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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 gave somewhat more than a passing thought to all the cities I’ve visited in my lifetime. A few childhood locations made it in but, naturally, it was easier to remember the second half of my life than the first. I chose to include only bergs in which I’ve spent the night because if I counted every place with a “Welcome to XXX, home of the 1972 County Champions” sign that I had ever passed through or bought a Diet Coke at the gas station to assuage my guilt at really only needing the toilet, the map would be solid blue.

I made the map at the office so I didn’t want to spend too much time on it. I was just about feeling satisfied with the effort when I realized that I had almost forgotten to drop a pin on one of my favorite cities, Victoria, British Columbia, which I met in 2004. I loved Victoria for two reasons. It is very British and a population of feral rabbits lives at the University of Victoria. I was there with a group tour, but we had one afternoon free and I took that opportunity to hop a city bus to go to the campus in order to commune with the rabbits in person. 

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They were all over. These are just three of the oodles of photos I took in the hour I was there. The fellow on the left was very outgoing and moments after I took this picture, he had hopped right up to me and was nibbling on the outer ring of my camera lens.

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Well, as soon as I dropped the pin on my Google map, I had a light bulb moment. What is a component of Google maps? Why, Street View of course. I set off on my journey around the Ring Road that encircles much of the campus in search of rabbits. There were quite a few!

Unintentional iPhone photos

September 1, 2011

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I am always taking unintentional photos with my iPhone and what I feel sometimes is the overly sensitive touch screen. But a lot of times I like how they turn out, just a blur of colors or some weird composition, and I keep meaning to make an album of them all. I think this one is my leg through my car’s steering wheel. Here are a few others.

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I interrupt my intended topic for this evening (which was to have been a report on my recent side-by-side comparison of my four favorite India Pale Ales) for a different, though still beer-related, narrative—the in-depth explanation of today’s freaky (in a good way) events which came to light due to the purchasing by two involved parties of Odell Brewing’s new special edition Woodcut No. 5 Belgian-Style Quad Ale.

The story begins innocently enough. I realized that I could follow my favorite businesses on social media to get inside scoops. I followed one of my local booze huts, Zipp’s Liquors, on Twitter. At some point, I must have gotten an @ reply to a comment or question about whether they carried something. My beer friendship with Tyler was born, because he’s very responsive with the tweets.

My California friends (you know, Rob and his circle; Rob, who used to go to Saint Sabrina’s to get pierced with Lauren; Lauren who instigated my actual getting of my rabbit tattoo) turned me on to Instagram. This is the part I really don’t remember—who betweeen Tyler and me found the other on Instagram, but we did.

Instagram plays faster and looser with your associations, because you see what your contacts have liked, and then it’s real easy for you to get carried away and start liking some of the same photos, and the next thing you know you’re following people you’ve never heard of. That’s how I connected with Jason. I began to notice that Tyler frequently liked Jason’s photos and that they usually involved beer. As you know, I love beer. So I began liking Jason’s beer photos and the next thing you know, Jason and I were following each other. And Tyler followed Rob, so I guess we’re even!

Then I got bold and followed Jason on Twitter, keeping my remarks by and large beer-related (though he is a creative like me, and I wish I had the time to start the morning with sketching). Today it transpired that Jason asked Odell Brewing when the Woodcut No. 5 was coming to Minnesota. Odell Todd replied that it should be here, then Tyler said he got it in at Zipp’s today. I said I’d be over after work. Jason said he’d be by after work. I was hoping we’d end up there at the same time so that we could introduce ourselves. No such luck.

I got home with my Woodcut and snapped the requisite self-portrait for proudly posting online—artfully posed in front of my wall of woodcut art that I’ve made myself, but not gotten all framed—though I never got around to uploading it to Facebook because I got distracted by being outside for an hour and a half yardening. At exactly the same time that I tweeted my photo, Jason tweeted that he had arrived home to find that his awesome wife Lisa had a Woodcut waiting for him. I was overcome with excitement for both myself and him, so I tweeted kudos directly to Lisa, who at that point was not a Twitter contact with me in either direction.

That’s when the Beerlight Zone revved up.

Lisa immediately followed me which tickled me because Jason hasn’t yet, which I thought he might by now but which doesn’t bother me that he doesn’t, because I can be stingy about accepting new contacts myself and I totally get it. Nevetheless, it pleased me to reciprocate with Lisa. And then the darnedest thing happened.

When you follow someone new, Twitter helpfully suggests a couple other people who it thinks you might like. Well, damned if one of those people wasn’t Katherine, my former co-worker! I freaked out, in a good way. Katherine left us to move to San Francisco, but we still adore her, and she’s still doing some work for us long-distance.

I immediately got the feeling that I had met Jason and Lisa at a happy hour last summer, in particular, the one that happened after we had an office outing to a Twins game and stopped off afterwards, and Katherine, Karl, and two couples friends of theirs had joined in. But you know what? Anticlimax. In re-envisioning the events just now, I realize that it wasn’t Katherine’s friends but my other co-worker Colleen’s friends and it had nothing to do with a Twins game.

But the freakiness stands. Me -> Tyler -> Jason -> we love beer & Odell -> Lisa -> Katherine -> me.

My parents don’t quite comprehend why I love what they see as impersonally interacting with my online peeps as much as I do. Other people who have rich in-person circles (not all of them, but some of them) don’t quite understand how 92/8 online/IRL (that’s just an estimate) can be just fine by me. Tonight’s occurrence shows part of the reason why. Well, at least it does to me.

 

Incidentally, I did not pop the cork on my Woodcut No. 5 tonight because it was not chilled when I bought it and also because, after yardening in 85F/30C temperatures, the nice, light Southern Tier Hop Sun was just what the doctor ordered. I’ll probably have the Woodcut on a Saturday night when I can make a nice meal to go with it (though not tomorrow because I’m making a curry and I don’t think it would pair well with that, and not next Saturday because I’ll be at the Twins game). Jason said it’s good. It’s Odell, so I assume that much on faith!

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How often have you wished you could draw? Or write, or sing, or whatever? You don’t have to be good to enjoy doing something. I fully embrace the notion of A for effort.

Take Albrecht Dürer’s Portrait of a Young Hare, for example. My former rabbit Bibi did a much better job of recreating it in the course of her daily life than I did this evening with aluminum foil and intention.

Here’s a question for those of you who live with freerange houserabbits. Have you ever noticed (if you ration their food and feed them at predictable times) that about forty-five minutes before mealtime, they start this whole stretching and yawning routine? Well, they do. At least four of my six rabbits have engaged in such activity.

Bibi was a master (mistress) stretcher-yawner. And one time, I managed fire up the camera quickly enough to capture this portrait. I think she did a far better job with her ownself than I did with foil. I entered her posthumously for the mission of standing in front of a portrait and making the same expression. How could I resist? Who doesn’t think their pet is the cutest ever? (p.s. They are!) 

Later that same day, which was a Friday, I eschewed actual work work in order to create my own entry for the mission—a self-portrait in front of the artist’s self-portrait. I swear I could have kept doing it all day. And, it just happened I was wearing brown that day. Dürer’s hair is curlier, though. 

It’s weird taking pictures of yourself when there are plenty of other people around who you wouldn’t mind not seeing you doing it. I managed to escaped scrutiny.

Going into the day, my plan was to make my 3D sculpture of the 2D painting with Fun Tak, because I could have worked on it discretely at my desk and nobody would have been any the wiser. But today, unlike that January Friday, work tasks conspired against me and I did not have the opportunity to goof off as much as I sometimes do. The trade-off? I am redesigning the Black & Decker DIY books that you will soon find in your local Menard’s, Home Depot, or Lowe’s. It’s the highest-profile thing I’ve ever worked on. I can live with that.

So I present you with this inadequate foil replica of a masterwork. But as I’ve declared on a few previous occasions, the fun part is that I’m doing something that I wouldn’t have, ordinarily. But I did today.

(For those of you paying attention and remembering my “What’s in a name?” entry, my D does not stand for Dürer. It’s merely a convenient coincidence.)

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My interest in taking photos of the beers and wines that I’ve sampled began in the summer of 2008. I’m trying to remember what the catalyst was, because I’ve liked better beers for a long time. I think I simply realized that it was an easy way to keep track of what I’ve tried.

So the first time I have something, I make a photographic record. You will notice a lot of five brands of beer—Lagunitas, Bell’s, Sierra Nevada, Summit, and Surly—because those are my favorites and there are many regular varieties of each, plus a steady output of seasonals and limited editions. And as I acquired the branded glassware for each of those breweries, I have retaken some of the photos so that the beer can be pictured in its native glass.

I usually take three shots, so that if the focus is off, I have others to choose from. The top half of this photo are the ones that are already posted to my Flickr set. The bottom half is the unsorted backlog of new photos.

The robot is in the mosaic

February 10, 2010

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It started out as a simple homage to my favorite color which, other than black, is green, I guess, of the lime and chartreuse varieties. Green Robot is a little darker green than I prefer, but it seemed a pity not to invite him into the picture to liven up the Post-It and note pads. Can you see him? It’s easier when it’s thumbnail sized. Or maybe it’s just because I know what the original looks like.

I had uploaded the original, unadulterated photo. Then my friend uploaded his own homage which was in mosaic form and I was off to the races. I realized that making mosaics is an interesting way to develop color palettes and that for me, a graphic designer, it could be a useful tool. I certainly don’t think I’m the first one who ever thought of doing that, but to paraphrase the NBC network’s former marketing slogan, if I haven’t done it, it’s new to me.

So I went back and mosaicked several other photos, in both 50 pixel and 100 pixel tiles. It was fun! You can see them here. I like the larger tiles better. If you want to see the originals, you’ll have to look back at various days on Tweak Today—I’m too lazy today to make any kind of effort to pull everything into one location. The image titles in Flickr roughly correspond to the mission titles on Tweak Today.

Look deep into my eyes

December 20, 2009

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Breathe deeply and concentrate. Focus on my beautiful green eyes. You are beginning to feel sleepy. That’s it, just let yourself go. Relax … relax …

This was one of those more creative assignments that gets you doing something you wouldn’t ordinarily. Usually moving the camera is frowned upon, but this photo was taken while I was jumping. Blurring was encouraged. I think it was supposed to be a little more unintelligible so that would be a guessing game as to the subject, but I just love how this photo turned out.

Camera ubiquitous

December 2, 2009

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I have always loved to take photographs. I bought my first film SLR as a senior in high school, and I still have it and it still works. But I haven’t used it in seven years. I went digital. And then I went iPhone.

I never thought of my previous cell phones as acceptable cameras for the simple reason that I’m a Mac girl and I didn’t have an easy way to offload the pictures. I also never used to do a data plan for my cell phones. Then iPhone came along.

Now I not only have a computer and the internet in my pocket, but I have a camera that is always with me. It couldn’t be easier to get images off of in any number of ways. With the ease of emailing and/or uploading from within apps such as Facebook, I have become an indiscriminate snapper of pictures. No occasion is too trivial. No subject is too insignificant. 

It’s just too bad that on the first generation iPhone (which mine is) the camera is not of better quality. A good portion of my life is being captured in subpar pixels. But gosh, you just can’t beat the convenience. And with third-parrty photography apps for iPhone, its capabilities are extended. My favorite is Pano for iPhone which does all the heavy lifting for you to manufacture a pretty darned good panoramic image stitched together from up to 16 individual photos.

My favorite theme of iPhone photography has turned out to be self-portraits. Once I figured out how to hold iPhone in one hand and touch the shutter button with a nearby finger it was all over. Now I document the daily mundanity of myself and the universe I move through. It just wouldn’t work with my “big” camera.

I also use iPhone’s camera to make notes for myself. If I see a poster for something I’m interested in, if I sample a new beer or wine while I’m out, any number of things, it’s quite easier to just snap a shot of it to jog my memory than it would be to type a note (even though that’s very straightforward on iPhone, just like everything). And if I’m pressed for time or being particularly lazy, I will use it in lieu of my scanner to digitize something on paper, such as my handwritten notes from yesterday’s post.

Its constant companionship causes its overuse. This is the most recent photo from earlier this evening. I felt it necessary to preserve for posterity my joy at trying Magic Hat Brewing’s Black as Night Winter Lager.

iPhone is a constant companion, and I see I’m calling it iPhone like that’s its name, without any preceding articles or possessive pronouns. People name their cars. Do you other iPhone users name your iPhones?