Lori Carey Photography

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A plea to my fellow outdoor photographers

In my previous corporate career I had the opportunity to live all over this vast country of ours and develop intimate knowledge of and appreciation for the various geographies. When I landed out here in California I immediately recognized how privileged we folks in the West are to have such vast regions that remain virtually untouched since prehistoric times. I can ride for days and never see another human being, and see the earth as it always was, unscarred except by Mother Nature and the occasional tribe of Indians. I have an intense passion for the magic and wonder of our natural world. The more I explore and learn about it, the more curious I become. Whether you attribute it to science, God or some combination of both, you can't help but be amazed at the forces at work. It is an honor and privilege to see the things I've seen in my adventures.

Now I am not a treehugger by the commonly understood definition of the term, but I do strongly care about protecting our natural world. I have a responsibility to protect that which I so cherish and am privileged to share in. I am even more keenly aware of this because I venture offroad and am always dealing with access issues. Although I prefer to hike, I bought my jeep so I could venture even farther to places that would require days or even weeks to hike. I wanted to explore places that few people get to see. I strictly follow Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly principles, and insist that others with me do as well. I want to keep access open for everyone so that others can follow me and see the wonders that I have seen, and I want it to remain in the same (or better) condition for future generations. In order to do that we all need to act responsibly and take good care of this great earth.

So it pained me this morning to read a fellow photographer's blog and see that a group of photographers, including the very well-known Alain Briot, trekked out to the Racetrack in Death Valley after the rain and proceeded to walk onto the playa, leaving behind deep footsteps that will remain for years. Worse yet, said photographer posted incriminating photos of the damaging footprints on her blog and joked about it. There are warning signs posted in several locations reminding people of the long term damage that will occur by walking onto the playa when it is wet, yet this group of photographers either did not take the time to learn about the environment in which they were photographing or chose to ignore the damage in their quest for the perfect shot. "Leave only footprints" doesn't mean leave footprints that will remain for the next ten years or so. That group of photographers has ruined this magical place for everyone who follows, for many years. In addition, they have jeopardized access for everyone, as it wouldn't surprise me if over-zealous California officials decide to place the area off limits to everyone since a few people failed to follow the rules. It wouldn't be the first time something like this has occurred.

My plea to my fellow outdoor photographers is to please, please take the time to learn about the environment in which you will be photographing before trekking out and do your part to minimize damage to our environment. There is just no excuse for doing irreparable damage in your quest for the money shot. Ignorance is not an excuse, and selfishness will not be tolerated. I am saddened and tired of seeing areas shut down to photographers and others because people do not take the necessary care of our great earth.

In addition to not walking on playas when they are wet, here are a few other things photographers and other outdoor adventurers should be aware of when venturing in the southwest:

Cryptobiotic soil crusts - All but invisible to the untrained eye, cryptobiotic soil crusts, comprised mostly of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) but also include lichens, mosses, green algae, microfungi, and bacteria, play a vital role in the desert's health. The filaments formed by the cyanobacteria help control erosion by keeping the soil in place. They also absorb precious rainfall and provide nutrients to the ecosystem. The soil crust is easily damaged by a footprint, and a damaged crust may take up to seven years to return! If you've never seen cryptobiotic soil before, look for lumpy black dirt. When in an area with cryptobiotic soil stay on established trails, and if you must walk through an area with a thick crust please do so single file to minimize damage. Please don't set up camp, drive a vehicle or do anything else that will cause damage to these fragile crusts.

Wildlife - Nothing angers me more than seeing another photographer cause undue stress to wildlife. When I came across a large herd of endangered Peninsular Desert Bighorn Sheep in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, I was careful to set up my tripod far away on the other side of the stream and to use the appropriate telephoto lens. Next thing I know some idiot who didn't have a telephoto lens attempted to sneak right up to the some of the sheep so he could get a better shot, obviously causing some agitation in the herd. And yes, I voiced my opinion to him and chased him off. People, there are less than 600 of these animals left in the world, some estimate the number closer to 300. If you want to photograph wildlife, get used to carrying that big heavy lens and tripod, and leave immediately if the animals start acting stressed. End of story.

Same thing goes for bird photography. Please respect the signs when an area is posted as off limits during nesting season. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a photographer in an off-limits area to get close-up shots of nesting birds, especially in La Jolla. You are giving all of us a bad name! Why do you think that the rules apply to everyone except you?

Rockpiles - Yes, rockpiles. Silly, isn't it? I can't tell you how many times I've seen people dismantle rock piles. Especially if they are accompanied by children, who just can't seem to resist taking the rocks and throwing them. When you find a pile of rocks in the desert, chances are fairly good it is one of the three things; a cairn used to mark a trail (and vitally important to desert hikers), a marker for a mining claim or an Indian artifact. Someone dismantled a rockpile in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park last year, possibly thinking it hid a geocache, possibly not. It turned out to be an Indian artifact and we are still fighting over access issues a year later. Some people say that artifacts should be marked as such; I'm in the camp that would rather see things in their natural environment, not littered with signs. Look, but don't touch.

Tidepools - We have a wealth of amazing tidepools here along the southern California coast, filled with all sorts of neat creatures. One of the best is in Little Corona del Mar (Newport Beach), a protected Marine Life Refuge where an on-going battle is being waged between photographers and the homeowners who claim that photographers are destroying the tidepools. Commercial photography requires a license, but even non-commercial photographers have reported being chased away by homeowners. I have been stopped and questioned every time I have been out at Little CDM, but I always seem to "pass the test" because I am knowledgeable about the environment, show that I care about the tidepools as much as the residents do, and never set my tripod up in the tidepools or do anything else that would cause damage to the fragile environment. I'm glad that the homeowners chase away anyone who doesn't show the same respect.

These are just a few things off the top of my mind. I hope it goes with saying to pick up your garbage and any you find. I'm sure there are many other examples, please share yours.

Nothing after the jump.

Monday, December 22, 2008

More Mojave Magic

Just a few more shots for the folks who have asked for them. Too many distractions today and I'm having a hard time getting through all of my processing.

Jeeps for my off-road fans:

The ice in the water made it difficult to get a good clean shot of all four jeeps together no matter what angle I tried:

You know that I'm a firm proponent of Leave No Trace - the trail runs right through the center of this normally dry lake bed (the way the Mojave Road runs through the middle of Soda Dry Lake), and we did not take the jeeps anyplace we should not have been. And it's because of this that we did not shuffle around to try to get the ice out of the photos; I just chose to deal with it.

Nothing after the jump.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mojave Rorschachs

Just a little tease while I finish processing the photos from yesterday's run out to the Black Mountains of the Mojave Desert. Last week's winter storm dumped an amazing amount of snow in the desert, and at a "dry" lake bed we found this magical scene -

The elevation here was a little over 3,000 feet.

A huge thank you to my friends who were willing to hang out until dark despite the freezing temp so I could capture the changing light. It was a thrilling ride in the dark back to pavement!

I'm still working on the rest of the photos (277 in all) and hope to get the trail report posted tomorrow.

Nothing after the jump.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Some videos from the trail and a camp recipe

We have canceled our trail plans so many times over the past few weeks due to weather, illness, schedule problems, etc. that I'm starting to get withdrawal symptoms. We will definitely be out on the trail again next weekend, no matter what happens. And it will be a scenic trip with lots of photographs.

In the meantime I wanted to share two trail videos put together by my friend Cindy at Project-JK. Sure, WayOfLife posts them, but make no mistake, Cindy is the one behind the scenes doing all of the camera work and editing, and she does an awesome job.

Since I've had so many people e-mail asking about Coyote Canyon, this first video is from our 2007 Newbie run. It's funny for me to see how far our jeeps have grown since this video was shot. What a difference a year makes!

When the credits start rolling you'll see me demonstrating how to make my near world famous omelets in a bag. This is my favorite camp breakfast because there is no cleanup required and it takes up hardly any in the cooler. Just put your eggs in a ziploc freezer bag (it MUST be a freezer bag) and add whatever you desire; cheese, bacon, sausage, onions, peppers, mushrooms, s&p...then squish it all up together. Then seal the ziploc, roll it up tightly and throw it in the cooler. Come breakfast time, just place the bag in boiling water. The eggs will set best if you periodically give the bag a squeeze (it's hot, be careful and use a towel or something). Don't let the bag touch the sides of the pot; some people like to use a laundry pin or the like to clip the bag to the pot handle. Cooking time depends on temperature and elevation, but it's not long. If you really want to save on cleanup you can eat it right out of the bag, or you can roll your fluffy omelet onto a plate.

This second one I had to share even though I missed this trip just because it is awesome and Cindy just posted it yesterday. If you like hard core rock crawling you will love this video from the Niagara Rim trail in the Stanislaus National Forest deep in the heart of the Sierras. With obstacle names like No Way Out, Hard Brake Hill and Sidewall Suicide, you know this is a challenging and difficult trail.

Nothing after the jump.

Monday, December 8, 2008

As We Are

We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are. ~ Anais Nin

Nothing after the jump.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Additional Info on Coyote Canyon Trail in ABDSP

One of my readers requested some additional information on the location of the Coyote Canyon Trail I had written about a few weeks ago. Shame on me for not including it in my original post!

Coyote Canyon is located in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park 7.6 miles north of Borrego Springs. From Christmas Circle* (I love that name!) you want to head north on Borrego Springs Road. After a bit more than 3 miles you will bear right to join Henderson Canyon Road. At 4.5 miles, at the T intersection, you will turn left on DiGiorgio Road and take it all the way to the end. When you see this sign:

...the trailhead is directly in front of you. If you have a copy of Massey and Wilson's Backcountry Adventures - Southern California (and if you live in SoCal and own a jeep, you will love this book), the South Coyote Canyon trail is Trail #25 in the South Coast section.

*According to wikimapia, Christmas Circle was named in honor of the birth of Salvador Ignacio Linares in Coyote Canyon on Christmas Eve in 1775. It is a large traffic roundabout with a park in the center.

That's it for now!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pride Goeth Before a Fall

My blog is called OffTopic for a reason; although I stick with subjects related to photography, I reserve the right to write about whatever happens to be on my mind. Hey, at least I'm not just regurgitating information from other blogs or websites, right? ;) In a radical departure from my usual tone I'm going to vent today. Sorry, can't help it. I just turned down an opportunity to shoot a multi-million dollar house because I know that I do not have the skills to pull off an architectural shoot of that caliber and do it justice. I am not an architectural photographer. I do, however, know someone who is a fantastic architectural photographer who will do justice to a $15 million home (and yes, that name was passed on).

What got me going is repeatedly having to deal with the growing acceptance of mediocrity as the expected norm in all areas of our lives. I could go on and on with examples; it's become incredibly pervasive. It's probably my number one pet peeve. There was a time when I used to let this kind of thing go; I used to just shake my head, chuckle to myself while mumbling something unkind and then move on. But I'm just getting a little tired of it.

This time it was Rangefinder Magazine that set me off. Rangefinder calls itself "The Magazine for Professional Photographers", so I hold it to high standards. Recently they have been publishing a monthly series of articles on Profitable Website Management written by a professional photographer who also has a background in "Web development", among other things (sales, information security...). I'm not naming names...if you want to know you will have to do the research yourself. It's not my style to call people out that way and the information is relatively easy to find.

The October article (yes, I am that far behind in my reading) was about blogging applications. That's a great topic since more and more photographers are discovering how to integrate blogging into their overall marketing plan, and many stock photographers specifically are starting to consider the importance of having their own website so they are not relying solely on the agencies any more.

Now I don't know about you, but when I read an article written by someone claiming to know what he/she is talking about, in a magazine aimed at professionals, I expect the information to be accurate. Especially when the information given is stated as fact, not opinion. And most especially when the author starts out by denigrating other photographers' blogs, making the statement that they don't know any better or just don't care.

So I was really surprised to see that this "expert" made the statement that free blogging applications are unsuitable for professional purposes, one of the main reasons being the amount of advertisements the application places on the free blogs. This expert stated that the only applications that were worthwhile for business purposes were the ones that cost money. That statement really bothered me because a lot of folks who don't know any better will read that, believe it, and needlessly spend money. And in this tough economy no one needs to spend money if they don't have to. It may even lead some folks to decide that they can't start a blog because they can't afford one of the paid blogging applications, which is a real shame.

I took a look at the author's blog (it's called research and fact checking, something from which both the author and Rangefinder could benefit). It is a Xanga blog that has been up and running for a little more than six months. I'm going to guess that the author paid for an upgraded version since there is no advertising on his blog. There are several broken/dead end links. While the blog is all about photography, his bio lists a completely unrelated occupation. And yes, there are posts on his blog talking about the poor job other photographers do with their websites.

Let me be clear, I do NOT claim to be an expert at websites and blogs. Less than a year ago I knew only very basic html and absolutely nothing about CSS. I'm still finding my way around in this world and I'm always trying to learn as much as possible. I am in no position to criticize anyone else's blog. But when I look at my free Blogger blog and the authors paid blog, I've gotta tell you that I like my free blog a whole lot better than his paid one. It's completely integrated with my website, there is absolutely no advertising on it (I still can't figure out why he said that), I can customize it any way I want to for FREE, anything that is there is there because I want it to be there (no dead end links) and if I were to obtain a domain name for it I'd doubt that many people would be able to tell that it was a free Blogger blog. So it really pains me that the author states that free blogs are worthless.

The author also advocates uploading photos to a blog, rather than linking them, to save time. I have two issues with this. First, clicking on any of the uploaded photos takes the viewer to a page that is useless from a business perspective. Usually it is just a browser window with that image, some of the authors' images take you to page where you can comment on the photo. By taking the time to create a link, one can lead the viewer directly to the image or gallery on your website. Uploading the photos also doesn't allow one to utilize ALT text. Not only is ALT text strongly recommended for all images on a webpage, it has a tremendous impact on search engine results. Google spiders can't see pictures! Maybe this isn't quite as important for a wedding/portrait photographer, but isn't the whole point of a blog to drive traffic to your website, and therefore drive business? Why have the images linked to a dead end page? I think these are very important things to address in an article that purports to instruct photographers how to set up a blog for business purposes. Do yourself a favor, take the time to properly place your images in your blog. You will be amazed at the increase in search result hits.

Like I said earlier, I did do some research and I read through some of the authors blog posts. I know the background of how and why this series of articles was written. It reminded me of a guy (or woman) who's had a digital camera for a year and decides that he is ready to start shooting weddings. Rangefinder is the one who said "yes, we'll hire you". I'm only mad at the author because he has a habit of trashing others. If you're going to take that stance you'd best be ready to stand up to scrutiny. Sorry if that's mean.

I'm reminded of an acquaintance who is a graphic designer by trade. She enjoys point-and-shoot photography and she has a great eye, as one would expect of a graphic designer. She does not, however, know the first thing about even the most basic technical aspects of photography (such as apertures and shutter speeds). She recently had a client who needed some furniture photographed for a brochure, and (I suppose) to save the client money my acquaintance did it herself instead of hiring a photographer. It was a white sofa on a green lawn on a sunny day. Anyone who knows anything about photography can guess exactly what happened; the green grass looked fantastic and the whites were completely blown out with absolutely no detail. She showed me the brochure with pride, and what was I going to say? Next time hire a real photographer? She didn't even realize that the whites were blown out and apparently her client didn't care. Her client was happy and she got paid, just like the guy who wrote the article with misinformation for Rangefinder got paid.

And yes, I am painfully aware of the irony here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Another tense weekend in southern California

We're okay here in south Orange County (so far...), but we have several friends close to the fires up north in the Brea-Yorba Linda-Chino Hills area. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the affected areas. The amount of damage in residential areas has been frightening.

My weekend is booked solid with prior commitments, leaving me no time to try to photograph the fires. As I was driving north yesterday I realized how crazy it was to have the top down on the jeep. If I got near enough, the falling soot and embers could do some serious damage, and even the soft top wouldn't help. I really need to put the hard top on if I plan to get closer to the fires.

Spent yesterday in Huntington Beach. Managed to grab a quick shot in between stops (from a parking lot - ugh! Sorry, only chance I had) of what the sky looked like in the early afternoon. This is the plume of smoke directly overhead; on either side the sky was bright blue. Air quality was horrible and I was happy that we were spending the day indoors.

I can see the plume from my backyard (it's so big that probably everyone in California can see it!) and it looks like the winds have died down in that area for now because it's starting to go vertical. We're still under Red Flag warning until 4:00pm this afternoon. Living in a house surrounded by dry hills, I can't help but scan the horizon on a regular basis.

The sunset last night was gorgeous. I climbed onto the roof of a building but still couldn't get the shot I wanted. By the time we raced to a more suitable location it was too late. On the drive home I saw a blood red moon but by the time I had stopped it had already cleared. Having a tough time being in the right place at the right time this weekend. Hoping to try to fit in some shooting this evening, but not sure if my schedule will accommodate.

Nothing after the jump.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Urgent Update to My LicenseStream Review

When I initially reviewed ImageSpan's LicenseStream here on my blog I had mentioned that one of my concerns was the inability to see how images are priced when using the automated interface. However, since I had tested a few scenarios and received quotes that I felt were reasonable, I decided to implement the automation and trust that everything would be okay.

Since my review was published several people have taken the opportunity to test out LicenseStream's interface using my photos, and boy did we get a surprise! While many people reported receiving acceptable price quotes, two photographers let me know about completely outrageous quotes. My thanks to Gary Crabbe of Enlightened Images and Tina Manley for bringing this to my attention. Gary actually received a quote of $10,000 for internal corporate web use, and Tina received a quote $2,000 higher than the price her publisher was complaining about! Real-world pricing is imperative if the automated side of LicenseStream is going to work.

So first, I strongly recommend that if you are using, or contemplating using LicenseStream on your website, you use the "Contact Me" model until ImageSpan puts a fix in place. If a potential buyer received one of those quotes, not only would you lose the sale, you'd probably lose the customer (unless it was someone with whom you had already developed a relationship and who knew it was just an error).

This eliminates the feature that most independent photographers are mainly interested in; the automation. LicenseStream needs to get this addressed ASAP. Based on the feedback that I am hearing, photographers are quickly loosing interest as the word spreads about this problem.

Second, if you have already coded images on your website using the method I explained in this post, I have a very easy way for you to change it that does not require making any changes to your content in LicenseStream itself.

Remember this code we used to create the link directly to your LicenseStream interface?

The "c" that I circled in red indicates the licensing model, in this case Custom License. You may have a "b" or a "p" if you used the Category License or Quick License models. To change it to the "Contact Me" model, all you need to do is change that letter to an "r". Still a bit time consuming in that you will need to do this for each image you've linked to LicenseStream, but not nearly as bad as needing to use LicenseStream to regenerate the code or change any settings.

One more thing I wanted to mention, really prompted by Gary Crabbe's post in which he stated that he found the licensing interface clunky. I had to think about that for a while because it seemed natural to me, and then I realized it was because I have been using the PLUS license generator, and later the embedder and decoder, since they were in beta. The LicenseStream license generator IS the PLUS license generator, so it was natural for me to use.

If you are not familiar with the PLUS Coalition and the license generator and embedder, I encourage you to become so. It was announced this morning that three major publishers are adopting the PLUS standards, and they have encouraged all photographers to begin embedding PLUS-generated licenses within the year.

Nothing after the jump. I'm off to change my letters!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

South Coyote Canyon, Sheep Camp and The Slot - Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Part II

Yikes, I have been crazy busy lately!

In an effort to speed things along here and get back on track, I'm going to fast track to Day 2 and The Slot in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Our evening in Sheep Camp was spent socializing, so in my role as a mentor I didn't get an opportunity to sneak away to shoot. Sunrise and sunset isn't the best at Sheep Camp anyway because it is surrounded by mountains; it loses the light too early in the afternoon, and it doesn't get sun in the morning until after the magic hour.

The big surprise of the night was having Mel and Lisa Wade of Offroad Evolution show up in the middle of the night with the kids in tow. Mel has been doing some absolutely incredible must-have stuff for the JK's and I know he had been very busy getting ready for SEMA, so it was really great that they found the time to come hang out with us for the weekend. I'll bet the South Coyote Canyon trail was a lot more fun to do in the dark!

The next morning most of the remaining group head back home early, but a few of us stuck around to run another trail and do a little hiking before getting back on the road. WayOfLife chose The Slot because it's a scenic trail with a narrow slot canyon to explore and we always appreciate the opportunity to get out and stretch our legs.

The Slot is on the other side of Borrego Springs on the east side of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and it winds its way through a tilted Borrego Formation Sandstone. The trail is easy and incredibly scenic as it overlooks the badlands. The only challenging spot is a descent down a very steep and loose sand hill that is really much easier than it looks. Bill still had the wheel so I jumped out to grab some shots of the jeeps, and I must say that the jeeps had an easier time getting down that hill than I did on foot!

We let this guy pass through so he didn't have to wait for the line of jeeps:

We decided to stop when the slot narrowed. Although it is possible to drive further in (if you don't mind risking a little body damage), with eight jeeps we needed to leave ourselves sufficient turn-around room.

The Slot is thought to have started as a crack or joint during the deformation of the badlands, the slot forming as runoff funneled into the crack, deepening it more than widening it. It gets incredibly narrow in some spots and you have to literally squeeze your way through.

The sun was shining on the upper walls of The Slot, but down below it was cool and shaded, a nice relief from the warm 95 degree desert day. Yeah, I forgot to mention on Day 1 that the temperature was a bit higher than expected. Not bad, unless you're working hard to set up camp in the middle of the day!

Owls and ravens love to build their nests up on the ledges and the floor of The Slot is littered with feathers and other evidence.

I would not want to be standing under here during an earthquake. Something to always keep in mind when hiking out here. This area was hit with a 4.2 magnitude quake on April 30, 2008, strong enough to jostle a few rocks loose.

After hiking through The Slot, we managed to get the jeeps turned around (my 2DR had a much easier time than the 4DRs did!) and start heading back toward pavement.

WayOfLife, Mel Wade, and Trailbud at the front of the line. Those bags on the back of our jeeps are burlap trash sacks WayOfLife made up for us. We use them to haul our trash out of camp, as well as cleanups along the trail anywhere we see trash. Unfortunately mine has been used so much that this was its last trip; it started shredding and ended up in the dumpster with the rest of the trash. I'm going to have to get WayOfLife to divulge his source because I don't know what I'm going to do without it.

It really is quite beautiful back here:

Back on pavement we aired up and head into town for a relaxing lunch out of the heat. That's when I found out that my control arm bushings were shot, which explained why my jeep had been handling the way it was on the road. Now my rear axle was rolling every time I stepped on the gas or the brake. Trailbud knew exactly what the problem was when I said it was clunking when I stepped on the gas, so at least it was easy to identify. FT sent me upgraded replacements and we finally got them put in last weekend.

So it was another successful trip with no carnage, lots of fun and great camaraderie. It was fun to meet so many new people and introduce them to what we like do (although there were a few I never did get to meet before they left that afternoon), and I hope many of them decide to join us for other trips. I bought the jeep for my photography, but I've made so many good friends because of it that I don't even mind putting my photography in the back seat once in a while.

Kudos again to WayOfLife and the rest of the mentor team for pulling off a successful event with such an amazingly large group of jeeps. Maybe we need to stop having so much fun to keep the numbers down!

Nothing more after the jump

Friday, November 7, 2008

South Coyote Canyon, Sheep Camp and The Slot - Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Part I

Coyote Canyon in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is closed to all use every year between June 1 and September 30 to allow the endangered Peninsular (Desert) Bighorn sheep unrestricted access to the important water source of Coyote Creek. It has become our tradition to venture out to Sheep Camp via the South Coyote Canyon trail shortly after the canyon re-opens every year with the folks from Project-JK, usually as a "newbie" run to introduce others to the desert environment, teach them the proper way to handle and use their jeeps' capabilities on the different types of terrain, talk with them about the necessary gear and equipment for venturing into remote regions of the desert, and reinforce the Leave No Trace principles. We are very privileged in California to have such a diversity of open trails to provide endless opportunity for discovery, but we realize that it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility to not only do our part to protect the environment, but to teach others as well and maintain a zero-tolerance policy on our outings. For many folks, it is the first time they have taken their jeep off pavement. For others, it is the first time they will forge a deep water crossing and navigate a rocky climb. And there are even others for whom it is the first time they will venture into the desert environment.

The success of past newbie runs has caused an explosion in the number of people signing up. This year's Coyote Canyon run had 30 newbies and 8 mentors, a very large group to coordinate and keep moving on the trail, and I've got to hand it to WayOfLife and the rest of the mentor team for smoothly pulling it off. Less than half of the group chose to spend the night at Sheep Camp, making for a large but manageable group.

Trailbud and I, accompanied by my better half and his son Ryan, were the advance team; we got on the trail about two hours before the main group to check in at the visitor center, make sure there were no surprises on the trail, and to secure the campsite. I let Bill take the wheel since he's done so much work on my jeep the past two weeks and deserves to have a little fun, and we led the way which meant I also got to be the lucky one to jump out and run ahead to make sure the course was clear before proceeding at a blind obstacle. It's much less work to be number two, or at least be the driver and have a passenger to send out! The guys had warned me that we had no time for photos on the way in to camp, but I still managed to grab a few of them on the trail.

The first thing I noticed on this trip was that the Teddy Bear Cholla was so blackened and withered everywhere we went that I initially thought a fire had scorched the desert floor. Teddy Bear Cholla is one of the hardiest and most drought resistant desert plants in Anza-Borrego, and I have never before seen it in such a drastic state. What was really surprising, though, is that the Ocotillo was in bloom. The park reports that September rain (the desert got rain and I didn't???) has resulted in sporadic wildflower blooms in a few areas. That's one of my favorite things about the desert; it has its own seasons and you never know what you will find. I remember finding a carpet of wildflowers in full bloom at Amboy Crater last January.

Most of the South Coyote Canyon trail is loose sand and an easy drive. It's not uncommon to see 2WD and even passenger cars up until the second water crossing, which is 100 yards long and can be quite deep in years with good rain. This year it was only about 18 inches deep. And less experienced drivers who make it past the second crossing are usually deterred by the notorious half mile climb through the steep rocky pinch.

If you had planned to do South Coyote Canyon for the fun of water crossing #2 and the rocky hill climb, I am sad to report that the park service has completley tamed the trail and it is now a mere shadow of its former self. While the crossing is still fun as you drive along the river bed through the green tunnel of trees, all of the big rocks have now been removed from the river bed. No more surprises waiting to catch the unaware. The little ledge at the top of the climb that used to intimidate newbies is no more. Worse than that, the hill climb has had all of the larger rocks boulders removed and is now no more challenging than driving over cobblestones. They even blasted and removed half of the big rock at the top that used to threaten body damage as you navigated the tight bend at the top.

More people will now have access to Sheep Camp, good for them I suppose, but sad for me and those of us who prefer to go places where few others can. Although it's been tamed, it is still a scenic drive through a beautiful area of the desert, and the remote and primitive Sheep Camp will always be one of my favorite places to spend the night. Unfortunately, it no longer makes a good training trail as we had always used the climb to teach proper technique, and proper tire placement is no longer as important as it had been.

Hit the jump for the rest of the trail report.

Since we were making such great time on the trail, despite the photo ban I made the guys stop for the poser shot on the only remaining rock on the climb because it's just not a jeep run without a great flex shot.

Here's Trailbud and his 4DR:

And Bill in my 2DR:

Sheep Camp is located in Sheep Canyon, and is accessed via a side trail off the South Coyote Canyon trail. The trail to the camp is just very loose sand and easy to navigate. Despite stopping to talk to a group of jeepers at the bottom of the climb (they really wanted to check out the JKs, and having both a 2DR and 4DR to show off kept us talking for a good twenty minutes), we made it to Sheep Camp in record time and began setting up. Bill handled the tent while I set up the kitchen area (we always set up one main kitchen area so we can socialize while we cook) and for a change I had the opportunity to take a few photos of this beautiful location before the main group showed up.

Trailbud coming in to camp:

And the surroundings:

This is the actual "camp" itself:

There is a fire ring, and a pit toilet a short hike away. This is where we set up the kitchen. This is also what allows to do the one thing that we always do here and no where else; show trail videos! It's always a big hit with the newbies, and of course the regulars get excited because WayOfLifette makes everyone look like a star in her videos. I didn't get any photos of it this year, but here is a shot I took last year:

Part Two will pick up from here and continue this trail report. I know this is a somewhat strange place to stop, but I don't want to wait any longer between posts and I have a 4:30am wakeup call tomorrow. I can't finish tonight if I want to grab any sleep. ;)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Integrating LicenseStream into an existing website

I sometimes take for granted all of the knowledge I've been picking up from Denise, Allen and John over at SmugMug's dgrin forum where they voluntarily spend a huge amount of time helping the clueless among us figure out how to customize our websites. It's easy to forget that less than a year ago I was completely clueless about CSS and only had a rudimentary understanding of html, so I really struggled to do the simplest things with my website. I am eternally grateful to people who take the time to post detailed tutorials on how to do the simplest things (and even more so to three people above who are always willing to dig through someone's bad code and help them fix it!), because as I worked my way through increasingly difficult tutorials it all started to make sense. While I'm still not even close to being an advanced user, it is now easy for me to figure out how to do a lot of customization.

So, realizing that there are a lot of folks out there who are in the same position I was just a few short months ago (and prompted by a few e-mail requests), this post is a detailed explanation of how to modify the LicenseStream thumbnail code to work with your existing website if you don't want to use the LicenseStream thumbnails. This method works especially well with a SmugMug site, but will work with any website that allows you to enter html code.

After uploading your image to License Stream and making sure that your caption, keywords and restrictions are all complete and correct as I showed in my previous post, the next step is to "publish" your image. You can do this by selecting the "P" icon at the bottom of the thumbnail either in the Manage Content screen or from the Publish>Publish to Web tab at the top of the screen. Clicking on the icon will bring you to the Publish Content screen. At the top you will be able to review the image and information to verify that everything is correct. Beneath that is the area used to publish to GoogleBase. The bottom section is for publishing to your website.

Make sure you scroll to the bottom of the page and select the correct license model, then click on "Update Ex-Bed Code" first! Ah yes, speaking of the licensing models, I had mentioned in my last post that I couldn't find where I had learned what the different models entailed. Best I can find is to go to the License>License Content tab at the top of your page. Select "Browse Content" and click on the "L" icon on one of your thumbnails. You can then play around with the different license models and see the parameters for each. I use Custom License, but you may choose to use a simpler license model to make buying an easier process for your buyers.

After updating the ex-bed code, you will need to copy the code in the box next to the thumbnail. Make sure you use the code from your own images and not the code I used here or you will be sending your buyers to license my photos!

The code will look similar to this:

**Please note that although I do know how to convert code to character entities so it will display properly in a blog post, for the sake of simplicity (and to save myself a lot of time) I have just copied the code into image files today (and was obviously sloppy about cropping the one above, but hey, it's Sunday. :) **

The first part of the code generates the thumbnail image, exactly as it looks in the box on the screen. The part highlighted in yellow below puts the words "License this Image" below the thumbnail and creates the clickable link that takes buyers directly into your licensing interface in LicenseStream.

Copy the highlighted section and paste it into Notepad or other text editor (don't ever use Word or similar word processing software to write/edit code). Depending on how your website is set up, you will probably need to surround this code with html tags, and I chose to change the color of the font to red, so my edited code looks like this:

You can use any font tags you choose to modify the text, or even change the words of the text, so feel free to play with different colors, font sizes, etc.

If you are integrating this with a SmugMug website, I think the best way to do it is to embed the link in the photo caption. To do this, find the correct photo on your website, select "Edit Caption" and at the very start of your caption add <html>. Your caption should follow, then your modified LicenseStream code, then close it with </html>. You can add <br> tags to add some space between the caption and the link, or any other html code you choose if you want to get fancy. My captions look like this in my edit box (The writing is a bit on the small side here, so if you'd like a bigger version just click on the text to view it at a larger size. You will need to use your browser's back button to return to this page):

That code results in this:

Of course, the exact look will depend on how you have your galleries set up. My galleries are all in SmugMug style with large thumbs on the left of the browser window and a large image on the right (and the larger your browser, the larger the main image will be). This method also looks very good with journal style galleries. I haven't played with any of the other gallery styles yet, but if any SmugMuggers are using a different style gallery and run into problems, feel free to get in touch with me and I'd be happy to help you with it.

You will need to follow this entire process for every single image that you want to link. The LicenseStream code is specific to each image, so you must generate new code for each image you wish to link.

With the linked "License This Image" at the bottom of your photos, anyone who clicks on the link will be brought directly to your LicenseStream licensing interface. If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to click the link yourself and poke around so you can see exactly what your buyer is going to see and the process they will use to license your images. You can cancel out your shopping cart before actually paying, so make sure you familiarize yourself with all steps of the process.

If the process of linking individual images one by one is too tedious and time consuming for you, another alternative is to provide a link from your website directly to your LicenseStream Web Gallery. Unless you've been poking around a lot like I have, you may not be aware that you have an online gallery that can be activated. From the Publish tab at the top of the page select "Manage Gallery". That will bring you to the Gallery Manager screen where you can upload a profile picture, fill in your bio, and choose a name and title for your gallery. Look for the green button labeled "Put Online" to, what else, put your gallery online.

Below that is a section that allows you to send out invitation e-mails, and below that is the section containing the code for the link to your gallery. Just take that code and, using the same process as above, insert the code anywhere you can insert html on your website. For SmugMuggers likely places would be either in a gallery description edit box or on an html page. This is a very basic link that consists merely of the words "Visit my Gallery on LicenseStream" in blue text, so people with advanced skills will mostly likely want to spend some time customizing the code.

I hope this helps anyone trying to find the best way to integrate LicenseStream into their existing website, and I would love to hear from anyone who has found other ways of integrating it.

Happy Licensing!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Review of ImageSpan's LicenseStream

I was really excited when I sw an announcement last Thursday about LicenseStream from ImageSpan. With the recent failures of PhotoShelter Collection and Digital Railroad, Getty's purchase of Jupiter and other unrest in the stock photography industry, one thing we've all been discussing is the need to not rely solely on the agencies and start putting our attention into ways to license directly from our own websites. But many of us have been struggling with finding the ideal way to implement stock licensing. The announcement of LicenseStream was perfect timing since I am in the middle of tearing apart and redesigning my entire website and knew I needed to make a decision about how I was going to handle the stock licensing going forward. My current process is entirely manual and clumsy at best.

It's relatively simple for photographers who do Royalty Free licensing to automate their process, but Rights Managed licensing creates a few complications due to the number of parameters that go into creating a license and calculating the fee. Many of the photographers I talked to were like me in that we had various manual processes that 'worked' but felt were less than ideal in terms of client friendliness and the amount of backend manual work required. Since it wasn't automated, if a client was in a rush and you weren't in the office (and didn't have staff to handle it for you), you'd probably lose the sale. Ideally we wanted an automated system that would allow a client to select the licensing terms using the PLUS License Generator, have the licenses embedded in the image's metadata with the PLUS License Embedder, and have all of this tied directly into an automated pricing matrix which would work with the existing shopping carts on our websites. LicenseStream promises to do all this plus generate invoices, provide Content Tracking, handle the processing of royalty payments for a 5% fee, provide reporting functions, register the image with their Registry Database (important in light of the pending Orphan Works legislation), and provide for publishing the images to Google Base (FWIW, more on this later). It also promises to track infringements and automate sending bills or takedown notices. Oh, I did mention that LicenseStream has Plugins for Bridge and Lightroom? That was a big plus for me since I upload to my webhost directly from Bridge. I like being able to do everything from one place.

Making a long term commitment to a brand new product is scary, especially one for your business that will function as a vital link between you and your customer. I began my quest to seek knowledge and reassurance from the LicenseStream website but wasn't having much luck. It took quite a bit of digging to find some of the information I was looking for. For instance, a chart comparing the Standard and Pro accounts is only accessible by clicking on the word "revenue" on that page. That is also the only way I could find what the standard storage amount is, and how much it will cost to purchase additional storage - important things to know when you're contemplating thousands of high resolution files.

Frustrated by trying to find everything I wanted to know before making a commitment and paying for a one-year subscription, I sent an e-mail asking some questions last Thursday night. I was disappointed when I hadn't received a response by close-of-business Friday, but let it slide. However when I still hadn't received a response by late Tuesday afternoon I began having serious doubts about doing business with ImageSpan. If a company intends to develop a long-term relationship with me, act as an intermediary between me and my customer, and especially handle financial transactions for me, I simply must have a better response time, period. No room for error. And I said as much in a stock forum where we were discussing whether or not to give LicenseStream a try. Within the hour I received an e-mail from LicenseStream with the answers to my questions, an apology for the delay and an offer I couldn't refuse (and no, it had nothing to do with writing a review). I sincerely hope that ImageSpan ups their game in this area because I do really like LicenseStream so far, but this will be a deal breaker if it happens after I have content with them. My standard for this SmugMug; even though their customer support is via e-mail only, I have never had to wait more than an hour for a response. In fact, I usually receive a response within minutes. They truly understand their role in the relationship between me and my customer, and always exceed my expectations in satisfying both me and my customer. They've set a very high bar, and now I expect nothing less.

So I admit that I was skeptical at first, but now that I've been using the program I've got to say that I really, really like it so far. There are some little things that I think can be improved, but overall I am finding LicenseStream easy to use and it seems like it could possibly be the ideal solution.

Click "Read More" to see my experiences using the program and how I plan to integrate it into my website.

I signed up for a LicenseStream Creator Pro account (very simple and fast process) and downloaded and installed the PlugIn for Adobe Bridge. I then launched Bridge, selected a file that was already with an agency and prepped for stock licensing, and started looking for where the PlugIn was installed. I finally went back to the website and downloaded the Getting Started for Bridge guide to find that the PlugIn is accessed by right-clicking on the image. In the pop-up you will see an option to "Upload file(s) to LicenseStream". The upload was fast with one file, but I still need to try uploading a batch of images to determine the speed.

A browser window opens to the LicenseStream Activate Content window, where you have the opportunity to review and edit some metadata, including the file id, caption, description and keywords, as well as choose between Rights Managed, Royalty Free and Rights Simple licensing before activating the file. The Preview button next to the Royalty Group merely tells you the Royalty Split between you and LicenseStream, which is 95/5% for the Pro accounts. There is a very basic keyword generator on this page, but I think that anyone who is used to keywording files for stock already has a process in place and will not find it of much use. It is not clear what the keyword limit is; this example file had 30 keywords and when I attempted to add another I could not. I'm not sure if this is due to a keyword limit or a character limit. Either way, I think that is still sufficient room for proper keywording. And I also noted that all keywords are sorted in alphabetical order. That's an important warning because most of us are used to entering keywords in order of importance; I was getting very frustrated that my keyword order kept changing until I noted the reason for it.

You also indicate whether or not you have a Model Release and/or Property Release on this screen, and you can choose to add the image to any Content Group you may have created. Everything on this screen is intuitive and easy to understand.

Clicking the bright green "Activate" button in the lower right hand corner takes you to a confirmation screen. You can then choose to activate more content or view your available content. You will manage your files from the Available Content Screen.

Each thumbnail has several icons. The camera in the upper left corner tells me this is an image file (LicenseStream an also handles other digital content such as audio and video). The RM in the upper right corner tells me that I have chosen Rights Managed Licensing. The five icons across the bottom are to Add Content to Lightroom, License Content, Publish Content, Manage Content and Download Content. For purposes of this review I'm going to focus on Manage Content and Publish Content.

Manage Content allows you to change your default licensing profile, manage your royalty information including setting up royalty splits, and set any content restrictions on an image file. For the photo I uploaded of Jimmy Carter of the Blind Boys of Alabama, I needed to restrict usage to editorial only since I don't have a model release. This process was a bit cumbersome as I had to individually select the usages I was restricting. In some instances I could select a broad usage such as Advertising>All Media Types>All Formats>All Distribution Formats. In other instances I need to drill down further, for example Motion Picture & TV, where editorial usage would be allowed but advertising and commercial usage would not and each had to be selected individually. It is a little confusing to have to work your way through the entire pick list and create a separate restriction for each commercial use for a non-released image. I would really like to see LicenseStream create one restriction category that would eliminate all of the commercial options at once.

Publish Content allows you to publish your image to GoogleBase if you choose, and generates code for an embedded linked thumbnail that you can publish to a website, blog, or other place you choose. I'm not convinced of the usefulness of publishing to GoogleBase just yet. It doesn't seem to have much of a following since its debut in 2005, but perhaps it has a usefulness in the inner workings of Google of which I am not aware. Based on some comments I've seen out in the webosphere, some people seem to be under the impression that LicenseStream is another stock photograph agency who will market their images; that is not at all true. LicenseStream is a product for photographers who market their own images.

What I was most interested in was how I could integrate this into my website. It is very important to note before using the code in the Publish to Your Website Box that the license type defaults to the "Contact Me Model", which requires a potential buyer to contact you and negotiate the terms of the license directly. You can use the drop down box next to "Update Exbed Code" to change that to "Quick License", "Category License" or "Custom License" if you choose. The explanation of each of those models on that page is not of any help if this is your first time on this page. The Help pdf was not much help either. As a matter of fact, it was so hard to find out exactly what these license models are that I cannot locate the correct page right to refer you to it now. I can tell you that if you want your buyers to be able to select any licensing terms, as they would do with an agency, you need to select the Custom License Model. They will then have the opportunity to select all of the various parameters everyone is used to, and pricing will be calculated accordingly.

After selecting a licensing model you will need to update the code by clicking "Update Ex-Bed Code". You can then copy and paste the code wherever you choose. When a buyer clicks on the thumbnail to license the image, he/she will be brought to the LicenseStream portal to complete the process.

Two things I think could be improved on the licensing page. First is that the picker for Circulation is ordered in such a way that I think it is frustrating to find the range you are looking for and too easy to make a mistake. Instead of being ordered numerically, it is ordered as follows:

  • up to 1 million

  • up to 1,000

  • up to 10 million

  • up to 10,000

  • up to 100

  • up to 100,000

  • up to 2 million

  • up to 2,500

  • etc...

The other thing I'm not entirely in love with is that you really can't tell how you are pricing an image unless you just play around with licensing screen as if you were a buyer. LicenseStream says their pricing is based on on-going price surveys and is customizable at will, but it appears to me that you can only customize the pricing when you are creating a license directly for a specific buyer. I have not been able to find any way to change the pricing for the published thumbnails with automated licensing, and I have not been able to find any documentation about it. While we may be used to this when some agencies market and sell our work, when I do my own marketing I'd like to at least know how much I am selling an image for, and ideally have some control over it. If LicenseStream does have this ability they need to do a better job with telling users how to find the information.

I initially had some concern over uploading unwatermarked images, not knowing how LicenseStream would display my photo. My concerns were allayed when I clicked through as if I were a buyer and saw that the larger preview available from LicenseStream is well watermarked.

The thumbnail code worked well with my website, but as I thought about the best way to integrate LicenseStream into my site I realized there was a better solution. I usually upload sharpened sRGB files to my website for printing purposes and upload separate unsharpened Adobe RBG files to lightboxes for stock clients as requested. Viewers can check the images as large I want to allow, up to original size, in an onscreen lightbox. My agency stock files are of course in Adobe RGB also, and how to automate having files with separate color profiles on my website without apparent redundancy has been a dilemma for a while. The thumbnail view from LicenseStream isn't large enough to allow a potential buyer to make a decision to purchase, and I was hesitant to create galleries of thumbnails for my stock files. I realized that I could modify the code to eliminate the thumbnail and change the font color of "License this Image" to bright red. I could then insert the code into the captions for each of the image files on my website and a red "License this Image" appears under any photo I have submitted to License Stream. I may add my own custom graphic to make it even more obvious. This gives me the best of both worlds; very large watermarked images optimized for viewing on computer monitors in sRGB, directly linked to the Adobe RGB file uploaded to LicenseStream. I love it, a perfect solution for me! This is everything I had been dreaming of for my website, plus more.

The LicenseStream interface for buyers is well organized and easy to use, and there is an option for a buyer to contact you directly. Any content restrictions are obvious, and the Usage/License Generator will be intuitive for anyone who has used a similar automated process. I also was very happy to find that LicenseStream does prevent a buyer from building a license for a restricted usage.

Clicking Build License takes the buyer to a screen where they can review all of the information concerning the image and the license, enter their contact information and see the fee quoted before clicking Checkout. The checkout process generates an invoice and offers the option to pay by credit/debit card or with PayPal.

The one downside to licensing via a website this way is that it appears that licenses can only be purchased one a time, and if multiple images are being licensed the buyer either needs to handle each transaction separately or contact you directly so you can set up a lightbox and prepare an invoice. I recommend having the buyer contact you directly , especially since there is no link from LicenseStream back to your website. Setting up a lightbox is easy as clicking on the Lightbox icon of the file in your Available Content window in LicenseStream. Clicking on the License Content icon will take you through the License Generator and Invoice Builder process. All seems very straightforward and easy to use.

I'm very impressed with how easy it is to integrate a fully-automated process into my existing website. LicenseStream is very fast and easy to use, it is smooth and seamless, and the integration with Adobe Bridge makes it fit right in to my existing workflow.

A little more user documentation would be welcome, and I will again emphasize the need for outstanding customer service. Hopefully now that I am a subscriber and not just a potential subscriber, I will see a quicker response if I run into any problems. Better yet, I hope not to run into any need to contact them in the future, but we all know how that goes when running a business.

If the rest of LicenseStream works as well as the parts I have tested so far, I think we have a winner.

---Last minute update with some additional information:

I added several more images to LicenseStream now and can see one thing that is going to become extremely cumbersome very quickly. Once your files are Activated, you need to complete the process of defining a license and "publishing" to obtain the code for your website in the Manage Content screen. However, in the Manage Content screen there is no way to sort your image files. That means that your newly uploaded files are scattered amongst the uploaded and reviewed files, scattered amongst your completed and "published" content. You can identify the published files by their green P icon, but with only 8 thumbnails per page it will quickly become time consuming to sort through page after page trying to locating files that still need to be processed.

There is a nifty search feature that will allow you to search by things such as keyword or license type, but it would be really nice if there was a way to easily sort the newly uploaded and waiting to be processed files.

I still really like LicenseStream, and I hope that after receiving feedback from users they will make a few improvements to make it easier to use.

---one more late edit: I neglected to mention that the uploader truncates the file description, which means you must go through the time-consuming process of copying and pasting lengthy captions into the files during the activation process. Not bad if you only upload a few files at a time, but a real pain when you're processing a large batch. Would really like to see this fixed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I finally solved my FF3 problems!

I was excited when I heard that FF3 resolved the memory leak problems in FF2 so I downloaded it on the official Download Day (June 18) in eager anticipation. Unfortunately even though most people reported better performance, that honestly was not my experience. If anything, FF3 seemed to run at 100% CPU usage even more frequently for me than FF2 did. I got in the habit of keeping Windows Task Manager open at all times so I could keep an eye it - FF3 never ran at less than 60%. Every time it remained in the 90+% range I would close down FF and restart it, and within minutes it would ramp right back up to the top range.

Even more concerning was that it had my hard drive constantly running, literally. Since my primary hard drive is about reaching what I consider to be the end of its reliable life span (yes, I have multiple backups!), I was really worried that this was going to accelerate failure.

I hadn't been able to find any successful solutions and was really getting aggravated over possibly having to scrap my favorite browser. The clincher was yesterday; all of sudden my hard drive starting spinning out of control. It sounded like a jet engine, getting faster and faster and louder and louder until I was literally afraid it was going to blow up or burst into flames. My computer wouldn't shut down and I had to hit the kill switch on my wall to shut off the power running to the machine. And of course this all resulted in a BSOD, my first ever in 20+ years of using desktop computers.

This morning I was determined to either fix it or kill FF3. I hate IE, and I've just started playing with Chrome now that they've change the EULA, but FF has a lot of add-ons, especially for website development, that I've come to depend on and use every day.

I just spent all morning searching the tech forums, this time focusing solely on the hard drive problems rather than the more widely reported memory leakage problems, and finally can report that I have FF3 running between 3-15% CPU usage and my hard drive is finally getting a much needed break.

So if you've been experiencing similar problems, hit the jump and I'll share the steps I took to get it performing correctly on my machine.

I'll share everything I did, one by one, but I need to note that it was the final step that resolved the issue. I did each of these one at a time and restarted FF3 to check the results. I don't yet know if the effect was cumulative, or if the final step alone was the answer. When I have a little more time I am going to try turning the anti-phishing and malicious site filters back on and see if the problem returns and report back on that. If I understand correctly, I need to have them running for a few days before I'll see if the problem returns.

1. There have been several reports of problems caused by Firefox's anti-phishing and malicious site filters, and many people have reported successful results just by turning these options off (Tools>Options>Security). Note that you will have to pay careful attention to the websites you visit when you have these options turned off. If you frequently surf unknown or sketchy websites, you'll need to be especially careful.

2. Next I tried a Linux fix that some people reported had worked for them in the WinXP environment. That involved changing the default value of the parameter urlclassifier.updatecachemax from -1 to 104857600 (which is one megabyte). You can do this by typing about:config in your url-bar (assure Firefox that you won't do anything crazy) and type urlclassifier in the filter box. urlclassifier.updatecachemax should be the last entry you see; double-click in the value field and change it. Restart Firefox and verify that the change was made.

3. The next recommend fix I tried was to change the default for browser.cache.memory to "false". You access this parameter the same as above by typing about: config in your URL-bar, then using the filter field to sort. Clicking on the value for browser.cache.memory will change it from "true" to "false". Again, restart Firefox and verify that the change was made.

4. The final step was to delete the file urlclassifier2.sqlite, which was from my Firefox2 profile. Make sure Firefox is closed first, then run a search for the file on your hard drive, it will most likely be in your C:\Documents and Settings\your name here\Local Settings\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles.
I deleted that file, restarted Firefox and voila, my hard drive was at peace and Firefox's CPU usage was at 10%. It's been running for a few hours now with six windows and ten tabs open and it has been performing like a champ. I also took a look at urlclassifier3.sqlite from my FF3 profile, but since the size was right where it should be at about 52mb I decided to leave it alone. Some earlier builds had a problem with it growing to tremendous size, so if yours is larger than this you might want to delete it and let it rebuild after making sure you are running the most current release.

Now I've got to mention that I am geek only up to a point and some of the stuff on those tech forums goes right over my head. What I gather is there have been problems with the anti-phishing/malicious site filters and the way the list of harmful sites are downloaded to the urlclassifier file and then compared against the sites you visit. If anyone can provide additional clarification or point out any mistakes I may have made in my explanations, your input is more than welcome.

If you have been experiencing the same frustrating problems I have had with Firefox3, I hope this provides you with some much needed peace.

Now if we can only resolve the Flash problems!

Monday, October 20, 2008

It's a jeep thing, you wouldn't understand...

Getting ready to kick off the desert season with a run through lower Coyote Canyon in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park this weekend. We are taking about 25 newbies for their first rock-crawling experience and will set up camp in Sheep Canyon. Looking forward to getting some great shots of the jeeps, people and scenery. ABDSP is beautiful this time of year. This is the same trail that Trailbud broke an axle on last year, but we're hoping for no carnage this time.

This has been my to do list:

replace blown drive shaft - check (I expected it to go, angle was too steep)
hack off fenders - check
long travel shocks - check, installing Wednesday
shock relocation brackets - picking up tomorrow, installing Wednesday
extended brake lines - check, installing Wednesday
drop pitman arm - ordered, hopefully installing Wednesday
trackbar relocation bracket - ordered, hopefully installing Wednesday

Oh yes, and clean the undercarriage of all the grease from the blown rear drive shaft. If this has never happened to you, you can't imagine how nasty a job this is:

Once again my husband can't resist taking a photo of me looking my best.

I'm not sure at what point things got so out control, but that's why they say "It's a Jeep thing...you wouldn't understand." A big shoutout to the guys who do understand and help me make it happen - WayOfLife, ctimrun, serveapurpose and mikey1989. And of course my husband who loves any excuse to take out the power tools even though he wonders out loud if I'm ever going to say my jeep is finished.

Nothing after the jump.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ducks vs. Oilers - Up Close

Okay, so the Ducks lost again. It was still a fun, action-packed game that kept us on the edge of our seats and I had a great time last night.

Friends of ours introduced us to the great sport of hockey last night with the most incredible seats! Believe it or not, despite having lived in Detroit for a while, which has to be one of the biggest hockey cities in the nation, we have never been to a game. We always considered ourselves football fans. After last night I think I can say that hockey has officially replaced football as my favorite sport. Of course, it didn't hurt that our seats were in the second row on the ice and the action was right in our faces as players slammed into the glass.

I thought I was smart by contacting the Honda Center ahead of time to make sure I could bring my camera with my 24-70 lens. There is a 6" limit on lenses, and the 24-70 comes in at 5.5", right?. I didn't count on the security guard realizing that it was a zoom lens and that they would measure it fully extended (guess I just had a blonde moment about that). So sure enough, at the gate I was sent back to the car with my camera (it was deja vu all over again). But...I just happened to have my hated piece of garbage point-and-shoot in my purse for some reason.

I know, I've been complaining about that p&s forever and first vowing to buy a G-9, now a G-10. But two weeks ago the money went to replace the rear drive shaft on my jeep, and I need longer shocks, and I need to relocate the muffler...

The shutter lag was about to kill me when I tried to get action shots, the zoom function is amazingly slow, I noticed a strong tendency to backfocus, I had to shoot through scratched up plexiglas, and when you're used to shooting manually it's very frustrating to not be able to manipulate your shutter speed, but I think I finally figured out how to enjoy the funkiness and work with the limitations to do what I could. All I know is that as I sat here reviewing the photos this morning I was thinking that I really wish I had the camera that was left back in the car because we were in a prime location for catching the action.

More pics after the jump.