but still the one that offers the best connections. That’s party my fault for never visiting the other networks but maybe also because Facebook is not dominated primarily with only photographers.

For page owners, Facebook offers two statistics. Post Reach and Post Engagement. The reach is the number of people who were supposedly shown the post and the engagement is a measurement of likes and comments. It’s that engagement measurement (formerly known as EdgeRank) that contributes to a score on how interesting the content may be and who should see it.

So I tried a small experiment this weekend and specifically asked for people to ‘like’ or comment on an image if they saw it. I would then compare that number to the reported reach (unique impressions). From the 1500 people who are subscribed to my timeline and after 12 hours, Facebook reports that 9400 users had seen it. From that number, 319 people acknowledged they saw the post by ‘liking’ and 173 comments were left. Who the other 9000+ users are… I have no idea.

If there was anything to learn from this, a post really needs to get traction quickly to gain steady momentum. Without those comments (because friends see where friends of friends comment) to snowball, it quickly disappears and the reach dramatically shortens.

Fall Colours

Hitech Filter Review : Something Changed for the Worse

I do my best to keep this a gear free blog but I have had several frustrations with filters over the past several years. And despite those frustrations, I continue to see positive reviews. If you’re not a photographer yourself, you can skip over this post.

I love to hate filters. A pain to use but sometimes necessary. If I must carry around a set of expensive glass and resin slides, they better be worth the effort.

The basis of this blog post is that I believe the brand Hitech has been inconsistent with their manufacturing. When I bought my first Cokin-P sized Hitech filter, I was quite happy with it. Then I added a second, third, forth, and fifth by late 2010. They all preformed very well, were all neutral, and I became a supporter of the cheaper more affordable brand. But that has all changed and I now feel guilty for recommending them.

Vignette is a real problem on wide lenses and to solve that, I needed bigger filters. Without hesitation, I ordered the same but larger Hitech filters. Shock was an understatement when they arrived with a strong magenta coating. Nobody from the customer service took the time to respond so I’ll make my own conclusions.

The real icying on the cake was when I broke one of my good filters. I reordered the same filter in spring-2012 and it too suffers from the same magenta curse. Same part number. Same camera store.

What did Formatt Hitech change and why? Are they better again because I’m starting to see more and more positive support for them.

After much hesitations, last night I press published on the oopoomoo blog asking a very simple questions. Are Hitech Filters Any Good? You can see the full review there.

Blurb Book Review – Comparing Sizes and Papers

Blurb is the modern day photo album and gone are the days of plastic sleeves displaying boxes of 4×6 prints with hand written messages on the back. Blurb books are perfect for family, personal, memory and vacation books. But what about fine art? or what about for resale?

I have a growing book collection from some of my favourite photographers. I only have so many walls to enjoy prints, so for me, books provide an easier way to support and enjoy the images of other photographers. But this also means – that for no other reason than desire – I also want a book of my own.

Many photographers would love to be published and because only the most successful will ever get picked up by a publisher, the self-publishing market is growing and becoming easier and easier. Arguably, Blurb has become the leader. Maybe even more so now that they have embedded themselves in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

I have several mid sized Blurb books printed between 2006 and 2012. They have been consistent and I can’t see any significant printing changes. In December of 2011, I stepped it up and took a chance by ordering four large 12×12 160 page books with the heaviest paper and all of the upgrades – for a grand total of $187.42 CND each. Definitely more pricy than anything equivalent in a bookstore.

I was satisfied with the results and throughout 2012, I created two alternatives of the same book but at a much smaller scale of 8×10 120 pages and 7×7 80 pages. In the end, I had a sampling of almost everything Blurb had to offer. Here is my non technical review.

Continue Reading…

The Many Options of Digital Publishing

Publishing can be easy. With nothing more than a copy of InDesign, independent authors can skip the entire print process saving time and money by exporting a digital file for instant download sales. In the self-published photography world, it feels like the PDF remains the popular choice for those not concerned about DRM. Selling a nicely designed PDF and calling it a book has become very common with the do-it-yourself educators.

Earlier this week a new publication came to my attention when I received a review copy of PHOTOGRAPH — a new quarterly magazine for creative photographers. It already has a running head start for success with a loyal audience to it’s publisher Craft & Vision.

But following that, surveys appeared on social media feeds asking for my preference between PDF and ePub, the sharing of an unfortunate story about Amazon DRM policies, a testing of Blurbs idea of a digital book, and yesterday, KelbyTraining releases their latest ebook as an iPad app. With so many possibilities for distribution, is there a right answer for everyone? And does it matter?

PHOTOGRAPH continues the popular trend of a flat turn-the-page PDF style document. Sure large magazine such as National Geographic are producing highly interactive magazines as iPad apps, but the ability to scroll and zoom in all directions to unlock information can be more confusing than helpful. Maybe even more frustrating than navigating DVD menus.

On the other hand, ePub is the complete opposite and designed for simplicity allowing the hardware to dictate presentation for the best optimal reading experience. It works beautifully for text heavy novels but begins to show it’s weaknesses with books made of only images and diagrams.

With a mixed library of my own containing all-of-the-above formats and also including the traditional and trusty real paper books, it’s hard to claim one file format better than the other. The format should really be decided by the content and how that author or photographer wishes their work to be displayed — even if that means National Geographic or KelbyTraining requiring their audience to own an iPad, NAPP requiring the use of Zinio, or Amazon requiring the use of a Kindle. The consumer will eventually decide which distribution will win as asset management becomes more and more complicated.

Photographically Speaking

I’ve been slowly reading the latest book from David duChemin since Christmas (it’s been a busy year) and he never fails with his ability to start an internal discussion to critique ones work. The message is always well beyond the many how-to step-by-step guides and much more about aesthetics. His suggestions may not have clearly defined answers but are always based on a solid foundation.

Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images is the fourth book in the series following Within the Frame, Vision Mongers and Voice & Vision. This latest book is all about why a photograph was made and being able to describe in details the purpose or intent the photographer had. David challenges you to defend every element that makes up that single frame. It’s an interesting discussion and a slow read with each page making me pause to think or read again.

The readers of your photograph make an assumption. They assume that you know what you are doing, that you meant to say the things you did by including or excluding elements and making certain decisions, whether technical—that is, optics, shutter speed, and aperture—or artistic—that is, your point of view and use of perspective or your framing. The reader believes you meant to do it. So whether or not the idea of intent works for you, it is assumed by your readers. And because they believe this, all content—whether we intended it or not—has meaning.

As I continue to read through this book and think about my own work, it reinforces and reminds me of the one tool I use the most. I’ll spend a long time positioning the tripod and camera over and over making small adjustments again and again until I think I’m happy. And then I’ll adjust everything one more time. But back at home later that day, week or month when I’m looking at those 2×3 files, I’ll spend just as much time playing with the crop tool debating even more what should be removed from or aligned to the frame. It’s easily the most used tool in my workflow – everything else is secondary.

Sonora Hills

Today’s Image – Rolling Hills Near Sonora

Last fall, I spent a couple days renting a house in the hills near Sonora (N 37 56.768 W 120 23.026) and each morning I would venture out in the unfamiliar place, down the hill and work with the chaos of nature and the rising sun. It has now been several months since this day and I’ve revisited the many images from this location several times. Each time adjusting it but ultimately deciding something just wasn’t right. I’ve fussed over the small details but now believe I’m finally satisfied. So I’m not sure if it actually does work or I’ve convinced myself that it does because I so badly want it to. I can still hear that rooster.