the evenings out here - Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.


prisoners of our own device

in General , Thursday, April 24, 2014

Over the past 5 years or so, I’ve blown hot and cold on Facebook. Or rather tepid and cold. I’ve never much liked it, I find it fundamentally invasive and cynical. Basically it’s another advertising agency, like Google, and it’s users are it’s product, which it sells, with no holds barred, to advertisers. But a few years ago I had to engage on a professional level, when building applications (an awful experience), and so I kept up my public profile.

Most of my posting has been generated from this website, so most of it is essentially photography-orientated. But the majority of my Facebook Friends are probably not very interested in this. At the same time, I’m finding a lot of content pushed at me is various kinds of soft and not so soft selling. Certainly, there are people I want to remain in contact with who I only really “see” on Facebook, and I’ll be sorry to diminish that, but really, we all have each other’s email addresses, and, Heavens forbid, phone numbers, and I’m really starting to feel that Facebook has a corrosive influence on me. I’m spending too much time checking in, and getting far too distracted.

Of course, it’s about as easy to check out of Facebook as it is from Hotel California. You can deactivate any time you want, but you can never leave. And that’s another very disturbing trait.
So I’ve decided, I’m opting out. Back to the relative basics of email, and maintaining my “brand”, if that’s what I want, on my own website, with my own rules, and no advertising. I’m sorry if anyone feels slighted by this, but I’m not hiding. Even if you don’t know my email address, Google certainly does. And of course thanks to Facebook’s evil data retention policy, I could always change my mind.

But for now, I’m trying to find the passage back, to the place I was before.


Commercial Break

money for nothing

in General Rants , Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Today I received an unsolicited email informing me that “Getty Images is interested in ANOTHER 12 of your photos! Wow! Awesome! High Five!”.


So what does this actually mean?  Some algorithm, trawling through Flickr has picked a set of photos which have, for whatever random reason, picked up a lot of “faves”.  In order to benefit from the privilege of Getty putting them up for licensing, and, in the extremely unlikely event of getting a bit, grabbing pretty much all the paltry sum that would accrue, I’d need to spend several evenings uploading high resolution versions, filling in forms and generally being a part-time Getty slave.

I guess if they throw enough mud, some of will stick. They can’t really lose, and they cruelly raise many people’s hopes of making money from their photography.  But I’ve been on the other end of the licensing game, and what the vast majority of buyers want is well-executed, but neutral, bland imagery with can serve their brand. That’s what stock photography is about.

And while opinions may differ on the merits of my photography (recently I was told that it is “overdone technically and cold and sterile”), it certainly isn’t designed to please anybody except me, and looking at it from the perspective of a stock imagery buyer, I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole. The selection they’re proposing is, frankly, weird. I certainly hope no human calling themselves a photo editor was involved.

Oh, and that bloody puffin. Why does EVERYBODY choose that one??? Even Getty’s sodding algorithm.

So, yeah, thanks Getty, but don’t call me, I’ll call you. Real soon.


Gear Exhaustion Syndrome

Lord won’t you buy me…

in General Rants , Monday, November 25, 2013

In my opinion, “Réponses Photo” is one of the most consistently good general interest photographic magazines on the market. While it covers gear and technique - how could it not, and remain in business - the core material is really dedicated to photography and photographers. But every 12 months, it bows to market pressures and publishes its annual “Spécial Matériel”, a comprehensive buyers guide to what is now the digital camera market only.  I guess they might follow up with a short film / analogue section in next month’s issue.

01Couv 261 303x400

I have to confess, in years past I was probably as guilty of fantasising over the hundred or so pages of technological temptation as anyone else other male photographer with a pulse. But nowadays I’m left pretty much cold by it all. What does get my pulse racing in this issue is the article by Sylvie Hughes about the Aeolian Islands volcanos. This is one of my favourite locations, and while I’m not exactly daydreaming about the latest insignificant iteration of Canikon’s DXYZ1234-X-PRO-Turbo, I am constantly thinking about places I want to visit and revisit, discover and get to know, and maybe even photograph.  Spend all the working week chained to a desk, and most of the weekend recovering from it, I don’t even find time to visit the fantastic locations I have close by, except for a snatched couple of hours every month or so.

I guess for some Gear Acquisition Syndrome is partly a mechanism to dull the frustration of not being able to get out there and photograph. But it doesn’t work for me anymore.  There are some cameras I still kind of fantasise about, but they’re either out of reach, like the Linhof 612 (and also more or less out of time, in that case), _way_ out of reach, like the Pentax 645D, or they don’t exist (a rugged DSLR with swivel scree that takes Tilt/Shift lenses - which, anyway, would be out of reach!).

But frankly I’d swap all of that for an extra 4, or even 2 weeks of vacation every year, so that I can use and enjoy the ridiculous amount of stuff I’ve already got. And for that matter, enjoy the world.


Flickrd Off

plus ça change, eh ?

in General Rants , Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ouch.  That’s what my eyes tell me when I see this - sorry, AL&S, nothing to do with your classic alpine scene, just how New Improved Flickr has delivered it to me.


I’ve always found Flickr to be, basically, the worst online photo sharing site except for all the others. Now, it has torpedoed itself on two fronts. The aesthetic changes are truly horrible, and the financial changes would make Abobe’s bean counters blush.

I’ve been fairly careful about how I prepare images for Flickr, with borders designed to set the photo off against the white background. This is now totally screwed, most of my photos look dreadful on the new layout. I’ve always complained about how badly Flickr presents panoramic formats - ironically, this has now improved significantly, taken alone, but the combination of all photos pushed together like sardines in a can, and the ridiculous formatting of portrait format seriously puts the balance well into the negative.

My biggest gripe against other sites such as 500px and WhyTake is that they decide to present my photos as standard square crops, in gallery views, which makes a total mockery of any pretence at being designed for photography. However, 500px does have a major plus point from my point of view, which is its emphasis on portfolios over single photos.  I generally edit my photos as part of some set or narrative, and this never really works on Flickr.

Another thing which the new layout loses is the nicely positioned title.  On Flickr, at least, the title has always been a equal partner to the image in my uploads. Now it just hides part of the image. As does the user avatar, overlaid on the photo.  I can’t believe that any even semi-serious photographer was involved in this redesign.

And it is as slow as s**t, if it loads at all.

Of course, there is always a negative reaction against unexpected change, so I’m not necessarily going to throw my toys out of the pram just yet.  But for now, I will no longer be uploading any new photos to Flickr, and I may well decide to delete my account, if it just makes my photography look even more crap than it actually is. And that’s quite an accomplishment.

For now, see you on 500px.


Season’s Greetings

et joyeux noel

in General Rants , Thursday, December 27, 2012

A bit late, but better than never.

I’d like to wish all readers and visitors to snowhenge a belated happy Christmas, and a wonderful 2013. I’ve been rushing around a wet and windswept Belgium for the last few days, so there’s been little activity in these parts.

Drm 2012 12 21 drm 20121221 2056

Bruges, a few days ago.

It’s been an interesting year, for me, with quite a few changes, and maybe some more to come. And in a couple of days we’ll leaving for Argentina, then a few weeks later Antarctica by way of Ushuaia. And I still haven’t finished packing yet.

I’ve managed to get quite a lot of photography done this year, and I feel I’ve made some progress too. After a few bad-tempered isolationist rants against the web in general earlier this year, I’m feeling considerably more positive and open now. What I haven’t really managed to do is to find a way to get more of my stuff out into the world, but I’ve got a few ideas on how to improve that.

Thanks to you, for reading this - according to my statistics about 99% of visitors here leave no comment, but that’s fine. Et je ne comprends pas pourquoi, mais le pays duquel vient ici le plus grand hombre d’internautes est la France. Go figure.

So, Bonne Année, bonne santé, and hope to see you around.


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