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I will soon be at 1,000 photos on Instagram. I’m pretty sure that will happen a few days before January 16th, when the world will end and we all have to quit our accounts.

 

You’d have to have been in a cave for the last 24 hours to have not been aware of the furor over Instagram’s proposed new terms of service. I admit that I enthusiastically joined in the hysteria, but I also actually read the document in question. That doesn’t make me better than anybody else for sure, and I also have three and a half weeks to wait and see how it all pans out.

 

Instagram and social media have come up in a few of my last several posts. I’m not going to get up on some soapbox about this. Anybody who ignores the fact that these “services” that we freely join and freely (both literally and figuratively) give our lives away to are actually businesses that want to turn a profit, is living in a delusional dream world. These sites do not exist as a public service. It is our responsibility to actually read the terms of service that we blindly agree to. That we did not read them is not a legitimate reason for outrage when these terms change. And the changes will likely be to our personal detriment, because businesses are out for themselves, not us. They don’t owe us anything.

 

I don’t even remember what my main reason was for starting this post. I think I wanted to say that I will continue to enjoy Instagram, at least until January 16 when the proposed changes (in whatever form they end up) take effect. As with the various changes that Facebook has tried to implement and then quite often had to back peddle on, I’m figuring that the same will likely occur with these updates to Instagram’s policies.

 

Perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve heard on the subject came from CNN this morning. Whoever they were interviewing said that like Facebook had previously, Instagram threw, say, five changes out there. Now they’ve seen which one thing users reacted most strongly to (in this case, the perception that Instagram is saying that they will henceforth sell users’ photos with no notification or compensation to the user) and will modify that one, and the other four will kind of fly under the radar.

 

I guess what I wish is that fine print wasn’t written in legalize. Rather than saying “Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service…,” why can’t they (or anybody else) just say, “We’ll pretend that you own your content, but we’re still going to retain the right to do whatever the hell we want to with it.”?

 

Like I said, I don’t know why I was fired up to write anything tonight. I don’t care that Instagram might start showing me ads, or that they might put my face on self-promotion within the app, just like Facebook tries to do with suggestions or promoted content. We users forget that profitability is the end goal. Regarding Instagram in particular, I’d gladly pay a number of dollars to buy an ad-free version of the app, and I’d most likely also gladly pay a nominal monthly subscription. “Photographers” and “purists” may scoff at one-tap filter apps for the masses, but you know what? It’s fun! And Instagram, unlike other photo-editing apps (such as Camera+ and Snapseed, both of which I also adore, particularly Snapseed (never got into Hipstamatic, I confess to a certain amount of hypocritical snobbery on that front)) has a fantastic social aspect, even prior to their acquisition by Facebook. I have some lovely new friends in London, Munich, and Toowoomba, Australia. Where? Exactly.

 

I hope that I won’t have to quit the amazingly friendly and creative community that is Instagram. I’m confident that willn’t be the case. Please.

Gotham, I miss you

October 31, 2012

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You have probably gotten bored with my Twitter feed recently, because my tweets are likely a link to my latest Instagram photo or my latest Untappd beer check-in. Let’s talk about Instagram. Ooh, and this choice of topic is, I see, a bit serendipitous (if I may stretch the meaning of the word) because in just seven days, on November 6, I will have been using this service for two years. I’m lucky that I have friends in Silicon Valley who cause me to early-adopt many things.

When I started, I do confess that I went into it with the attitude, “oh good, another social network.” I was fully entrenched in Facebook where I did, and do, share photos liberally. I wondered why I needed to participate in a network that was strictly about sharing photos. It took me a while to figure out why it mattered, and even longer to hit my stride and even longer to develop a style. My early photos were, admittedly, nothing special (my very first Instagram photo leads off this post). And yet some of those initial efforts remain some of my favorites in my Instagram career. See the photos below.
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Despite some mediocre at best photos, what Instagram did for me was cause me to take photos with an eye toward art, rather than indiscriminately tapping away because it’s digital and I’m not wasting film. Originally, I was one hundred percent an Instagram purest in that I only used my iPhone to take the photos, I framed the shots within Instagram’s viewfinder, and edited them only within Instagram. My iPhone is my de facto camera and though I have since given up on taking the photo within Instagram, I remain steadfastly adamant that I only edit within Instagram using a built-in filter. It pains me on those rare occasions when I simply must adjust the contrast or highlight/shadow in Snapseed or Camera+ before continuing in Instagram (I don’t count rotating slightly to straighten in Snapseed). It was very difficult recently when the assignment for the photo-a-day list in which I currently participate was “app-crazy.” That’s not to say I didn’t like the results (below), but that’s not how I use Instagram.

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There are three distinct evolutionary periods in my Instagram history. The first was the willy-nilly, do-anything era which, sort of unfortunately, lasted for my first year and a half. The second era was when I ceased using the photo borders that come with the filters. If I could always choose, say, a one-point black rule I might still frame my pictures. But around March 2012 it became evident to me that sometimes the borders didn’t always match what I wanted to accomplish with the image. If you can’t frame anything nice, don’t frame anything at all.

My third Instagram breakthrough came just three months ago in July 2012 when I comprehended the concept of photo series. I can thank @rabbitdan, @andrewdunc, and @mike_n5. They post bunches of photos of escalators, or hallways, or streets, or launderettes, or solo people in front of walls, any sort of similarly themed subject matter. I was a little slow off the blocks but now I, too, am in full series mode.

In a way, I suppose it’s a little bit the easy way out because I don’t have to think about some different “what” to photograph all the time, I just have to find some different one of the same kind that I haven’t previously shown in that way. But I don’t care. I like my series. Every so often a new one creeps in. Below, you will see my favorite photo from each one — parking ramps; my office building which happens to have been built in the late 1800s and is rich with interesting details; my second favorite subject, alleys; looking straight up at buildings, tall or small.

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But my favorite recurring theme is watertower weather. From my desk at work, I look out upon this small watertower atop a nearby building, which happens to be a mostly westerly view, which means the view of approaching weather. I think I’ve mentioned that I would have liked to major in meteorology in college but math and science got in the way. I have long had a fascination with the ever-changing view of the sky and big water, dating back to when I would visit my friend who lives on the south shore of Lake Erie. One winter visit in particular provided scintillating views of heavy weather and heavy waters. Observing the watertower and its sky satisfies some latent, meteorological need inside me.

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I do enjoy participating in a photo-a-day list. Sometimes, that gets me to get out of series mode and find a photo on something completely different. I’ve been finding, though, that with the list I currently follow, I can usually manipulate the topic to work within what I now feel is my “style.” I even was featured recently, which was gratifying.

Whether or not I actually am, I just feel more creative and artsy on Instagram. Please enjoy a few more of my favorites below.

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Today I was supposed to pick someone and follow them for a while, reporting on where they went. Well, I followed Old Man River and he went south, to New Orleans.

I was going to take pictures of the river (the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis)—the river itself—but it didn’t take long at all for my focus to shift to the bridges. The river is present in a few of the shots, but once again the underneaths of the bridges are the stars. Maybe you remember when I did that last summer on a bike ride.

Ah, summer.

The difference between last summer’s bike ride and today’s walk is, oh, I don’t know, about 70°F/21°C. I didn’t look today, but it was about 15°F/-9°C, based on the forecast high. But being a hardy Minnesotan, I bundled up and went for a nice walk.

So.

 

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1. Hennepin Avenue Bridge (historic). Underneath the bridge, behind where I stood to take my photo, are a couple of pylons from the original version of this bridge built in the mid-1800s. I think the current bridge is the third or fourth version. Oh. According to Wikipedia, this bridge was the first permanent one across the Mississippi River. How about that?

 

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2. 3rd Avenue Bridge (secret passage). Just a bit east (the whole walk wasn’t even two miles), is a more modern-looking, but quite older bridge. This one was an odd duck because it has beautiful arches when viewed from a distance. But when you’re standing directly underneath it, all you see are two doorways like the one in this photo. It looked like it went through three parallel walls. Weird. I was sort of disappointed there wasn’t a drawbridge or something.

 

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3. Mill Ruins Park. Okay, so it’s not a bridge, it’s the riverfront ruins of abandoned flour mills. There is running and dripping water everywhere. The icicle mass was cool. There also seemed to be a model photoshoot going on. The models were not modeling outerwear. Silly catalogs.

 

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4. Stone Arch Bridge (arches). This is the bridge that might possibly have some notoriety outside the Twin Cities. It used to be a railway bridge. Now, it is for pedestrians and bicyclists. It’s stoney and archy and neat. It’s at the foot of the St. Anthony Lock & Dam, which I believe is the first lock and dam on the Mississippi. The first in sequence, I mean. I don’t know if it was the first constructed.

 

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5. I-35W Bridge (strong). This is the sturdy replacement for the bridge that collapsed in 2007. From the side you see graceful arched spans, and from underneath you see these stout legs. I live in the neighborhood. I was outside puttering with my tomato plants when the old bridge collapsed. I heard the sirens and figured there was a big accident on I-94, which is also near my home. It’s still weird to interact with the new bridge.

 

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6. 10th Avenue Bridge (industrial). It’s also weird to be underneath this bridge, just a couple blocks downstream from the 35W Bridge. This photo doesn’t show it, but this bridge looks old and tired from below. The roadbed on top is all spiffy, but it’s a little creepy to look at the chipping concrete when you know what happened to its neighbor three years ago.

Thus concludes today’s history lesson.
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Photos were taken with the assistance of my new friend, Instagram, and the Inkwell filter. (Except for the first one of me, that is. I did that in Photoshop.)