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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

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My photo in the Lackawanna County Visitors Bureau Spring Visitors Guide

I’m always pleased when my photos can be put to good use. It is why I license my photos the way that I do.

A few months ago the Lackawanna County Visitors Bureau reached out and asked if they could use one of my photos (with credit) in their Spring Visitors Guide.

My photo in the Spring Visitors Guide
Complete with credit

Of course they can!

They chose this photo of geese at Aylesworth Park – a park I visit quite often during the year for hiking.

I’m very happy with how it turned out. Be sure to pick up a guide and get out this spring and discover Lackawanna County.

What I saw this week #57 – February 29, 2019

Don’t have time to get to all of these links today? No problem. Try Unmark (I’ll send you an invite if you’d like.)

Also, there are tons more.

  • Apollo-related stuff: With it being the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo program there is a slew of content surfacing this year. Here are a few things I’ve enjoyed and a few things I’m looking forward to.
  • WWW – the original proposal for what is now the internet.
  • Financial Windfalls – Topic interviewed 15 people about what they did with sudden influxes of cash ranging from a few thousand dollars to huge piles of dough. Interesting read.
  • Why do Zebras have stripes? – I don’t think I would have guessed the reason.
  • Stephen Wolfram’s computer set up – I thought I was bad by being picky. While not nearly as outrageous, this reminds me of Richard Stallman’s rider.
  • 50,000 images of the moon – Composite image of the moon created from 50,000 images. Very cool.
  • The Lion Whisperer – I remember a few GoPro promo videos with Kevin Richardson but I recently came across his channel on YouTube randomly. Fascinating YouTube channel and unbelievably incredible animals.

Reminder: These lists are never exhaustive. And I don’t keep impeccable records. I use Unmark to save most of these but by-and-large I allow some randomness into this process to create these lists.

I’m always looking for interesting things so please feel free to send a few my way if you find something you think I might be interested in.

So I didn’t win Apple’s #ShotOniPhone challenge. But, man, the photos that did win are incredible.

Licensing my images

(If I sent you to this page, it is likely because you’re in violation of my license. Please read.)

For the last few years my photos have been licensed as attribution only by a simple statement on the bottom of my web page in my footer. My images get stolen, without credit, a lot.

Since my licensing wasn’t all that official I’ve decided to take a moment to choose a Creative Commons license that I feel affords me to take action against some of those thieves while still maintaining the spirit of how I want to share my work.

So, I’ve chosen the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.

This means that:

  • Anyone can use my images for non-commercial purposes for free
  • Anyone that uses my images must provide attribution, or credit, linking back to my web site using my full name
  • Anyone can modify my images for their use but they must also license their modifications using the same license I am using
  • Cannot sell my images, or modifications of my images

I’ve modified my web site to clearly show that my images are licensed this way (see example). Anyone from this date that takes my image and uses them, even as a simple post on social media, without following the terms of this license is going to get a wet willy at the very least.

If you’ve used my photo and haven’t given me credit it is really simple to rectify the situation. Edit your social media post or web site to give clear attribution to me, using my full name, and a link back to my web site.

Thank you.

Is Instagram about to plummet?

When Instagram first started to hit popularity – long after their failed attempt at being a check-in service – the app was all about photo filters. Anyone could snap a photo with their phone and quickly add a filter to make it look “better” or at least more interesting. It made everyone feel like a photographer.

At first “true” photographers balked at the platform. But then they saw the power of the network it was building so they started to sign up. Which created a boon for the platform and its Explore page because whenever we opened the app we saw gorgeous photos of the people, places and things we are interested in.

But this created pressure. I dubbed it Instagram pressure. It meant that the “anyone” (those that do not consider themselves photographers but enjoyed adding a filter to their photos) I mentioned before felt out of place. Incapable of producing such high quality, and often composite, results. So their usage began to wane. They were still looking but not posting as much.

Then the algorithmic timeline. Which made for completely different issues. It meant that really great photos from people with less of a following were getting little to no attention. And like-fatigue set in. Instagram had a problem but they had smart founders. They new they needed to act quickly.

So Instagram gobbled up Snapchat by stealing the medium of Stories and (in my opinion) improving on them. Which created another bolt of energy into the platform as there was now a way to create and publish far more content that didn’t need the same polish as a photo.

But then Facebook happened. True, Facebook purchased Instagram 6 years ago but it has only been the last 24 months that Facebook has taken a nosedive in public opinion. And with the founders of Instagram leaving the platform my own personal confidence in Instagram is at an all time low. In fact, I’ve stopped updating the app. I love Instagram as it stands right now. But I fear the next few updates.

Anyone that has been online for many years has seen the rise and fall of countless services for a variety of reasons. Mostly, though, the fall of a platform has something to do with some mass of individuals that originally embrace a platform eventually leaving a platform. Teens jump on Snapchat and move to Instagram and then move to TikTok or Musically. Tech people blog then tweet then blog again (yay!). Photographers use their own sites, then Flickr, then Instagram, then their own sites (and/or Flickr) again. At least, that is what seems to be happening.

Instagram has a huge backer, otherwise I think it’s decline would be as meteoric as its rise. So I don’t think it or Facebook will be gone any time soon. But I do have the feeling we will see photographers slowly leave the platform behind in order to publish elsewhere – whether that be their own web sites or Flickr or SmugMug or an as-yet-unreleased platform.

South Iceland – September 2018

In mid-September Eliza, my niece Keri, and I explored the south of Iceland. These photos are but a handful of the thousands we captured on our adventure through the volcanic island. What a place! I hope I get back to explore other areas in the future.

Google Pixel Night Sight on a Google Pixel 2 XL compared to iPhone Xs

My wife has a brand-new iPhone Xs and I have a one-year-old Google Pixel 2 XL. We always compare photos in a variety of situations. When she had the iPhone X my Pixel 2 XL would win handily in a variety of situations. Her new iPhone Xs wins here and there (e.g. in Portrait mode there are a few areas that appear sharper than the 2 XL but overall I still prefer the 2 XL).

Last night came the much anticipated Night Sight Camera update in Google’s default camera app on the Google Pixel. This is a feature that I would think they’d reserve for the Google Pixel 3 (which I am not eligible to update to yet). However, Google has been nice enough to give this feature to all of us Pixel users.

First, let’s see how the iPhone Xs performs in our apartment’s hallway when we close all the doors and rely on ambient light.

iPhone Xs Default Camera Mode

Now, let’s see how the Google Pixel 2 XL does both in normal mode and in Night Sight mode.

Google Pixel 2 XL Default Camera Mode
Google Pixel 2 XL Night Sight Camera Mode

The Google Pixel 2 XL beats the iPhone Xs in Default Mode. But adding Night Sight makes an enormous difference.

I see some commentary that this is a gimmick and that even Google’s explanation for how it works is “just like using a photo editor”. Sure, you can take that stance. I suppose a photographer could use the default output of the iPhone Xs and get similar results by bumping certain values after-the-fact. However, for people that do not know how to use those apps, that would prefer to just take a quick photo while in a bar, in the evening on a hike, or of their sleeping children or pets in low-light – this feature is going to be a boon for Pixel owners.

I love it.

Systrom and Krieger resign from Instagram

Kevin Systrom, former CEO and co-founder of Instagram:

We’ve grown from 13 people to over a thousand with offices around the world, all while building products used and loved by a community of over one billion.

What a run! Talk about leaving while on top. A Seinfeld-esque move.

How to transfer photos from iPhone to Windows 10

Occasionally I will have need to transfer photos from Eliza’s iPhone X to my Windows 10 laptop. I’ve found the process of transferring the photos to be excruciatingly slow, unreliable, and frustrating. That is, until I figured out a better way.

Most tutorials, including Microsoft’s own, will recommend you plug the phone into your computer, open the Photos for Windows 10 app, and import the files through that app. But this never worked for me. I was attempting to transfer just under 5,000 photos and the process rarely worked for more than a few hundred before the phone disconnected, the process halted, or an error message popped up.

It turns out there is a better way. Here are the steps I recommend.

Transferring files from iPhone X to Windows 10 screenshot

  1. Open iPhone’s Settings app and navigate to Photos and under “Transfer to Mac or PC” choose “Keep Originals”
  2. Connect your iPhone to Windows 10 via USB
  3. Open File Explorer and navigate to “This PC”
  4. Under Devices right click on the now connected iPhone and choose “Import Photos & Videos”

Using this process proved to work reliably and much quicker than going through the Photos app. Also, toggling that one option in Settings made a world of difference in reliability.

Of course, this was my experience, your mileage may vary.

Photos for Mac isn’t a long term photo library option

Bradley Chambers, writing for 9to5Mac, about his photo library backup strategy:

If there is one thing I am obsessed with when it comes to technology, it’s my pictures. I keep them extremely organized and culled.

He then goes on to say, regarding his use of iCloud Photo Library as a sort of backup:

This service puts a copy of all of my media on Apple’s servers, and that means if I lose my iPhone, iPad, or MacBook Pro, I can sign into a new device using my iCloud account, and all my media will be there. One thing to remember is that iCloud Photo Library is a sync service. Syncing means that if you delete a photo on one device, it’ll be deleted elsewhere. For that reason, I don’t consider iCloud Photo Library a true backup.

If you want to use iCloud Photo Library to sync your photos between devices, and even use it as a way to have a full backup of your photos, I suppose you can. However, after doing that for a few years and then wanting to move away from it – I would not recommend Photos on Mac or iCloud Photo Library as a long term photo library solution.

The problem is a few fold, but here are the main points:

  • does not store photo metadata in a readable format or with the individual files at all
  • does not store photos in a directory structure that is human understandable
  • bloats your library’s size dramatically

I have well over 350GB of photos and videos. When I migrated away from Photos for Mac I thought that it must store these in a sane directory structure. When you view the Package Contents of your Photos Library file, it appears as though it does but it does not. Each photo is kept within layers of directories by date within directories by the date they are imported not taken. For me, a huge portion of my library was stored in the 2013 directory, even though most of the photos were not taken in that year. Using various Windows 10 tools I was able to read the file’s metadata to create a sane directory structure and put those files into their proper locations based on when they were taken. Even with automated tools it took me a few weeks to do this.

In addition, all the work you do tagging, face tagging, etc. of photos could end up being for naught. That hard work won’t leave Photos for Mac onto another platform. Perhaps you’re not worried about moving from Mac to Windows or from Photos to another library manager, but you should be. Apple has already killed iPhoto in favor of Photos for Mac and lost a lot of functionality when they did. Who is to say they won’t do that again? Or discontinue the Mac altogether some day?

I still have more work to do before I’m able to share my full workflow for storing, searching, syncing, and backing up my photo library – but this experience has taught me that I always want my library to be future proof, human readable, platform agnostic, and not be locked into any one company’s ecosystem. I’m close and I look forward to sharing my strategy in the near future.