Usually, I can’t give a flying rat’s ass about Flickr’s Explore algorithm and weither or not any of my shots make it on there. I would head out to Big Huge Labs once in a great while to see if Scout found any new explore picks, just out of curiosity. I’d find that I would have anywhere from 9 – 15 shots on per month. Again, I didn’t care a lot, but it’s a nice pat on the back to see it was interesting according to Flickr’s cryptic algorithm. I last checked in June and saw I had a few on there as usual and then checked again in September – assuming I’d have about 40 or 50 new shots on there. There were none.
I was perplexed.
Did my photography suddenly start sucking wind? My style changed, but I was getting more comments on average per shot, and more fav’s per shot. I continued doing things the way I always did, but it was bugging me in the back of my mind. Did Flickr boot me from Explore? No, they don’t have that kind of time to pick and choose who the like. My analytical mind wanted to figure this one out.
I did find out what they did in June was change up their algorithm again. And last night I figured out what part changed to cause my sudden drop from the interestingness archives.
First off, what my routine has been for the last 30 months:
- Upload my photo of the day
- Visit the streams of my 190 or so contacts
- Comment / fav where appropriate
That’s it. I am sure most of you do something similar. But I am thinking that was the error in my ways – as seen through the Explore Engine at Flickr. What I have figured out is they look at my comments and favs right after an upload as seeding my contacts to come back and comment and fav mine and I am betting Flickr doesn’t like that. In actuality, I don’t need my contacts to leave a comment or fav unless they want to. I put my work out there just to share.
Anyhow, to test this theory, all I did last night was step 1. I did not comment or fav any of my contacts. What do you know, within a few hours, the photo above was on Explore.
So, am I going to change the way I post photos out there now that I have it figured out? No. Like I said, I don’t put much faith into Explore and Flickr is rumored to do away with it anyhow. I just wanted to prove my theory and that I did. I really don’t care if another picture goes out there – I just didn’t want to be defeated by an algorithm.
It’s the stubborn in me.
I’ve been shooting sunsets and landscapes for the last couple years and it’s really a comfort zone. It was a pretty easy mode to wander down to the lake and point it at the warm golden skies and get a perfect sunset. But one of my good friends, Mikeal, told me, Ray, sunsets are a dime a dozen. Use your eye and shoot something unique. I am paraphrasing, but you get the point. I looked at my stream and it did seem to be one sunset shot after another, broken up by still water lake shots. I was in a rut.
So, since he said that, I have been looking for a new angle; new things to shoot that are not overdone or cliche. Through a series of inspirations from various shooters on the web, I’ve began to look at the world right in front of me, rather than the vast expanding landscapes that can be found on every photostream on the net.
And that world was found in the ordinary. Things I walked past everyday. A rock on the ground. A root sticking up from the dirt. A drooping sunflower. By using depth of field and focus to draw your attention to the story this tiny world suddenly became quite vast. And I knew this new style would take quite a bit of work to make it emerge.
To change my style, one of the first things I wanted to change was the way I shoot. I bought myself a Carl Zeiss 35mm lens and went to full manual. Manual focus, manual settings. With that, landscapes became boring and I started to look at unique ways to focus in on objects, such as the off-center sunflower shot.
And I fell in love with Zeiss.
This was no fling, this was true love too. Everything about my shooting was changing – and it wasn’t just because of the D700. It was that this lens was like nothing I have ever held before.
After about a month, I sold all my gear and picked up the Zeiss 18mm and began to open up the world around me. Now, I am picking up the Zeiss 85mm today, and will open up that world even more. Sure, I’ve laid down over $3,000 in lenses in the past 2 months, but it is helping me to expand my passion. So glad I never waited for the fabled D700s or D700x!
No, better lenses do not make you a better photographer, but they make enjoying the road to better photography so much better.