Toise River. It’s really not much, in the middle of nowhere. One description calls it a river located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, another deems it a railway station (in the same general vicinity).
I know it as a grave site and small church. At least three of the graves belong to direct ancestors, namely, my maternal grandmother and grandfather (neither of whom I ever met – they died long before I was born), and one other member of my mother’s family , her brother, a lad of just 14½ when he died of rheumatic fever in 1914, even before my Mom was born. Life in an Eastern Cape farming settlement was no picnic in the the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Born in 1917, my Mom was the youngest of nine children. all raised in the hard life of the farm.
The reason for this Toise River trip was simple; to place my Mom’s ashes with at her parents graves at the small Toise River churchyard and cemetery.
When I was a child, going to Toise River was an annual pilgrimage to attend to the Grandparents’ graves. Neither roads nor autos in the 60’s were quite what they are today, so this was something of a trek. Add to this a child’s perspective of time and distance, and you can understand why this was something of an adventure back then. This wasn’t a trip one would do too frequently.
I must say I was quite apprehensive about going back to Toise River after all these years. Much has happened in South Africa since my last childhood visit, and I didn’t know what to expect. Would the place still be there? Would it be possible to find it? Would it be safe? (The Eastern Cape has experienced its fair share of turmoil during the intervening years, and safety, anywhere in South Africa, is always a concern.)
Nevertheless, my brother, who has resided in the UK since the early 90s, was somewhat adamant that we make this trip, and so we did. All-in-all, it wasn’t nearly as problematic as I thought it might have been. We found the church and graveyard fairly easily after asking directions from a friendly local farmer.
We had no trouble finding my Grandparents’ graves, and were able, finally, to lay our mother’s ashes to rest in the bosom of her family.
The last time I was there as a kid, I remember the place being quite well cared for. Grass on the graves was cut, there were still pews and a pulpit in the church which, apart from dead insects and pine needles on the floor, was neat and tidy. As I recall, all we had to do was place fresh flowers on the graves, after which we’d head down to the river – just a stream, really – that gives Toise River its name, for a braai (barbecue) and picnic.
As these pictures will attest, the church and grounds are in somewhat worse condition today. Regardless of that, however, I hope you enjoy these pics and the little story that goes with them.
Or, as it should be more accurately called in my case, The Great Times Media Dust Cloud.
Preparation, of course, is everything, which I should know because as a Boy Cub many years ago we recited weekly the motto the great Baden Powell tried to hammer into our miserable brains; “Be Prepared”.
My first mistake was arriving too late. I wanted to get to the vicinity of the event a good two hours or so before the action in order to scout out a good location from which to photograph proceedings.
But, as I was ensconced in the bedclothes, I kept telling myself I had plenty of time. That’s why I only arrived at 07:35, with not nearly enough time in hand to find a good spot.
I decided on this occasion to use the continuous shooting mode on my trusty old Minolta Dynax 7. Naturally, I’ve never used this mode before because I’ve never really needed it. Until the day of the Implosion, of course. So I figured I’d better fire off a few test frames, after all, I didn’t want any nasty surprises at the moment of truth.
I was happy to discover the old Minolta worked perfectly in continuous mode.
All I had to do now, was frame the shot in the viewfinder and wait for the countdown. Maybe I didn’t have the best view, but I had a view I could work with.
Finally, the countdown began. Ten…nine…eight…my finger was ready on the shutter button, and I had a good view through the 300mm telephoto lens…three…two…I began firing – three frames in one second and then…nothing!…two…one…still nothing! Frantically pressing the shutter button. Nothing.
Through the viewfinder I watched in horror as the building broke in half and collapsed. And even though this wasn’t a large building by implosion standards, being only three stories high, it was a truly impressive sight. I only wish I had a picture to show you.
I saw the rising dust cloud. I replaced the “trusty” Minolta with my even trustier Fuji Finepix, took a couple of pics of the dust cloud, and left the scene.
A saying in photography says the pictures you remember the most are the ones you didn’t take. I can certainly relate to that saying.
Well, there you have it. As that building collapsed, my life flashed before my eyes. But not my past life. My future life or, more to the point, my immediate future life. Like the great implosion pics I was about to see on the various social media platforms.
I wasn’t disappointed. Ah, well, at least I was there.
Of course, the big question hapless photogs are asking in this post-2016-election world is: is my memory card big enough? This is the same question shooters have asked since the dawn of digital, so, no change there.
There’s no doubt we awoke to a different world on November 9th, 2016. According to some commentators, it’s the end of the world as we know it. To others, it’s the beginning of an exciting new era.
But now it’s starting to feel as though every pundit is trying to Trump their opinion, regardless of their field of expertise.
So I thought I’d better weigh in, too, on behalf of photographers everywhere. Or not. As the case may be. Whatever. The headline above is nothing more than a bit of Tom Foolery, a bit of a leg-pull. Not to be taken seriously.
My main camera for some years now has been a Fujifilm Finepix S5600. As far as I can tell it hit the market in 2006 to rave reviews. When I bought mine it was already, I think, towards the end of its production run. In fact, it may have already ceased production. I was drawn to it because a friend had the previous model and I was very impressed with the results he was getting.
Anyway, over the years I’ve often been surprised by the quality of pictures this little camera produces. The EVF isn’t the best around, and the rear viewing screen is almost laughable by today’s standards. If you remember the days of film you probably recall that agonising/excited wait to see your results. Using my Finepix is a bit like that. I don’t really know what the pictures will look like until I load them onto my computer.
I was at a Ford Heritage Day hosted by the Vintage and Veteran Club (VVC) in Johannesburg recently. A friend who owns a Model A had called me up saying there may be some cool pictures to be had. So off I trundled with my trusty Finepix in tow.
I always set the film setting to “C” – which stands for “Chrome” and I think is meant to emulate the saturation produced by Fujichrome Velvia. Occasionally I set it to “B”, which is the b+w setting, apparently an emulation of Fuji Neopan.
Of course, how you see these pics will depend a lot on your monitor, and how you’ve set it up. There are so many variables with digital photography and viewing pictures online, that it’s almost impossible to evaluate what a photograph actually looks like. Also, I believe that as soon as a picture is edited, knowing what camera is was taken on becomes almost irrelevant.
The other point is don’t keep salivating for the latest and greatest. There are probably plenty of pics left in your current camera.
Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of many of the post-processing techniques in use today. It’s not that I’m against post processing per se, it’s just that I feel many photographers are processing their pictures beyond, in some cases far beyond, what I would consider the boundaries of reality.
Don’t get me wrong, I think many pictures benefit from a little skilled manipulation, and I’m not suggesting that to be successful, a photograph must represent an accurate rendition of reality. But I do believe a photograph should be believable, even if it’s a complete abstract. In other words, when what you see on the page or screen is a close approximation of what the camera saw.
There are many photographers using this or that technique ad nauseam, to the point where one suspects they are attempting to cover up for poor photographic technique in other areas. Everyday we see things like terrible HDR pictures perpetrated by people who seem to want to shove their bad LSD experiences down our throats.
One of the techniques, though, that consistently invokes my ire, is selective de-saturation (or selective colour as some prefer to call it).
The very first time I ever encountered such an image was on a poster way back in the 1970s. If I remember correctly, the subject was a little girl holding a red rose, with the rose being the only colour in the shot. All of us who saw it were amazed.
The thing is, back then, if you saw a selectively de-saturated pic, you knew it required hours of quite complicated darkroom work, so you didn’t see too many of them. Today the same effect can be achieved easily by pressing a button or two and moving a couple of sliders. In other words, anyone can do it. Of course, anyone could have done it the dark(room) ages, too, but you’d have to be a real masochist to even attempt it.
One of the best uses of the technique I’ve come across in the digital era is this image by Travis T on Flickr.
Yesterday, I was out and about on the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk and saw the cranes (above) in the late afternoon as the sun was just beginning to set, and fired of a couple of frames. When I saw the scene, I visualized a pic with a white sky and the only colour being that of the sunset hues seen through windows of the cranes’ cabs.
I messed about a bit with the colour image, but came to realise that in order to achieve the image I was after, I would have to [gulp] selectively de-saturate! I looked for a tutorial to teach me how to do it, and found this one on YouTube. Now I’m worried that I might become addicted to this technique. So if you see me posting too many selective-colour shots, please chastise me in the strongest possible terms.
Flickr is for sale, according to this PetaPixel article. I want to buy it. I don’t have the money. If you, or anyone you know, has a spare few million US dollars lying around, (or some shiny, colourful beads that will impress the sellers) please let me know in the comments section below.
Or, if you are a banker or (ad)venture capitalist who could be interested in this little project, you can also leave a note in the comments section.
Just for the record, Yahoo acquired Flickr in 2005 for a measly $25 000 000 (a paltry sum considering they paid a whopping $1 billion dollars for Tumblr in 2013! Tumblr is also in need of a major overhaul to regain its lost lustre, but at one time it was the fastest growing site on the Internet!)
I’m quite serious about this. Unless I can get my hands on the best photo-sharing site on the ‘Web, someone else will get their grubby little paws on it and they’ll just screw it up because they don’t understand what makes Flickr great. Eventually, it will just wither and die.
What Flickr needs at the helm is someone who not only loves photography, but also loves the Internet in general, social networking in particular, and Flickr most of all. I’m all of those. I have loads of ideas to make Flickr even better than it is right now. Not the kind of things people hate, the kind of things Flickr users have already said they want, and some things that will make it the world-beating photo site it should be.
Actually, if I was Marissa Mayer I’d keep Flickr and just appoint me as CEO. Why sell something that, with me as head honcho, will become a massive money-spinner without making users pay any more than they do right now? To paraphrase a controversial political campaign of recent weeks, I want to “Make Flickr Great Again.”
Actually, Flickr has been improving by leaps and bounds in the last couple years, but marketing for the service has been lacklustre, to say the least. Good marketing is vital for the success of any business, it’s not just something one tacks on to the product and hope it works. I’m no marketing slouch, but I also have access to some of the finest marketing brains on the planet, men and women who would love nothing better than to get involved in an exciting project like this because it’s a reputation-maker of note.
(If Yahoo wants to throw Tumblr into the deal as well and make me CEO of that, I’ll fix both sites for the price of one. I cannot be any fairer than that!)
If you want to see some more of my gratuitous photography…
Since publishing this post, I note that PetaPixel has now published a counter viewpoint. Here’s a link to the article, written by Thomas Hawk: In defense of Flickr: 8 Reasons I’m Sticking Around My thanks go to Thomas Hawk for writing the piece, and also to PetaPixel for publishing it, restoring somewhat my faith in the site. I’m not in any way suggesting that my criticism of the two most recent PetaPixel anti-Flickr posts has influenced their decision to post the Thomas Hawk rebuttal – in all likelihood they probably don’t even know my little blog exists.
Below is my own response to the Allen Murabayashi piece that appeared earlier today, written before I saw the Thomas Hawk piece on the same subject.
Given Murabayashi’s background, it’s hardly surprising, though unfortunate, he’d want to trash Flickr (or any opposition photo site, for that matter), even though both sites appeal to very different market niches.
My gripe is not really with Murabayashi, it’s with PetaPixel, who publish nonsense like this uncritically and with no counterpoint or alternative view.
Obviously, I don’t have any say in PetaPixel’s editorial policy, but I feel that a site that claims to promote photography in general, should be a little more circumspect in their attempted demolition of a venerable and much-loved photo-sharing site like Flickr.
Flickr has been around since 2004, making it one of the oldest social networks on the Web. Many loyal Flickr users have been with the site almost since inception. I’ve had an account with the service since early 2007, and a paid account (called Pro) since 2008.
Nevertheless, the site has had its share of problems over the years, particularly since the Yahoo buy-out in 2005.
The World Wide Web is a strange place. A “darling” site one week is excoriated the next. Yahoo was once one of those “darling” sites. Then it wasn’t. Google came along and swept all before it.
Since then, one feels, Yahoo has struggled to find a relevant place for itself.
Flickr was largely left to fend for itself and the site no doubt suffered from a lack of development, particularly as newer sites with better interfaces and slicker layouts gained traction. But Flickr underwent a major revamp in 2014, a process that is continuing as we speak.
As part of this revamp, Flickr announced a huge one terabyte of storage space to all free account holders, and unlimited space to paid account holders.
One-freakin-terabyte! Do you have any idea how big that is? Let me illustrate. According to Flickr, I have 20 619 photos loaded on the site. Admittedly, most of these pics are produced with older equipment that doesn’t produce the pixel-chomping image size of current cameras. Others are scans from low-end scanners that also produce images in an easy-to-digest size. Even so, you would expect over 20-thousand images to take up a sizeable chunk of server space. And it does. 48.46 GB to be precise – less than 10% of the 1 TB allotted space at my disposal if I had a free account!
This alone makes Flickr the absolute best bargain, photographically speaking, on the entire Internet.
Even if you never make any of your pictures available for public viewing on the site, even if you never participate in any Flickr community activities, even if you aren’t interested in any of the social aspects of the site, Flickr is a place you need to be. If just for that cloud storage.
So what do you get for free at Murabayashi’s PhotoShelter site? A 14-day trial, that’s what. When your 14-day trial runs out you start coughing up. (In the interests of openness and fairness, I’ve just signed up for a free PhotoShelter trial account, to learn a little more about the service.)
Also, contrary to what you may be thinking, I’m not opposed to PhotoShelter either. I firmly believe there’s a place for everyone on the ‘Net. It really comes down to defining your audience and going after it. PhotoShelter is very squarely and unequivocally aimed at professional photographers.
“Experience more than 100+ features specifically developed for professional photographers” and “Exceptional tools that simplify how you take care of business, from upload to sales.” are just two of the come-ons displayed in boldface headlines on the site.
The basic PhotoShelter package will set you back US$96 (billed annually) or US$119.98 per year (billed monthly @ $9.99). This buys you a grand total of 4GB cloud storage. Given today’s large camera chips it ain’t gonna take you long to use up all that space (especially if you upload RAW), and then you’ll no doubt want to upgrade your account accordingly.
If so, there are two options open to you; the mid-price range at $25 – 30 p/m (100GB cloud storage), and the “Unlimited” package at $45 – 50 p/m (unlimited cloud storage.) By contrast, unlimited cloud storage at Flickr will set you back US$39 per year, (or a measly $3,25 p/m).
Of course, storage space shouldn’t be the sole determinant of where you place your pictures on the ‘Web. There are many other things to consider, especially if your livelihood depends on your pictures. And I’m sure PhotoShelter’s 80 000 users (according to their homepage) are delighted with the service. The portfolio design options look pretty good, and there are some big name photographers there, like Joe McNally. But, it turns out, Mr. McNally also maintains a Flickr account! He hasn’t made any photographs available for public viewing yet, so he’s either using it purely for storage, or maybe it’s just for family snaps, or maybe someone else set up the site for nefarious purposes.
But regardless of who does or doesn’t maintain an account on PhotoShelter, there’s really no good reason for the chairman and co-founder to post a petty, whining, “obituary” about his possibly-longed-for demise of a competitor(?) site.
Ironically, Murabayashi does praise two other sites in his article: Google + Photos and Picasa. The problem, as he himself notes, is that they are both defunct. For a site that’s currently alive and kicking he recommends the “swell consumer tool named Google Photos”. That’s fine and good. I also recommend Google Photos, particularly if you want your pictures to show up in Google image search results (although obviously you will still have to optimise your pictures manually to get results – SEO doesn’t happen automatically no matter what site you use.) But in recommending Google Photos, I don’t trash other photo sharing and/or storage sites.
And just what kind of file storage do you get with Google Photos? Here’s what Google tells me:
High quality (free unlimited storage) Great visual quality at reduced file size.
Yep. “Unlimited” storage, but your pictures are compressed. Of course, if you don’t want your images compressed, you can always buy more storage. For instance, 1 TB will cost you US$10 per month, or $120 p/a if my maths is correct. Compared to 1 TB free? Looks like Flickr is still the better deal.
As I’ve said before, there’s a place for everyone’s pictures on the ‘Web, even on [gasp!] Facebook (often trashed by photographers, but properly understood and used by others).
As I have also said in this post, it’s understandable for Murabayashi to hold the views he does with regard to Flickr. But publishing those views on a popular, public, photo reportage site is just plain bad marketing. Marketing 101 suggests you don’t knock your competitors. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth of potential customers who actually appreciate the slated competitor.
But PetaPixel is simply without excuse. If they are just chasing clicks with articles like this, they should perhaps consider the wider ramifications of what they publish. Do they really want to see a site like Flickr vanish into cyberspace never to be heard from again? Regardless of their answer to that question, they should at least give Flickr the right of reply, or, failing that, publish blog posts like this that provide a counter opinion.
Finally, I think Flickr could quite happily say, in agreement with Mark Twain, “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
DISCLAIMER: I am not employed by, nor derive any income from, Yahoo, Flickr or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates. But obviously,
The piece, from people who are supposedly photography lovers and who really should know better, also bemoans the the fact, like the Wired article I mentioned in my previous post, that the Flickr Uploadr app for desktop and mobile devices is now being made available only to paid Flickr members.
Is this the end of the world? Hardly. Flickr users with a free account still get a pretty nifty in-site upload interface that offers both drag-and-drop and file-search options, with multiple file upload capabilities. In other words, if you haven’t been making use of the Uploadr app, you won’t notice any difference in getting your pictures onto the site.
One of the things that really irritates me about the Peta Pixel piece is the headline:
“Don’t Trust ‘Free’ Photo Hosting Sites, or: The Problem with Flickr”.
Peta Pixel is being somewhat disingenuous in singling out Flickr in this way. In reality, Flickr has never been an entirely free service. Sure, there has always been a free component to it, but everyone knows you derive maximum benefit by actually paying for it – just like many other services on the web, including the paid services mentioned in the Peta Pixel hatchet job. What’s more, Flickr is much more generous to its free subscribers than any other photo hosting service I know of.
Another contentious statement in the piece is this bit of nonsense:
“Right now it almost feels like nobody really uses Flickr much anymore (it was probably as popular as Instagram around 5-10 years ago). Most people use Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat.”
Does the writer of the piece actually live on Planet Earth? Flickr has millions of active members with a database of billions of photographs. While Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat may well have their places, they serve different needs. They don’t do, nor can they do, what Flickr does so well.
In all fairness, Flickr did appear to be losing relevancy a few years ago. Facebook’s improved photo display interface, the great photo handling capabilities of G+, the arrival of Instagram and, to a much lesser extent, 500px all seemed to be stealing Flickr’s thunder.
But in 2014 Flickr received a major overhaul. As result, far from “Nobody really uses Flickr any more”, I’ve noticed a definite surge of newer accounts springing up in my contacts list, as well as many returning members who I haven’t seen in awhile.
One can possibly understand some petulant geeks at Wired magazine throwing a bit of a tantrum at the loss of a previously-free Flickr feature (even if they never used it – we just don’t know).
But Peta Pixel is a freakin’ photography site and should know better.
Instead of trying to drive prospective members away from Flickr, they should be encouraging them to join! Ye gads! Peta Pixel even runs its own Flickr group (which I’ve just joined 🙂 ). That’s right. It’s been running since 2009 and there are currently 106 342 photos posted there, although that number is set increase slightly as soon as I’m done working on this post.
Oh, and here’s a cool little piece of info I found on the group’s main page:
“Quick tip – Photographs added to our group pool are displayed on PetaPixel.com!”
So if you want your Flickr pictures to get a little more of that good ol’ Interwebs luurve, you know what to do.
Finally if you want to sign up for a free (or a paid) Flickr account, you can do so here. If you want to share your pictures with the world at large, you simply cannot do better than Flickr, regardless of what Wired, Peta Pixel, or any other petty naysayers may tell you.
DISCLAIMER: I am not employed by Flickr, Yahoo or any of their affiliates, nor do I have any financial interest in any of their companies.
<p style="text-align:center;"Naturally, it goes without saying…
This came as a bit of a shock to me as I was busy (coincidentally) preparing a different article to this one, a post extolling the many benefits of the long-standing photo-sharing site.
Just so that you are absolutely clear, I want to say upfront that I am a big, big, fan of Flickr. I first signed up for a free account in 2007, and about a year later I upgraded to a paid (what Flickr calls “Pro”) account. Flickr is the only online photo service I pay for, although I have free accounts with a couple of other photo networks (I like to check things out, okay?).
Flickr does a better job than any of them. So what’s got Wired so riled up about the service. Well, Flickr has just announced a couple of changes to its service. One of these means the Flickr uploader app is now only available to paid subscribers.
The uploader scans whatever device its installed on for photographs and automatically uploads them to your Flickr account. These pictures are hidden from public view until you decide otherwise. I’ve had it installed on my desktop almost since it was launched about a year ago and it’s uploaded close to 20 000 pictures from my hard drive and another external USB drive. It also automatically uploads pictures from my phone without me having to do anything.
Eventually I had to deactivate the desktop uploader because of bandwith issues. But fibre is coming to our neighbourhood (hopefully next month) and then it’ll be all-systems-go again until every last picture is safely stored in the cloud!
With a free account you get 1 terrabyte of storage! That’s far, far more than any other photo hosting platform gives you. But, with a paid account I get unlimited storage. Not that I’ll ever need it. Right now, with those 20 000+ photos I’m still only using about 48 GB of space.
But Flicker is much more than just a storage service. It’s also a great social network and photo sharing site. After all, that’s why it was started in the first place. Regardless of your particular photographic affinity, you’ll find a group (or groups) where you can not only display photographs, but engage in lively debate as well. Flickr’s dynamic group dynamics is one of the things that keeps legions of Flickr-ites hooked to the site.
One of the things that surprised me about the Wired article was the number of Flickr fans who immediately sprang to its defense. This was a real joy to behold because, usually, when Flickr announces any changes the forums are full of people predicting its immanent demise. I guess it’s a case of “hometown syndrome” – I can say what I like about where I live, but woe betide any outsider who bad-mouths the neighbourhood.
To make matters worse, Wired ran another article titled How to Get Your Photos Off Flickr (and Where to Put Them)! I can think of a few places I’d like to put the article.
So, should you follow Wired’s ill-considered advice and ditch Flickr? On the contrary, there’s never been a better time to enjoy it. If you love your photography but you’ve never had a Flickr account, do yourself a huge favour and go get one a.s.a.p. If you are a member but haven’t checked it out for awhile, it’s definitely time to re-acquaint yourself with the site.
Hey photographers, what do you want first…the good news, or the bad news?
Don’t worry, I can see you’re a pretty tough cookie, so I’m going to let rip with the bad news first:
There are people who won’t want to pay your totally reasonable asking price.
I’m sorry, there’s just no way to break this shocker gently. But it gets worse (if that’s even possible)…Of the people who don’t want to pay your asking price, a few will give you some appallingly inane reasons, demonstrating their utter lack of understanding of “how a photography business operates.”
When this happens to you – and it will – there are five options open to you:
Option #1. Give in meekly and accept the price reduction while apologising for being insane to expect such a high price in the first place. (I call this the “Wimp Option”)
Option #2. Politely, but firmly, refuse to accept the reduced offer (remember, you don’t want this idiot bad-mouthing you all over town)
Option #3. Impolitely tell this person to “[expletive deleted] off!” (Who cares if he bad-mouths you all over town, the only people he knows are cheapskates just like himself! (Probably the most satisfying option)
Option #4. Write a lengthy, whiny, boring, blog post about the philistines who have no idea how a photography business actually operates. Don’t forget to go on ad nauseam with the tedious details of how much your equipment cost, how much you pay for web hosting, how many hours you spend editing, how much your assistant costs you, how many years you spent learning your craft, how much transport to and from the location/venue costs, how expensive hardware and software is getting these days, and anything else you can think of that adds a dime or two to your final price. Heck, how much did you say you paid for that kitchen sink?
Option #5. Accept the job OR refuse the job, and quietly move on without alerting the world to the scumbags out there trying to fleece you, who don’t have the foggiest of how to run a photo business, or how your fees are structured, or whatever. Realise that We. Just. Don’t. Care.
Actually, on second thoughts, don’t go for Option #4. Never. Ever. Please. Spare us the diatribe. You got into this business because you wanted to. I’m sure no-one put a gun to your head and said: “You better start a photography business and accept crappy prices.”
So, what’s the Good News? Only this:
Some (most?) people are only too happy to pay your asking price. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t really have a photography business, would you?
Those who aren’t willing to pay only deserve, at the very most, a semi-humorous little meme posted to your Facebook page or Twitter feed.
As for the people who do buy your pictures without complaint, treat them like gold. Perhaps these are the people you should be blogging about.