Favorite Photo: Path in the Snow

Of the photos I’ve taken, this is my favorite. Well, I might like some kid photos even more, but such photos don’t go on this public site.

The path winds through the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. I used to live near there. That winter was particularly photogenic, as this online album shows.

I see that I took it with a Canon digital camera, which has a far lower resolution than the phone with which I currently take photos. You can click on the image to see the full 1600×1200 photo! I’ll get another camera sometime, when the technology/price combination is right.

Camera Dies at Five

CameraLibCardI took this picture in July 2009, when the young camera had just come to live with me in Boston. For five years, it served me well: the limit on photo quality was more often the photgrapher than the camera. It was very portable, and rather resilient.

But it was not immortal. Its behavior became more and more erratic until, a couple of months ago, it stopped working altogether.

What device (or devices) should I use to take photos for the next five years? The option with the lowest incremental cost is my phone, an iPhone 4. I know I’ll want something better than that as a camera, and probably soonish rather than later.

But I haven’t done much with the photos I’ve taken this year. I haven’t looked through the photos on the deceased Canon’s card. My Flickr photostream has seen little activity.

A new camera would probably renew my interest. A new photosharing service might also do the trick. I don’t feel as Flickr-friendly as I used to; and no, that isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to the acquisition by Yahoo.

As the holidays (and my birthday) approach, it’s time to start thinking what I want in a camera in terms of photo quality, ease of use, portability, price,…or to search for the natural heir to the camera in the photo. Any suggestions?

Google Ate My Picnik

Google acquired Picnik. Liz at GigaOm leads with the fact that this is the latest in a series of deals by which ex-Googlers have been brought back into the fold.

I’ve yet to see an answer to my main question about the deal: how will this affect the relationship between Flickr and Picnik? It’s been posed in several places, including the comments on Picnik’s post about the acquisition.

Rainbow MinicardWhen I’m using my Flickr account and click to edit one of my photos, it’s Picnik that starts up. Apart from wishing that it would start up rather faster, I’m happy with Picnik.

Photo Prints, From Flickr and Elsewhere

Remains of the Cake (SC)Around the holidays, and a few other times I year, I want to have some photos on paper as well as on the web. On the web mainly means my Flickr photostream. I’ve used various services (Shutterfly, Snapfish, etc.) for printing, with no clear winner emerging.

More recently, I used the Order Prints button that I see above each of my photos at Flickr. I had no complaints about the quality, the price, or the few days wait before the prints arrived.

Then, just before the 2009 holiday season, Flickr partnered with Snapfish. It’s perhaps for that reason that square prints are no longer available. That’s bad news since, as you can see, I like to do the occasional crop to square. Another difference came from my need to get prints quickly.

The need for speed pushed me toward a Flickr/Snapfish/Walgreens print. Snapfish partners with retailers such as Walgreens on the output (prints) end, just as it partners with Flickr on the input (jpgs) end. So I could pick up prints at a reasonably close Walgreens.

The experience with Snapgreens wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I was supposed to get an email when my prints were ready to pick up, but I never did. So I called the store to check, then went to get the prints, and they were fine. They ended up costing a few bucks, rather as if I’d had them mailed rather than driven myself to a store to get them, but that didn’t seem too bad.

On the other hand, I’m sure that there are better paths to printing than Flickr/Snapfish/Walgreens. For example, I drove past a CVS or three (or more) on my way to the Walgreens, and I could have just put the jpgs on a USB, stopped in at CVS, and printed the photos. The prints might well have turned out just as well – I didn’t do the experiment.

Next time I need photos printed, I think that Ritz Camera will get my business. They have a location a few miles away, and it shares a parking lot with the Trader Joe’s nearest me. I’ve had good service from other Ritz locations in the past. I also admire Ritz as a specialist amidst more generalist big-box (Best Buy) and big-URL (Amazon) competitors.

And Ritz do square prints. To be more specific, 6×6 prints, for which I already have some inexpensive frames from IKEA.

More when I actually travel the Ritz Road…

DC Photo Safari

Super Smithsonian Modern MuseumWashington DC was a lot of fun over the last few days. Since I expect to be spending a lot of time in and around the capital (if not the Capitol) over the years to come, it hereby joins the elite ranks of things that have their own category on this blog.

I found DC to be a very photogenic city, even though we’re at the opposite end of the year from spring, the season in which it is reputed to be at its best. I particularly loved the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. I refer to, and loved, both the building itself and the contents.

I asked very respectfully on the way in whether photography was permitted within the museum: without flash, of course. I was told that it was permitted with flash (but with some additional and, to me, reasonable restrictions). So I snapped away happily, but without flash, which I consider to be intrusive inside museums (and in many other places).

In contrast, when I tried to take a photo of the Thurgood Marshall building, I was told that it was not allowed. I may construct a grumble later, but right now it’s time to head back to Boston.

Pixelpipe From Android to Flickr

Flaky BarnThis is the first of the photos taken with the new G1 phone to make it to my Flickr account. It’s good to be able to carry a phone and a camera (and other things) in one device, and to be able to upload directly from said device (I used Pixelpipe).

But it isn’t quite as good as it might be, for a couple of reasons. First, the screen on the G1 isn’t good enough for me to decide which photos are Flickr-worthy. It’s not a question of space on Flickr (which is unlimited with a Pro account), I just like to be somewhat selective about what’s in my photostream. Most photos I take are obviously unworthy, a few are obviously worthy, but in many cases it isn’t clear from the G1 screen.

Second, I was hoping that since the G1 has a GPS, it would automatically GPS-tag each photo. I wonder if there’s a way to make this happen?

Moo Minicards and Flickr Pro

Japanese Garden Bridge MinicardIf you have a new* Flickr Pro account, you can get a free 10-pack of Moo minicards. The image is a minicard-proportioned crop of one of my photos. Feel free to use it, or any of the other minicard crops in my MooMini4U photoset.

Even if you don’t have a Flickr account, MOO MiniCards are cool, and you are still welcome to use my crops.

More MooCoolness to be posted here soon…

*I’m not sure exactly what new means here. Follow the link and see whether you get free minicards. That’s what I did, and I did 🙂

Choosing an Online Photo Service

Crowded Kid's MuseumYou want to put photos online. Which of the many services in this crowded space do you use?

This post was prompted by a recent conversations with friends who are considering this question, and by a recent post by Frederic at ReadWriteWeb. Frederic compares 10 services, while acknowledging that there are many more. He provides a good comparison between the 10, with a service/feature table and a couple of paragraphs on each of the 10.

I’ll complement Frederic’s post by focusing on user actions and priorities, rather than on services and features. I’ll start with the question: what do you want to do? I suggest that the following are among the most important actions for many of us.

  • Get started quickly, and then be able easily to work with the service, rather than having to spend time and effort working the service out. I’ve put ease of use at the top of the list, but it ease of use should flow down to the other items; in other words, everything else on the list should be easy, not just possible.
  • Share photos with others.
  • Specify who should, or should not, be able to see particular photos. This is the other side of the sharing coin. Sharing is important, and should be easy. But not sharing everything with everyone may also be important, and should also be easy.
  • Create stuff, such as prints and books, from the online photos.

Central to this list are the second and third points: the two sides of the sharing coin. If we take these as our twin starting points, we might quickly arrive at the conclusion that the service you should use is the one your friends and family use. If the service already knows about them, you can identify them as people with whom you want to share. Hence you can share photos of, say, your kids, with them, without having to make them visible to everyone on the web.

That suggests that, if you’re looking for an online photo service, you should use the one your community already uses. It may of course be more complicated than that. You probably have multiple communities; to take the example of one friend, I’m on Flickr, but the childcare we used to send our daughters to has a “room” on Snapfish.

I won’t even mention some of the other complications. Frederic covers some of them. Having contrasted his post with mine, I’ll finish on a note we can sing together. Flickr is the one to beat, and, for many of us, it has yet to be beaten.

Photographs in Public Buildings

Little PO BoxesWhen you go in to Roslindale Post Office, you see a wall consisting mainly of Post Officeâ„¢ Boxes. Since they are rather lovely old boxes, I’ve been wanting for a while to photograph them.

Now, I am of a anxious nature, and eager to avoid a one-way trip to Guantánamo Bay, and Uncle Sam,who of course owns US post offices, is of a suspicious nature these days. So I asked the very pleasant person who served me if I might be allowed to photograph the boxes.

She told me that permission was required to take photos in Post Offices. I asked who I needed permission from, she told me that it was the manager, went to ask said manager, and returned a minute later to say that permission had been granted.

After snapping the PO boxes, I went to the nearby and recently-renovated Roslindale Community Center. As an aside about community/public access, shouldn’t a community center have a web site? There are a few details on various Boston.gov pages, but I was unable to find a site that told me about services, hours, etc.

I went in, asked if I could take some photos, was told that I could and asked why I wanted to. I took one of the front desk (and no, I’m not sure why the word of the day was venal). I also took one outside, although I didn’t feel I had to ask permission to do that. (I actually took more than that, but only posted those two to Flickr. And no, the map image isn’t here by mistake in place of either of them; it’s from Boston.gov).

Rozzie LibraryOn a roll, and having some books to return, it was on to the library. There, I was told that I was not allowed to take pictures inside the library without permission from HQ. I was given a phone number there. I didn’t call the number. Instead, I looked up the photography policy on the BPL web site: We are happy to have you take photographs of our buildings for your enjoyment but… (follow the link to see the restrictions; they seem rather reasonable to me). Anyway, I contented myself with taking a photo of the outside of the library.

It has since occurred to me that I should go to the USPS site to seek the Post Office’s official photography policy, but I find it hard to find simple information (such as the postage to airmail a birthday card to one’s mother in the UK) at that site. But that’s another post…