Lori Carey Photography

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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A few good tips and tools

I came to the realization over the weekend that the code for my website was beyond salvaging; I had customized a template that didn't like customization, and in the process I completely borked it. So yesterday I started writing all the code from scratch. I surprised myself because I had it up and running in less than 24 hours, with the same look as my old site but improved functionality and a base that will take to additional customization without protest. And my blog is now completely integrated. Lots more surprising things to come!

I love teh interweb! All that knowledge just there for the taking! I remember the days (here she goes again) when you had to learn the Dewey Decimal System, wait for the library to open, look up a subject in a card catalog, find out that you wanted info on an obscure subject and a book had to be ordered, wait for the book to be delivered to the library so you can go back when it's open...it's a wonder we ever learned anything on our own back then. Now if I want to learn how to do something I just google away (and sort through the chaff. Ok, there is a lot of garbage out there and you can't believe everything just because it says so on wikipedia, but there is an incredible wealth of knowledge being shared out there).

But for those of you who don't like to sort through the chaff to find the nuggets of gold (I know it's a mixed metaphor), I thought I'd pass on a few random tips and tools that I have found very useful for designing and maintaining a blog and/or website and managing SEO.

First, one of my favorite tools when I am working on website design is Instant Eyedropper. This free program is just the trick when you need to know a color code. I keep it in my toolbar; right click to choose between HTML, Hex, Delphi Hex, VB Hex or RGB. Then just drag the eyedropper to anything on your monitor screen and it will both show the correct code and place it on your clipboard. Really comes in handy too when you have a list of color codes that you're using on a site and you can't remember exactly which one you used for something...much faster than digging through your CSS!

I love the XML validation tool over at W3Schools, a first-class e-learning portal run by Refsnes Data. They have tutorials and tools for building a website based on W3C standards, and I can tell that I'm going to be spending a lot of time there. The info on their site is thorough, easy to understand, and most important, up to date with today's standards. The validator tool allows you to cut-and-paste your code into a box and will check your syntax line by line. You might be surprised that just because code runs on one host, it may not run on another host that enforces strict W3C compliance. I had stared at a few pages of code for several days without being able to spot the problem. The XML Validator helped me identify it in seconds.

Next cool tip is for your blog. I think most people know to set up Google Alerts for their name, their business name, and their website name. If not, do so now! It's a great way to see how often and what searches your name comes up in. I never realized before how often my personal name shows up in searches, a good clue that SEO is starting to pay off.

But Google Alerts can also be used in another way. If you allow people to link to your blog posts, you probably realize that you only get an e-mail when someone comments, not when they link to you. It can be tedious to do the work to look for links on older posts. Well, I never realized until recently that you can set up a Google Alert for links to your blog posts, and once a day you will get an e-mail showing exactly who is linking to you. This is really neat, and it's how I learned that Idee, the company that owns another of my favorite tools - TinEye, linked to my blog and publicly thanked me for my blog post about them. My voice is being heard! How cool is that to get a link from a favorite company?!

To set up the alert for links to your blog posts, go to http://blogsearch.google.com/?ui=blg and in the search box enter link:http://blogname.blogspot.com (the part following "link:" must be your blog URL). The search will show links to your blog, and you'll see options for subscribing to the feed by email or with Google Reader. Now you'll know whenever someone backlinks to you.

That's it for now, I'll leave the rest for another day when I need something to talk about.

Nothing after the jump.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Navigating through it all

Okay, my new navigation bar is up and running on my main site. AND it looks good in both FF3 and IE7 (Yippee!) It's even easier for me to navigate the site, so I know it has to make it easier for client navigation.

Now I've got to get to work making it functional from this blog page. In the meantime, please click the "Home" link and navigate directly from my main site.

Still so much more to do after that.

Nothing else.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Deconstruction Theory

I had spent the entire summer focused solely on my stock portfolios, not even shooting as much as I would have liked because I was so tied down in processing (a different way for each agency), uploading, keywording (a different way for each agency), and combing through my archives. When one of my agencies, PhotoShelter, gave little warning that they were closing the doors it woke me up to the fact that I had been neglecting other areas of my photography and my business. One of the most important things I had been neglecting was my website. I started putting the rough skeleton together, but never really fleshed it out because I was so focused on my stock portfolios. I allowed myself to be distracted from one of the most important components of my business plan.

Along with the redesign is more refinement of my business plan. Actually, the business plan comes first and the website redesign follows. Lots of time spent soul searching on that one, and I'm not the type to think out loud. But it is critical that a website support the business plan.

So I ask you to bear with me as I work through the redesign. One of my biggest stumbling blocks in thinking it through is whether to have separate sites for each of my areas, or combine everything together and still make it work. Right now I am working on the idea of having stock, fine art, and of course my jeep adventures all under one roof because that's who I am. But structuring it to make it a workable format takes some thought, and since I'm learning the coding on the fly it can take me a while to figure things out. From time to time things may look a little out of place until I am finished.

I have some really exciting stuff coming up soon; unbelievable seats for the Ducks game next week that should allow me to remain within the 6" limitation on a lens; taking 20+ newbies on their first rockcrawling adventure in Anza-Borrego in a few weeks; I've been invited to the Bickel Camp to learn how to pan for gold and see some amazing California history; and we'll be heading down to San Felipe for the Shrimp Festival next month, just for starters. My head is down and I am hard at work to get my website finished so I can get back to shooting the things I love to shoot best.

Nothing after the jump.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Nachtwey's TED Prize Wish Project Revealed

Incredibly haunting images from James Nachtwey highlight the awful disease XDR -TB, a new and deadly form of tuberculosis that is threatening to become a global pandemic.

If you are an e-mail subscriber, you must click through to view the video.

Nothing after the jump.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

James Nachtwey's TED Prize Wish

Time for one more quick post. Powerful. Nachtwey is a master and I can't wait to see what he has in store for us on October 3.


Well I had a post all planned and nearly finished last night, thought I would just have to hit the "Publish" button this morning after one last quick proof. Instead, when I sat down to my computer at 7:30 this morning I found out I had been hacked. Someone decided to help themselves to a new Macbook Pro courtesy of my PayPal business account, which was unfortunately linked directly to my checking account. I found out when UPS sent me the automated shipping notice, but when I logged in to track the shipment I saw that it had already been delivered (you were two days too late UPS, although I still appreciate the notification because it was the only way I knew that I had a problem).

So I went into panic mode and immediately got PayPal on the phone to put a freeze on my account and file a claim. Then got Bank of America on the phone to notify them and file a fraud affidavit. Then of course there was checking all of my other accounts, changing user id's and passwords, placing a fraud notice with the credit agencies, and filing a police report. And I had some e-mail dialogue with the seller, who was extremely helpful. I'm not going to publish his name (or that of his business) quite yet, but he provided some very helpful information. That tied up my entire day (and I realized at 5pm that I hadn't stopped to eat all day!). My biggest concern was making sure it didn't go any further.

I have heard bad things about PayPal customer service from other people, but I've got to hand it to them. I just checked my account and the money is back, should be transferred back to my checking account tomorrow. And Bank of America's customer service department is always top notch. I've also got to give a shout out to the Orange County Sheriff Department because the officer who took my report was first class. All of you made this much easier than I was afraid it was going to be.

I guess that sooner or later they're going to get you no matter how vigilant you think you are. The key is to make sure you do business with companies that protect their customers. My faith in the companies that I do business with has been strengthened because of the way they handled this situation.

That's all for now. I am really worn out.