The Walled City… Revisited

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Last Sunday afternoon i had a bit of fun. I had a brief stroll around York’s city walls to avoid the bands battling it out in the city centre. Drummers seemed to be everywhere. While on the wall i started taking a few photos and an idea started to come together.

Now those of you who have followed my photo adventures for a while may remember that i did a photo project about York’s Medieval walls called Walled City. Walled City was an important project. It was the first photography book i completed (for the sadly defunct Solo Photo Book Month Project) and I gained a lot of knowledge about the book making process. That first small project led me onto discovering Blurb and world of self publishing.

After my walk around on the walls, I realised that It was four years, to the month, since I’d shot those images and created that book. How time flies. It then dawned on me that a rather fun idea would be to do it again… BUT shoot using an iPhone, with the images, this time  instantly uploaded and added to Instagram or WordPress. A live photo feed over two or three hours.

I did think about doing it later this year but then decided that it would be better to leave it until June 2014. It could, in its own little way, mark the fifth anniversary of the Walled City project. A little homage to a small but important project. It may, if the 2014 project images are strong enough, eventually become a book itself.

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Pressed Pictures

There are plenty of photography apps out there but the Pressgram iPhone app is one that i’m really looking forward to seeing. Quite simply the app works like Instagram but posts the images directly to a WordPress.com or .org site. So i could connect the app to this website and post directly here. I really like the sound of that.

The launch date is currently August 2013 which means that it would be ready, fingers crossed, for my next trip up to Scotland. If it is ready, then i do intend using it to document my travels. Will it stop me using Instagram?  No, i don’t think so, but it is very easy to see why some people would love to have this app as an alternative.

The Pressgram blog can be found at http://blog.pressgr.am/

A Year on Instagram

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Twelve months ago today i posted on this very website about Instagram and how I’d started using the photography network. A year later I’m still using that little app and yet the way I’m using the service has changed quite markedly since that first walk with the photo app.

Filters are often mentioned when criticising Instagram. Strangely I’ve found that I very rarely use the filters built into the app. I use other photography apps to take, alter the image and only then do i  use the Instagram app to upload to the stream. In many cases two or three iPhone photography apps can be involved in the process of taking and getting the image to Instagram. Within about three months of using the popular photography app, I’d come across a separate process I preferred for creating images away from the usual app filter results of the big I. I used my customised system during my time in Scotland in September of last year and still use variations of the same system now.

So why don’t i touch the Instagram filters? To some extent it appears to stem from my documentary photography background and controlling what i produce. I really don’t like to manipulate images too heavily. If i can’t do it in a darkroom then I’m probably not interested. Even with PhotoShop i tend to think of the software as a digital darkroom rather than the all powerful image alteration tool. This appears to have extended itself into my mobile photography although i must admit I’m not too keen on the visual styles filters on offer in Instagram. The traditional areas of contrast and saturation, dodging and burning are my main aesthetic vices rather than a look or style from a particular camera, lens or film.

So really the main role of Instagram over the last nine months has been that of a distribution engine. It’s quick, simple and ridiculously easy to use. Following other photographers on Instagram is a breeze and there are some really talented people using the service. I just hope that their are no more foul ups like the terms and conditions issue that eroded huge amounts of trust and led many photographers to delete their accounts and leave Instagram.

Finally i need to mention a similar service called EyeEm that i  heard about during the terms and condition’s fiasco. Similar in many ways to the Instagram system, one of EyeEm’s winning features is allowing full frame uploads of phone images. While i love Instagram’s square format, it can be rather restricting so its nice to have an alternative place to show full size images. EyeEm could do with a few more active users but it does work exceptionally well and offers something subtly different to Instagram’s service.

A Portrait of Hamish

This rather impressive looking chap is Hamish, or if you want to use his full title – Hamish McKay Denovan. This shot was taken and uploaded to Instagram but also shared on Twitter via MobyPicture. This portrait of Hamish is the most viewed image I’ve had recently on a social network and the retweeting of the photo started almost instantaneously.

Mountainous landscapes of Glen Coe… meh! Scottish castles and lochs…. meh! A picture of a Highland cow…. yay!!! Why some images take on a life of their own after release onto the net, while others do not, is the reason why photography, and how we view and consume images, is so fascinating. Some photographs just hit the right audience and surprisingly Highland cattle appear to have quite a following out there on the internet. One re-tweet even came from a Highland cow who claimed he was a relative! 🙂

As regular followers of the blog may already know, this summer saw me start using Instagram, the photo social network app that allows you to add filters and upload images. The real test for any social network service is how the user engages with it, and Instagram, while it looks relatively limited in usefulness, is actually quite adaptable as a publishing platform. It’s fast, convenient and can be used in any number of ways. How you use the service is pretty much up to you and the variety of use is quite amazing. Family albums, celebrity worship, photojournalism, fine art photography, magazines, news channels and more can all to be found on Instagram. If you think that it’s all about pictures of feet or cats (there is a bit of that of course) then you’d be wrong. Instagram has a very varied user base with a broad range of photography to follow.

Distribution seems to be key for Instagram’s success, even though the filters usually get all the headlines. The photography is uploaded to the same place making it easy for others to view and follow the work of a specific photographer. You can quickly develop an audience that’s all on one website, able to view your work in one place but with the added benefit of also spreading the message outside of the Instagram family using Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr. For me, and it seems for Hipstamatic too,  that is where the the real strength of the Instagram network lies. Although I only upload images taken with my iPhone to Instagram, a number of photographer upload images shot on other cameras. Many photographers seem to use other photo apps to get their images and then upload to their Instagram account. Instagram is, at its core, just a very simple photo blog that’s easy to follow and publish to, with the added benefit of being extremely portable on your mobile phone. No wonder photographers, and especially photojournalists, love it!

So as you can see i have gone from a sceptic to a fan. Last month, in Scotland, I found Instagram a very useful tool for simple sharing what I saw. Often I would shot using just the iPhone’s camera app, then later tweak the images in Snapseed and publish to Instagram. The process worked really well and I’ll certainly be doing something similar again on the next trip up there in 2013.

Recently a great series of blog posts came out detailing the confused situation at Hipstamatic and how they view Instagram. It makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in the photo app/photo social network business.

The articles can be found HERE

Check out my Scotland and Skye Instagram images HERE

For Tweet’s Sake

I did myself a BIG favour during the Jubilee week. I stopped tweeting. The only tweets that landed on my twitter page that week (apart from a reply to a tweet) were the automated Photography Daily News ones pushed out around 5pm every night. To my surprise i found that i didn’t miss it.

My reasons for the tweeting break were many, but at the heart of it was a need to get away from it.. I adore Twitter and find that it’s great for finding out what’s going on out in the world of photography. It must be said though that a number of tweeters easily meet the EU quota for being self indulgent, self promoting, and self important. I don’t follow them but their ‘opinions’ still make it through to my photography feed. Dammit!

Even worse, these people don’t’ usually work as photographers, will jump on any passing bandwagon they can find, and dominate discussions in the belief that their opinions matter more than anyone else’s. They may know bugger all about a subject, but they will still blog about it as though THEY are the fountain of all knowledge. I won’t even go into the levels of negativity found on Twitter sometimes.

So what’s the cure? Tweeting breaks.  I’ve got more on the way over the summer where the Twitter feed can just take care of itself. I will do something else.

Into Instagram

Yes i have succumbed to the dark side of the force 🙂 I’m currently trying out Instagram just to see how it fits into my social networking. So far, i’m just feeling my way around the photo sharing service, and it does appear to have noticeable differences from other photography iPhone applications.

To many photographers Instagram and Hipstamatic are dirty words. Dirty, DIRTY words!!! While both of these photography applications are lumped together in criticism, i find they offer the user slightly different approaches to photography using an iPhone. Hipstamatic is far less of a social networking app than Instagram. I can certainly understand Facebook’s interest in purchasing Instagram… though not the price they paid for it.

So will i continue to use it? Well yes. I went out for a walk yesterday and tried to get to grips with what Instagram can do. Sadly i couldn’t upload any over a phone signal as i went along.. because there was NO phone signal out in the countryside. I did manage to eventually upload some images though by using a hotel’s free wi-fi signal.

As a device for visually showing what i’m up to, Instagram is perfect. It’s a visual tweet, a snapshot, a visual scrapbook – a moment in time. The here and now. I just need to settle in with it.

The main website has a Instagram gallery where you’ll be able to see new and old images at http://www.richardflintphoto.com/instagram-gallery/