A few weeks ago, when I was in Hawaii actually, this blog hit its 4th birthday. I’ve been at this thing as long as it took to get my undergraduate degree. In some ways, I’ve probably dedicated more energy into this endeavor than my formal university education. That may be an exaggeration, but sometimes it feels that way.
So why do I expend so much energy on this thing? I’ve thought about this a lot.
Our analytical left brain works hard to optimize our thoughts for making a living. I’m guilty of this and I’m not proud to admit that my university education was meant as a vehicle for getting a better job, instead of the pursuit of knowledge. But there is so much more to life. Quite unexpectedly, working on this blog has begun to breakdown the walls to the creative and emotional right brain.
What good is making a living, if there’s no emotion and passion to live it?
First through photography and now through this blog, I’m tapping into the long dormant creative side that most of us have mothballed since childhood. And as I slowly jack hammer the wall that separates the two halves, I’ve realized that life can be so much richer. Photography trains me to see. The blog helps me to express.
In the last year, my interest in writing continues to grow. I’ve started dabbling in poetry (Haiku) for the first time. I’ve created my first video. I’ve enjoyed tweaking the look of the site and made a major design change last September. These activities feed my creative side.
But, old habits die hard. My analytical mind is fully present on this blog too. Pavlovian conditioning reinforces equipment oriented posts since they generate the most views. The quest for a larger audience may be misguided, especially if this blog is meant purely as a creative outlet. But life, of course, is more complex than that. Sure the blog soothes my desire for creative expression but that doesn’t mean I don’t want a larger audience.
I’m in an active struggle to balance gear talk with photography and creative expression. The uneasy blending that I’ve been working on is to wrap stories and ample photos around cameras I talk about or review. Truth be told, my equipment reviews are a devious attempt to showcase my photographs on unsuspecting readers. People come to find out about a camera and they are presented with my photos taken with said camera. I hope, dear reader, that you don’t mind.
I have no idea what the fifth year will bring. I’ll continue to break down the walls to my creativity. Hopefully you will find this interesting. Perhaps you too will find ways to tap into what interests you.
Thank you for your continued visits.
In Flight Sunrise – Over the Western United States
I’ve going on another business trip later today, this time to The Netherlands for a little over a week. It’s been over 25 years since I’ve been to Europe and it’s my first trip to The Netherlands so I’m excited.
I went to Singapore in February, a place that an urban photographer like me can really get into. The Netherlands is also going to be neat for architecture but I expect it to be very different. More old world, ornate and I hope, dripping with character. While I’ll be working in Breda, a smaller city in the southern part of the country, I’m going to fly through Amsterdam. I’m hoping to get a couple of days of photography at the beginning and at the end of the trip.
I briefly considered bringing 3 mirrorless cameras but settled on two. I find that the more cameras I bring, the more I get distracted which ultimately degrades my photography. The Fujifilm X100S is my primary camera this time. I’ll use it to document my travels as well as the beautiful architecture. I’ll see what one fixed lens, a 35mm equivalent, can do. It’s almost like the old days with one camera and one lens.
However, you know how much I like night and urban HDR photography. So, I’m also bringing my smaller Olympus E-PM2 with my wide-angle setup. I’m going to shoot that on tripod. It’s a very different kind of photography than the handheld shots I’m doing on the Fuji. The X100S is really not geared towards HDRs, hence the two cameras.
Actually, I’ll still end up carrying 3 cameras, if you include my iPhone 5S. I’ve been shooting Instagrams for my on-the-fly social photography. I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t distract me too much but you can follow my progress on my Instagram feed, if you are interested. I don’t expect I’ll be updating the blog during my trip.
See you soon.
I was getting some extra web traffic to an older post and I tracked it down. This month’s Olympus Magazine (March 2014, both the website and iPad newsstand version) was linking to my website. In the article “5 of the BEST underrated Olympus functions”, they linked to my post about turning on the Super Control Panel. Go to page 6 & 7 from this link and click on the yellow circle at the top right (a sample screen shot below).
I didn’t know they were going to do this — I’m both honored and slightly amused. If the manufacturer’s magazine was linking to my post, I must have done a good job, I guess. I update that post with larger images and in my new format. I’m mentioning this for Olympus users to enable this very useful feature and, I admit, to do a little personal horn tooting.
Here are the 2 “how to” Olympus posts I’ve written so far.
Unlocking the Custom Menu on your Olympus
Turning on the Olympus Super Control Panel
Once in a while, when I’m at an Apple Store or a Best Buy, I take a look at my blog. I’m mildly shocked at what I see.
At the end of each post, I see an ugly ad placed there automatically by WordPress.com. You see, when I view my posts from my computer and indeed as a WordPress.com user, these ads are hidden. People outside the WordPress community, however, do get these ads from time to time.
I really don’t blame WordPress. They are hosting my blog for free so it just makes sense for them to offset costs or make some money off my content. But, I’ve worked hard to upgrade the look of my site (I hope you have noticed) and I feel that these ads detract.
I’ve decided to pay extra to WordPress.com and get these ads removed. Many websites these days are so cluttered. I’m trying to do my part to reduce the noise.
Out with the old and in with the new. This is the last image you will see of the old “black design”.
As you can tell, I’m in the midst of the changeover to the new blog design. It’s going to take a while but I will convert the key posts over time. Here is a fully converted post, so you can see what I’m trying to do. As I mentioned a few days ago, I rethought the design assumptions I originally had when I started this thing over 3 years ago.
Back then, I was planning to write a lot less. I wanted a black background to showcase the photographs, but I also wanted a sidebar for easy navigation. That of course limited the size of my photographs. There were some conflicting goals but I lived within the limitations.
Here are my new design goals:
1. Make the text as readable as possible I’m writing a lot more content and having a white background is easier on the eyes for most people. I’m also increasing the size of the font. I tested this on an iPad mini, and the larger fonts make it easier to read on smaller tablets.
2. Larger Photographs This is a photoblog after all so I wanted to maximize the photo size. This is one of the things that always bugged me about the old layout.
3. Simplify the Design I’m decluttering as much as possible, increasing whitespace. Removing the side bar and simplifying the header helps.
Overall, I’m trying to increase the production value of this site. Have good content, of course, but also make it look better. Perhaps even a bit more magazine like, if I’m ambitious enough.
There are always cons to any new design, the biggest one is the reduced navigation by removing the side bar. The Popular and Recent links are now located at the bottom. The font is smaller than I like but I don’t have much control over that. I do plan to put more related links within the posts to make it easier you.
I have a lot of work ahead of me, but hopefully it is worth the effort. Every photograph needs to be resized to the new larger format. I also need to enlarge all the fonts on every post. Finally there are miscellaneous tweaks to make in color and styling to fit in better with the white background.
I hope you like the new design. Please tell me what you think. And as always, thanks for visiting.