Menu

Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Tom Elenbaas in Iceland shot on Google Pixel 2 XL

Tom Elenbaas at Gjáin in Iceland, September 2018

In September 2018, when we visited Iceland, we ran into photographer Tom Elenbaas ankle deep in the waters of Gjáin in the south. I took the above photo of him with my Google Pixel 2 XL.

I hadn’t revisited his site in a while but I stopped by today to see the photo he shot while in these waters.

We had a nice short chat after I took this photo and I ended up emailing it to him a few days later. Be sure to check out his fantastic work on his web site.

55mm f/4 1/1250
Fresh Coyote track
Beaver evidence

A snowy photowalk – December 2019

Another episode that is simply a walk in the snow where I don’t talk about too much but I wanted to publish it anyway. A few tidbits to pull out of this episode are some of the advantages of fresh snow, how snow changes your photography, and making the best of the situation at hand.

Be sure to subscribe to future episodes.

Downy woodpecker – November 2019

In this episode of the podcast I cover the fact that photo gear really does matter. That doesn’t mean that you can’t start learning photography with any gear you have on hand. It simply means that in certain situations gear can mean getting the shot or not.

I found the above woodpecker picking off the last few berries of this bush just before a snowfall. I included this photo in this post as well.

I’m glad I published this episode to perhaps unjam the backlog I have in podcast episodes. Stay tuned for more!

The Best of 2019 as told by me

At the end of the year I like to sit down and make a rather random list of the “best” things I’ve seen that year. I do this almost entirely from memory but I also peruse my browser history and look through my Unmark archive in order to uncover some of the things I appreciated throughout the year.

You can review previous years: 2008, 2009, 2017, 2018.

At the tail end of December I sat down and made this list and since then I’ve taken some time to cull through it and make the list you’re reading now.

Best Blog: Gurney Journey by James Gurney

James Gurney, who I interviewed for The Watercolor Gallery, has kept a blog for a very long time. This past year wasn’t necessarily a stand-out year for his blog – it has always been very good – but I believe his blog and his YouTube channel deserve recognition this year.

Runners up: Waxy’s links, Kottke as always.

Best (new to me) Blog: AOWS

Since I’ve really been going all-in on my photography this year I’ve stumbled across a lot of photographers. In fact, I’m well over 100 photographers on my private Photography Twitter list (I’m @cdevroe there). I’m very glad to have found AOWS. See also the Instagram account.

Runner up: Chris Sale.

Best place: Kentucky

Jim Beam Distillery

Last year I said that we’d likely return to Kentucky and we did – that must say something about it. We enjoy the entire state, the distilleries, horse farms, and rolling hills. See posts.

Runner up: Cape Cod – This was our first trip to Cape Cod and I enjoyed the whole feeling there. Likely because so many people are either retired or on vacation. I’d like to go back and make more photographs in the future.

Best book: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

I didn’t read nearly as many books as I’d like this year. But I’m trying not to beat myself up when I miss self assigned goals like number of books to read. I did a lot of fishing, photography, and even started a podcast this year. So I need not read books.

Dark Matter was a nice change of pace from other things I’d read this year. I always like a book that has time jumping. And this book sort of did.

Best service: OneDrive

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but OneDrive – for the most part – holds up very well for my needs. I have nearly half of a terabyte stored there and it isn’t skipping a beat. I use it mostly as a cloud-based backup of all my photos and videos. I also use it to transfer things to/from my computer and phone which worked well when I was on so many different platforms; Android, Windows 10, iOS, and Airdrop wasn’t possible.

Runner up: Disney+ just for The Mandalorian.

Best song for working: Morning of – Colin Stetson

According to Spotify I listened to this song, and the album it comes from, a lot while I was writing code.

Best album: Benton County Relic – Cedric Burnside

Love the old style jazzy/bluesy feel of this album.

Best company: Disney

I wrote a bit about what they’ve done with Lucasfilm since they acquired the company. But, when you look at the scope of Disney – and watch some of their documentaries about how it all came together – they really deserve a round of applause this year.

Runners up: Microsoft is still killing it and I think 2020 looks interesting for them. Apple for finally fixing their laptops.

Best hardware: Canon 400D

Me w/ 400D, recording my podcast

I shot nearly as many photos on this camera as I did on my phones (Pixel 2 XL until October and then iPhone 11 Pro Max) and the camera is 13 years old. It is rugged, has a lot more features than I ever knew it did, and I’m satisfied with the results I’ve been getting.

I have the feeling that next year a film camera may win this category and I’m very excited about that.

Runners up: iPhone 11 Pro Max – the battery life alone deserves an award, iPad Pro – I still use this every single day, in fact I’m writing this post on it right now and I’d say I do greater than 75% of my photo editing on the iPad.

Best desktop app: Firefox

Rather than keeping Firefox in just the browser category, I’m going to give it the best desktop app award. I really, really like Firefox and it has improved greatly this year in terms of speed, privacy, feature set. I simply cannot live without Containers at this point.

Runner up: Lightroom CC.

Best mobile app: Anchor

If it weren’t for how relatively easy it is to create a podcast using Anchor I don’t think I would have done it. Though I am looking forward to my podcast getting a bit better with some desktop-based editing apps. If you have an idea for a podcast I suggest at least giving it a look.

Runners up: VSCO, Twitter, Pocket Casts, Cash.

Best tool: Photoshop CC

Adobe has made very big updates to the entire CC suite of apps. I feel like they deserve a nod as a result of that.

Best podcast: BirdNote

The podcast is just so simple. I love it.

Runners up: ATP. I go back and forth on whether or not I should listen to ATP. Very good information, they were even nice enough to answer one of my questions, but the constant hypercritical (see what I did there?) take on things can sometimes be draining, and so I take long breaks from listening. But that is the entire point of the podcast so I don’t begrudge them of the style. I just always try to look at things positively is all. Also Cal’s Week in Review.

Best YouTube channel: Nick Carver

Nick has easily has the largest impact on my approach to photography this year. His channel is also very entertaining even when he’s discussing very nerdy photography topics.

Special second place: Joe Rogan Experience – I have to cherry pick episodes that I’m interested in, mostly with scientists and outdoorsy people, but the interviews and long form style are refreshing compared to the bit-sized bits we get through TV these days.

I watch a lot of YouTube. Probably too much. Not probably. Actually too much. It is how I learn, am entertained, waste time, etc. In fact, I watch a lot less TV because of YouTube. So this isn’t an easy category to choose.

Runners up: Morten Hilmer, Jack Black, MKBHD, Kevin Nealon, Rainfall Projects, The Lion Whisperer, Zimri Mayfield.

Best Twitter account: Todd Vaziri

Behind-the-scenes and background information on special effects in TV and movies. Fascinating stuff. The amount of work for just a few seconds of video is amazing.

Runner up: Adam Savage.

Best Instagram account: Luke Beard

Luke shares a ton of photos via Stories from his town of Atlanta. It is inspiring the number of photos he’s able to take, process, and publish and has really gained a following in that area. He’s also super gracious in his responses whenever I’ve asked him how he did something.

Special second place: captain.solo – I can always appreciate when someone creates their own style and sticks to it – it isn’t easy to do either of those things. This account has.

You can also follow @cdevroe on Instagram where I frequently share accounts and photos I like via Stories.

Runners up: Dan Rubin, PPP Repairs, Clyde Butcher, Brad Baldwin.

I hope you enjoyed this year’s list. Whenever I sit down to make the list I always under estimate the amount of time it takes to create it. But I’m always glad that I do so that I can look back on it in the future. So this post is more for me than for you.

One-Picture-Promise

Rick Sammon, in a piece for Peta Pixel on Seeing, describes the One-Picture-Promise:

When you are in a situation, imagine you only have one frame remaining on your memory card, and you can take only one picture. If you think like this, I make you this promise: You will have a more creative photograph. What’s more, during a photo outing, you will have a higher percentage of creative photographs and fewer outtakes.

Great advice. I chat about this topic of taking few frames as opposed to shooting many repeatedly in my podcast.

I believe there is a balance. If you approach photography as Sammon does you’ll slow down, compose far more purposefully, be sure of your camera settings, and likely create fewer but more accurate photographs. On the other hand, digital tools and processes have afforded the photographer the luxury of capturing many attempts to get an interesting photo at little to no more cost than capturing a single image. There is balance somewhere in the middle.

The subject of the photograph also should be taken into account. If you’re photographing humming birds, for instance, you’d likely need to fire off far more captures than if you were photographing a tree in a meadow.

This topic will resurface a lot in 2020 in my podcast as I will be shooting a lot of film – yes, film – in the new year. I’m super excited about it and I can’t wait to share that part of my photographic journey.

Adrian (aows) on Photography

Adrian (aows):

An imperfect composition, a rather dark or bright image, and less than ideal conditions could be ingredients for a great image.

His Instagram account is one of my favorites. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea at first glance, but if you read his FAQ you’ll see what his goal is for his photography. He writes:

I’m not trying to reproduce reality. Every image I make is an attempt at expressing myself and showing what that place, object, whatever, means to me.

I believe his images do exactly that.

Richard Bernabe on Twitter

Richard Bernabe, in an otherwise good interview on his photography, says this about Twitter:

I like Twitter, even if it does represent both the best and worst the Internet has to offer. If you’re there to argue politics with other humans, it most certainly is a dystopian hellscape that will make your life a dark, dark place. Don’t do that, ok? But even if you’re not a content creator, it’s the best and easiest way to consume news and information that touches on your life’s interests. Just remember to stay narrowly focused on the things that make you happy. If you want to wade into the planet’s biggest virtual town square and discuss world events, do so gently and don’t take anything too personal.

Ooof. He isn’t wrong though. And at over 1M followers, he knows.

I still get value out of Twitter but I have to work very hard to get it. I have a private and public account. I create Lists and hand curate them based on my interests. And I’m able to interact with companies very easily. But, again, it is work to avoid the dark shadows.

An update on how to listen to my podcast Photowalking with Colin

The first few episodes of my new photography podcast have been a learning experience for me. How should I record, edit, distribute these episodes? With each episode I’ve been able to improve that process and make some decisions along the way.

Me, on location

While I’m hoping to continue to improve the audio quality, the speed at which I can create these episodes, and how the audience consumes both the audio and the photos I make during each episode – I think I’ve settled in on how to publish these episodes. So today, I’ve made those adjustments to my site.

I’ve drawn inspiration from many sources including James Bell, @Miraz on Micro.blog, Joe Greer and others.

I went back through each episode and added the audio files to each post and moved them into their own category. This way people can listen to the audio right on the page with the photos. I have no doubt that this will render my Anchor* analytics useless but I don’t care. I’d much prefer people have a better listening experience.

So, in addition to subscribing to the podcast on just about any service or app of your choice, you can also just subscribe to this blog and be delivered each episode with the photos into your RSS reader. Or, come directly to each page as I link to them from Twitter or something and listen to the episode and view the photos at the same time.

* Anchor is the app I use to create and distribute the podcast. They collate all of the analytics together for me. Which is nice, but I don’t really care about analytics.

CaptionBot

Microsoft:

CaptionBot.ai is powered by machine learning technology that identifies and captions your photos. When you upload a photo, it is sent to Microsoft for image analysis to return a caption. We won’t store, publish, or let other people use your images.

I uploaded a few images. It works pretty well.

I’m unsure of this particular bot’s purpose but you can likely see its cousin running in Windows 10’s Photos app – that will automatically discover things like mountains, rivers, dogs, etc. in photos.

Google, Apple, Facebook all have similar technology for discovering things or people within images. I believe the only ones that do this on device, though, are Apple and Microsoft. The others rely on the image making it to cloud servers to be “scanned”.

/via James Gurney.

Nick Carver on his photographs

Nick Carver, in an interview by Cody Schultz in early 2018:

Certain artworks I’ve seen throughout my life have had a powerful impact on me. When I look at a painting by Kenton Nelson or a sculpture by Michael Heizer, I feel something deep in my psyche that I can’t put words to. I can’t describe the feeling, but I know I love the effect it has on me. I hope that my photography can have that effect on other people.

If you listen to my podcast, you’ll know that Nick Carver’s work – and notably his YouTube channel – has had a profound effect on my photography.

Because Nick’s hobby is large format film landscape photography, his approach to exposing film is far different than my approach with digital photography. Or, at least how my approach used to be.

For years I’ve followed digital and even mobile photographers that recommend shooting hundreds of photographs in the hopes of capturing a few you like. With large format film you really can’t do that. Not only isn’t there enough time in a day to expose hundreds of slides of film, but also it would cost you a fortune.

This forces the photographer to slow down, strongly consider their composition, be certain of their light metering to determine the camera’s exposure settings, and be more mindful of each and every photo. I’ve been trying lately to find the balance between those two worlds. How can I be more purposeful in my digital exposures – yet still leverage the ease and inexpensive use of the tools I have on hand? I’m still trying to find that balance. But it is because of Nick Carver that I am trying to find it.

Photos from the Off to the pub episode of Photowalking with Colin

I’m unsure of the best way to share the photos for each episode of my podcast. But for now, I’ll create a post for each episode that I share photos from. Open to suggestions.

Cow line

Just one from this episode to share.

A narrow pond with a hill in the distance.

Sickler’s Pond to Elk Hill – August 2019

I still have a lot to learn about manually creating HDR images using my drone. This was my first attempt. You’ll notice the sky and foreground are both properly exposed. A nice technique to have when needed.

What I saw this week #59: August 23, 2019

At this point, the WISTW posts are woefully inaccurately titled and inconsistent in their schedule. The following are a few things I’ve seen recently that you may enjoy – but were certainly not just from this week.

Now, to think about what to rename this series of occasional links.

Om Malik, on his photo journey

Om:

I find using a 24mm wide angle lens, a 90 mm medium telephoto, or a 280 mm tele lens akin to using saffron in my rice or black salt in my lentils – flavors that are beautiful in their restraint.

I like reading his perspective on this. Less is definitely more. And constraints breed creativity. It is something I very much subscribe to myself with many things in life. And I’m drawn to some things that focused on constraints such as early Instagram or The White Stripes.

With my own photography, however, I view each tool as a different camera for a different project. I have a few select lenses for my DSLR, I use my Pixel 2 XL profusely, and I also have a DJI Phantom 4 Pro to be my eye in the sky. Some photos I’d never be able to capture using a single lens.

Along the way, whenever I hit a wall, as I do with all my questions, I turned to YouTube for the answers. It is a marvelous school, with easy-to-find tips and tricks galore.

I find YouTube indispensable.

I have been experimenting with editing my older photos with my new workflow and making interpretations of those archival images. But the biggest realization this has produced is that, unless the photos start off on the right foot inside the camera, it is difficult to reach a rewarding final interpretation.

I do this too. It is a fun exercise to see how you’d approach the editing of a photograph long after you’ve taken it. Like Om, I find that I would have shot the photo entirely differently just a few months or a year after I’ve taken it. Just like my palette has changed over the years (first, sweet wine then dry, first lighter beers than more bitter ones, first smokey scotches and now rye bourbons) so has my eye. And that is ok. The older photos aren’t worse or better – they were taken by a different person than I am today.

You can see Om’s photos on his photolog.

Bokeh: Private, independent, and user-funded photo sharing

Timothy Smith, on trying to promote his Kickstarter for Bokeh:

I hate doing this type of stuff, but I feel like this idea is so important it’d be foolish of me not to try. Even if this Kickstarter ends up being unsuccessful, I won’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t do everything in my power.

We can help him. We have blogs, accounts on Twitter, Micro.blog, Mastodon etc. Take two minutes to review Bokeh’s Kickstarter, back it if you’d like, but please write a short post to help him spread the word. And perhaps directly message a few people you know that could help as well.

As a community we can all help each other with our audiences – even if they are tiny. I always try to promote things people are building with my blog and even if I only help move the needle a very small amount – together perhaps we can make a difference for Tim and Bokeh and for others in our community building things and putting them out into the world.

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.

Om Malik on Google Photos vs Apple Photos

I’ve finally found some time this morning to read Om Malik’s post on Google Photos vs Apple Photos – a post that has been sitting in my Unmark queue since the day he published it.

Om Malik:

The improvements in Google Photos and lack of magic in Apple Photos sometimes make me wonder if I made the right choice by buying to Apple’s ecosystem and its ideology around software, data, and privacy.

I urge you to read his post. He’s very good at writing (he’s also terribly thoughtful, which I’ve covered here several times). Oh, and the day I met Om in San Francisco in 2007 I took a grainy photo of him on stage using an original iPhone. I wish I wrote posts like he does. But I digress.

Many of you reading this know my history with both Apple Photos and Google Photos (and several other cloud-based photo library services). I have torn these services down to their bare metal and tried to make them work for me. I have uploaded hundreds of gigabytes to both of these services. Multiple times. I’ve paid for both for several years as I’ve attempted to mold them to my liking.

So I know how Om feels when he watches a Google I/O keynote and wishes he was a Google Photos user. And then, subsequently, watching an Apple keynote and ending up wishing I had used Photos instead. This is somewhat akin to technology FOMO – wherein I simply wish I had the best features of every available service.

Currently, my process for storing our family’s photos is about as messy as it has ever been in my adult life. And I hate it. But I’m living with it until I find the mental strength to take yet another swing at making it work. As of today, I’m storing all of our photos within a single Apple Photos Library that exists on Eliza’s iMac. It is also backed up to two external hard drives. One that sits on her desk and one that stays with me in my laptop back. Our library is no longer backed up to the cloud anywhere*.

I told you, I hate it.

I won’t take the time to go into what I would consider the perfect service – but I think I can describe it like this – if Google Photos had a Mac / Windows app that also allowed me to have local copies of the files, that were stored in a simple directory structure, and stored the photo library meta data (like tags, or people, etc) in an open format like a documented JSON file, that’d be the ideal set up. Apple Photos allows some of this but it is so locked into Apple devices that it is no longer usable by me. I’m on Android today and I believe I’ll be on Android at least a few more years. (I love it)

All of this is to say, I feel you Om. And I understand the battle of wanting Apple’s principles of privacy applied to my photos but that I too am a human and I want all of these amazing things that Google Photos affords.

* My Google Pixel 2 saves photos to Google Photos automatically and Eliza’s iPhone X saves photos to iCloud automatically. So at any one point, several thousand photos are in the cloud, but the entire library is no longer stored online.

On the acquisition of Flickr by SmugMug

Thomas Hawk:

As someone who joined Flickr back in 2003 pre-Yahoo and has been on the site pretty much daily since then, I thought I’d share my own thoughts on what this acquisition might mean for Flickr users and the larger Flickr community.

No one has perspective on Flickr like Thomas. Go read his entire post.

I joined Flickr shortly after Thomas in 2004. I can’t believe it has been 14 years. Wow.

I was a prolific user of Flickr in its early days. Since I wasn’t yet very serious about photography (lets face it, I’m still such a newb) it served as more of a photolog + community for me in those early Web 2.0 days. I could post something there – say, a screenshot or my desk setup – and get a slew of comments and views.

It was also an excellent development playground. Their API, developed by now Slack’s Cal Henderson, was a boon for Web 2.0 type applications. I built many tools that used this API and cut my teeth as a still budding entrepreneur. One of my favorite projects I worked on was a Mac OS X Dashboard Widget called Flickit. It allowed you to interact with your Flickr account within a Dashboard Widget. Such a fun thing to work on.

Serious photographers still use services like Flickr, 500px or SmugMug to post high-resolution images of their work, create albums, sell prints, etc. But they also use Instagram for exposure. And they likely use a blog or Twitter or Facebook Group to interact with their community. At the time, Flickr was all of these things in one.

Today, if you were to sign up to Flickr and begin sharing your photos you’d likely carve out an audience of fellow photographers but you wouldn’t find “other” people there. And you likely wouldn’t reach a younger demographic at all. They are all on Snapchat and Instagram.

I have no idea what the future of Flickr is. The general consensus seems that SmugMug is a great company to take over stewardship of the platform. Flickr needs to exist in perpetuity in my opinion. Even if no one ever signs up to it again it stores an amazing amount of history and web history. I really hope it is preserved well.

Finally opened a support thread in Google’s Photos forum. I still have tens of thousands of photos missing in Google Photos and my storage meter only shows 55GB used when it should read over 400GB used. I hope Google answers.

Best of 2017 as told by me

To create this list I sat down and wrote from the top of my head the things I could remember being awesome in 2017. The list isn’t exhaustive. It is just what made an impression on me as being “the best” in each category.

Best Blog: fuzzy notepad

Evee consistently writes well-researched, readable, diatribes on topics that could otherwise be boring yet are fascinating and I hang on every word. Here are a few posts from 2017 to get you started:

Best blog redesign: Colin Walker

When I awarded this to Jason Santa Maria so many years ago it was due to his use of color, contrast, typography. But design isn’t limited to how something looks but also how it works. Colin Walker has spend much of 2017 tweaking his blog’s features in subtle ways to work just the way he wants it to. I’m sure he’ll continue to fiddle with it throughout 2018 but I think we can all learn from Colin’s iterative approach. Keep tweaking.

Best new (to me) blog: Brand New

I’ve known about Brand New for a long time and have stumbled across a post or two over the years. But this year I’ve been pushing myself to learn more visual design and one way was to subscribe to more blogs like this. I find these posts, and the community, to be an excellent resource.

Best service: Spotify

This year I’ve used both Apple Music and Google Play Music to see if I could move away from Spotify. Spotify is in a league all its own, the other two don’t even compare well. Spotify’s machine learning robots just do an amazing job at surfacing music that I would like. It is so good it is eery.

Notable mention: Google Photos. I’ve switch from Apple iCloud Photo Library to Google Photos and I’m consistently being surprised by how much better it is.

Best book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This was a tough call. I read some pretty great books this year. But the one that keeps coming up in conversations, the one I’m sharing the most is Ready Player One. I think it is the sci-fi novel that I read this year that most feels like it could happen within a few years.

Notable mention: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

Best productivity tool: Bullet Journal

Bullet Journaling has made the biggest impact to my productivity and cognitive load than any other app, technique, or method this year. My “version” is slightly different than the default but I’m loving it.

Notable mention: Trello.

Best phone: Google Pixel 2 XL

I’m cobbling together my notes for a “review” of the Pixel 2 XL in the coming weeks but I can say, unequivocally, it is the best phone of the year. For me. I know the Samsung Galaxy Note8 made many people’s list and of course the iPhone X deserves a mention – but for the price, the quality of the hardware, and the software the Pixel 2 XL is an easy winner for me.

Before I get email, know that I have an iPhone X (Eliza’s phone) and I’ve tried the Samsung models. For me it came down to the camera system (which is actually better than the iPhone X in everything but the second lens), the software (Android 8.1 – Samsung is way behind) and the price. The iPhone X will be better next year and, hopefully, iOS 12 will be much, much better than iOS 11. But, as of today, Google is killing it.

One other side note: Google as a personal assistant is so much better than Siri it is jarring. I may have used Siri a few times per month in the past but today I use Google about 10 times per day with nearly zero mistakes.

Notable mention: Samsung Galaxy Note8, iPhone X.

Best podcast: The West Wing Weekly

If you’re not a fan of The West Wing this choice may not land with you at all. So, for you I would suggest Song Exploder. If you haven’t yet listened to TWWW I suggest starting at the beginning and also watching The West Wing along the way.

Notable mention: Song Exploder / Tim Ferriss.

Best platform: Instagram

When I deleted my social media accounts and didn’t even look at them for a few months the one I missed the most was Instagram. The platform continues to be one of the best and they continue to add great new features all the time while somehow keeping the app’s history in tact. The day may come when they add a feature that is terrible but so far they’ve done pretty well.

Side note: The algorithmic timeline almost pushed this one out for me. It is nearly inexcusable that this isn’t optional. I sincerely hope they find a way to allow users this option this year.

Notable mention: Micro.blog.

Best browser: Firefox Quantum

Perhaps this should be “most improved browser”? Quantum is a great name for the strides Mozilla has made with Firefox. They continue to improve the browser.

Oddly, Firefox is not my “daily driver”. I am using Chrome due to my switch to Android. (I’m ecstatic that I now can choose a default browser) I may, though, give Firefox a try across the board again soon.

Notable mention: Safari for turning off auto-play videos and ad tracking by default.

Best app: Apollo for Reddit for iOS

Though I’m now using Android I have to list Apollo as the best app. If you ever kill time by looking at Reddit (which I do a few times per week) I have to suggest you try this app. It is so well made you’ll wish it’s developer made every app you use.

Notable mention: Snapseed and Google PhotoScan (search App Stores).

Best code editor: Visual Studio Code

VS Code has improved a lot over the last year and has now overtaking Atom as my default text editor and code editor for all projects. While I still build native apps in Visual Studio most of my web work and text editing happens in VS Code.

The shared workspaces are the big feature for me this year. I can combine several code repositories into a single workspace and use Spotlight to launch all code related to a particular project in less than a second. It also has git and terminal integrated so I’m usually able to do all of my work in a single window.

Notable mention: Atom, Visual Studio for Mac.

Best YouTube channel: First We Feast

Specifically, Hot Ones. First We Feast has an interview show called Hot Ones that I just discovered this year and I can’t get enough of it.

Notable mention: MKBHD

Those are all of the categories I wanted to feature this year. Again, I simply pull this list together from the top of my head. Just like all years I saw so many amazing things it’d be very hard to create a real list. I suggest following my blog for all of 2018 because whenever I see something worth linking to I do so.

There are, however, some other companies, people, and products that I think deserve a shout-out. Here they are in no particular order: SpaceX, Khalid, Tom Hanks’ lost gloves tweets, The Last Jedi hype, Chris Stapleton, Joe Rogan’s Powerful JRE Podcast, Amazon Kindle and library loans, letgo, Google Maps, OK Google, Logitech MX Master 2S, USB-C, cast iron pans, Amazon Prime.

See you next year.

 

 

What comes after Instagram?

Victoria Wright on Twitter:

Photo friends// are you regularly sharing your work somewhere other than on @instagram? I’m so over them deciding what I see and don’t see

The thread is interesting. Most photogs point to VSCO.

I think Instagram still has a long runway ahead of it. And I still think it is very, very good. However, if I had a single complaint it would be the algorithmic timeline.

If photographers begin to jettison Instagram than normals will follow 24-36 months later. I don’t see that happening with Instagram – at least not to a service like VSCO since that isn’t social enough. The masses need likes and comments (sorry Micro.blog). But there is room for something to come along and upend Instagram and it will likely be a network that is simple*.

* This is how these things work. A new app or service is created. People flock to it because it is simple. Then it grows. It tries to address the needs of a much broader audience. Then people beg for even more features. Until the breaking point. And then it starts over again somewhere else.