On Flickr Explore

I’m on Flickr. I’ve been on Flickr for well over 10 years.
I have never made it onto Explore.

What is Explore?” I hear you ask…

Users who aspire to the ultimate level of recognition within the Flickr community will certainly become aware of something called Explore. Explore is a daily stream (viewed by thousands of people) of the top 500 photos as selected by Flickr’s “interestingness” algorithm.

Explore is somewhere I go to view some of the best photos uploaded in the last 24 hours. And it’s good that they cut them down to 500 because going through all 25,000,000 daily uploads would be a bit of a pain.

And there are some absolute gems in there, as there should be with a 99.998% rejection rate. But it’s clear that there is a huge difference between “bestness” and that intriguing but ultimately flawed “interestingness” algorithm. I mean, look at this from this morning:

Nine wonky photos of school buses? Is that really the best we could do?

Those images made it in to Explore simply because about 20 people clicked the “favourite” button on them. Evidently, the school bus spotting fraternity in the US had been waiting for something to get excited about for… well… quite a while. And then nine came all at once*.

How ironic.

I’d love to get onto Explore: photography, after all, is meant to be seen. And every view increases the potential of more of this kind of thing. I like this kind of thing.

There’s a good thread about Explore here, and there are plenty of sites around where people with far more time than me have looked at common features of Explored photos and kindly shared them with us. Apparently, things that can influence your chances include the time of your upload, how many followers you have, whether you pay $25 to be a member each year etc etc etc.

It’s taken me no time to work out that if I am going to get Explored any time soon, I need to make some fairly radical changes to how I use Flickr. I’m not there just yet.


* and there are over 5000 more where they came from…

A fire

I was heading back up towards the homestead from the magnificence of the Claremont CBD with the boy yesterday evening when we spotted some smoke (lots of smoke) billowing up from somewhere local. Well, we could have gone straight home, or we could have gone fire-chasing.

We went fire-chasing.

Since this had been a quick trip down to a local fitness centre, mostly populated by children, I hadn’t brought my camera with me. It’s just not the done thing. But that was a bit of a drawback when we inadvertently went fire-chasing. Still, I think my phone did ok, all things considered.

The fire was in Trovato Park, just above where the M3 goes over the top of Edinburgh Drive. There’s quite a population of homeless folk that live there, and the fire crews present were certainly of a mind that they were the cause of the blaze. It had taken on the dry grass and pine needles very quickly, and had leapt up the trunks of at least three of the trees in the park.

That said, it wasn’t much of a blaze and was already under control when we got there. The smoke was more of an “all mouth and no trousers” affair, although with the sun heading down over the mountain, it did allow for some nice shots through the trees, and prime Instagram fodder.

You can see my mini set of 9 very similar images* here.


* because of the nature of what I was ‘togging, it was rather difficult to get any other angles. I would have got burny feet syndrome. 

We went to Theewaterskloof

Theewaterskloof being the biggest dam supplying Cape Town with water.
And we weren’t alone. Because Drought Tourism is a thing.

Some TWK stats for you from Wikipedia:
Total capacity: 480 406 000 m³
(for lovers of comparisons, that’s about 15 times the size of Ladybower Reservoir in the UK)
Catchment area: 500 km²
Surface area: 5 059 ha

Of course, that’s what it should be like. It’s not like that at the moment.

Theewaterskloof is divided quite neatly into 2 halves by the R321 bridge.

Most of my photos (link below) were taken from near the red dot (just left of centre) on the map above. Those of the dam wall and associated infrastructure were taken near the green dot (bottom right).

And while there is still some water in the Eastern (lower) half, the Western (upper) half is one big – very big – sandpit. Of course, we knew this before we headed out there, but it was still a wholly shocking sight and nothing (including my photos, I fully admit) prepares you for – or allows you to grasp – the sheer scale of what you’re confronted with.

What you’re looking at here is the only water in the “top” half of the dam. The water is about 100m wide at its widest point, and that sounds ok, until you realise that the far side of the dam is over 5km away. Aside from that 100m strip, it’s all just sand. And laterally, there’s almost another 6km to the left that should also be covered in water. But there’s none. Nothing at all.

And everywhere you look, dead trees. Usually they’d be submerged, but they’re high, dry and seemingly petrified. It’s weird: very disconcerting, yet also strangely beautiful.
It’s like every photo you’ve seen from the Namibian Tourist Board.

I’m not going to be like that “vlogger” and tell you how much water we’re “losing” through the outflow from the dam wall, and how the coffee and chocolate farmers of the region are “stealing” “Cape Town’s water”.
I’m not going to ask you how much water you’re using: if you’re in Cape Town, you should know that already, and if you’re not in Cape Town, then it really doesn’t matter to me.
And I’m not expecting my photos or words to effect any change in anyone. If you’re not panicking even just a little bit by now, too few blue pixels on a computer screen aren’t going to make any difference to you.

But even for a realist like me, it was a very sobering sight.

On a more practical note, photography was incredibly difficult. The light was completely overwhelming, there was nowhere high nearby to get a decent vantage point, and what should have been water is now just a wide open space with no landmarks to get any sort of scale or perspective.
Even the Mavic up at 120m struggled to take it all in. No wonder NASA used a satellite.

Theewaterskloof is very, very big, and it’s very, very empty.
Consequently, it’s my humble opinion that we should all be very, very worried.

Photos on Flickr here. Video to follow.
And hey, if you’re the guy who chatted to me on the dam wall this afternoon and asked where he could see my drone photos, you made it. Welcome!

Popular photo

There will always be new uploads for you to view on my Flickr page. Some are more popular than others. The addition of a drone to my camera armoury has been a big boon to my paltry stats (not that I got it for that).

Two of my most viewed shots this year were taken with the Mavic. And the winner(?) with 1,300 views on the site was this one:

Suiderstand, Rasperpunt and along the coast towards the Southernmost tip of Africa from 100m up.

I don’t think it was my best shot, but since life seems to be just one big popularity contest these days, maybe by some metric or other, it actually was.

Galactic editing

After I posted a photo I took over the weekend, long-suffering reader and all-round top ‘tog Chris J Wormwell (you may remember him from such posts as Chris’ PoA sky & lighthouse p0rn and The photo that I wanted to share yesterday but couldn’t because the dog ate the internet) got in touch with some sage advice:

This was a huge help and step forward for me recently: https://www.lonelyspeck.com/how-to-process-milky-way-astrophotography-in-adobe-lightroom/

I clicked through, and was rewarded with a step-by-step guide to making this photo:

look better:

And it only took me ten minutes or so.

Some points from my experience:
I think the photo looks much better.
Note that all that stuff was there in the original – you just couldn’t see it.
If I can do it, so can you.
The guide was really helpful.
I now know that I will need to take a better photo next time if I want to make it even better.
But also, I now know how to do that.
There are loads of other ideas for night photography on that site that I haven’t had chance to look at yet.

A(nother) new door has been opened. Thanks, Chris.