I finally get Instagram

Like most new, emerging social media tools, I'm willing to give it a shot. Instagram has been around for a bit and I downloaded the app soon after it was launched but as a pure photo app, didn't really interest me. I found Camera+ for example to offer better tools and effects that met my needs and workflow better. In fact I became annoyed with the filterization of every photo taken with instagram. Watching people posting their filter filled images took me back 1997 when I introduced PowerPoint to grade 7's and saw them create slideshows using every transition, font and animation. Add to the fact that Facebook purchased Instagram and my lack of interest in that space, I had no reason to use the app. 

But I finally figured out, it has nothing to do with the app. Duh. 

Last week I keynoted the Saskatchewan Middle Years Conference. After sharing two keynotes and 3 workshops I had a woman come up to me and tell me, "I finally get you". Of course I asked what she meant but she said she uses twitter somewhat sparingly and was told to follow me and yet was confused but how I was using and it made no sense to her. But after spending some time with me and understanding the context, suddenly I made sense. 

Two weeks ago in China, Jeff Utecht was trying to figure out how embed a flickr hashtag on the conference website. The great thing about flickr is that it allows anyone to use an email address to post images to the site. No sign up required. We couldn't figure out an elegant way to make that work. In the midst of the conversation, for some reason I suggested instagram since I knew many folks were using it. Kim Cofino was there and is an avid instagram user and gave a plug for it as well. So it was pretty much at that moment that I started seeing the stream of folks I know and their photo feeds suddenly come to life for me. 

Over time I've noticed the community aspect of flickr, where all my photos live, had been dwindling. Outside of a few faithfuls, the number of comments I was getting and giving seem to be coming to a stand still. I post photos to flickr for a number of reasons:

  • unlimited storage and backup (with a $24 pro account)
  • Easily embed them into my blog and other spaces
  • Share them with others to use via Creative Commons
  • Groups 
  • Community: the ability to connect with other users

The first four things are still in place and will continue to be important features but after scrolling throught instagram I realized I missed the community. The other aspect of instagram is the way it tells stories. Watch this short video by Casey Neistat on how not to suck at instagram. (Warning: there's a f-bomb)


The  idea of using your photos to tell a story is a big deal. I've often used Tim Lauer's photos as a great example of the story of Lewis Elementary. Moments and insights into the people of that community. I would love to see more schools using a tool like this to share their story. 

So moving forward, I'll stick with flickr but use instagram as well. I'm still struggling with add ons. Things like not being able to crop an images is annoying. Also while there's a send to flickr option, I"m not sure if it uploads the full resolution. Also unsure of how to add tags for flickr. Hashtags in instagram don't seem to work. As well, I"m not sure where these photos live on the web. There's still some tips I need to sort out so if you're an avid instagrammer and have some great little workflow tip, or idea, please pass that along. But one thing is for sure, I won't be getting all filter crazy. I hate that. 

1461 and counting

It's been nearly 1,500 days in a row that I've been taking a photo a day. I don't think I've missed more than an handful of days over that time. I continue to learn and find it now to be truly be a part of me. I don't ponder whether I'll keep doing it, I have no reason not to. It's not a chore anymore. As I've mentioned often, it's a mindfulness that has taught me a lot of things. Each year I tried to add something to challenge myself. 2008, was my first crack at it so I kept it pretty basic. 2009 I tried to create one word titles for each of my photos without doubling up during the year. Last year was the crazy challenge of trying to attach a song to each photo. This year I simply allowed myself to add video as an option. I'm still pondering what I might do in 2012. I feel like I'm repeating myself which isn't all bad. The fact I still find the the way sun hits the 13th hole at the Hillcrest beautiful every time I play it is likely a good thing. Yet I'd still like to expand my notion of beauty and my notion of what constitutes a moment worth capturing. Certainly not all of my 365 shots are truly worth capturing and remembering but many, the majority are I think. If any of you have any ideas of what I might focus on for 2012, please share. 

Creating a composition video is very rewarding for me and my family. While the photos are mine and represent the world as I saw it, it's a great way to see the past year and remember events and moments we shared and experienced together.  Many of the images have a specific story and memory. Others are representative of the beauty I see around me. Certainly the addition of HDR and other image enhancements add even more awe to the world around me.  A quick scan of the various subjects shows the following results:

  • Family: 86 photos
  • Videos: 44
  • Friends: 40
  • Dogs: 38 (of particular note, 14 of those featured Rue in some type of weird sleeping position)
  • Sky: 32 (likely do do the HDR app but I seemed to be sky watching more than ever)
  • Me: 30 (I need to work at getting that number down)
  • Golf: 28 (I think that's down from last year. I need to play more courses)

Posting photos online continue to add so much to the experience. People have shared many of these moments with me both in person and virtually. We see the collection of these images to tell rich stories of one another and I'm happy to share some of my family and life with the world. 

Technically this video was pretty easy to create. I used iMovie instead of Final Cut Express. I simply brought in all photos I had tagged with 365/11. I cross referenced them with flickr and discovered a few errors. Unlike in past years, I didn't painstakingly go through each month to insure every day was represented. I'm sure there are a few days missing. Not because I didn't take a photo but because I didn't tag them properly. Big deal. Photos are set to 5 second and fit to frame by default. After adding music I tend to view and trim accordingly. Pictures of little meaning or content tend to get cut down to 3.5 or 4 seconds. Photos that have some story or object of significance seem better suited at times to using the Ken Burns effect. I'm not sure I always get it right but discreet pan and zoom can be effective. That's why I don't want to use it as the default. Choosing which photos need or benefit from that effect is intentional. I hope that comes through. I finish with a couple of songs from my daughter which I did in 2009 as well. I tried to make some smooth transitions between the end of songs and beginnings which required some additional adjustments.  

Anyway, it's meaningful to me. and easy enough to share with you. I'm Maybe you'll recall some of the photos, maybe not. Maybe you make an appearance in some, maybe you don't. Maybe you've got 30 minutes to watch it, maybe you don't.


The year in photos, in song, to video

I've been taking a photo a day for nearly 1,000 days. I must say it's likely something I'll continue to do as I represents a wonderful way to tell the story of myself and my family. 

Last year I challenged myself to name all my photos of the day with a one word title and not repeating a word in the process. That was somewhat difficult but kept things interesting. The use of the daily shoot has been very useful for some, but I only use it sparingly since my priority is capturing our lives. For whatever reason, I decided that for 2010, I would attach a song to every photo of the day. That was not only challenging but time consuming and maybe even bordering on stupid. The stupid part comes from the fact that I know that at the end of the year, I take my photos and compile them into a video. (see 2008 and 2009) The video is something as a family we treasure more than any year end newsletter or summary could ever provide. The mix of significant, trivial and eventful photos truly give a sense of a year. The storytelling is indeed personal and leads to more stories that exist behind many images. In the past I've simply brought the images into imovie and added a soundtrack. Still it was a fair bit of work but nothing like I went through this year. I knew this as I began in January and intended to create a monthly video which I did for the first three months. Then I fizzled out and relinquished using a good part of my Christmas vacation to work on the project. 

So after approximately 24 hours of work, it's complete. 

A couple of footnotes:

  • There are not exactly 365 photos. I cross check my flickr photos and iphoto library and invariably miss a day or so a month, and some months have an extra photo. As you can see it's not as precise as one would assume. I think I have about 359 photos. The past 2 years I spent time making sure I hadn't missed. 
  • I unintentionally used the same song twice on 2 occasions. 
  • Many of the songs won't make sense. Some of the songs are inside jokes/stories or just lame efforts as I ran out of creative juices. 
  • I use Audacity to cut the songs, imovie to create the monthly videos and Final Cut Express to compile it. I did use FCE to edit February and so you may see a few different motion paths. 
  • I used my iphone more than ever this year. Particularly after I upgraded to the iphone 4, it does an excellent job. When I discovered HDR, i went a little nuts for a while. Thus the higher number of sky/landscape images this year. 
  • Continuing my association with others doing the same project is essential. i love seeing their photos from both a technical standpoint as well as a personal one. I even created a twitter account to feed all their photos there. I never post to it, only subscribe and have my contacts feed into it. 

I don't expect anyone to take 45 minutes and essentially watch a home movie but perhaps there's some inspiration, creativity you can use in the future even if you just watch parts of it. It's quite a visual and auditory onslaught I must admit. Not sure it's very artful but certainly unique. 

 I'm never likely to do this again but it did provide some creative juice for me throughout the year. I'm still thinking about a theme for 2011. Guaranteed it won't be this taxing.