Tag Archives: 500px

Weight and Stuff Report – 15 October 2017

Weight: 230.8 pounds (16 stone 6.8 pounds, 104.7 kg)
Steps: Remarkably few

Surprisingly down a pound after yesterday’s wee drinkie…

It was another quiet Sunday in, as I had to do the washing I didn’t do yesterday, catch up on some of last week’s TV and other such things.

I also got the Les Bessant Photography site into a state where it’s looking pretty much the way I want, and is ready for expansion when I select more photos. I’ve basically replicated the portfolio from the 500px site, with a slightly altered selection of photos. Thanks to the Clever Stuff in Backlight, adding to it in future will be very quick and easy, so I’ll aim to start creating new albums soon. I’ve now removed the portfolio from 500px, to save them the bother when they terminate the feature…

Here’s one more from last Saturday – there are some lovely wood carvings in St Nicholas Cathedral, including this one, which I think represents Moses:

Moses. Probably

Moses. Probably

Camera: X-T2
Aperture: ƒ/2.8
Shutter speed: 1/60s
Focal length: 55mm
ISO: 2000
Taken: 7 October, 2017
Location: 54° 58.2127′ 0″ N 1° 36.6627′ 0″ W

My new photography site is on… my own site

Well, having been given notice by 500px that my current portfolio is going to be an ex-feature at an unspecified point in the future, I did some thinking, which led me to deciding that I might as well go back to hosting it myself.

As I mentioned in my epic upgrade post earlier in the week, I decided to go for Backlight, from The Turning Gate. Once I’d got the server playing nicely, it was time for some Lightroom fiddling.

In an attempt to improve performance, I’d split my Lightroom catalog into an old one, then yearly ones for last year and this year. Well, that was OK, but would have made doing what I want to do with Backlight a bit messy. So last night’s entertainment was creating a new catalog and moving all the images into it. That means I can publish albums including any photos at all, which is just what I need.

I’ve got a test album up with a moderately random selection of images. The appearance is getting close to what I want – a clean, simple layout that makes it easy to see the pictures.

The design works nicely on mobile, doing nicely responsive things to adjust itself to  smaller screens, while looking quite nice on larger screens, such as my iMac.

The longer-term plan is to add some themed albums to the site – the way this works with Lightroom means that adding an album is very simple:

  1. Do all normal editing operations that I’d be doing anyway
  2. Create a new album in the Lightroom Publish Service, give it a name, add a description and other details
  3. Click Publish
  4. Admire shiny new webpage

So, here’s your preview of the all-new Les Bessant Photography, now live and available for your enjoyment.  I’ll be more or less replicating the Portfolio from the 500px site (though with a slightly different set of images, which I’ll aim to keep refreshed).

If you want to see the old site while I’m building the new one, it can now be seen at this address. That’s one advantage of having loads of domain names, I can always pick one to use for something random…

UPDATE: Well, I’ve got a basic design which I’m reasonably happy with, I’ve recreated the Portfolio, so the new site is now officially live. The 500px portfolio no longer exists, and the spare domain name is once again spare, and pointing to a holding page.

Upgrading fun and games

Well, here’s an entertaining bit of techie fun for you…

It all started a while ago, when the formerly nice people at 500px announced that the portfolio feature which I was quite happy to pay for was going to be taken away, and replaced with something more complicated, but only if I gave them more money. I muttered about this back in April.

Regular readers and other such mythical creatures may recall my slight tendency to take a while to get around to things, but I’ve had a vague notion that I need to do something to replace that portfolio before the decision is taken for me. And having been bitten slightly by 500px, I was coming around to taking it back in-house, so to speak and hosting it myself. I’d half-heatedly looked at some WordPress themes, but didn’t find anything I really liked, and had long since decided that developing anything non-simple is not something I’m likely to manage to do.

Then a random thought struck me – a few years back, I’d played around with a Lightroom add-in that worked with the Web Module to generate web sites. And amazingly, I even remembered the name of the site.

So, I popped over to The Turning Gate, where I found the previous products had been replaced by Something Clever called Backlight. This consists of a web application you install on your own site and a Lightroom plugin that creates a Publish Service. Basically, you configure the site, add its details to the plugin and then publish albums.

Well, I had a good look around the site, looked at some examples, had a look at the support forum and concluded it might just be what I needed. By the nature of the product, there are no trials and no refunds, so it was a bit of a gamble, but sometimes you just have to do that.

So, I configured a new website on my Linode server and copied over the files. Hmmm. First problem: instead of the friendly login page, I got a message telling me that it needed the SQLite module and wouldn’t play without it.

SQLite is a flat-file database thingy which can hook into PHP, but it seemed I didn’t have it. After much apt-getting and muttering, I found that on Debian 9, SQLite isn’t included for PHP 5.6. There were some suggestions for downloading, compiling, standing on one leg and doing the can-can, but I know my limits…

So, I decided it was time to see about moving the server to PHP 7 (There is no PHP 6. We do not discuss PHP 6.).

I used the helpful PHP Compatibility Checker plugin to scan my site for possible issues. It pointed out that my own plugins used a bit of no longer supported code, which I was able to fix[1], and mentioned that a plugin I no longer use would break, but otherwise I should be fine.

So, I disabled the Apache PHP 5.6 module, enabled the PHP 7 module, and my new site started to behave.

I did some playing and tweaking there[2] before heading back to this site. Ah. Problems…

The first thing I noticed was that while big images were being displayed on pages, the little thumbnails in the Media Library were altogether missing.

The next thing I noticed was a load of spurious characters, mostly  appearing in posts.

The last thing was that the nifty EXIF details block below my photos was totally unformatted and a wee bit hard to read.

The first problem was easy – I used the Regenerate Thumbnails plugin to make WordPress recreate all the thumbnails.

The second was more fun – this came down to deleting the surplus characters by editing the database. Well, actually it was another plugin – Search and Replace that did the hard work for me (after I’d taken a backup of the database, and used the “dry run” feature to preview all changes).

The EXIF problem was more head-scratchy. First, the Exifography plugin had lost all its settings. Odd, but easy enough to recreate, as I have it set up identically on a test site.

That nearly worked – the details now appeared on separate lines, but not in the centred grey box. So, it was time to inspect some code. The block should appear like this:

<div class="exif">....</div>

But instead it looked like this:

<div class=\"exif\">...</div>

Well, with those backslashes escaping the quotes, it wasn’t going to work. I tried re-entering the settings, deactivated and reactivated the plugin, attempted to understand the code, and came to the conclusion that it must have voles. Or something. It looks like the stripslashes function wasn’t stripping slashes, presumably having decided on an alternative career in bakery, or something.

So, it was back to the database. I located the settings in the wp_options table, found that the value for the bit of code that begins the block did indeed contain those slashes, and so I removed them, remembering to reduce the little numeric value by two so it didn’t get confused. And yes, I am keeping that vauge: if you don’t know what any of that means, do not attempt to edit your database. If you do know what it means you’re probably laughing at this post anyway. With that change made, normal service was resumed and the data appeared as it was supposed to.

The last thing was checking on the thumbnails. On the first pass, out of well over 9,000 images, around 170 had failed to process. So, I ran it again and ended up with just six that needed some TLC. Five were ones where the file name in the database had become mangled – another case of character encoding changing things to odd symbols. It was easy enough to download the files, rename them, insert them back into the posts and delete the previous versions. The final one just seemed confused, but the same trick worked for that one too.

Most of this oddness is probably due to the age of the site – it was originally created in the early days of WordPress (v1.something), and things like character encoding can be fun for that kind of thing.

Anyway, we’re now running on PHP7 and everything now seems to be working. And that’s my longest post in ages.

[1] Now that’ll be one for another post
[2] And another one…


500px mutterings

Hmmmm, I’m not going into full rant mode just yet, as I’m waiting for things to settle down a bit, questions to be answered, changes to be clarified and err, other things to happen.

I’ve been a happy user of 500px for the last five years or so, and despite its irritating name, I’ve been paying for the “Awesome” package, which has given me just what I want – the ability to upload far more images than I’m ever likely to, and an easy to customise portfolio which I can point a domain name at, which indeed I do at Les Bessant Photography. This has worked nicely for me – it’s a site where I post only the images that I’m particularly happy with, and it’s a convenient site to point people at without scaring them away with all the nonsense I post here.

Anyway, yesterday, I (and presumably lots of other people) got an email from 500px telling me how New Exciting Things are happening with membership levels, which is the kind of thing that usually raises a doubt or two in my nasty suspicious mind.

And sure enough, the main change is that in place of the current “Plus” ($25 a year) and “Awesome” ($75 a year), there will be a new “Awesome”, which looks much the same as “Plus” at a new price of $4.99 a month (presumably just under $60 a year) and a new “Pro” which adds some new features for professionals (which explains the name) at a rather more expensive $9.99 a month (presumably just under $120 a year). Hmmm, looking a bit more expensive. But there’s more. There’s a new membership tier called Pro+[1] at a definitely professionals only price of $19.99 a month ($240 a year)[2].

And what does Pro+ get you? Oh. It offers a “Customizable website”, which Is what I thought I had already. These new sites will be offered through another service altogether rather than being built into 500px.

Existing users are being “upgraded” to the new packages, so I’ll get a Pro membership, and I took the opportunity to renew for an extra year at the current price. Users need to act quickly to take advantage of this, as the new plans take effect from next Monday.

A bit later in the day, 500px sent another email intended to clarify matters. The quick summary is that the current Portfolio feature, which as I mentioned, is something I use and am happy to pay for, will be going away. From Monday, users won’t be able to create new portfolios. Existing portfolios will still be available until some currently undefined point in the future when a migration plan is complete.

Users can migrate their current portfolios to the new Format site, but as I understand it, only if they subscribe to the Pro+ service.

I’ve emailed them to ask if my understanding is correct, and I’m sure other people will have done the same.

As it appears now, 500px seem to be wanting to charge more to take away a feature I actually use, while adding features that aren’t of any great use to me. Are they repositioning themselves to appeal more to the professional market and less to enthusiasts? It certainly looks that way to me, but let’s if further clarification follows.

[1] Isn’t that a brand of caffeine pills?
[2] And given the exchange rate these days, you might as well think of those $ signs being £ signs.

Picture Portfolio Ponderings

Regular readers[1] may recall me wittering on previously about finding the best internet home for my photographs.

Back in 2009, I was plotting to create a new site based on Lightroom galleries, but what with one thing and another, not to mention the tuit supplies, that never really got anywhere.

Last year, I got as far as pointing a domain name at 500px, but again there was an issue with tuits.

Later on, I got a bit excited about SmugMug, but after playing with that a bit further, I came to the conclusion that realistically, I’m never going to make full use of its commercial features, which would cost $300 for a year when renewal time came around.

And of course, there’s still Flickr, which now looks prettier but doesn’t seem any more appealing for some reason. But I did manage to do a bulk import of photos from Flickr into 500px, and today I found the tuits to sort them out a bit – deleting ones that don’t really belong on a proper photo site, sorting some into sets, and picking a new portfolio theme.

And that led me to get on and make a decision. I’ve closed the SmugMug site (actually finding the tuits nicely before they’d be taking more money off me) and pointed the Les Bessant Photography domain at 500px instead. The old LCB domain which was pointing at 500px is now a holding page with links to my various bits and pieces.[2]

So, the Cunning Plan[3] is to concentrate on putting my best photographs on 500px (as well as here, of course), and mostly ignore Flickr. Probably. Thanks to various discount offers, my 500px account is paid up to 2015, and I might as well get my money’s worth.

If all that was too much to read, the quick summary is that my portfolio site is still Les Bessant Photography, but it’s now on 500px.

[1] And other mythical beings
[2] And if that’s not what you’re seeing, your DNS hasn’t updated yet
[3] For now. Until some new shiny thing distracts me, of course

Flickring Follow-up

I mentioned my surprise at the changes at Flickr the other day. Well, it seems there was some confusion and possibly misinformation circulating. The deal is that Pro accounts (the kind I’ve been paying $25 a year for since err, quite a while ago) are no longer being offered. Those of us with them were allowed to keep the remaining benefits. On the other hand, we could just revert to a standard free account (which has insane amounts of storage) and get a partial refund. I decided to do that, and duly received just over £5, which is probably about right.

I’m inclined to let my Flickr presence wither away, and concentrate on 500px, which seems to be getting more popular.

Getting back into 500px

It may seem a little odd, after mentioning the Flickr changes this morning, but that little matter of the price rise did make me mutter a bit. Then I saw a tweet from 500px:

This reminded me that I’d been meaning to add more to my 500px account, but had never found the tuits. It turns out that Pi.Pe is a magic service for doing automagic bulk transfers of images between a huge range of social networking services, including Flickr, 500px, Facebook, Instagram, SmugMug, and many more. It took a couple of minutes to set up a link to copy all my Flickr images to 500px, and they started appearing almost immediately. And soon after that, I started getting the notifications: comments, votes, favourites. As more pictures moved across during the course of the day, more and more notifications came in.

It’ll take me a while to look through them all, and see who’s been looking at my photographs – some of the comments are definitely genuinely interested ones, some are maybe more of the trying to get attention kind (no harm in that, I’ll have a look at the work of everyone who’s commented or voted), but either way it’s the most attention my photos have generated in quite a while.

I’ll need to do some thinning out on 500px – because Pi.Pe imported using sets, there’s some duplication, and there are some images which don’t belong there – screen shots, webcam pictures and some record shots that are of no interest to anyone – but that can wait.

Flickring Heck!

After years of drifting along and not really changing very much at all, Flickr has just woken up, muttered about damn kids like 500px on its metaphorical lawn, taken a cold shower and sorted itself out.

Up until now, you had a choice of a free account, with rather tight limits on use (no more than 200 images in your photostream, for instance) or a Pro account (around $25 a year) with no such limits. Free account holders who don’t know about AdBlock also see adverts. I’ve had a paid account for a long time now, though I don’t spend as much time there as I used to.

But this morning, I woke to a friendly email from Flickr which announced that they’ve made some changes. From now, free accounts are limited (hah!) to a measly one terabyte of storage, which is room for, err, lots of images. Lots and lots and lots, in fact. Photographs can now be displayed in full resolution, and the default view on the home page and in photostreams is to show much larger versions of images rather than those dinky little thumbnails.

Pro accounts still get unlimited storage, though I think for most people, the distinction between “unlimited” and “one terabyte” isn’t going to be significant. The only real benefit remaining for the Pro subscription is not seeing adverts on the site. Pro users also get detailed statistics showing how many people are looking at their images, but I can’t remember the last time I even glanced at that, so I could live without that.

Until now, it was looking like Flickr was going to quietly fade away into irrelevance, but this might change things. It’ll certainly stimulate sites like 500px to keep things interesting, anyway, and that’s definitely a Good Thing.

More on the Flickr Blog: A better, brighter Flickr, or just pop over to the Flickr homepage.

I do believe I’ll be uploading some photographs…

Update: Apparently Pro accounts will now cost $50 a year rather than $25. I’m not convinced that I’ll be paying that. I’m remarkably good at not noticing adverts…

Updated update: Apparently Pro accounts are no longer offered, and they’re really not interested in providing them, as I mention in a later post.

My new new photography site

No, that’s not a typo in the title. I’ve previously launched a new photo site, then let it drift because the whole thing was far too much effort, so this is the new new one. It’s so new that I even registered a new domain name for it, despite having loads already.

This is follows on from what I was talking about on Monday about giving SmugMug a try. I had a more detailed play yesterday, and came to the conclusion that I liked what I saw enough to give it a try for a year at the top end $150 “business” level. Why “business”? Because I’m actually going to attempt to sell some images, and SmugMug lets me do that. I can set my own prices for a huge range of print sizes and downloads, which could potentially make back some of the cost.[1] SmugMug and the labs they work with deal with all the actual ordering, printing and delivering, which makes it moderately simple.

Anyway, the new Les Bessant Photography site is now live. There’s only one gallery so far, which has the same content as my photobook, but I’ll start adding more over the next few weeks.

I’ve set it up with a UK-based lab for printing – at the moment it’s not possible to offer more than one lab per gallery, but if any US-based readers would like to buy prints, I can set up a second gallery which will work with a US lab, so you won’t be stung on postage costs.

There’s also the option of downloading images – I have lower cost “personal” licences (print yourself, put on personal web pages, etc) and more expensive “commercial” ones (if you’re using it to make money, basically).

The layout of the site is basic at present – I may do some more customisation later.

After signing up, I learned that SmugMug will be increasing their subscription prices next month by a substantial amount, so I got in at about the right time. I’m prepared to gamble $150 for one year, taking into account that if I like it, I’ll probably stop paying for Flickr and 500px, but I’m not sure I’d have been so inclined at the new level of $300 for new Business subscribers. If you’re at all interested, it’s worth taking that trial now and signing up before the middle of October if you’re going to do it at all.

If you do want to sign up, this link will get you a discount: Sign up for SmugMug, or enter my magic code at the checkout: xMRTCekOokYmI

Les Bessant Photography

[1] If I ever get so far as making a profit, you’ll probably hear me going  :tigger: a lot