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Posts Tagged ‘photos

In what seems like a previous life as a hiker and trekker, I was led by this adage:

Leave nothing but footprints
Take nothing but photos
Kill nothing but time

But the more I explored or led groups to the outdoors, the more I realised that even leaving footprints was harmful.

When people wander off track or create unsanctioned paths, they destroy the substrate. This is why some national parks install board walks — to minimise the harm.

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More recently, there seems to be a movement to strip geotags from photos. Unlike celluloid photos of old, digital photos contain metadata like shutter speed, aperture, and location.

So even “take nothing but photos” needs moderation. This is to prevent pristine locations from being invaded by Instagram hoards who care for like but spare no thought for the environment.

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I have an ice cube’s chance in hell to have my photos selected by Apple for its Shot on iPhone series.

I have zero chance if I put in zero effort. So here is my shot.

Welcome tea

I have embedded a Flickr album of a selection of photos I have taken with my iPhone 6. The album is also viewable directly in Flickr and in my Instagram feed.

One of the best things about Google Photos is how I can upload a photo to the cloud on one device and see it on another device that is connected to my Google account.

I have been using Google Photos since its launch and this was my previous reflection on it.

The editing tools are quite good. The auto-categorization by time and the image search tools are convenient. But try to manually arrange the sequence of photos so that you can tell your own story and you are stuck.

This is where the web version of Google’s Picasa shines. On a desktop or laptop computer, I can drag and drop single or multiple photos around in organize mode.

But the manually rearranged photos only works for me. When I sequence photos to tell a story, I get something like this:

But when I share the photo album with someone else, they see this:

They are the same photos, but in the wrong order. Google Photos favours chronological order. However, that is not the only way to tell a story. That is not the only way that makes sense.

I hope that Google Photos provides this granularity of control to users like me. We are not lazy or stupid. We want technology to help us create. We also want it to not get in the way.

Are you crazy?

That would have been my reaction if someone told me several years ago that my iPhone photos could be put online automatically, be organized, be searchable by theme, and I could have this all for free.

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But today we have Google Photos. Anything a smartphone can capture, photos up to 16 megapixels and videos of up to 1080p resolution, can be sent to Google’s cloud storage without using up your storage quota.

One reason why Google Photos has appeal is that it meets human needs by doing the mundane and heavy lifting. Any photos you take can be uploaded, categorized, and archived automatically.

Once there you can edit, share, and manage them across different devices. You can share them with other people too.

Google Photos may not create new needs, but it addresses existing ones extremely well.

I decided to try the Search tool as I had read that it was good in some ways and not in others. I tried the suggested tag “Cars” because the thumbnail featured my MacBook Air instead of a vehicle.

This is a partial view of the “Cars” search.

The top two photos were spot on. The fact that the first was a thumbnail from a time-lapse video I took in London that featured just the roof of a cab was impressive.

The bottom left shot was of a drawing that my son did in 2008. Google’s algorithms could figure out a child’s drawing of a car.

The algorithms also identified Dr Who‘s Tardis (a screen capture of one of my presentations) and my laptop as cars. The fictional time-travelling device and my computer certainly take us to wonderful places, but calling them “Cars” is a bit of a stretch.

But the algorithms and machine learning can only get better and that is how Google stands to gain by making this platform open and free.

For people to participate in such a global experiment takes trust. Trust that Google will not misuse our photos. Others might point out that we are trading some privacy for convenience. All this means is there is change.

For change to happen, there must be awareness, buy in, and commitment (ABCs of change).

  • Awareness: We know of Google Photos and what it might do
  • Buy in: We believe Google’s privacy policies or are willing to trade some privacy for convenience
  • Commitment: We use the platform and in the process help both Google and ourselves
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I bracketed my trip to BETT 2015 in London with some exploring of the city. But instead of planning an itinerary in great detail, I painted broad strokes and adjusted to the circumstances.

Today I share a story fueled by photos on Picasa. I had previously tweeted some photos and tagged only a few with #edsg so as not to spam the channel.

But there are some things that photos cannot capture. When Twitter eventually rolls its video feature out to me, I will share a few timelapse videos there.

There was one thing I did not get around to tweeting because the phone signal cut out on me. I had intended to tweet: Very little English in England, particularly on public transport. London reminded me of New York City in this respect, as did the punishing stairs and honest griminess of train stations.

This trip was like a lark flying reconnaissance. I hope to return, this time with family in tow, to explore some more.

Hoi An is a world heritage site and it shows. It is very photogenic, charming, and even soulful. But I wonder how long it will remain like that.

If you asked me what my favourite photo was from the trip, I would say it was this one of my son standing among the lanterns. The lanterns were practically a symbol of Hoi An.

But the most poignant photo might be the little girl trying to read by candlelight. I took a few others of identical twin boys also selling lanterns, but they did not turn out well because of the very poor lighting.

I noticed that there were not many children in Hoi An Ancient Town during the day. The few that we encountered were table touts (see this tweet).

The kids came out at night and lined the riverside selling water lanterns or other paraphernalia.

I do not think that all of them really wanted to be there. At least the girl in the photo spent her time reading. She did not even notice her friends around her or me crouching nearby to take a shot. If anyone asks me for a definition of “self-directed learning”, I will show them that photo and tell this short story.

My wish for Hoi An is that it does not become like our Boat Quay or Clarke Quay at night. The place is free from Starbucks and McDonald’s for now, but a few bars thumping bass across the river or out the street are already present.

There is a tourist ticket to buy to enter heritage establishments and to support the preservation of the place. There is a false information in travel forums that you have to pay each time you enter the town. You do not. The ticket is reusable and you use the five tabs on each ticket to enter special heritage areas like shrines or homes.

It costs 120,000 per adult (a mere SGD 7.30) and children enter for free. I would gladly pay more if that meant Hoi An kept corporate entities at bay. I would pay even more to keep louts out.

I like travelling to places where I am very unlikely to bump into the ugly Singaporean tourist. Unfortunately, I heard and saw ugly tourists from other countries. Like the group beside us at Morning Glory loudly declaring what they liked and did not like about their meal. Or the very sunburnt man shouting, “Smile, smile, SMILE!” to a Vietnamese street vendor as he hovered over her with a phone camera.

Incidents like these remind me that the body can travel, but the mind might not. They also remind me to do the least harm [1] [2]. In this context, that would mean exchanging a huge carbon footprint for your footprints. It is about leaving your tourist dollars to do some good instead of leaving a bad impression on the locals.

Here are more photos embedded in tweets of Hoi An, Vietnam.

The other photos are in this Picasa gallery.

I opted to rely more on my Sony NEX-5R for this trip instead of my iPhone 6. The latter takes great photos and more discrete panoramas, but the Sony afforded greater control.

The Sony clacks for every shot in a panorama photo sequence, so it sounds like a machine gun every time it goes off. It also seems to prefer its own charger as alternative USB-powered ones do not fully charge the battery. Thankfully I brought a spare battery along.

The Sony is powerful for its size, but most of its reviews are hurt by its unnecessarily complex operation. Trying to find a mode or setting is like trying to find something in my wife’s handbag.

I also brought a lightning to USB camera adapter for the iPad to transfer and edit photos. While the Sony could create a wireless hotspot to transfer photos, they were not in full resolution and the transfer was a tad slower. The iPad was also a better platform for viewing and editing the images.

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