My Favorite Lens of All, the Sharp, Smooth, Feel of the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

One Last Hand

For those of you who know me or follow my work, you probably already know about my love affair with the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM telephoto lens. Simply put, this is my favorite lens I have ever used in my life. It’s also the lens I use for probably 70% of the photographs which I produce. This is a workhorse lens and I believe it is the sharpest lens that Canon makes. If I could only own a single Canon prime lens, this would be it.

Bet Red

Professional grade Canon L series lenses are not cheap. Canon’s L series represent their top of the line optics. They are what almost all Canon professional photographers shoot with. That said, I think the EF 135mm f/2L USM is one of the best values as far as Canon L series lenses go. The lens costs a little over $1,000 and is amongst the most economical L series lenses you can buy.

I probably shoot this lens at f/2 the majority of the time. This gives you a super clean point of focus, with the beautiful out of focus bokeh away from your primary point of interest. For those low light shallow depth of field photos, it does not get better than this lens in my opinion. The portraits you can make with this lens are beautiful — sharp as tack but with the subtle bokeh around the edges that a lens like this can produce.

Two Hearts Can't Be Wrong

The autofocus on this lens is the most responsive of any lens I’ve ever used. It autofocuses so lightning fast and allows you to quickly lock in on the action that you want to see. It’s a very quiet and very smooth feel when you hit your focal point perfectly on the mark.

The photos in this blog post were all taken on my recent trip to Vegas with this lens. I cannot recommend this lens strongly enough. An example of why I like this lens so much can be seen in the first photo in this post. Forget about it as it appears in this post, click here to see it in full high res glory. Look at how sharp the details are on that photo. Notice the individual neon tubes as visible in the Harrahs and Flamingo signs. I took this photo from the balcony of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, a great distance away. The 135mm EF f/2L USM gave me the distance I needed to shoot down with such clarity on the neon signs in the photo.

The photo of the roulette wheel and the mannequin in the post show how great the bokeh and depth of field is around an isolated focus point. This is another of my favorite characteristics of this lens. Shooting portraits at f/2 on this lens feels just perfect to me.

In addition to portraits, this lens is great for street photography, sports, concerts, abstracts, and so many other types of photography.

As a reminder, my analysis of my Canon gear is being done in partnership with Canon and I am receiving compensation for this work with them. More on Canon telephoto lenses here.

Teardrop

I'll Take Two

Seeing Red

An Introduction to DSLR Photography, the Canon EOS 70D and EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

Just Wait Until Midnight

The very first Canon DSLR I ever purchased, about a decade ago, was the Canon EOS 10D. The very first Canon lens I bought was the EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM zoom lens.

While my photography has advanced considerably over the past decade, this was an excellent starter set up for me. It was a decent DSLR for me (for the time) with a lens, which gave me a very wide range. Ultimately I upgraded bodies and got into more expensive Canon L series prime lenses, but this early set up gave me an opportunity to really experiment and try to figure out if this was a pursuit that I was going to invest more time and energy into.

About the same time I bought my original EOS 10D and EF 28-135mm lens I also purchased a set of Ping golf clubs. I thought golf was going to be something that I’d end up being interested in. I paid too much for what at the time were top of the line clubs. Unfortunately, I never did take up golf seriously and I have a very expensive set of unused Ping golf clubs that sit in my basement today. Maybe someday one of my children will take up golf.

The point of that story is, that if you are starting out with digital photography, you need something that is solid and good enough to take awesome photos, without investing $10,000 into your new hobby. This is why I suggest the EOS 70D and EF-S 18-135mm STM lens as an entry point for people starting out. The EOS 70D is one of Canon’s most popular DSLRs, but it’s much cheaper than the primary body I use, my EOS 5D Mark III. Although I do encourage people to use prime lenses, most people starting out don’t want to buy 5 different prime lenses with 5 different focal distances — that can get very expensive quickly.

The EF-S 18-135mm lens is a strong, high quality lens that you can use with the EOS 70D and shoot everything from wide angle landscapes, to telephoto shots of your kid’s baseball game or school play. With just a bit more range than my first EF 28-135mm lens, it’s a great way to start out. Although I don’t personally shoot a lot of DSLR video, many people do and it’s nice to have such high quality video as another option with this set up.

The photos in this post were all taken with this camera and this lens on my recent trip to Las Vegas.

A Joy You Could Not Measure

Through the Years

Because the EOS 70D is a cropped sensor, this lens actually has even more reach than a 135mm lens on a full frame. A cropped sensor is 1.6x times smaller than a full frame sensor — full frame sensors are the same size as traditional 35mm cameras.

Practically speaking, what you see when you look through a camera with a cropped sensor at 50mm would be equivalent to what you would see at 80mm on a camera with a full frame sensor. For this reason, if you are shooting sports or wildlife or other subject matter where you want longer reach, the cropped sensor delivers more reach.

Full frame sensors, in my opinion, do better in low light and at high iso settings and are preferable, but they are also more expensive and might not be as necessary for someone starting out.

Sunrises Are Best in Las Vegas

One of the fun things that I like doing with a zoom is zooming while my shutter is open on a long exposure shot. This creates an interesting double exposure zoom sort of effect that I use in some of my photographs. The disadvantage of this zoom is that it is not as fast (low aperture number) as some of the prime lenses.

If you end up starting with this sort of a combo, you might also want to consider the excellent value you get from a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II or EF 50mm f/1.4 USM prime lenses. Both of these lenses represent excellent value and are some of the least expensive prime lenses you can buy. You’ll have no problem using the EF-S 18-135mm lens during the day, but at night, or in a much lower light situation, you’ll appreciate being able to put on a faster 50mm prime lens that will work better in less light.

For many photographers the EOS 70D is all the camera you will ever need. Some of the best photographers I know are content to shoot with this body and never upgrade from here. To see some of the best work done with this camera body, check out these photos on Flickr all taken with the EOS 70D. Because this camera will be enough for some folks, I think this is a good place to start.

I personally use my EOS 70D as a second camera — a good backup to use in case something goes wrong with my EOS 5D Mark III and a camera I can keep at my office in case I feel like taking a break during the day and walking around town and shooting. I think it works especially well for street photography given the range you can get with the EF-S 18-135mm lens.

As your passion for photography grows though you will want to consider upgrading to a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and some of the prime lenses that I will review in some upcoming blog posts.

As a reminder, my analysis of my Canon gear is being done in partnership with Canon and I am receiving compensation for this work with them.

Better Lines

Boulevard Poolside

Lay Out

Just Wait and See

A Joy You Could Not Measure

A Joy You Could Not Measure

Through the Years

Through the Years

Optics Matter — Camera and Lens Guide for the New Canon DSLR Shooter

Waking Up With You in Vegas

Last month I spent four glorious days shooting the lights and sights of fabulous Las Vegas. As always, I packed my camera bag full of my favorite lenses and other accessories. I haven’t done a “what’s in my bag,” type post in a while, so I thought I’d use this trip to talk about what camera/lens combinations I used on this trip and why.

In today’s day and age, I hear many photographers talk about ditching their DSLRs for other sorts of setups. I am not one of those photographers. Simply put, I believe that optics matter. I believe that there are things you can do with a DSLR and lens that simply cannot be done as well with other setups. There are unique qualities and characteristics of a well made piece of glass that cannot be replicated with micro compact software based algorithms.

The light going through the glass is primary and fundamental in my opinion, and I refuse to give up the high quality I demand for the convenience of something tiny that I can fit in my shirt pocket, text my friends with or strap to my helmet.

Each photographer must find their own way when it comes to what works best for them, but for me the glass is what matters most of all and there is just no substitute for high quality Canon lenses.

I’ve been shooting Canon digital SLR cameras for over 10 years now and it’s the lenses that allow me to get the shots that I need to get and that allow me to accomplish what I need to accomplish photographically speaking. Like everyone else these days, I’ll snap off mobile shots and post them to Instagram, but what I feel is my more important body of work comes from my DSLR.

To start with, I’ll inventory what I brought with me on my recent Las Vegas Trip — what’s in my bag:

1 Canon EOS 70D camera body
1 Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera body
1 Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens
1 Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM lens
1 Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens
1 Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens
1 Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 Fisheye USM lens
1 Benro Carbon Fiber Tripod
1 Sandisk 64GB SDXC Extreme Pro Flash Memory card
1 Sandisk 32GB SDHC Extreme Plus Flash Memory card
1 MacBook Pro
1 Drobo Mini

All of my camera gear fits comfortably into my LowePro CompuDaypack bag. I keep the MacBook Pro in the hotel room and it is where I dump my photos to at the end of each day of shooting. The Drobo Mini is used as backup, so that I always have two copies of my image files before clearing off my memory card. It easily fits in the hotel room safe, while I am out shooting during the day and night and connects via Thunderbolt so backup copies are quickly made.

So this is my system, but what’s right for you may be a different story.

The number one question I get from people on social networks is, “what camera should I buy?” The advice I give is pretty much always the same — some sort of Canon DSLR set up, depending on your budget.

Part of why I recommend Canon, is because that’s the gear that I love, use and know. I am simply blown away with the high quality I personally get out of the system. For the life of me, I cannot imagine living without the crisp, sharp perfection of my EF 135mm f/2L USM lens (my favorite lens).

While there are other systems out there, this is the system that I’ve adopted and mastered. It does a remarkable job of getting me the images that I want and need.

There are lots of other reasons why I recommend Canon as well though.

When you are a new DSLR user, I believe one of the best things you can do is try lots of different lenses. Because there are more DSLR Canon shooters out there than any other kind, I find that borrowing friends’ lenses is a great way to stretch your experience, then learn and try new approaches.

Over the years I’ve lent my own lenses on photo walks to hundreds of different people and am always pleased when someone gets to try one of mine out. Likewise when I’m out shooting, I always like running across a different Canon lens and being able to swap with a friend for a few hours to try something new. Chances are if you are going to get into photography you will end up with photographer friends, and chances are that more of them will be shooting with a Canon DSLR system than any other.

For example, this past year at Coachella I shot with some very serious high end professional lenses that my pal Robert Scoble got from a lens rental site, the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM and the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM.

If I wasn’t a Canon shooter, the fact that my buddy Robert Scoble brought those really nice lenses would have been worthless to me. As it was though, I was able to borrow these great lenses just like Robert was able to borrow my EF 8-15mm fisheye lens too to get some awesome crowd shots.

Canon’s range of lenses is remarkable and unmatched. There is a reason why the pros primarily shoot Canon. Even if you can’t afford many of the most expensive professional grade lenses, you can borrow them or even rent them from many places online. Their line up is unmatched, which is optimal for expanding your work with new lenses or renting specialty lenses from time to time.

Another positive about Canon is their great service and support. Many times I’ve sent my Canon bodies in for cleaning, my overworked lenses in for minor repairs, the service has always been quick and top notch. Although I’m more self taught and don’t have as much patience for training and education, Canon does have some great resources for the new DSLR user with the Canon Live Learning Center and Canon Live Learning.

These days I usually recommend new users go one of two ways when they want to take the next step with their photography and invest in a DSLR system.

For those on a bit tighter budget, I recommend getting the Canon EOS 70D Digital SLR Camera with the EF-S 18-135mm STM Lens. This is a perfect starter combo and runs around $1,500. While there are other cheaper Canon set ups, I think the EOS 70D provides significantly better quality for a little bit more in cost. This camera holds its value well and is a great camera to learn on. If you decide you want to spend more, you can always sell it back on eBay or somewhere else and upgrade to my next recommendation, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III, is the camera that I personally use the most. It is the workhorse of digital SLRs. It is the best camera I have ever owned. It also costs around $3,400 for the body alone though — so this camera is either for people who have that sort of money to spend, who are very committed to honing their DSLR skills (and maybe even selling photos to offset the cost), or who have tried another Canon system, like the EOS 70D and are ready to take the next step up.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to give more detailed reports on the gear that I use in 5 different blog posts, one on the EOS 70D EFS 18-135mm STM lens set up for starters, and then one each on the four professional grade lenses I took on my Vegas Trip. I’ll provide photographic examples from these different set ups and talk about why I would recommend you consider each.

Although I’ve written several “what’s in my bag” type posts before, by way of full disclosure, I want to disclose that part of the reason for my writing this post now is because Canon recently contacted me about working closer with me as a Canon photographer. They have agreed to sponsor this post and I’m receiving compensation from them.

While I’ve turned down many sponsored type posts from other products in the past, because I’ve been such a passionate Canon user for so many years prior to being approached, I had no problem saying yes to this sort of arrangement with them. When I love a product I’m happy to endorse it. It’s exciting to me to be working closer with Canon and especially exciting to me that Canon is interested in the various social networks and what social photographers working on the web are doing today.

I’m also very open to this post being a conversation about the current state of photography gear — so feel free to give your own input on what works best for you and why. I’m happy to consider your input and also to answer any questions you may have about my gear or recommendations from my perspective.

Western Digital’s My Book Thunderbolt Duo, An Awesome Way to More Securely Store Your Photos

Western Digital's My Book Thunderbolt Duo, An Awesome Way to More Securely Store Your Photos

For the past month or so I’ve been testing out one of the 8TB Western Digital My Book Thunderbolt Duos and I have to say I dig it. Before trying this out, my entire storage setup was built around Drobos. I’ve got 2 Drobo 5Ds with 15TB each in them and a Drobo Mini.

I was interested to see what the performance would be like with Western Digital’s large storage solution and I have to say I’m a fan.

What I like about it:

1. It’s quiet. So quiet. My Drobos are not bad, but the Western Digital My Book Thunderbolt Duo is even quieter. You don’t even know it’s on or there, except for the tiny little pinhole light that is on in the front, and of course you see it on your Mac. For some reason one of my Drobo 5Ds feels like it almost goes to sleep sometimes. When I try to access it in the finder I have to wait a few seconds and I hear it powering up a bit. This doesn’t happen with the My Book Thunderbolt Duo.

2. Thunderbolt is sooooo fast. Whoever invented Thunderbolt should get a Nobel prize for speed. I can’t believe how quickly I can copy hundreds of gigabytes of photos around.

3. The Duo is a bit cheaper than the Drobo for those who may be on more of a budget and need less storage. To get 4TB of replicated storage on a Drobo 5D I’d have to buy about 6TB worth of drives. This would cost me about $800. You can buy an 8TB My Book Thunderbolt Duo for about $650 or so. You can mirror the drives so that you get two copies of everything or about 4TB of replicated storage. Because the Western Digital My Book Thunderbolt Duo doesn’t rely on a proprietary format for replication, if one drive fails, you would always have a perfect backup copy on the other. I haven’t had a problem with Drobo’s proprietary format before, but it’s something that some folks have criticized in the past.

4. Primary data is automatically backed up. I can’t use a backup strategy that requires my manual contribution. With both the Drobos and the My Book Thunderbolt Duo your primary versions of photos are more secure.

5. The Western Digital My Book Thunderbolt Duo is smaller than the Drobo 5D and much lighter.

Setting up the My Book Thunderbolt Duo was easy. It’s just plug and play. Similar to my Drobos.

I know a lot of people will probably comment on this post about how they are doing things even cheaper by building their own solution with their own replicated in home RAID servers, etc. That’s just great, but I’m not a very technical guy when it comes to computer hardware and I’d wayyyyy rather pay a little bit more and have a Thunderbolt solution that is just plug and play, without me having to do any work, or do any coding, or manually buying and installing drives into a server body and all that. Different strokes for different folks though and each person should do whatever works best for them.

There is also a 4TB and 6TB version of the My Book Thunderbolt Duo. You can learn more about them including all of the technical specs on Western Digital’s site here.

Mmmmm... 8TB of @westerndigital storage.  Looking forward to trying this puppy out!

A HUGE disclaimer on any device like the Drobo or My Book Thunderbolt Duo. These solutions may protect you against hard drive failure, but they will not protect you against fire, theft, etc. For that reason you may also want to incorporate both offsite and/or cloud storage to whatever your backup strategy may be. I see replicated hard drives really only as a first line of defense. In my own case I also purchased a large fireproof gun safe and when I’m out of the house or on a trip or something I usually lock my drives up in there. I also have off site backup storage for my images and I’m actually working on a plan this year to begin moving my offsite storage into a bank security deposit vault.

The book next to the My Book Thunderbolt Duo by the way to compare size is the excellent expanded edition version of Robert Frank’s The Americans which was reissued a few years back and is *highly* recommended. One of the best photography books ever published. It’s one I go back to and revisit over and over again.

How Apple Botched This Morning’s Livecast

How Apple Botched This Morning's Livecast

I’m a huge Apple fan. My wife and I both have an Apple iPhone 5s and both own MacBook Pros as our primary computers. We have 5 Apple TVs connected to the 5 TVs in our home. We have Mac minis in the kitchen and in the home office.

I’ve pretty much purchased just about every iPhone ever sold. I waited in line overnight for the very first iPhone down in Palo Alto.

So, as you can imagine, I was looking forward to this morning’s livecast of Apple’s new announcement.

Like millions of other Americans, however, the livecast took place at 10am on a Tuesday morning when I was at work. This is prime time as far as product announcements go. It doesn’t get any more prime time than Tuesdays at 10am.

I tried to watch the livecast at apple.com this morning from work. Unfortunately for me, however, the Apple livecast was only available on Apple products. That’s right, in order to watch this morning’s Apple livecast you had to stream the video from Safari, an Apple browser. So anyone on a PC could not watch.

Even though I’ve spent thousands of dollars buying Apple products for my home and for myself personally, like millions of other Americans, my work computer is a PC and that effectively locked me out of the Apple livecast. Why Apple can’t stream to Google Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer in 2014 boggles my mind, but for some reason this morning they could not.

This left me having to try and watch the livecast on my iPhone. Here I tried watching for about 30 minutes and then finally just gave up. The first 10 minutes or so it just gave me the weird Flint screen at the top of this post. After that it sort of connected, but it was hard to follow because the livecast was overdubbed with an annoying translator translating everything live into Chinese. I kept trying to relaunch the livecast and it would hang, or wouldn’t work, and after about a half hour I just gave up.

I was watching CNBC and trying to follow the announcement on TV, but even there when they pulled to a clip of Tim Cook talking about the new product it was with the annoying Chinese overdubbed translator on it.

Personally speaking I don’t think I’ll get an Apple Watch or an iPhone 6 — but Apple lost a great opportunity to try to sell me and millions of other people one by botching up their livecast so badly.

As far as the watch goes, I’m just not sure why I’d want one. I asked my 13 year old son what he thought of the Apple watch and he told me he thought it was stupid. Why would you want a watch when it already shows the time on your phone, he asked. I guess I sort of feel the same way. I don’t know what the Apple Watch would do for me that would make me want to have an uncomfortable thing strapped to my wrist.

As far as the iPhone 6 goes, the best I can tell is that it’s bigger and bigger is supposed to be, well, bigger? I don’t need bigger on my phone. The size is fine as it is. There was also something about payments in today’s livecast I think, but I’m not sure why I would want to use my iPhone to pay for things. These days I mostly use credit cards because I try to maximize my points/miles I get on purchases. I suppose it would be cool if my phone stored my reward credit cards, but that’s not really something that would make me buy a new phone.

For future presentations, Apple should consider hiring a more reliable company to do the livecast for them or maybe just stream it to YouTube, Google seems to do better at that sort of thing. They should also be aware that if they are going to announce a new product at 10am on a Tuesday morning, that many of their potential customers will be at work and on PCs and they should consider allowing you to stream the livecast from your PC. It’s really not that difficult to stream video to a PC these days, certainly a technology company with Apple’s mad skillz can figure that out.

More of a technical analysis on why the livecast was so badly botched this morning here. (Thanks Buzz!)

More from the Verge.

Viva Las Vegas with Keith Urban at the Cosmopolitan, iPhone Style

This past weekend I shot my first iPhone only concert ever — Keith Urban at The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas with Brett Eldredge and Jerrod Neimann.

I was there with my wife mrsth for our 18th wedding anniversary. We’re both big Keith Urban and country music fans, so when I saw he was playing at the swanky Cosmopolitan (which is absolutely the best place to stay in Vegas these days), I booked us a room there for the weekend and we celebrated 18 years in style.

A great show was made even better thanks to Jessica Northey who put us in touch with Keith’s management (thank you so much Rachel!) who were able to arrange a special meet and greet ahead of the show. There’s nothing like impressing your woman on her special day!

I’ve shot a lot of live music over the years and always with a DSLR, but this time I went sans DSLR and shot only with my iPhone. You can check out what I was able to get with only an iPhone only here. iPhone shooting in low light can be tricky. I felt like I got some good shots though.

At Coachella earlier this year my friend Sam Levin gave me an olloclip. That really came in handy for this show. If you like shooting concert photography with your iPhone, you absolutely *HAVE* to get one of these. It’s basically a telephoto lens for your iPhone and makes a huge difference in terms of getting closer than you could otherwise.

Most shows I see I’m pretty much focused 100% on just shooting the show — so much that I don’t even really have the best time. This show though it was much more laid back without my DSLR and just hanging out as a normal fan with an iPhone. One of these days I would love to shoot Keith Urban with a DSLR, but the Vegas show was perfect just like it was with the iPhone.

And about that show — WOW! if you haven’t seen Keith Urban play live yet you really should. In fact he’s in the Bay Area Saturday night in Mountain View if you want to check him out for yourself. He puts on a really rocking show digging deep into his repertoire with so many of his greatest hits. Keith has a ton of energy and he and his whole band really put on a super fun and kick ass live show — that man can play guitar!

Both Brett Eldredge and Jerrod Niemann are great opening acts. My wife especially enjoyed the fact that in Vegas Brett played a bit of Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon, which was coincidently the first song that we danced to at our wedding 18 years ago.

Keith’s got other dates coming up in Oregon and Washington if you live there. You can check out the remaining dates of his Raise ‘Em Up tour here.

You can check out all of my live music concert photography here.

The New and Improved Flickr

Flickr Staff Pre Marissa Mayer

Flickr Staff Today

Look at the two screenshots above. I took the first one in April of 2012, a few months before Marissa Mayer became CEO of Yahoo. The second one I took earlier today.

Between pre-Mayer 2012 and today, Flickr’s staff has grown from 39 people working on Flickr to 109.

About half of the 39 working on Flickr in 2012 are no longer on the team, which means that over 80% of the new, much larger team has been built since Mayer took over at Yahoo.

After years of layoffs, CEO neglect, and lackluster product development, Flickr is back in a big way, firing on all cylinders.

Under solid new leadership by former Googler Bernardo Hernandez, Flickr is getting strong and competitive again in photo sharing.

All Flickr users have been given a terabyte of free high res photo storage.

Flickr is making new smart and interesting acquisitions around the photo sharing space.

Flickr recently relaunched a new and much better received photo page.

Flickr’s new mobile app is among the best of breed with a 4.5 star rating in Apple’s app store.

Flickr more recently has been ramping up photowalks and community again and recently hinted at future plans to help photographers monetize their photo collections.

Marissa Mayer is the first Yahoo CEO to publicly have a Flickr photo page herself.

I’ve had a few different opportunities to interact with staffers at the new and improved Flickr over the past few months and have come away each time super impressed at the new life that seems to flow through the team.

Unlike the old Flickr, where staffers were demoralized over layoffs and hostile with users, the new Flickr feels incredibly positive and optimistic about Flickr’s future. A bright team of really smart engineers, designers and product managers are as enthusiastic as I’ve ever seen. The energy and morale at Flickr feels very high right now.

I think the future really looks bright for Flickr and am happy to see the sort of rebirth and revitalization that is taking place there. While there still is a ton of work that can be done to make Flickr even better, I’m more confident than ever that Yahoo is going about it the right way and that Flickr, for the first time since being acquired by Yahoo, is in capable hands.

Former Yahoo Jeff Minich recently wrote a post defending many of the ways that Mayer has improved Yahoo since taking over there as CEO. In it, he makes an important point that in order to really improve a tech company, you need to grow it. You can’t just lay people off to save money.

Minich makes the point also that even as Yahoo has hired/acquired many new talented engineers, they’ve also managed the slackers out. I think the growth and change in employee composition at Flickr is a visible example of this — and I think the improvement in the product (especially in mobile) shows for it.

If you are a photographer and have been neglecting your Flickr account, I’d encourage you to check back in and see where things are headed going forward.

You can find me on Flickr here.

10 Things Google Should Consider in Launching a Standalone Photo Sharing Service

Google used to have a standalone photo sharing service. It was called Picasa. I never really liked it. It wasn’t a very social site. I thought Flickr was a lot better.

Today’s news out of Bloomberg is that Google is looking to spin off Google Photos from Google+. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. You never know. The timing of Friday afternoon stories and leaks always makes you wonder. Usually when companies want to push something they release it more like Tuesday mornings or make a big deal about it at I/O or something.

Whatever the case, photos has been one of the highlight use cases for G+. Many photographers have flocked to the site and I think it’s done a pretty good job with photos overall.

*If* Google is going to launch a standalone photo service though, they should really go all out. I worry that they’ll launch something less than fully baked — it will generate a bit of initial excitement and then lack stickiness.

With that in mind, here are 10 suggestions that I’d give Google in launching a standalone photo sharing service.

1. Flickr has raised the bar by giving everyone a full terabyte of high res photos. Flickr made one big mistake with this offering though. *Private* high res photos are of very little value to a photo social network. Public photos are *very* valuable to a photo social network. Public photos are worth more to a social network than the cost to store the photos. Flickr just gave everyone a terabyte without distinguishing the visibility of the photos. Google should offer at the launch either unlimited or 2TB of high res public photo storage with every account. This will get great press and attention.

Go big or go home I say. Nobody can maintain cheaper enterprise storage than Google, and it’s only going to get cheaper in the future. Don’t be blinded by the open-ended liability of high storage limits. Public photos on the web are only going to get more valuable in the future and storage is only going to get cheaper.

2. Partner with photographers to sell their photos. Flickr just leaked something like this earlier this week. Partnering with photographers to sell photos is not just about stock photos as revenue (although the stock photography market is in fact a multi-billion dollar market ripe for disruption). This is about attracting the sorts of high quality photographers to your network because they will be *paid* for participating through photo sales. By providing photographers an avenue to sell their stuff and make real money, you endear them to your network. Tie the visibility of their work, in part, to their level of activity on the network — not directly, but just float that out there so that photographers feel like the more active they are on the network, the more $$$ they may make.

3. Create a super light weight mobile client like Instagram. Make it so simple. Tap/tap to +1, like, fave, whatever. Really dumb it down. Just something to follow your friends’ stuff and favorite it without all the other clutter of G+/Facebook getting in the way.

4. Build an intelligent way to organize albums by keywords. Manual album management sucks big time. Let me build albums by keywords (this will also encourage more keywording which is valuable organizational metadata for Google to have). Study what Jeremy Brooks has done with SuprSetr and build something like that but even more intuitive and easy to understand and use.

5. Build intelligent groups for photographers to hang out in on the photo network. Unfortunately Google got one thing very wrong with communities in G+, which is why communities never took off. They refused to bump threads based on new comments. This ensures that all threads die quickly. It’s the longevity of conversations that fuel community interaction. Refusing to bump threads based on comments makes large groups completely chaotic and unusable. Why invest in a conversation that will be completely buried and dead in 24 hours and that I’ll never be able to find again? Let me mark conversations as favorites and feed all my favorite conversations to me in a feed ordered by recent comments/activity.

6. Go mosaic big time. On the web, give users a huge wall of photos with infinite scroll to just scroll through and +1. Code the site so that if you are hovering over any photo and press the “f” key it +1s it. Lubricate social activity on the web. Social activity begets social activity. The more you make it easy for people to like/fave/+1 stuff and the faster you make it, the more you get. The more people get, the better they feel about the network.

7. Spend some serious money the first year on community management / evangelism. Hire a whole bunch of photo community managers and partner with influencers all over the world. Require community managers to host at least 2 photowalks a month in their geographic region. Require them to spend 10 hours a week inside of social groups interacting with photographers on the new site. Bombard your users with interaction from Google Community Managers. Make sure Googlers are using the site to share their photos, especially visible senior management. Keep track of how many +1s, comments and other interactions Googlers have with photos on the network and make sure Googlers know that this matters.

8. Open some fine art physical galleries. These can be used to host meetups and gallery shows for G+ photographers. You can also sell physical prints and DVDs of photo series from these galleries. Social photographers love doing shows with their work. Digital displays make doing temporal shows easier than ever. The ego boost a photographer gets when they are showing their work in a group show is substantial. Capitalize on this to draw the finest photographers in the world to your network.

9. The Nik Software stuff from Google is really good. Snapseed is the best mobile photo editing software out there. Analog Efex Pro 2 really is some of the best photo processing software I’ve used in years. Google could create something as good as Lightroom, maybe even better. Build this into the site for processing but also give people the ability to download the software to their computers for when they don’t want to work in the cloud and want to work locally. Sell this software for $99 with a six week free trial. Users who upload at least 5 photos on different days to the new photo network for six weeks should be given a promotion code to get the software for free.

10. Prioritize Google Photos photographs in Google Image Search. Create a button that photo buyers can click in Google Image Search to show photos available for licensing. Leverage the power of Google Image Search to both drive traffic back to photos in the social network and sales through the social network.

That’s all for now.

Homestead Restaurant, Oakland, California

Homestead Restaurant
Address: 4029, Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611
Phone:(510) 420-6962
Menu: homesteadoakland.com

Tried Homestead Restaurant on Piedmont Avenue last night with @mrsth. Highly recommended. :)

The restaurant has great light with an open air kitchen where you can watch the chefs work.

The menu changes daily. The squid, duck and horchata ice cream were my favorites. Here’s what we had:


date night.


Great open air kitchen where you can watch the chefs work.


First course, spicy pepperoni and meat plate.


First course, little gems, avocado, fried onions, buttermilk dressing


Second course, local squid, grilled summer beans, almond & sherry vinaigrette


Third course, grilled duck breast, fried farro, fava beans, apricots, wild arugula


Third course, poached egg, porcini mushrooms, sweet corn, thyme, watercress


Dessert, horchata ice cream, strawberries, churros


Dessert, brown sugar chocolate cake, toasted meringue


I’ve never had madeira on ice before. It was really nice and refreshing with a twist of lemon.


Homestead seasonal spritzer


Fresh garden vegetables used by the chef.


Wood fire grill in the open kitchen.


Welcome to Homestead.


We brought our own bottle of wine, a wonderful 1997 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino. Corkage was $20.


Loved the colors of the kitchen.

20 Cool Things You Can Do With Nik Software’s New Analog Efex Pro 2

I’ve been playing around with Nik Software’s new Analog Efex Pro 2 photo processing software (brought to you by the good folks at Google) all weekend long and I’m super impressed. The purist film photographers out there are probably going to hate this new software, but for you digital photographers who dig an analog look and feel, you are going to love this.

I shot film exclusively for about 15 years before switching to digital in the early 2000s. While there is an absolute undeniable romance with rolling your own film, hanging out in a darkroom with your college girlfriend, and licking the fixer off your own prints you made yourself, it’s not something I think I’ll ever go back to — unless and maybe when my hipster buddy Daniel Krieger finally convinces me to buy a film Hasselblad.

I used to joke around with anyone who asked me what camera I shot and tell them a Holga. Now it’s like I really am shooting a Holga, just with my Canon 5D Mark III. ;)

Anyways, check out 20 different looks you can create with Analog Efex Pro 2. I’m a fan. You can buy it here if you want.


Motion Blur. It’s like owning a lensbaby without having to actually use one of those horrible awkward things. Just kidding, lensbabys are great!


How did I ever get a double exposure of this classic neon sign? I’ll never tell.


Hey It’s Amanda Morgan shot with my cool Toy Camera #9.


Wet plate photography, without all the sticky wet plates.


Jenna Jamieson shot with Toy Camera #1.


Every respectable concert photographer brings their Toy Camera #2 to the photo pit these days. Chvrches rock!


Instant triptychs.


Classic Camera #7 has such a nice warm film feel, doesn’t it?


Hey tilt shift and I didn’t even have to buy the $2,500 Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Tilt-Shift Lens! Which is a totally awesome lens by the way that I actually will buy someday. Canon L lenses are the best. I cannot say enough positive things about all my Canon glass. I’m not being sarcastic there, I’m being serious.


One of my neon signs that I took back in 1972 while on a photography junket across America with Stephen Shore.


Motion blur with Jeremiah Owyang. It’s just like Star Wars only better because it’s got Jeremiah in it.


Colorcast #2 makes butterflies look so pretty.


Colorcast #2 makes models look so pretty too, but this one was already pretty to begin with. :)


I think this painting from the Met in New York City looks better this way, don’t you? I could totally print this up and hang this in my house. So can you too, because I licensed it Creative Commons non-commercial. Friends share right? ;)


Oopsie, a little light leak thing happened in my Holga again.


Doing wet plate photography in Holbrook, Arizona.


Love the authentic real life colors from Classic Camera #2 on this San Francisco victorian in the Mission District. A couple million in stock options and this too can be yours.


Smoothdude let me borrow his Hasselblad to make this photo on our Route 66 trip last year.


I took a photo of my Kodak Instamatic with my Kodak Instamatic. Get it?


More Seattle fun with Toy Camera #2.


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