Posts Tagged ‘Technology’


Little help, please! ->

September 29, 2011

This blog started out as a way for me to share some images and just post some random musings on the world of photography. But in the two years I have been doing it, it’s grown to a level far beyond anything I’d ever expected. It’s opened wonderful doors for me, and helped forge new relationships with people who I respect and who I admire.

But as I am humbled and (quite frankly) amazed by the traffic it is now getting, I am looking to offer options and features which are simply not available on its current host.

I am beginning the absurdly arduous task of moving it off of the centrally hosted, to a self-hosted option utilizing This is going to take some time as I don’t want to launch the new site without it being on par with this one. I have the site itself set up and hosted, and moving the posts and comments has been fairly easy (through an export XML file), but I’m unable to move other things like images and layout/UI settings. I also want to make sure that readers and search engines can find the site when it goes live at the new URL.

If anyone has been through this before and can offer some advice, please let me know by either commenting or sending me an email at

Any help would be greatly appreciated.


BETA REVIEW: 500px iPad App (30 minute review)

September 23, 2011

I was fortunate enough to be one of the beta testers for the as-yet-to-be-released 500px iPad app, currently in beta form.  I am going to give you just my initial thoughts and then will likely do a follow up post once I have lived with it for a while longer.

NOTE:  At the time of writing this, I was asked NOT to include Screenshots, thus there are not here.  But since then, they have lifted that restriction.  Please see THIS POST FOR SCREENSHOTS.

500px is a fairly under-appreciated photo portfolio site on the internet… in my humble opinion.  There are dozens of great articles telling you about the site, what it offers and why it’s superior to most other portfolio offerings out there.   But I’ll give you my quick list, just to add some context to the iPad app.

500px has successfully prevented you from ever having to login and see a given user’s 423 vacation pictures of Disneyland.  This alone it what makes them a great home for photographers and photo-related artists.  They do this by either charging a very reasonable fee for unlimited uploads, which scares off the majority of dump-loaders (those who dump their whole memory card into the service)… or limiting the number of images that the free users may upload to 10 per week.  As a result… at least 75% of the images uploaded are worth a solid look.  It’s my absolute favorite way to find new and interesting artists… hands down.

They also have a very unique rating system that successfully gives EVERY member a shot at the spotlight on the “Popular” images page.  Over time (and by time… I mean… daily) ratings vastly change and you rarely see the same thing at the top of the Popular page.

In short… it’s not Flickr.


Okay… on to the reason you’re here.  I am going to cover mostly features and what I think (although I can never be sure) the product is going for.  Minor bugs or things that I’m positive will be worked out will be sent to the developers but don’t need to be covered ad nauseam here.

LAUNCH:  A splash page starts the software off.  500px is holding a contest to find an image to be the “cover image” for the app.  From here, you flip into the app itself.


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From SmugMug Pro to Zenfolio Premium

September 21, 2011

I used to make my own website for my photography.  This was a few years ago when a) I thought that there was some honor is doing “it all” yourself and b) I had very little traffic to my site.  Thankfully now, on both points, things have changed.  Bringing in an outside 3rd party who’s much more skilled at whatever it is you’re trying to do than you are… is always a good idea.  Okay… maybe not always… but in professional circumstances… yes.

About two years ago, I moved my site to SmugMug Pro (“SM”) – the top-tier pay portion of their offerings and was very happy.  They did all the stuff I didn’t feel like learning how to do.  Interactive galleries, password protection, fancy interface designs.  It was all worth it.  But… after while I felt like the “out of the box” SM experience could be improved upon.  I felt like things looked a little outdated, and seemingly every screen had a million different options that were turned on by defualt.  Some of these items had simple switches that I could turn off to hide them… others did not.  I was directed to a site called Digital Grin where I could learn all the CSS and HTML modifications which would make my site look exactly like I wanted.  It worked.  It worked well.  But… again… I was having to do so much code maintenance that I started to wonder what I was paying for.  So… I began to look for another option.

Not to give away the end of the story… but I will, in order to maintain a certain flow.  I ended up moving my work to Zenfolio (“ZF”)… and I’ll explain why:

I had certain requirements from the site host I was looking for.  And I will be honest… and this is a big point… BOTH SM and ZF actually meet the criteria on all of these areas.  But for each, I’ll explain why I went with ZF over SM — and in the interest of total honesty, I’ll let you know if SM was better than ZF in a given area.  There may be areas where you feel I’m wrong, or have missed a point entirely, but for me, these are the things that I needed out of the site:

Structured Galleries: Allowing me to have galleries within folders to help organize my portfolio as I am constantly shuffling things around and restructuring how things work.

  • SmugMug – Yes… they can do this.  But after two years of working with them, it was still a painful experience of creating catagories and subcatagories and choosing which to display and not display.  Blech… no… this was a total pain in the neck.
  • Zenfolio:  Yes… and its simple tree structure was great.  I could take a gallery, move it, or create a new Category and drop the gallery right into it.  Totally easy.

Plenty more after the jump:

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TIPS: Adding Google+ Short Cut to Desktop (iPhone)

July 4, 2011

Well… it seems that Google may have finally got it right with their new Social Media application, Google+ (or… Google Plus depending on your preference).  It is taking the Social world by storm in a way that its failed predecessor, Google Wave never did.

Google is promising a native app in the future, but for now, their clear stake in the Android platform makes that promise a little shaky at best.  For those of us on the iPhone, however, using the mobile site to access G+ is a bit of a pain… however making a shortcut straight to your desktop is a quick way of mimicking the behavior of a native app.

These steps are not new, but are worth repeating, and obviously, this works for any site you may want to visit via the Safari app.

1) Visit and enter your credentials.

Google+ app on iPhone


Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

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Flickr Photo Group — Looking for participants…

April 1, 2011

Writers have writers groups… I’ve been involved in them, and they’re wonderfully helpful for spurring creativity, and finding constructive criticism. I’m thinking about starting a small one (maybe 10 folks to start) for Photographers.

Who is welcome:

  • Anyone from Professionals to Hobbyists to Amateurs – a good mix would be best.

What is required:

  • A Camera, obviously.
  • A Flickr account.  These are free and easy to manage.
  • A Twitter account is recommended.  Not everyone loves twitter, I understand, but it really is a great way to communicate.  You can find me at @topical_optical

How it works… what’s asked of you:

  • Every week, you must upload at least two images, but not more than five.  These must be images you have taken over the last week.  They don’t need to be dramatic or exotic… just new.  Heck… take a picture of your kitchen table, but make it the best picture you can.  We welcome post-processing (Lightroom, Aperture, Photoshop, etc.) or “au natural”… whatever your style is.
  • On the Flickr group, you must use the comment section to offer constructive praise and criticism.  This should be detailed and informative.  Not just “I really like this image… beautiful”.
  • Respect. If you are a professional that has been capturing images on a $4,000 rig for 30 years… be mindful that some of us are not at that level.

What is this meant to do:

  • Force you to get out and shoot something new every week
  • Force you to critically examine the work of others
  • Force you to take critical examination of your own work
  • Meet interesting folks
  • Have some fun


  • Hit me up on twitter: @topical_optical
  • Email me: contact[at]
  • Comment on this post

Links: 150 Unmissable Photo Websites

February 25, 2011

20 Years ago, Photography involved a camera, lenses, lighting equipment and a portfolio.  Now-a-days, that list has expanded to a computer (at least one), various websites which host images, all sorts of post-processing software as well as all of the social media sites that we are, for better or worse, are now part of our craft.

Personally, I enjoy it, my love of technology comes very close to my love of photography. A relatively new site, PIXIQ (I’m guessing, pronounced: Pix-eek??) just published a list of “150 Unmissable Photography Websites” which, for the time I have reviewed it, seems to miss NOTHING. I may have reworked the order a little, but they put in the effort, so I won’t nitpick too much.

Take a look: 150 Unmissable Photography Websites (via Pixiq)


TIPS: Stock Photography on the [Super] Cheap!

May 3, 2010

After reading a post on Digital Photography School about DIY backgrounds for product shots, it got me thinking about some of the first Stock Photography shots I took.

I never got very big into the Stock Photography scene.  I kept getting my images rejected from sites for thing like “incorrect exposure” when in reality, it was completely intended to be a “dark & moody” shot.  After while I figured that if I’m looking for full freedom in my artistic expression, Stock Photography isn’t the place to be.  But… I did spend a little time with it and have had a small amount of success.  What’s funny to me, however, is that the FIRST stock session I did, yielded what has become my most popular stock shot.  It is a simple image of some prescription bottles and pills on a while background, seen below:

Now… what’s even funnier is my set up.  At the time… I had virtually nothing in the way of even semi-professional equipment.  I had a camera body, two cheap lenses, a totally junky Wal-Mart tripod and other than two 250 Watt bulbs… no lights to speak of.

I mounted one of the bulbs in lamp I had in my living room, and the other in my daughter’s bedside princess lamp.  I adjusted them to get the best and most even lighting I could and just went with it.  If there is a moral to this story, I suppose it’s that no one else needs to see what’s outside the view of the lens.  If it looks good in the frame… then it looks good… period.
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