Gallery

Best Photos Of 2014

Golden Stag Beetle

Another year done and alas not one as full of photography as I would have liked. However Jim Goldstein is once again running his “Your Best Photos” blog project and I do have a few I’m happy with.

The one above is a Golden Stag Beetle that flew onto our balcony just a few days before the end of the year. Was very co-operative with the camera although the iridescence turned out to be trickier to capture than I thought it would be.

Blue Bauble

New year, new lens. In 2014 I decided to get myself a circular fisheye lens as I’ve always wanted one. The Sigma 8mm fisheye lens was reasonably cheap and has been a steep learning curve. This shot was an early one of a domed walkway area in the Block Arcade, Melbourne.

The next three shots were from a failed attempt at a photo365 in 2014. I just didn’t have it in me to do it and will be looking for some other challenge this year which I can hopefully work around my life which is some flux at present.

ARRRRRRRRRFun little shot with some LEGO bits and pieces that turned out better than I expected.
Wool ButterflyA yarn bombed set of iron rods I found in one the many alley ways in the Melbourne CBD.

Shiny blurA macro shot of a masquerade mask with narrow depth of field that bokeh’d rather nicely.

Towards the end of the year I was fortunate enough to get enough time and spare cash together to head to Queenstown, New Zealand for Scott Kelby’s World Wide Photo Walk which was a fair bit of fun. The first of my two favourite from that trip was surprisingly not from my DSLR but rather my phone:

Hellllllo QueenstownAnd the other was of a plant making its way through the pebble beach on the lakes edge.

All Things StriveA few other shots from the year. First up a wasp resting on a leaf.

WaspA shot using a ring flash from my last photowalk of the year. I’m very pleased with how the detail of the insect came out.

Just restingAnd finally a shot from a lucky little walk I took on a whim where I happened to arrive in the gardens with frost still on the ground allowing for a really fun series of shots.

Frost flower found

Gallery

WWPW2014 – Queenstown

View over the lakeTaken me far too long to write this post. Life and a mild fear of not being good enough lead to some serious procrastination. In the meantime however I’ve upgraded my photo editing rig and spent some time getting slowly better at editing.

Worldwide Photo Walk 2014

I’ve been on a few of Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walks over the last few years, always local events and I haven’t had the guts to upload my photos for the competition side of things. This year I decided to take myself out of my comfort zone and used the WWPW2014 event to do it. How? Head somewhere different, shoot something different.

Queenstown, New Zealand

So a quick look over photowalks that had been registered in easy/cheap to travel locations turned up a small one registered in Queenstown, New Zealand. I had been to New Zealand once before on a short work trip but didn’t get to see much of the place. Many of you may know Queenstown as its reputation for being an extreme sports destination but I was more interested in the landscape which friends and family had described to me as being beyond stunning. The WWPW2014 nicely fell into the Queenstown off season allowing for a reasonably cheap combination of flights and accommodation.

Damn shiny

The Walk

I kind of suspected this might end up being a solo walk as only three people, including myself, had registered for it and an attempt to contact the walk leader a fortnight before hand was met with silence. Sure enough come 7AM on the day no one was at the start point. Just me enjoying the sunrise. After waiting for 30 minutes I set off on my own but was pleasantly surprised to run into the other registered walker, Philip Green.

Philip turned out to be a very knowledgeable and friendly Queenstown local and it was a blast doing the rest of the walk with him. We did the walk was planned along the edge of Lake Wakatipu and into the botanical gardens. Despite the lack of a group it was a pretty good time. I should mention that Philip runs a wine tour business called Appellation Central which if its run anything like how he conducted the walk is more than likely an excellent experience.

Here are the shots from the walk I thought were worth showing:

All Things Strive

Fisheye Lake

Golden Dawn

Half Flower

Philip got this great shot of a Black Shag that seemed to pose nicely for him as we sat there:

The Day After

As I was in Queenstown for the weekend I had booked myself a bus tour with the BBQ Bus out to Milford Sound (misleading name as it’s actually a fjord) which happily turned out pretty well. A lot of tour companies won’t run a tour if only a single person is booked but these guys were more than happy to do so for me anyway and I got a great trip with an awesome driver, Marty.

Marty as it turns out is a passionate wildlife conservationist who had played a pivotal role in helping save some of New Zealand’s most endangered bird species. He provided a great deal of detail about the area, was highly informative and amazingly helpful. A truly generous man with his time.

Milford Sound is one of the wettest places I’ve ever been and has hundreds of tiny waterfalls, low lying mists, sheer steep walls as befits a glacier carved valley. Not being a landscape photographer none of the shots I took I felt really did the place justice and if you’re ever in the area I’d highly recommend visiting it.

Duck on Lake Wakatipu

Dawn before heading to Milford Sound

The Chasm on the road to Milford Sound

Stirling Falls at Milford Sound

Much closer and wetter to Stirling Falls

Cheeky water drenched kakapo demanding food from drivers

Planning For Next Year

So was the effort of going to New Zealand for WWPW2014 worth it? Absolutely. Despite the low turn out and the short time I had there it was a pretty great experience. Met some really nice people, got a few decent shots out of the literally hundreds I took while there. All in all not a bad little trip.

The question now is do I do it again for WWPW2015? I’m thinking yes. Pick another walk out of town and head there, maybe with a larger group this time around. Get out of my element, see some new places and just try to enjoy it. If I get some good shots out of it then even better.

And for those of you wondering if you should be involved in WWPW2015 even if you have no interest in the competitive side of things I highly recommend giving it a go. It’s more about meeting other photographers, talking with them and sharing ideas. It may also encourage you to try something new, which isn’t easy for a lot of us but the pay off can be worth it.

Aside

Digital Content Guide Hidden From View

How not to discourage this guys...Last month with much fanfare, blustering and extensive carpet bombing of media releases a group of “creative rights holders and creative content industry associations” launched the Digital Content Guide with the aim:

…gives consumers help to find licensed digital services which are availed in Australia across the film, music, TV, books and games industries and sporting codes

Basically it was presented as one stop listing for Australian consumers of places they could legally buy, download or stream digital content. Or as the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association CEO, Simon Bush stated to ZDnet:

The lack of availability is no longer an excuse [for copyright infringement]

But there’s just one small problem Simon. No one can find your site. And it’s all your own fault.

How To Interweb?

So why can’t anyone find this site nearly a month after launch? Is it due to hackers? Terrorists? Conspiracy by search engines because they love pirates (actual statement you occasionally see from the copyright holders)? No it just seems that the people they’ve hired to operate the Digital Content Guide website are not entirely competent. It all comes down to these two lines:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

That’s the current robots.txt file of the Digital Content Guide. It’s looked like that since launch day and I’ve been periodically checking on it to see if it has changed. What does this mean? Well they’ve told every search engine bot that obeys robots.txt protocol that they are not allowed to index this site. At all. All the big players in the search engine space obey this setting and have dutifully not indexed the site. Which is why Google shows this when you try and locate the site on its name directly:

Oops

Now hiding the site from search engines is handy where you’re in development and you don’t want it out just yet. Typically you’d set this option, then come launch day change it to allow indexing of your content. What I suspect went wrong here is the website operators forgot that step of their launch list and have more or less ignored it ever since.

The Easy Fix

Just so we aren’t accused of being just nasty mocking people, here’s the fix guys. The Digital Content Guide is a WordPress site (like this one). Just head to your Dashboard, down to Settings and into Reading. Find this tick box:

Untick it. Save. Done. Seriously that’s it. Problem solved.

Why This Matters

While it’d be easy just to laugh this off as “ha look at the internet newbies!” and chortling to ourselves, this lack of understanding when it comes to important internet concepts has massive implications given what the same groups represented by this website are demanding.

Right now there is a lot of heavy push from the entities behind this website to introduce tough new anti-piracy laws in Australia wanting everything from blocking piracy websites outright to getting access via other proposed data retention laws to information that would allow them to directly sue supposed copyright infringers.

While little to no focus has been put on availability or cost issues surrounding digital content in Australia (something I’ve written about previously) there has been a huge push for technical solutions instead from these major stake holders. The Digital Content Guide was presented as a sort of halfway measure to alleviate complaints about availability and access but when the site has been online for a month and they haven’t noticed this very simple stuff up, you’ve got to wonder if it is really meant to be useful to the average Australian user or if it was just a PR exercise to make it seem like they were making the effort.

Add to this the shellacking the Digital Content Guide got at launch time for not being a terribly useful resource to begin with (see here and here) combined with the fact it doesn’t seem to have been updated at all (for example the eBook section is still empty despite plenty of legal sources for these in Australia) it really does look more like a half hearted PR exercise with no real expected future use.

Yet these are the guys that want to have special courts, laws, rules and even technological barriers put in place despite showing that they either don’t know or care how the internet operates. This is deeply troubling, especially when they seem to have such a sway over current discussions.

I firmly believe that copyright holders and creative minds should be reimbursed for their time and energy. I have quite a large (and legally purchased) movie collection. I do not condone copyright infringement in any form but the idea you can solve it through purely technological and legal means is ludicrous. Listen to your audience, change your business plans to meet new demands. Don’t waste your money on websites that you have no intention of people be able to find instead.

Update Oct 23rd 2014

It appears someone either found this article or finally figured out how the robots.txt works and the Digital Content Guide now actually appears in search results. Shame they still haven’t bothered to update the sites content however (e.g still nothing listed for purchasing eBooks).