Mount Rainier from Sunrise

Mount Rainier and the White River Valley in late Summer from the vantage point of the Sunrise Rim Trail in Mount Rainier National Park. Foreground flowers are Alpine Aster (Aster alpigenus) and Paintbrush (Castilleja parviflora).

mount rainier and wildflowers from the sunrise rim trail

Wildflowers at Mount Rainier’s Sunrise Rim Trail

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   Back in 2012 I was on a trip photographing Mount Rainier National Park. This was the first time I had visited at a good time for the wildflower display at Rainier. I had already photographed some great flower displays at Tipsoo Lake, but was visiting the Sunrise area as Paradise was fogged in. You can’t see any of the clouds in this photograph but on the other side of the mountain visibility was very poor all day. From Paradise you could barely make out the Tatoosh Range through all the clouds. This is one of the reasons I enjoy the fact they have web cameras at various areas of the park – I can scout the locations ahead for time for weather that might be a problem. On this day I opted for the Sunrise area over Paradise (due to what I saw on the webcam) so I would be able to see Rainier itself. This photo is from the Sunrise Rim Trail on the way back from Shadow Lake.

For more images of this area visit my Mount Rainier National Park Gallery in my Image Library.

8 Reasons I No Longer Use 500px

500px rf sales message   Three years ago I signed up for an account on 500px – an online photo sharing website. I was pleased to see they were based in Toronto and I liked the notion of supporting a Canadian based photo sharing site as I had with Flickr back in 2004. I read their TOS, and all seemed straightforward and uploaded some photographs. Considering how many followers I had a the time, I had a good reception, and one of my photos even had an “editors choice” which gave me some early attention.

   I don’t want to give the impression with this list that I hate the people involved in producing 500px, or the users on the site. If 500px still works for you, great – you should keep using it. I do like the layout and manner in which 500px displays its user’s photography, and the reaction to my photography there was generally positive. I wrote this over the period of the last few months, but have hesitated to publish as it’s more of a negative post than usual. The subject of 500px comes up often enough in online conversation I thought it would be beneficial to write down some of the issues I’ve had over the years and communicate why I no longer participate in sharing, voting, or viewing there.

1. V+F

   I wrote this section a few months ago. Since then I’ve read a great post by Sarah Marino titled “Photo Consumption, Conformity, and Copying in Landscape Photography“. Sarah’s post nicely sums up the issues with voting, goals of popularity, and the resulting conformity better than I did, so you should just go read her post. Well, after you finish mine. ;-)

I’ll just say that since I left 500px I don’t miss comments simply consisting of “V+F” or the emails I had saying that they would vote for my images only if I would vote for theirs first.

2. Pricing of Digital Downloads

   When 500px launched their 500px Market option that allowed users to opt into limited canvas sales and digital downloads I was interested. The canvas side of things seemed reasonable, but it was tied to the digital download, and you couldn’t pick one over the other. The digital download gave out a large file (if not full resolution) for around $3. As I was not willing to give images away for that price, I wasn’t allowed to access canvas sales on 500px. I should point out this was not the same as the 500px Art store I mention below.

3. Launch of 500px Art store (service ending in 2015)

   I was not interested in opting into the print store (500px Art) due to the sizes and pricing offered, and 500px wouldn’t communicate where these prints were being produced. I did take a look at their site, and in doing a quick search on it, found my images listed in the results despite my not having opted in. This may very well have been covered by the 500px main site’s Terms of Service but it still left a bad taste in my mouth. Clicking on my images in the search results didn’t allow you to actually get a print, so I presume as the store was new they were populating the search results with some images from the 500px main site until their selection improved.

4. Dignity for Photographers: 30% Royalties.

   When 500px’s licensing site 500px Prime was launched two statements were made that really angered many photographers. From their blog post (https://500px.com/blog/998/introducing-500px-prime) we have this statement:

“We are pricing all licenses in a way that brings dignity to the photographer, we are not joining the race to the bottom. Our licenses will start at $250.”

While I was not interested in selling RF licenses (I only offer my work as Rights Managed) at least the prices weren’t in microstock range. However, their next statement was this:

“We are giving you, the photographer, 30% for every one of your images that we license. It doesn’t matter how it is bought, who buys it, or under what license, your 30% comes off the top.”

30% = Dignity? You’ll see in the comments on that blog post that many were not happy with the 30% rate. Quite a few photographers negatively reacted to the choice to use the word dignity alongside a 30% royalty. To their credit, 500px changed their stance on this about a month later and flipped the royalty rates to 70% for the photographer and 30% for themselves. However, I think the original 30% royalty betrays their attitude towards photographers and the value placed in their work. This may be close to industry standard rates but I reserve the right to be disappointed by it.

5. Free images for Bing’s Homepage

   In late 2013 500px offered another opt in program to allow photographers to potentially have their images used as the background to the Bing.com homepage: https://500px.com/blog/736/500px-bing-showcasing-world-class-photography-together . Many photographers were unhappy with this, as placement on the Bing.com homepage was formerly a potential licensing deal. As indicated by Patrick Smith in the comments section – one that was valued around “a couple hundred dollars”.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. In one of the comments a 500px employee responds in part with this statement: “This is a free collaboration between 500px and Bing, and I think it is a wonderful opportunity for photographers who would like to get discovered and get more exposure.”

I figure that most photographers desire exposure in order to get noticed by those who may help them make money on their photography. How does decreasing the reward for use on the Bing homepage to $0 work as a first step towards exposure to eventually make money? The logic here makes no sense to me anyway.

6. Rewarding unethical wildlife photography

   There have been a lot of popular photographs on 500px showing wild, unfledged baby birds out of their nests and being fed by parents. These initially look like cute photos showing a glimpse into the daily lives of these birds. However, in many cases, the photographer has taken the babies from the nest, propped them up on a branch and waited for mom or dad to come by and feed them. What happens next? Does the photographer place them back in the nest? Either way, a very unethical way to go about wildlife photography. We can add to this example photographs of drugged frogs holding leaf umbrellas, and insects covered in various substances or refrigerated to make them “pose” in a desired position.

   This is something that probably happens on many photo sharing networks. The reason this is an issue for me concerning the 500px platform is that these images have been directly rewarded by staff in the form of editors choice picks and promotion on twitter. I complained about this via twitter on a number of occasions. While 500px can be applauded for frequently responding to user and public queries on social media, questions as to why they were continuing to promote these types of images went ignored.

7. Images appearing to be for sale

   Some images on 500px, despite not being part of their 500px Prime RF licensing site, show this display below the photographs:

500px rf sales message

   Sometimes these request to license boxes appear below an image, sometimes they do not. I haven’t figured out why these are not constant, but being there at all is the reason this bothers me. I have not opted into the 500px Prime licensing site, and yet sometimes these have appeared below my own images. Last year I had a potential client ask me a few questions about licensing. We had a back and forth about exactly what they required, and I gave them a quote of around $400 USD for a Rights Managed License. They came back to me asking why I was selling the same image on 500px, Royalty Free, for only $250. I had to try to explain that this was not the case and I had nothing to do with the message advertising $250 on 500px. I did not get the sale. I can not say for sure this was due to the way my image was displayed on 500px, but it illustrated a big potential problem for me with sharing images on their service. Of all the items listed here, this issue is the one that lead me to delete over 100 images from 500px.

8. Remove ≠ Delete

   I pursue a lot of copyright infringement of my images. In some cases I find these on websites based in countries where copyright is only a faint notion, and I have to pretty much pretend I didn’t see the infringement. Sometimes I have been able to block use of an image if they are hotlinking it from my website. Some hotlink from 500px, as they do from almost every online photo sharing service. However, I did expect that once I deleted my images from 500px (due to item 7 above) they would no longer be available for hotlinking. This is not the case, unfortunately. Photographs may disappear from your account immediately, but are still held in place on the server. I’ll speculate this is to preserve photographs used via the embed feature from 500px. I’ve been told the only way to delete images removed from your profile is to contact 500px and request they be deleted entirely. I have not yet done this but it is probably time that I did.

Conclusion

   So these are some of the reasons that I no longer supporting the 500px website. By far the biggest issues for me are the photographs that appear to be on sale, and the issues around voting, favouriting and the quest for popularity. I understand that for a small startup company revenue generation can be difficult, and that some of the things I have objected to above are the result of their attempt to monetize. While the motivations may be understandable the organization’s attitude towards photography has lead me to believe their website is not the place for me.

   What are your thoughts on these issues? What places online do you share your photography and is it a community that celebrates a variety of styles and methods?

Tatoosh Sunset from Mazama Ridge

Wildflowers and the Tatoosh Range from Mazama Ridge in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington State, USA.

table mountain at sunset from heather meadows

Wildflowers on Mazama Ridge

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   A slightly different version of some previous photographs of the Tatoosh Range from Mazama Ridge in Washington State’s Mount Rainier National Park. I had a great evening on Mazama Ridge, and this sunset was a strong part of that.

You can view more of my photography from this and surrounding Mount Rainier areas in my Mount Rainier National Park Gallery.

Mount Redoubt in Black and White

Mount Redoubt and Nodoubt Peak in North Cascades National Park in Washington State (photographed from British Columbia’s Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park).

snow blowing off of mount redoubt in the north cascades national park

Mount Redoubt and Nodoubt Peak in the North Cascades

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   In early December I was at Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park looking for some good sunset light on Mount Redoubt. The colour materialized, but not for a long period of time and in a different way than I was expecting. I had previously photographed this mountain in January and February, and at a time when the good light would simultaneously hit Mount Redoubt and Nodoubt Peak (the peak on the right). This being December, I suspect the difference in the sun’s position is the reason the light was not on Nodoubt Peak at the same time as the main peak of Redoubt. I made some panorama exposures before sunset and thought this would be a good opportunity to convert some of my photographs to black and white.

   The first image above (best viewed large) was made almost 20 minutes before the one below. I did not include Nodoubt Peak in the lower photograph as all the light had gone, and it just doesn’t have the same impact that way. This second photo is one that works in colour too I think, as there was nice light on the main peak of Mount Redoubt (click the link for the colour version). The first image has light on both peaks, but it was without the colours you see in the photo linked above. I think my favourite feature of the top photograph, and to a lesser extent the lower one, is the snow blowing off of the peaks. This is called spindrift which was a new term to me.

snow blowing off of mount redoubt in the north cascades national park

Mount Redoubt in North Cascades National Park

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   I am curious if you like the black and white versions of these photographs? I have not done a lot of black and white processing at this point, but am looking to get better at it especially for photographs like the first one here which I shot with black and white in mind.

Organic Concord Grapes (Vitis labrusca)

A cluster of organic Concord Grapes (Vitis labrusca) in a British Columbia vineyard.

concord grapes in a fraser valley vineyard

Concord Grapes in a Fraser Valley Vineyard

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   A photograph from the fall of 2009, this was one of my first photographs using my (then) new Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS. This is a group of Concord Grapes (Vitis labrusca) which are often used for grape jellies, grape juices, and sometimes wines.

Table Mountain from Heather Meadows

Table Mountain and Heather Meadows near sunset at the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington State.

table mountain at sunset from heather meadows

Table Mountain at Sunset from Heather Meadows

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   This photograph of Table Mountain was first published here on my blog back in 2009 but has since been reprocessed to bring out a few more details in the sky and the foreground. The path here leads down to the Bagley lakes and trails that lead further up towards Herman Saddle and the lakes to the west.

You can view more of my photography from this and surrounding areas in my Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Gallery.

Point Atkinson Lighthouse Redux

The Point Atkinson Lighthouse in Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver, Canada

ruskin dam with 3 spillways wide open

Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver

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   Occasionally I look back at some of my older images with a bit of disappointment due to the new post processing skills I have since learned. This photograph of the Point Atkinson Lighthouse at Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver is a good example.

lighthouse park lighthouse in west vancouver

Lighthouse – old version

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In the older version (left) I made a number of bad decisions, and just didn’t know how to get much out of the file. While going through older images recently to do some keywording and uploading to my Image Library I found this lighthouse photograph from 2011 and decided to improve the image.

   Both of these versions were processed from the same single raw file using Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and Photoshop. I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea to edit out the rock “island” in the foreground. I did an reasonable job of making that seamless, but the decision to remove it (or manipulate anything to that degree) is now puzzling. This is not the kind of editing I wish to do to images any longer, and most with that level of manipulation have never seen the light of day anyway. The main issue with my previous version is the colour balance and the details in the sky. While the newer versions of ACR (and Lightroom) are much better at bringing out detail in highlight areas, I’m sure the older versions were capable of much more than I knew how to accomplish at the time. When processing the new version I fixed the colour issues (older version was way too warm in my opinion), brought out some details in the sky, and added a layer to function somewhat as a digital graduated neutral density filter. At the time I photographed this I did not own any ND filters that I recall, and even if I had this scene is a tough one to implement them with the trees on the left. Many seem to debate between a physical GND filter and a digital alternative but I tend to use both. I much prefer the results when using a physical filter but often tweak things in post slightly using a digital one (usually in Photoshop not the tools available in ACR or Lightroom). I hope you agree this new version is an improvement. : )

For more photographs from the Vancouver area please visit my Vancouver, Coast and Mountains gallery.

My Top 10 Photos of 2014

   I tend to consider this list more of a top 10 favourite photographs of 2014 than the “best”. Choosing the images for my Nature Calendars always helps me narrow these things down a bit ahead of making my final list below. Once again, I am making this post so I can be a part of Jim Goldstein’s annual Your Best Photos project. Look for his post early in the new year with all the entries from a wide variety of photographers. Always a great place to find new photographers and their work.

   I hope you enjoy the following photographs and I am curious if you have a favourite. Clicking on each photograph takes you to my Image Archive but below you’ll also find links to corresponding blog posts. In no specific order here are my top 10 photographs of 2014:

trout lake creek moss and rocks
Trout Lake Creek flows through the rainforest in Sasquatch Provincial Park

(Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia)
Blog post: Sasquatch Provincial Park

lions gate bridge and downtown vancouver from ambleside beach
The Lions Gate Bridge and downtown Vancouver

(West Vancouver, British Columbia)
Blog post: Lions Gate Bridge from Ambleside Park

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