Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ain't No Sunshine and the Floodgates Started to Open

GrabbingTheSunNo4, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

It's been raining in River City lately. A lot of rain, but not the kind of rain that you notice. It's a bit odd, actually. Since we've not had storms, and we have this light sort of a rain, nobody seems to care, or, at least, nobody *did* seem to care. It was just always sort of raining when you stepped outside, but we kind of collectively got used to it.

Today they opened up one of the floodgates in the Canyon Dam. They had to close off the area of the lake by the Hula Hut for a spell and they opened up the floodgates. I guess maybe now people might start to notice. The lake is at the highest level it's been in years.

In other news, I just finished uploading my shots for Picture the Cure, which is a group photography exhibit to benefit the cancer society. It will be held in Toronto in the summer.

In more show-related news, I got word that I've also been accepted into the Center for Fine Art Photography's Black and White international juried show. Yes, you read that right. Little ole' me is going to be in two more shows.

Actually, just like those floodgates, it seems like I've got 4 or 5 shows going on right now. I'm starting to be able to not keep up. It almost feels like years ago, when I was sending my artwork out to 4 or 5 shows a month and I was almost buried under packing peanuts and bubble wrap.

Come to think of it, I bet that's how the people who live near the lake feel when they start bailing-one day they just start bailing buckets and then they stop just long enough to look around and notice that the water's still rising, no matter how many buckets they toss out the door.

Until next swoosh of the floodgate...

Monday, May 28, 2007

In the Future

We might all look like this.

Until next time...

This is Your Brain on Hula

FlowersByHerSide1, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

This is a Hula dancer. You would think that it would be really easy for me to photograph a Hula dancer. She's pretty, she's wearing a wonderful costume, heck, she even has nice pom poms. (Don't we all wish we could go through life with nice pom poms?)

But, noooo. Not me. So far, I've transfered her, I've Ortoned her, I've Gaussian blurred her (sounds painful, but it's not) I've reflected her, I've done all kinds of "Carol's at it again" things to her and what do I have to show for all of this?

A mass of confusion, that's what. The Orton stuff looks "too Orton-y," the reflections, a bit too abstract, the "stright" stuff, well, just a bit too straight. Geesh. All that and now I can't make up my mind about any of it. I think I need a vacation or something (oh wait, that's how I got the Hula dancer shots to begin with, never mind....)

And, um, speaking of "straight," the good folks in the Badlands (that's South Dakota in case you weren't paying attention) had better be on high alert. Rumor has it that the TiVo nemesis of my nightmares, Nicolas Cage is filming a new flick there. (Best guess is that, in some kind of "sequel" to a movie I didn't get to watch but TiVo recorded 1400 times anyway, Mr. Cage is busy defacing Mt. Rushmore in a slightly nobel but yet somehow still overpublicized attempt at making "high art," or, um, maybe just gobs of money.)

To quote Barbara, my photography teacher from long ago, "Great. Just what the world needs now. More photos of four straight white men." (And, um, actually "five" if you count the TiVo infester turned George Washington face climber.)

Well, gosh, I sure hope you weren't counting on film of the Hula dancer to save the world.

Until next Dead President immortalized in stone...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Invariable Likeness of Blue

SeaAndSky, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

Ok, I admit it. This is not the best photo I've ever taken. In fact, I'd go out on a limb here and say it's not as good as most. It's not that it's bad, it's just that, well, it's just sort of boring. It's only one color and there's nothing happening, nothing going on to draw interest, in the image. It's just sort of, well, *there* in a boring, dull, lonely old, "why did I waste valuable pixels on you?" kind of a way.

But, I like it. In fact, I more than like it. It's turning into one of my favorite images. It's just so...simple. It's just there. I remember what it was like to be there. Just the sun and the sea, and the little swells of the ocean, gently lifting me.

I mean, it doesn't scream Hawaii or anything, in fact, it's so silly, it could have been taken anywhere. Heck, for all you know, with all the manipulations I do, and all the HDR shenanigans running amok in the universe, this could have been taken in my bathtub. It only looks like water, right? I mean, for all you know, why, it doesn't have to be even really blue now, does it? Why, this could very well be an overgrown glass of H2O from the faucet, Hawaii be damned. (Maybe that blue stuff is really some kind of oddball bubble wrap, disguised as water, photoshopped for your viewing pleasure?)

But, it isn't. And, it wasn't. It's Hawaii. In all it's, well, just *there*-ness.

Until next time...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Dandy, Just Dandy

DandyPufftDeath, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

So, it's time for my Sunday check-in. Ah-choo! My allergies are really bothering me but, in the world of Carol, this is actually a good thing. Why? Because, well, it means we are celebrating something called "spring." Yes, you read that right, it's actually spring in Texas. No jumping from 23 to 107 without passing through a cool, comfortable 86 this year. Nope, not for us. We got spring! Yay spring! (Of course, now that I've said that, you know, you just know, it's going to be 106 tomorrow but hey, for now, we've got spring.)

The winery trip was great. The weather held-even though we could have used more clouds in the sky, there was a breeze and it wasn't overly hot (for a change.) The sun was a little high but a lot of the stuff was indoors so it might just work out ok.

On the way to the winery, we stopped to photograph an alpaca, who was determined to spit at me. He kept smacking his lips like he was getting ready to let loose any second. Ah yes, the glorious wonders of the animal kingdom-the alpaca is indeed some kind of "spitting" cousin of the camel and, yes, I do remember that old adage, "you're no dromedary until some dromedary spits at you." Ugh.

On the bright side, the winery was a much easier photographic subject. (It had to be, right? I mean, it didn't spit!) It was very industrial inside, which, I think made for some interesting shots.

Then again, after the fluffy winterized spitting camel and the seven variety wine tasting, who knows?

Until next hump...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Flower Power

TwoBlowingRedFlowers, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

It's been a really great year for some of the species of wildflowers that typically grow in Central Texas in the springtime. Especially black eyed susans and indian paintbrush flowers, although the juggernaut of all wildflowers from Central Texas, the bluebonnet, didn't have a bad year either, come to think of it.

I may be the only one but I always like to add a little motion blur to my flowers. I love the sense of painting that you can get from standing still, shooting, and letting the wind do the work. I'm sure it's not too popular-most folks probably prefer the "crispy sharp f-16" variety of flower, but still, it's my blog and so I can embrace the blur every now and again, right?

Speaking of embracing, blur, and all that, I'll be going out of town this weekend, taking a tour of some of the Central Texas wine making facilities. I've never shot a winery before, and I'm not quite sure my "soft, motion, blur, feminine" style is going to work with that kind of material so expect a big question mark all around. I figure though, it's spring, it's nice to get out, and it's worth a shot (excuse the pun) so off I go. Shooting season, in these parts, is only so long, right? I'd best make the most of it before you "hear" me complaining of the heat and wild, free roaming blossoms like this are lone since dried up and wilted away.

So, it's off I go to the winery. No telling when I'll be back (if I'll be back) how much compact flash I'll have left (HA! Ok, I got that one. Um, let me see...how about....NONE!) and when I'll post again, so please enjoy these two wild flowers of spring until I muster up enough foo to post again.

Oh, and it goes without saying but, should I completely go down in flames, at least I can take comfort in the notion that, heh, there's WINE there. (Cheers!)

Until next hiccup....

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Oh the Humanity!

TheScreamNo1, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

Oh the humanity! It's a scary, scary night. (All that and it's only Wednesday.)

For starters, Criminal Minds has the return of the creepy-psycho-who-got-away, Frank aka "What does the psycho have in the bag." *Shiver*

And, if that's not enough to give you the shakes and shimmies, everybody's favorite psychic soccer Mom turned district attorney wannabe, the lady from Medium, is going to face off with the "re-capitator." (Don't misplace your head thinking about that one for too long.)

Yes, indeed. Wednesday is slowly turning into a night of creeps, wouldn't you agree? (Sigh. If only there were a Nicolas Cage movie on HBO it would be a "TiVo-licious" wet dream. Complete with lots of murder, a trail of dead bodies, and, um, some actor who's probably not heard of me either.)

But, perhaps the creepiest of all creep outs on a night of otherwise creep-a-delic TV has to be my favorite standby, American Idol. I'm just scared they'll let Sanjaya sing again.

Oh the Humanity! Quick, grab the remote and run.

Until next time...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Exploration or What's So Secret in that Secret Sauce

Draidel ExplosionNo1, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

Flickr has this concept of "interestingness" which culminates in your photo landing into something they call "Explore." Flickr's "Explore" is, according to them, a way for users to see some of the "most awesome photos on Flickr." Whatever.

While I'm not a big fan of the "puppy and kitten brigade" and you already know my feelings about the overdone HDR shenanigans going on within the bowels of Flickr, I'm not beyond admitting that my curiosity sometimes gets the better of me. Quite frankly, I wish I knew how Flickr's "interestingness" algorithm works. It's just one of life's little mysteries that I wish those idiots who make the "Idiot's Guide to..." books would reveal. Call me what you will ("shallow," "petty," other words come to mind) make fun of me, heck, even call me "jealous" but, one day a few months ago, I embarked upon a little personal journey. A journey that took me about as far as I was willing to go into the great abyss of that algorithm called "interestingness." A journey a little deeper into those aformentioned "bowels of Flickr" to see, well, just what the heck was going on around here.

Here's what I did. In the course of my regular shooting, I shot an image I thought maybe (just maybe) could make the ranks of Flickr's explore. (For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I shoot mostly experimental photography, architecture, lensbaby-type stuff. Not the usual Explore fodder. Despite my subject matter and choice of technique, I have been an exhibiting photographer for about 15 years. I've made it into juried shows. I've sold work. I've had gallery exhibits in places like New York and San Francisco. I'm not a "photographic slacker" by any stretch of the imagination. I can gage an aesthetic and know when I'm close, though, in this case, I did not set out to do that-it just happened. And, yes, I do have a few photos already in the ranks of the "evil" Explore, though I've no earthly clue as to how they got there, who put them there, or any of that goodness and light. Nor do I care. I'm just not that into Explore, I wanted to figure out the logic behind interestingness.)

So, I took my "explore worthy" image, uploaded it into Flickr and set out to get it into explore.

The first thing you need to know about Explore is that it appears to be sort of time sensitive. That is, if a lot of people look at your photos in a short period of time, your image appears to have a better chance of making it into Explore. So, it would naturally follow that you'd want to expose your image to as many people as possible in order to make Explore. And, you might be right about that assumption, but there are a couple of caveats.

Some of the ways you can share photos on Flickr are by putting them into groups, by showing them to your contacts, or just by somebody checking the "everybody's" photo link as you are uploading your photos.

Let's first explore contacts. If one of your contacts leaves a comment on your photo, that seems to raise it's interestingness factor, although it seems to go up more if somebody who is not a contact of yours leaves a comment. That is, to get the highest interestingness factor, you need to attract viewers from outside of your regular Flickr "circle of friends." So, you want to get your friends and family to see your picture, and leave a lot of comments, or all view it at the same time, but you also want to attract new viewers-folks who haven't seen any of your images yet and who are outside your ordinary circle of Flickr friends.

One way to do this is through groups but, once again, there are a couple of caveats here too. Putting your pictures into some groups, specifically groups that require comments (Score ME! Hit, Miss, or Maybe, come to mind) actually lowers your "interestingness" score. Why? Well, to put it bluntly, it's because people were once abusing it and so the Flickr interestingness algorithm was adjusted to account for this. (I actually tested this theory out with my image. I had it rising in interestingness, let it get ranked a personal #14 or so, put it into one of these groups, and watched it drop to #43 or so. So, I can attest that these groups actually drop your interestingness factor quite a bit.)

One good way to get attention in groups is to participate. Join some of the more popular groups and post images into threads but do it wisely. If you take your carefully crafted flower macro shot and place it in a "60 miles per hour" thread, nobody's going to believe you and you'll lose a lot of street cred in the deal. Participate with your best driving shot, or find a more appropriate forum for your flower macro to make it work. (In the case of a flower macro, consider joining a group like Nature1-2-3 which could give you a lot of views but don't just "dump and run" into the pool. Leave a lot of comments for other folks, so they might turn around and check your stuff out as well.)

The most non-obvious way to get more views is by the "everybody's" button. Most people don't think of this but, if you alter the time of day that you upload, and you wait for a lot of other folks to upload different photos, then "sneak" yours in, you have a better shot of making Explore. Think about it. If you have a flower macro you want to get into Explore, and everybody's uploading portraits, you have a better shot. So, one way somebody might make the ranks of Explore is to take brilliant flower macro shots and then upload them in the dead of winter, when nobody's shooting flower macros, because there's snow everywhere. (Of course, Flickr is international, so it's always "spring" somewhere but, you get the idea.) This also works with groups. Monitor the 1-2-3, World Through My Eyes, 3-2-1, and other popular groups for a stream of work that runs together and stuff in yours when it's different enough to make folks click on your thumbnail. Wait for a bunch of green shots to pop in your red one, or wait for a string of portraits to slip in your flower macro-try to avoid adding your flower macro to the end of a stream of flowers-this will gain it a bit more attention and might get you viewers.

The best way to make Explore?

  1. Take interesting photos-specifically images that look like they belong to Explore. If you don't match the aesthetic, well, it's harder to get into the club.

  2. Upload at various times throughout the day to see when your shots get the most notice.

  3. What which groups you post into-post into groups that will give you the most hits: specifically, hits from people who are not currently in your Flickr circle.

  4. Don't overpost. Posting something in 50 groups makes everybody bored and nobody wants to look at your stuff.

  5. Don't post into groups like Score Me! which, while fun, lower your "interestingness" ranking.

  6. Leave other people lots of comments and hope they will reciprocate. Sometimes leaving comments for people spurs them into leaving comments for you.

  7. Participate in group threads but do it wisely. A well-placed image can earn a lot of views in a short time but it should match the topic at hand. Also starting interesting threads is a great way to get your image at the top and probably earn you more views.

  8. Keep the better images you upload at the top of your stream. For example, make sure that, if you upload 10 images, the last one you upload is the strongest. That way, if somebody clicks on your 'Photos" link to view your stream, they will see your best shot, and might be more inclined to leave a comment.

  9. Remember that they change the algorithm for Explore from time to time and that images in Explore today might not be in Explore tomorrow so enjoy your fame while it lasts.

  10. Try to participate in groups that have better work. Seek out groups that have a lot of members who have images in Explore. If you find a group with stronger work, get involved. This will earn you more views, since the work is stronger and people will follow the group more closely.

Finally, and most importantly, don't take Explore too seriously. It's just a numbers game-having more photos in Explore does not make somebody a better photographer, it just makes them more popular in some ways. Think of it this way, Madonna has sold more records than Leontyne Price.


Until next time...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Amber Eyes at the Airport

PetesGoldenEyes, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

These are Pete the dog's golden eyes.

Good news on the dog front. Pete, the dog you see pictured here, has been adopted. Yay! There are still tons of dogs available at the Town Lake Animal Shelter as well as the Austin branch of the Humane Society. Everybody should get a chance to save a life if they can-it feels good. (Charlie, for those who don't know, was adopted from Town Lake.)

The Austin Animal Attractions show is up now, behind gate 11, until July 25th. If you are stuck in the Austin Airport (ABIA) for any amount of time, stroll down to gate 11 and check out the animals. You can see Pete, the dog, and all of his other friends, hanging on display, nicely framed.

All that and you can say, "I knew him when..."

Until next time...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Running Around

RunningChase, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

This photo pretty much sums up my day today. I spent some time with dear Mom, had a great dinner and all, but had to go shopping. Got back and now there's stuff around the house to do, plus I have tons of photography-related work piling up to which I must attend. I have to make some prints, send out some notifications, clear some compact flash (oh God, do I have to clear some compact flash) and a host of other things.

This shot is from "5th of May" which is a group "Flickr-gasm" involving everybody around the globe (actually, the "Flickr universe") taking pictures on May 5th and then uploading them for our universal viewing pleasure. We're not to be the only ones to share in this fun-am told that they have plans in the works to make a book and a slide show of sorts and some upcoming summer events. We're only allowed to submit 1 (count 'em-1!) photo into the group pool and, sorry, Chase, this one probably won't be mine but I thought you might enjoy taking a peek anyway. (Pretty much sums up my day. Hope yours is going better.)

To all the Moms out there...I hope you enjoy your day.

Happy Mother's Day!

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sit Down, Have a Smoke and a Beer

This guy was visiting Venice from Sri Lanka. His friends kicked him to the curb because he smoked. They sent him outside, on a cold night, to have a smoke on the sidewalk, rather than stay inside and have warm tea with them.

We stopped to talk to him for a while. He was a nice guy, very interesting and, as you can tell, he let us take his picture. He even offered us a beer.

Even though I don't smoke, I'd much rather have a beer with an interesting chap than some tea with some stuck-up "friends" couped up inside. Wouldn't you?

Until next smoke...

Sienna Waits for You

HotelBoatNo4, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

Today, for lunch, I got to go to a fancy, chi chi place in Austin, an "authentic" Italian restaurant called Sienna. It's one of those five star type places that serves all kinds of weird things-you know, stuff like quail and roasted boar. (Nobody I know eats "roast boar" and, I'm pretty sure, if they did, they'd call it "sausage.") I had a demitasse of espresso, which was wonderful, following by a fettuccine lunch special which was "cheesy." The pasta was great (homemade) but the sauce actually had too much cheese for my liking. Next time I'll try the pomodoro, since plain tomatoes promise to be less "cheesy" (in the literal sense.) Still wasn't a bad lunch, everything was fresh and all homemade tasking, which is great. I love homemade pasta.

The restaurant was very good and it did remind me a bit of Italy. It's kind of a neat building, Sienna is, all stone, just off of Highway 360 and 2222 in central/west Austin. The prices are kind of high so I'll probably never get to go there again (always kind of nice when somebody else foots the bill-even nicer when the place they select is someplace you can't usually afford.) It's very authentic inside too, all stone and brick, with lots of Italian style decor and wrought iron. I love wrought iron, even though, it's not especially nice in a restaurant, since you can't eat it and all. Still, adds a nice, "swirly metallic" touch to the joint.

In other, um, sort of kind of food-related news, my favorite slogan from Hawaii had to be one produced by the Kona Brewing Company. "A Mountain of Brew from the Mountain that Spews."

Now that, my friends, is a mouth-full. And, it goes without saying really but, probably not "authentic Italian" in any way, shape, or wrought iron at all. (Although, I do now have to wonder...what is it about me visiting places with volcanoes? Is it the good coffee or just the spew?)

Until next time...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Case of the Flying George

OneDollar, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

In the "OK, I know some toasters have websites but this is really taking it a bit too far" department, I went to get a bag of chips today. Not blog worthy news in and of itself, I admit but, as I went to put my dollar bill into the machine, I noticed that it had some strange purple markings on it. A closer inspection revealed a stamp of sorts, "This is a registered bill. Please enter this bill's series and serial number at www.wheresgeorge.com."

My first thought was, "oh great. Some bank robbers done me wrong and now the feds are going to take back my dollar and give me a "thanks for being a good citizen" speech in exchange." (Oh those pesky bank robbers, always striking when you least expect it.) So I asked Jason, "Jason, have you ever heard of this website? Wheresgeorge?"

"Go try it," he said, "I would." So I did.

Turns out the website is real and it actually does track dollar bills. It even generates a google map of where your dollar bill has travelled. (Myy dollar bill originated in Beaverton, OR and it's travelled 1714 miles in 268 days, 11 hrs. 33 minutes at an average of 6.4 miles per day.) Yes, you read that right. Not only does my dollar bill-the very same dollar bill in my pocket, just sitting around slacking-get out more than I do but it actually has its own website. A website, a google map, and a fan club. Dang. (And, I've never even been to Oregon, let alone a place called "Beaverton.")

What's next? Are my socks going to setup their own ftp server?

Until next high flying yet somehow still dead President...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunday Catch Up

BudsAndFlowers, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

Mom and Dad got a new car this weekend. They got a new Honda CRV. We spent a lot of the day on Saturday car shopping and I'm really tired now, even though I'm not the one who got new wheels.

I still haven't uploaded the majority of Compact Flash from Hawaii. Ah, there's still time, it's not like it's going to go sour or anything, right? (Not like the milk, anyway.)

I have been submitting a bunch of stuff to different places although, like usual, I suspect most of it will get me a "thanks but no thanks" letter in return. Oh well, there's something to be said for getting it out in the first place. (You never do know when you are going to hit, right?)

Spring in Austin appears to be holding it's own. We've had almost rain like weather but it's been nice-not much hotter than middle 80's or so. At the end of the season, I believe, we'll tally up a bit of spring this year, which is always a treat.

That and the flowers have just been fantastic. It's hard to want to keep in the house, clearing off Compact Flash when the tail end of bluebonnet season is still around.

Until next heat wave...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Banyan Banter

BanyanTreeNo1, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

This is a (kind of) close up shot of the roots of a Banyan tree.

For those who don't know, a banyan tree represents eternal life. The roots spread out, new branches grow, these, in turn, spread more roots, and the circle of life (for the tree) continues. Banyan trees are very interesting to me, because of the symbolism. There was once a banyan tree planted in Hawaii, in 1873, which ended up covering two-thirds of an acre of land. Robinson Crusoe made his home in a banyan tree. There have been some famous banyan trees throughout history. Angkor Wat is completely covered in banyan trees-so much so, that the trees are actually overtaking the building structures and we're left with a tangled mess of tree covered walls (or wall covered trees, depending on how you look at it.)

Banyan trees are very interesting to me because each is so different. They are gloriously abstract yet easy to spot all at the same time. I would guess that you could take an infinite number of pictures of a banyan trees roots, keep taking pictures, and never grow bored. It's hard to look at the roots the same way twice and all that twisty, turny "intwination" makes for such interesting images.

Until next time...