Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Best of 2012 – A Year in Review

Another year in the books – and what a year that was. I was able to pick up where 2010 ended, photographically-speaking; and make up for the missed opportunities in 2011. Now, with the last days of the old year winding down, it’s time to reflect on the past journeys, the people that made it special and the glorious sunsets (and sunrises) I was fortunate to witness along the way and how could this better be done than with some images. Sit back and enjoy the show! (Images are in chronological order as they were shot throughout the year.)

bestof2012-header

Leave Only Footprints

Leave Only Footprints
Erzgebirge, Germany

Doomsday Caldera

Doomsday Caldera, Hirtstein
Hirtstein, Erzgebirge, Germany

Els Elcantats Rising

Els Encantats rising Through the Fog at Sunrise, Pyrenees, Spain
Aigüestortes National Park, Pyrenees, Spain

Light Guardian

Light Guardian, Pyrenees, Spain
Aigüestortes National Park, Pyrenees, Spain

Seeking Solitude

Seeking Solitude, Pyrenees, Spain
Aigüestortes National Park, Pyrenees, Spain

Dawn of a New Day

Dawn of a New Day, Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy
Manarola, Cinque Terre National Park, Italy

Ethereal Gorge

Ethereal Gorge, Partnach, Bavaria, Germany
Partnach Gorge, Bavaria, Germany

Silent Awakening

Silent Awakening, Classic Bavaria, Alps
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany

The Last Goodbye

The Last Goodbye
Erzgebirge, Germany

Thank you for all the patience in the first half of the year when this blog got neglected, for the continued support and the wonderful emails I receive. Here’s to a wonderful Holiday Season to you all out there!

David

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Instagram – My Take on the New Terms of Service

Yesterday, Instagram, the popular image sharing community with a lot of nifty filters to choose from, announced their new Terms of Service (ToS) and the avalanche of posts of people wanting to delete their accounts that flooded the social media channels was massive, likely to make the largest piece of glacier breaking off ever recorded on film, seen in the ‘Chasing Ice’ documentary, seem like a snowflake tumbling towards the ground. (http://instagram.com/about/legal/terms/updated/)

blog-instafail

I was upset too. In fact, I still am, but I get it – as weird as this may sound. I understand Instagram and Facebook for doing this. Having graduated in International Business and having completed one or the other marketing class in my life, I get it.

Over the past several years, pay per click (PPC) numbers declined (and so did the revenue). The reasons for that are diverse and I don’t want to end up giving a classroom speech here. Instagram, as well as Facebook, much like Google, offer a free service to their users. The ads they display are the essential piece of their revenue. The traffic (people clicking on the ads) they create is monetized and the more relevant the ad is to the user, the more likely he or she is to click on the advertisement.

For marketers and advertisers, photos taken with smartphones are especially valuable. Not because they are pretty or because Instagram is reserving the right to run actual campaigns with the images of the users in it, but rather because they contain specific information about the user in their meta data. Think location data. This information, not possible to be stripped on mobile devices, is then used to target the audience more specifically. In marketing, slicing up your target audience into the finest pieces and then delivering them highly targeted ads is a very complex field.

Oh, @davidrichterphoto just uploaded an image of some drink from xyz at 3am. Probably best to display a taxi ad.

Okay, this was a highly unlikely scenario – not because I wouldn’t upload images of my drinking habit (Guilty!), rather because taxi ads are extremely rare, but you get the picture. The advertiser (in this case, the taxi company or the firm representing the taxi company) is much more likely to run the ad with a company known to deliver to just that vulnerable crowd, thus cutting costs by not displaying the ad to people outside the target group. (Here, the vulnerable crowd or target group is the unfit-to-drive me.)

All fictional content aside, knowing exactly with whom you are dealing is the KEY to success for marketing companies. This information is extremely costly and often times, reliable, highly accurate location data is hard to obtain. The people in the marketing departments of Facebook think that the data behind the actual images of Instagram users is worth all the uproar it created thus far and can be of extremely high value to the advertisers, thus pulling Facebook stock out of the deep, deep valley it found itself in.

That’s my (hopefully mostly unbiased, business-professional) take on Instagram’s new ToS. Like it or not, it was a logical step for them to take from a business standpoint. I can’t help but think that Google had similar thoughts when acquiring Snapseed a while back. This, however, doesn’t mean I like it from a personal or ethical standpoint. Twitter just announced adding a filter collection to its app and so did resurrected flickr a while back. Places that will pull the crowds away from Instagram’s some 100 million user base. For me, time will tell if I stick with Instagram and see my images in hemorrhoid ads or pitch my filter tent elsewhere — starting January 16, 2013.

Tomorrow, I will be hand-delivering my best images of 2012, so check back and let me know what you think about the new Instagram Terms of Service in the comments.

David

AddendumDecember 19, 2012

After the gigantic avalanche of posts that was set loose and the massive media uproar, co-founder of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, tried to calm the waves with the following blog post: Thank You and We’re Listening, in which he explains that selling the actual images to advertisers has never been the intention of the new Terms of Service and that an updated version will be released soon that will address the unclear points.

“Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos.”

Systrom further explains that Instagram has been set up as a self-sustainable business, which means its ultimate goal is to make money (and which to me, is totally fine), and that some forms of “innovative advertisement” were to be tested in order to make it out of the ditch. (Instagram hasn’t run any sort of in-app advertisement in its years of operation and I understand they are at a point they can’t possibly avoid monetizing the 100 million user base and their content, to some degree.)

“Our main goal is to avoid things like advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time.”

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

5 Great Christmas Gift Ideas for Photographers

You have a photographer friend and have yet to find THE perfect holiday gift? Take it from a photographer, any of the following would make my Christmas Day and the best part is, they all fit into standard-sized Christmas stockings and won’t stretch your budget like a lot of photography-related items do (Think 50k medium format camera).

Give the Gift of Knowledge

Photography is all about vision, timing and constant improvement to stay on top of your game. There are plenty of helpful books, ebooks and classes out there that can help you or your photographer friend narrowing the odds of getting the photographs desired. Ebooks are a great way to get started for often times as few as 10 bucks. Amongst the most influential for me and nature photography in general, are the ebooks from Guy Tal (http://guytalbooks.com/), whose writing is as compelling as his shooting. Another possibility of broadening your processing horizon is to experience hands-on Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom classes from Aperture Academy (http://www.apertureacademy.com/course-schedule.php). Great for advanced amateurs who are getting great shots in the field but missing the “Oooomph” the digital darkroom can deliver. There is nothing wrong with knowing your midtone luminosity mask from your red channel saturation mask. Speaking of which, the Photoshop actions of Tony Kuyper would make an equally great gift for the Photoshop-“challenged”. The complete set comes at as little as $20. (http://goodlight.us/specialoffers.html)

The Photographer’s Ephemeris

With the advancement of smartphones, there came a plethora of apps targeted at photographers and whether you are a fan of iPhonography and Droidography or not, there actually are a few gems out there that make landscape photography a lot easier. One of these apps is The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE). An app I find myself using all the time when planning a shot, long before I venture out, to make myself clear what I get myself into, light-wise; or in the field, when plans change due to unforeseeable weather patterns (thanks, weather guys!). Either way, TPE offers the full package of sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset times, directions of sun and moon for every place in the world and much more useful features. It comes in at $8.99 and is available for iOS and Android here: http://photoephemeris.com/buy-download

Gloves

Yes, you’ve read that right. Christmas time also means snow and cold weather in the northern hemisphere and warm hands on an outdoor shoot are as essential as a working camera. There is nothing worse than trying to operate your camera in the snow with freezing finger tips and you don’t want to miss the shot of your buddy’s first 360 because your hands were cold. I like my Marmot XT Gloves to keep my hands and fingers warm even in the lousiest shooting conditions. They are warm, yet thin enough to have me push the most essential buttons on my camera. Often times, the warmest gloves are useless as they are too bulky and restrict your movability quite a bit. The XTs are a perfect combination of warmth and usability for me. Get them following the link for around 60 bucks: http://www.bergfreunde.de/marmot-xt-glove-kletterhandschuh/

Lens Travel Mugs

Coffee – where art thou? Frankly, I couldn’t get anything done without a cup of freshly brewed coffee first thing in the morning and when it comes to cups and mugs, I like to enjoy my Italian roast in style. Such as with a Canon lens cup (Nikon versions are equally available). The 70-200mm travel mug makes a great conversation opener in the field and deserves the “oohs” and “aahs” it is getting, while the 24-105mm version is perfect to sit on your desk for a late afternoon coffee break. Expect to shell out around 20 dollars for either version. You can get them on Amazon or various online resellers. (70-200mm on Amazon.com)

F-Stop Watch

Nothing screams photography nerd more boldly than the F-Stop Watch, other than maybe a lens cap tattooed to one’s forehead. It’s a cleverly designed accessory that will grab the attention right away. No deal breaker at $35, if you get it here: http://photojojo.com/store/awesomeness/f-stop-watch/

2013 Wall Calendar

Alright, I reckon those were more than 5 in total, so it won’t hurt to have another idea handpicked and delivered to your screen, would it? I didn’t think so, either; so here it goes. Remember the time when your friend told you how much shooting that one place or the other would mean? Inspiration and incentive alike, a calendar featuring your friend’s favorite places would make a great Christmas gift under the tree and 365 days on the wall. Disclaimer: Self-promotion ahead!

You can get my “Element of Life” calender here, featuring 12 stunning pieces from my portfolio, all “anchored” around the water theme. Now on sale for the next two weeks on Red Bubble, before the price will go up the final week before Christmas. http://www.redbubble.com/people/davidrichter/calendars/9481417-element-of-life
Or maybe this skiing one for your buddy? http://www.bergfreunde.de/tmms-verlag-powder-2013-kalender/

Happy Holiday (Shopping) Season!

David

Friday, October 19th, 2012

“Element of Life” Calender 2013

I have been very busy these last few weeks, making photographs of the amazing display of fall colors this year here in Germany. Unlike last year, I have been able to toss together a wall calender for the upcoming year – yes, I know, it’s hard to believe Christmas is only a mere 2 months away. Rather than randomly selecting images of my work, I went ahead and gathered 12 frames around the general theme of “Water”, hence the title of the calender: “Element of Life”.

Sample Granite Reflections Sample Firestorm

It has a bit of everything for the H2O aficionado. High alpine lakes, waterfalls, coastlines in the US and Italy, old sheds in front of the Karwendel massif in Bavaria, Germany and more. Above you’ll find two sample spreads of some of my best selling images included in this calender and below, a selection of all 12 photographs in the calender.

Selection of images

The wall calender is approximately 11.7 x 16.5 inches and printed on 200gsm paper with a satin finish. I decided to make it available through Red Bubble, which has experience in calender printing for many, many years and is known for its high-quality service and beautiful printed products. I prefer to go this route, rather than printing and shipping the calenders myself; as I want to make sure this calender’s turnaround time is low, making it ship timely, all while keeping shipping costs low.

That said, it is available through Red Bubble for $29.90 or 22.99 Euro, respectively.

Besides making a perfect wall decoration for your home or the bland walls of your office, this calender would also make a great Holiday gift for your friends who might enjoy hiking, fishing, camping or maybe just honor skillfully crafted photography. 😉 Your turn!

(A last side note, new images will be released soon.)

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

The Beauty of the Pyrenees – Western Europe’s Last Mountain Paradise

I recently returned from a wonderful 8-day backpacking trip into the Spanish Pyrenees, one of western Europe’s last mountain paradises and let me tell you, it was fantastic. My focus of this trip was to cover as much miles as possible in the heart of the Aigüestortes and Estany Sant Maurici National Park and the surrounding Saboredo basin, above Port de la Ratera. The landscapes I encountered reminded me much of those of the Eastern Sierra, although not as high or filled with meadows full of wildflowers but compared to the Alps, it was quiet, relaxing and very much enjoyable throughout.

My trip started out with a flight from Munich to Barcelona, two backpacks and a 17-hour layover in Barcelona to catch the bus to Lleida the next morning — a day which turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year. When I set foot into the bus that should bring me to the drop-off at the foot of the steep and winding road to Espot, the city just outside the eastern entrance to the park; the thermometer showed a cozy 45 degrees Celsius (113F).

Els Encantats Rising Through the Fog at Sunrise

Arriving just after 9 in the evening, I settled to spend the first night in one of the campgrounds around Espot. I chose to set my tent at Camping La Mola which turned out to be an affordable deluxe camping experience. Little did I know when I approached the friendly staff that the campground not only offered bathrooms and showers often time not found as nice in hotels; it comes with pool, tennis court, soccer field and a small store that made a backpacker’s heart open up. I especially enjoyed the selection of fruits, Salchichón and the fresh bread, which provided a great energy kick for the trails to tackle later on.

An Evening On The Porch, D'Amitges, Pyrenees

The National Park Aigüestortes y Sant Maurici itself is a mere two hours of very moderate GR11 trail walking (The long distance trail which crosses the Pyrenees east to west from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.) nested above Espot. From the entrance to the park to my first night high in the mountains in 2012, however, it was another four and a half hour hike in the cruel heat of a cloudless day up steep switchbacks and over loose rock trails up to the Refugi D’Amitges, enjoying the views over the Sant Maurici valley and lake on the way and replenishing energy with a trail snack at the Fountain of the Marmots. Camping and off-trail hiking is not permitted and fined immediately (as I was told) within the National Park and the surrounding zone of protection, so the refuges provide shelter and a place to sleep for the night. Reservations have to be made beforehand as the 70 bunk-bed capacity fills quickly over the summer months.

Exploring the area around the refuge, I quickly realized why “Aigüestortes” translates to “winding waters” — dozens of lakes and tarns fill the gaps between the granite boulders and reflect the towering peaks while little streams meander through the meadows and rush down the cliffs.

Light Guardian, Pyrenees, Spain

I was blessed with beautiful weather throughout the trip with temperatures ranging from low 70’s (~24C) in the afternoon to 36 degrees (2C) at night at elevations of 2,400m to 2,700m (roughly 8k to 9k ft.); which made hiking a very enjoyable undertaking.

More images from the trip will have to wait for my return, as I am getting ready for a road trip with Aperture Academy instructor Brian Rueb; which will lead us to the Cinque Terre region and Venice in Italy, the Austrian and German Alps and possibly a few other places. So stay tuned and happy shooting!

Refugi D'Amitges