Category Archives: Photography
One downside of living in Holland is the near-absence of Nature. But being out on a frozen lake that stretches for miles on a crisp, sunny day can make you forget details like the fact that the lake itself was hand-crafted as a works project in the 30s.
Clan Fitzgerald headed out to the IJsselmeer — or, more properly, the hydrologically distinct Markermeer — for a day on the ice. It was packed with long-distance skaters racing by, parents towing little ones behind on sleds, toddlers learning to skate in the Dutch fashion, behind a kitchen chair.
Every Dutch person I talked to last week, as the freeze settled in and the live coverage of skate races began on TV and skate fever seriously settled in, talked about skating with a whimsical, backwards-glance at their childhood, and more than one mentioned “that sound” — shhhhhh shhhhhh shhhhhh of long skates on ice. Not skating in circles in a rink, but out on a river or a canal or a lake, surrounded by the ice-quiet air. This is a deeply ingrained part of the Dutch psyche — not just the Hans Brinker foreign stereotype.
It’s been 12 years since this part of the Netherlands has seen this deep a freeze. My eldest son, Doon, who is utterly Dutch in most ways, has never had the chance to be out on anything but artificial ice in his lifetime.
What will he remember of the great Dutch tradition of skating? The changes that the Earth are going through are changing far more than just the weather.
I use Photoshop Elements to catalogue, arrange, and manage my digital library of 20,000 snapshots of my children around xmas trees and in birthday hats.
For the most part, it’s love-it and hate-it software. It does some things astoundingly great — its tagging and advanced cataloguing functions are ace, and it’s better than a massive album made of molecules for browsing, zooming, editing, and arranging.
But until you disable it, the damn programme throws popups at you for more things you can buy, more services you can purchase, more ways you can enjoy your photos pay money to Adobe. it uses *Outlook* for it’s mail client, for Pete’s sake. Which Elements peppers with ads for its product in every email you send with it. Either that, or an Adobe proprietary system that I am so certain sucks I haven’t even looked at it. No gmail? Guys…
When PC World wrote of the new version 7.0 that “Adobe obviously pays attention to what’s hot these days. And online photo sharing is more popular than ever, with sites like Flickr and Facebook and programs like Apple iPhoto keeping people connected through photos, blogs, and blurbs.” I thought, hot damn! Flickr integration with Elements!!!! But nooooooooooo. Adobe has simply launched their own proprietary sharing service.
Here’s why this is clueless, and disappointing. The only thing that binds people together on such a service is that they paid their money, they bought a product. That doesn’t make a community.
People are on Flickr because the love Flickr, not because they bought a product and Flickr came with it. If Adobe were smart, they’d build a Flickr interface into Elements and let people love Elements because it loves Flickr. I’m not going to love Adobe’s online sharing site, because I feel no afinity to the Adobe brand.
When I had trouble with my migration, I tried the Adobe knowledge base. It was OK. But the real find that Google led me to was ElementsVillage — a vbulletin-based community forum of users. And there were real human beings, with the same issues I had with the software, and who were posting outstanding faqs, chock full of solutions correcting the help files on Adobe’s site. Now THAT’s a community: people bonded together to help one another figure out how to manage their issues with the software and how to use it better, outside the official auspicies of the brand. I actually trusted it more, because it was not written in a corporate voice, it slagged Adobe off for sloppy stuff when they were sloppy, and it praised the good aspects of the programme in sentences that I could believe because they didn’t look like sound bites from a PR brochure.
I may be a consumer, but if your brand makes me feel like that’s my only relationship to you, I’m going to bolt. I do not exist to advertise your product to my friends, to sit looking at your ads, or remain within the confines of your corporate boundaries. I do not exist merely to provide further monetary streams.
I like your software. I use it. I don’t want to be used by it.
I was looking for Veerle Pieter’s blog about designing the Greenmyapple site on Saturday and my search on “Veerle Pieters Greenmyapple” stumbled upon my own Flickr DNA page — something I didn’t know existed.Flickr DNA just does a great job of aggregating everything that Flickr knows about you: who your friends are, what your favorite shots are, your group memberships, your most interesting photos. Scary? Nah. I chose to put my identity out there, and if it gets refracted and reflected in ways I can’t control, well that’s kinda what identity is all about: it’s not a monologue.
The nifty “ego surf” section led me to a dozen sites using my Flickr photos that I knew nothing about: Everything from “Millionaire Mommy Next Store” using a photo of my son with marshmallow all over his face to kid’s games sites to cat photo sites to Duncan Rawlinson’s Last Minute Blog use of a shot of Bruce Sterling to Journalistopia, which used a photo I took of Kathy Sierra hugging her Mac at SXSW last year.
As someone who is constantly looking for good photos to illustrate stories, I found it supremely satisfying to see my work integrated into the work of others — a silent collaboration I’ve been having with other sites simply by putting images into a central repository. Somehow the fact that this was happening unbeknownst just gives it an added zing.
I shoot under a Creative Commons License which only requires attribution, and every site I saw honored that honor system. Neat.
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I went hunting on my bicycle the other day. Armed with only my Sony P900 cellphone and its rather silly built in camera, I was on the trail of Laser 3.14.
Anyone who lives in Amsterdam has seen his work.
“Nimrod Built Babel“
“A woman should bloom“
“Naked and pure is the spirit that transcends the existence mediocre“
“They want you dead, or in their lie.”
Each of his pseudo-biblicalisms scrawled above that inimitable tag that may have something to do with Pi. Or vision. Or infinity. Or Halos. Or a pun on the Dutch “Lezer” –reader — Or something…
He appears to live by certain rules. I’ve never seen one of his tags on a shopwall or private property. He prefers the plywood whitespace of construction sites, the occasional bridge, a construction container or trailer, garbage receptacles, recycling bins.
He speaks to my mystical appreciation of good graffiti: it is, after all, The Word in some form, isn’t it?. That may be my latent Catholicism (all those cathedrals leave a brand effect even after you stop using the product) or it could be born of Paul Simon’s assurance in my formative years that “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls.” Whatever its source, I confess, I have looked for wisdom in the marginalia of urban spaces, and if not quite a Writer in this sense, I’ve put my own mark on a few public objects. But when it comes to mystical utterance, Laser makes the competition look like punks.
When I read Don DeLillo’s “Underworld” I tracked the appearance of Moonman157’s graffiti across the walls of the novel and caught the winking sum of his tag to the number 13, as persistent in Underworld as the 0 in Gravity’s Rainbow, (stop me if you’ve heard this/I’m babbling/…) I loved the DeLillo sketch of a city sending messages to itself, the echo-chamber/house of mirrors riff on omniscience and authorship in this:
Once a man stood on the platform and took a picture of one of Moonman’s top-to-bottoms, a foreigner by the look of him, and Ismael sidled to the open door so he could be in the picture too, unknown to the man. The man was photographing the piece and the writer both, completely unknown to himself, from someplace like Sweden he looked.
(And what other work is featuring its “Call me Ismael” author in the frame at this point, and is that a subtle wink to the Nobel prize committee?)
Public messages in a free medium.
History written upon the most durable of materials, yet ephemeral as a coat of paint.
Subversion of public spaces to private message boards.
There’s an activist element in hijacking communication channels, in seeking to change the landscape of the world (physical, social, psychological, philosophical) with a spray can and a slogan.
I started collecting images of his writings. Lisa posted a challenge on one of my Flickr images: track down Laser 3.14 and have coffee with him.
So I had an idea. Geotag images of Laser 3.14’s work. Map in Googlespace his presence in Meatspace Amsterdam. Find his sphere of influence, determine if he truly IS everywhere, find out where he lives.
The key, of course, is Flickr. Many, many Amsterhamsters have uploaded images of Laser’s work. These are available on a Flickr search on “Laser 3.14″
I geotagged my own images using the insanely handy Flickr Geotagging bookmarklet which opens up a google map in your Flickr image page and lets you point and click geotags right into the shot.
Then I simply fed the Flickr search on “Laser 3.14″ into Flyr, which will chug through the search results looking for geotags and display the results in their proper place.
Voila, the “Not much in it yet, but beta proof of concept Laser 3.14 Walking Tour of Amsterdam Map.”
(Bad news: Flyr now appears to be defunct. Good news: Flickr does this all by itself now:
Of course, now I have to convince my fellow Laser fans to geotag their finds or go out and photograph the entire scribbled city myself. So yo, if you live in Amsterdam, help me find and make digital a geographic outline of the collected works of Laser 3.14. Let’s create a visual concordance of his writings upon the page of the city.
But let’s ensure we use this map for good, not evil. And remember, we aren’t the only ones who are looking:
Stretchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Today is a holiday in the Netherlands and I took the day off (well, most of the day, there was a story on GE Papaya and what it has done to the Hawaiian papaya market to post.) Other than that, a day of playing with the boys and pursuing idle thoughts and interests:
–I noted that saying “Hawaiian Papaya” out loud does funny things to your face.
–I put together a graphic for the “The debate about climate change is over” campaign and then decided it was obvious depressing and sucky.
–But I had fun learning how to create flaming letters in photoshop and twisting and distorting text. I’m officially nuts about Good-Tutorials.com
–Doon taught me the proper steps for the disassembly, cleaning, and reassembly of a B-Daman
–Marth and I talked about installing a new pump and filter in the fish pond, but it was a cold and drizzly day and we moped out the window
–I added a daily update on news about squid to my RSS news feed.
–Finally found the article on building smarter to-do lists at 43 Folders which I originally read in Make Magazine. Whole lot of sense here.
–I geotagged some of my photos on Flickr so you can see the precise location they were taken.
–I set up a store over at Cafepress selling t-shirts and various items dedicated to irradicating apostrophe abuse
–I read a bit from my current book, a despairingly mediocre potboiler trying to be literature, Shadow of the Wind
–Went O boy O boy when I saw that Anthony Lane was reviewing the Da Vinci Code in the New Yorker, and cheated by reading it online rather than waiting for my copy in the post. Howlingly funny.
–I updated some of my Del.icio.us bookmarks
–I downloaded the match schedule for the world cup to post on the refrigerator and was dissappointed to see that the luck of the groupings means a US-Iran game is nearly impossible, except in the unlikely event that both teams make the semi-finals. Ha.
–Tried to explain the World Cup to Doon. He wanted to know what team Beckham will play for, and what happens if he ends up playing against his own teammates. He’s not accepting that Dutch team Ajax doesn’t play in the World Cup.
–HawAIian PapAYa. HAwaiian PApaya. HawaIIan PapaYA.
–Right now I want desperately to figure out why WordPress’s Add URL link opens in a tiny unresizeable window that’s smaller than the fill in fields it contains and which clears the clipboard into which you’ve just copied your link. Agro-vating. Update: Fix for the window size problem found here!
–Noodled around a bit on the guitar, which I NEVER do anymore.
So all that was fun. Hope tomorrow’s weather is better so I can get some real work done.