Category Archives: Iceland

Itineraries: The Meticulous or the Messy?

The answer to many questions which I raise on this blog often lie in between the two extremes presented. I feel that Marianne and I can talk to this subject because we have transitioned between the two modes of holiday planning with a gradual drift toward the meticulous side. This is largely due to the presence of Charlotte but also in part due to creating ‘backup’ plans photographically. There are notable advantages and restrictions to both approaches which I thought I might highlight through some past experiences. The short stories are examples of planning gone right or wrong.

Back in 2002, our first trip to Vietnam originated from a plane ticket in , a plane ticket out and the first night’s accommodation. Everything else in between, was completely up for grabs! Fast forward to this year and I’m coming up with spreadsheets of various aspects of the trip. I never thought of myself as OCD but perhaps there are elements….

Accommdation planning!

Accommodation planning!

In 2009, our icelandic trip was hampered photographically with the early loss of the 5dmk2 to waterfall spray. Sharing one camera between two photographers was very trying for our patience. We used ‘open voucher’ tickets with Iceland’s excellent hostel network. This allowed us to spend more time at certain locations and to wander ‘off course’ to places such as Breidavik in the West Fjords where a fortuitous snap has since become one of our most popular images.

Breidavik in shifting light

Again in 2009, we didn’t account for a May public holiday which meant all accommodation in Seydisfjordur was occupied. As a result, we had to drive an hour further to the remote property ‘Husey’ where we enjoyed some great conditions for photography. This was not without stress as we rang around for quite some time before securing any accommodation whatsoever. This shot would never have occurred if we had adhered to a predetermined itinerary!

Early morning at Husey

In 2010, we prebooked every single night in Iceland over a 5 week trip. Had we known just how incredible the West Fjords would be, we would have altered our schedule somewhat! As it was 2 nights at Korpudalur was enough for us to chance upon this scene.

Onundarfjordur in the West Fjords

In 2011 , we visited Tasmania while Marianne was 20+ weeks pregnant. By this stage , most of our trips had accommodation prebooked before leaving. We wanted to travel in relative comfort compared to our previous trips given that this would be our last hurrah without a baby in tow. Hence the actual accommodation took preference over its exact location. We do wish we could have stayed longer and closer to the West Coast than Burnie though! Burnie was our base for the series of shots from Couta Rocks.

Couta Rocks – while based in Burnie

In 2012, Charlotte was well and truly part of our lives. Free wheeling accommodation was no longer a realistic possibility and so the level of planning rose further. We found that ‘overnighters’ at any given location was just too much of a hassle. By the time everything was unpacked for ourselves and Charlotte then repacked the following morning, our arms had received a great workout but that’s where the positives ended. It was a struggle to find the motivation to get out and about on these evenings and dawns. We would have loved a couple of nights at Moeraki for instance.

More Moeraki would have been great!

This year, the level of planning went up further! In order to maximise time with photography and family, I tried to plan the direction of our travel so that tides and moon phases would match certain parts of our trip. Instead of heading north to Kaikoura first, we chose to head through Arthur’s Pass to coincide with a new moon and the chance for some milky way shots. Similarly , instead of heading straight to the glaciers, we decided to stop at Greymouth for a couple of days to take advantage of low tide at dawn and dusk. Despite these plans, we would have loved to have spent more time around the west coast due to the bad weather which had us indoors for much of our time at Punakaiki. Conversely we could have spent one less day in Glacier country except for Charlotte’s run in with a nasty chest infection.

A planned millky way shoot

More time for Starfish with this light next trip?

So what’s my conclusion then? I feel that an open itinerary gives you so many more opportunities to take advantage of conditions photographically. This may not be the best option for you if you feel the need for security of a guaranteed roof over your head for the next evening. With a trip involving an infant though, this would result in a potentially unsettled child whose behavior could then spoil the trip. We try to overcome both problems by simply staying longer at any given location and hoping that the conditions suit at some stage during our stay. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts both as solo travelers and family travelers with children at different ages.

-D

Scenes like this are on the cards for a brief week in the Pacific North West later this year!

Closing the Loupe : Part 2 : Image selection and stories

Korpudalur Iceland: (Gold) – Marianne 89

This evening in Iceland was a special one in terms of lighting. The sun hovered low on the horizon which is typical for an Icelandic summer. Horizontal rays lit only the base of the distant mountains. This image had performed well in a previous competition so we wondered if its track record would speak for itself.

Korpudalur

Korpudalur

 Gunyah Dunes: (Silver) –Dylan 86

When we were photographing Gunyah Dunes at Coffin Bay National Park, the light was beautiful though Charlotte was not enjoying the windy conditions and goggled outlook on the world. This was a personal favourite scene which was fresh on our minds which made it difficult to be objective when comparing to other images we could have entered. I ended up including this one instead of an image of Cradle Mountain boat shed.

Gunyah

Gunyah

Halls Falls: (Silver)- Dylan 86

Some images grow on you with time. After taking this image and processing it, I thought to myself that this tells a story that we’ve visited Halls Falls and little more.  During the process of contributing to the book “Tasmania , A Visual Journey” in 2011, it was voted highest of all the images submitted by the contributors and was received into 1x as well. While I like the picture, it seems that our photographic peers like it even more than I do hence I thought it may have a chance to do well  in this competition.

Halls Falls

Halls Falls

Milford Sound: (Silver) –Marianne 84

This is part 1 of an amazing evening in Fiordland National Park. We had split up that night with Marianne staying down at the sound with Charlotte while I was walking the Routeburn Track. When I returned , I was chuffed with my own results and then saw Marianne’s and thought ‘wow’!

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Lake Mackenzie: (Silver) –Dylan 84

Part 2 of the amazing evening as seen just after sunset at Lake Mackenzie. This shot was my pride and joy of the recent New Zealand trip. For some reason, I just wanted it to do well in other competitions too. It was beaten in a photograph of the week competition and then knocked back by 1x on the basis of being “overcooked” which disappointed me. A silver in the loupe has breathed some life back into it for me, especially the high end score

Lake Mackenzie

Lake Mackenzie

Binalong Bay:  (Silver) – Marianne 84

Iconic trees seem to be a common theme in competition front runners. Instead of the Wanaka tree, we thought we’d throw in this one from Binalong Bay. It is located ideally with westerly and easterly aspects to it making it great to photograph at either end of the day. Strangely, we don’t have an strong emotional investment in this scene ; rather, we just apply the ‘gut feel’ of liking it.

Binalong Bay

Binalong Bay

Godafoss: (Silver) – Marianne 84

We had photographed Godafoss in 2009 with very little success. Despite the scene looking grander, we photographed it early in the Icelandic spring wihen the volume of water submerged the rock visible in this scene. The wind was also blowing directly into us downstream. When we visited again in 2010, the conditions were the exact opposite and we spent a great deal of time appreciating this beautiful albeit small falls (relatively speaking by Icelandic standards). This image had also done well in a previous competition and like the Korpudalur image, we hoped that its history would speak for itself.  While each of the crop suggestions has merits, both of us still like the original crop for the reasons that the vignetting adds depth at both ends to the image ending up focussing on the falls themselves.

Godafoss

Godafoss

Murphy’s Haystacks:  (Silver) –Dylan 82

After returning home from a night in this paddock, I had no idea if this star panorama would turn out. In the past, I’ve had to do some whacky transformations of U shaped stitches when attempting wide angle vertical stitches but on this occasion, that didn’t occur. The end result was something I was pleased with but I had no idea that it would become our most popular image ever! I had not seen many star images doing very well in this competition so I thought I’d see if this one could buck the trend. I’ll wait for the top 50 announcement to see if it gets in but in the end , it snuck home for a silver. We did raise an eyebrow about the 23 point scoring spread in this image but I suspect that will always be the case with images that generate heated debate.

Murphy's Haystacks

Murphy’s Haystacks

The Bronze Awards:

Personally, I think all of these images I chose for ‘oddball’ reasons andwill not do so again in the future. Both Kirkjufell images were chosen on the basis that they became very popular despite the fact that I had overlooked processing them for a year after we returned from the trip. Perhaps my gut instinct was right about them? The narrower crop on the waterfall image makes sense to me but the crop of the reflection seems a little too severe for my liking.

The image of the iceberg was yet again an image I chose as the third of 3 in a series of iceblock images on black sand. Somehow it became far more popular than the others. I ignored it for a long time because of the polarising effect in the sky (forgot to turn the effect off at the scene).

Godafoss part 2 really is just weaker version of Marianne’s. So why exactly did I include it? Who knows really ! I just kind of shake my head as to why I thought it was a good idea in the first place.

In summary, we are happy with our results but there are still some lessons to be learned:

  • The selection process was largely left to me. As a result I probably chose Marianne’s images better as I had the more objective eye in doing so. Perhaps in the future, Marianne should choose mine!
  • Popularity on social media and photosharing sites doesn’t necessarily translate into popularity in photography competitions.
  • One should wait until all the results are in and the initial nervousness of the wait is over before jumping to premature conclusions about the judging process.
  • I am uncertain about repetition of themes within entries. After all, the open category landscape winners this year did include two very similar images of the same boat shed.
  • It seems that our initial selection of images to process shortly after capture were the ones which received the highest scores. Look with a tilted brow at images you’ve rediscovered on an archive archaeological dig!
  • Like most aspects of life, the balance between giving yourself credibility without taking yourself too seriously usually allows you to learn from experience and progress for the future.

What do you think and what images of ours do you think we hypothetically should have entered? Until next year’s ILA!

-D

MMORPG review : World of Photocraft

With the advent of social media, displaying a photograph to the world has never been easier ; or has it? It sure is easy to set an image on its internet maiden voyage but will it sink or swim and who’s going to notice? How is that prized photo you took ever going to transcend the hearts and minds of complete strangers around the world? It seems that the pure merit of the photograph these days only gets the photographer halfway to being noticed. The other half  requires more cumulative time than the actual process of taking the image and processing it, often much more.  Some people do it out of joy, some have no moral qualms about shameless self promotion. Marianne and I aren’t the most effusive , enthusiastic participants in social media but we have made an effort to meet a halfway point between our natural introverted tendencies, and the level of extroversion often required to make a mark. Incidentally, since we stopped playing World of Warcraft, we have been able to devote much more time to this pursuit.

I thought I might share some experiences about some of the available photo sharing sites we have trialled. These are purely our experiences and heavily biased by our own experiences and are in no way meant to be taken to heart by those who would disagree with our opinion.  My personal interpretation of these experiences however may seem a little paranoid but I will leave that up to you to decide! The sites listed are in no particular order.

1.       Smugmug:

  • Purpose: hosting for our website www.everlookphotography.com
  • Community: I really don’t know as I’ve never tried to participate in discussions on smugmug.
  • Positives: Allows tremendous customisation to allow the user to create all sorts of unique home pages. Sharing of galleries at various sizes of images and sorting of galleries is also very easy. We’ve been able to set up private online galleries for our wedding clients to view their images as well.
  • Negatives: It took Marianne literally years to accumulate the code from  ‘dgrin’ forums in order to create the final look of our site. Consider getting someone who is well versed with web languages to help you design your site if you would like to fast-track this process. One of the reasons for not using this site for discussion and sharing is that I have found it quite unintuitive to do so compared with the other sites listed below.
  • Exposure: This is difficult to gauge as our stats page includes outgoing image links to other sites like this blog in its final hit count. This month alone, our site is up to 55000 image views which has been steadily growing over the years.

Port Willunga Jetty is apparently our most ‘popular’ image on smugmug . Don’t know how though!

2.       Flickr.com

  • Purpose: Sharing photographs, interacting with photographers all over the world, sharing a little of the backstory behind images.
  • Community: Having been on flickr for years, I have developed a set of contacts  whose work constantly inspires me either to improve or to go to some of the places displayed on their photostreams. Through flickr, I met Orvar in Iceland ,Jordan from Malaysia while on the road in Iceland, Hillary (hillsee) while hiking around Cradle Mountain. I like the sense of community and used to be much more heavily involved until work,  parenting and doing the ‘work’ side of photography took up more time.
  • Positives : The sense of community. The picture quality when sharing also seems to be better than through smugmug. It is through flickr that Marianne and I have received most of our requests from magazines for publication so I’m making an assumption that flickr images somehow end up being shown on google image searches more readily than other sites.
  • Negatives: Due to the popularity race to get on to flickr’s ‘explore’ algorithm (an algorithm which generates the supposed top 500 pictures for any given day) – there are many groups which have been set up to generate as many comments and ‘faves’ of each group members’ new images.  The rate of commenting and ‘faveing’ is apparently part of the algorithm which gains one ‘explore’ immortality.  As a result, there is a distinct mentality of those who would not care to look at an image for more than 1 second before either writing ‘great! Please  come and visit my photostream’ or pressing Ctrl-V for a generic comment which will be spammed as ‘feedback’ across all of their fellow flickr contacts’ images for the day. Very little real critique is given for images. Images can literally be completely unnoticed unless you invest some time in doing the ‘flickr’ interaction thAng.
  • Exposure: If you manage to hit a high position on explore or reach their front page, you will definitely get many contacts following your work and browsing your photostream. I must admit, I used to game in order to achieve this back in my photographic infancy. It was admittedly to compensate for the lack of quality of those early images. I like to think that we have progressed from crawling, to taking a few steps with much more development to occur in the future. Thus far, the page has had over 700,000 views.

This image apparently is our most viewed image on flickr. Once again, don’t know how!

3.       Deviantart.com

  • Purpose: Showcasing images. Sharing stories.
  • Community: I feel kind of guilty for my presence of deviant art. I literally tried it out after Marianne achieved some popularity there and found that people are much more liberal with ‘liking’ of images. With my flickr habits taking precedence, I never really spent the same amount of time getting to know people on dA.
  • Positives:  It’s a really friendly place to be and there are a lot of ‘deviants’ (members) who will go out of their way to link your ‘deviation’ (picture) as part of a feature.  There are some truly astounding images to be found on deviant art and it is not limited to photography. Marianne has found many textures to use for photobook design through this site too.
  • Negatives: I can’t really think of many off hand. I was asked to be an administrator for a nature photography group and tried my hand at it but constantly knocking back images and giving critique on the reasons why was something I didn’t have time for on an ongoing basis.  There are some who make the effort to give well thought out critique but this is rare unless specifically asked for. The interface is also not as intuitive as flickr or 500px.
  • Exposure: Once again, if you hit the ‘front page’ equivalent by earning a slot in the ‘daily deviation’ showcase, your followers and page views will go through the roof until the dust settles.

This image was Marianne’s first daily deviation. We wondered why she was getting so many new ‘watchers’

4.       500px

  • Purpose: Showcasing best images only.
  • Community: I have not really participated in the 500px community and discussion to date. I follow a bunch of photographers whose images inspire me to improve. I have a collection of favourites of images I would like to one day emulate, or of places I would like to visit one day.
  • Positives: I love the layout and its presentation of images is probably the best of all the sites. Simple, sleek and unobtrusive. It was what drew me into the site after a few people had recommended it.  The image rating is a fantastic concept and allows for a fresh group of images to be seen every day due to the ‘decay’ of scores over time.
  • Negatives: the DISLIKE button and growing gaming of the front page.  In a scoring system where votes and favourites earn images a better score, surely the penalty for not liking (vs an active dislike button) an image is simply that it does not receive any further advancement in score. Not only does the dislike button reduce the score, its weight is about TENFOLD that of a positive vote.  Our images have been fortunate enough to hit the front page frequently but as time has gone on, we have found that shortly after hitting the front page, 1 or 2 dislikes has knocked the image’s score so much that it will no longer appear where people are looking (the first few pages of popularity).  I have nothing against cats but when a picture of a domestic house cat in front of a coffee cup is scoring higher than a work by Marc Adamus, you know something is awry. A plea to 500px : either remove the dislike button , or at least reduce the penalty, or introduce a mandatory response required for disliking an image.  Do a google search for  ‘500px front page manipulation’ and you will see a certain site forum promoting the exact type of ‘gaming’ behaviour which 500px editors are vehemently denying.
  • Exposure: We cannot complain at all. With 4 images given editor’s choice status, our images are gaining exposure through means other than the ‘popularity’ contest of its front page.

This image managed to stay at the top of 500px’s popularity. Clearly, a day off for the dislikers.

5.       Facebook

  • Purpose: Fun & Sharing!
  • Community: I can say that most people that follow the everlook photography facebook page are males , 30-50, from Australia though with a smattering all over the world. It’s a site where I feel I can give back by sharing the back stories behind the creation of images either in the field or at the PC. I am after all, quite against the secretive attitude many photographers harbour regarding locations or technique.
  • Positives: As above. It has many methods for interconnecting and sharing sites which allows exposure to become viral! If you are a fan of statistics, it certainly serves up a swag of numbers which may aid your ‘marketing’ ploys if that is your facebook aim.  There are rarely any negative comments and most of the facebook sharing community are doing it entirely for fun and exposure. It’s all about feeling good!
  • Negatives :  Interface for photo sharing is a little clunky and definitely not up to the standards of 500px, flickr or deviant art. You definitely don’t get any meaningful criticism here and because of the ‘fan’ based nature of the page, you’re likely to get a mauling from other fans for suggesting negative aspects of an image!
  • Exposure:  We’re approaching 2000 likes on the page now which has occurred far more rapidly than we could have anticipated. Some viral ‘infections’ such as a feature by QANTAS and Discover Tasmania boosted those numbers significantly early on.

Sharing the making of pictures is a regular feature on our facebook page

6.       Ausphotography forum

  • Purpose: Sharing, getting some ‘real’ critique, developing my own critical eye, engaging in competitions.
  • Community : There’s a great sense of community in this forum here but I sense that I don’t take full advantage of this in that my working and shooting habits don’t allow me to get to the many photographic meets arranged by members of the forum. As such, while people see me online, it’s still more difficult to relate to a forum member you’ve never met before!
  • Positives: The site moderators are constantly looking to improve the interface, competition rules, a sense of ‘fair-go’ for beginners. I have received a lot of great criticism here which has altered my workflow for many images. For example, an image I was going to print huge had some very noticeable chromatic aberration which I had to correct. Some images have been improved compositionally or converted to monochromatic based on constructive criticism given. The competitions are probably as neutrally judged as you can get for a relatively small community too. There are also sections on post processing help and a fantastic ‘New to Photography’ forum which takes any new comers through the basic technicalities of photography. Overall, I’d say that if you live in Australia, check out the site at http://www.ausphotography.net.au and join in the fun! There are even some overseas members too though you won’t be able to join in the real life social aspects of this forum.
  • Negatives: These are really minor gripes. One of the disadvantages (if you call it that) of enforced criticism is that it often invokes criticism for criticism’s sake. As a result, it seems that there are sometimes ‘grumpy critics’ who may give criticisms which to me, often seem unwarranted (a topic for another thread). As good as the competition system is, there are some peculiarities.  They run as a two stage process. For the first three days, voters assign a score out of ten. The images with the top 4 scores are then voted off against each other in the final stage.  I’m finding it rather strange that some images which are clear leaders in the first stage, are then beaten in the second stage.  Do we have a microcosm of the 500px / flickr explore problems happening here? The prizes are usually just kudos but it would be a distinct problem for the competitions with material reward.

One of my images which topped first round competition voting and lost out in the final washup.

There of course, many other sites that I haven’t touched on such as redbubble.com , 72 dpi, 1x. This is because I have limited experience with them. With time, I think you will find that your best images eventually do get the most exposure you are after but if you are thinking of playing ‘World of Photocraft’, you’d best invest hefty amounts of time for the long haul! The benefits are certainly there but they don’t come easy. Playing this game also serves you a slice of humble pie. Before you start playing the game, your basis for judging the ‘awesomeness’ of a photograph is based solely on comparisons to your own previous work and feedback from others who may or may not have had a wider exposure to the talent that is on show on the internet. When you play the game, you come to realise that there are always rungs of the ladder to climb, ‘levels’ to gain; both in image quality and social competency. You can be rewarded by the occasional ‘Ding’ of a reaching a new level 🙂

It has been a long read but my message today has an add-on to previous ones. Get out there and shoot! But if you want recognition, then there’s no choice but to get out there and SPAM yourself better than the next person out there!

ps. the title is based on MMORPG = massive multiplayer online role playing game. I’d like to be a wizard please!

-D