Snapwi.re Update

Behind the scenes, Reviews By June 12, 2016 Tags: , , , , No Comments

It’s been almost two years since I started submitting images to Snapwi.re so I thought I’d share an update on my status and experiences.  I’d like to make this a running theme with new updates each week so if I don’t answer your questions right away, let me know and I’d be happy to incorporate them into future posts.

My initial thoughts of Snapwi.re are covered in my first post (link). Over the past year I’ve gotten more serious about Snapwi.re (the previous year there were a few months where I was not active at all). The majority of my submissions are still from my library of images but I do take the time to shoot specifically for a request now – if I have the time and the investment isn’t too great. And that mind shift has definitely paid off as my biggest sale was for a magazine cover with custom requirements!

Even if I’m not shooting for an individual request or challenge I keep them in mind when I am out taking photographs. For example, if I have a trip coming up I’ll look at any open challenges or requests to see if I can add them to my shot list. Sometimes it’s just a slightly different take on a normal shot – like making sure part of my car is visible in a landscape image or including a human element where I would normally try to avoid one.

A challenge or request will fairly often spark a new idea that I am excited to shoot. I can submit a portion of the resulting images to Snapwi.re and different versions to other stock sites. So my workflow isn’t based on Snapwi.re (or other stock sites) but it is influenced by it. I think that just opens up more options in the long run and expands my portfolio.

Take a look at my results and tell me what you think!

Snapwire infographic
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That selfie might cost you!

Announcements, Travel By February 10, 2016 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

You’ve probably seen the photos plastered on the cover of many Mexico travel brochures -the Tulum ruins dramatically featured against the brilliant blue of the Caribbean sea.  And if you’ve been there, chances are you have some selfies of yourself….or at least some personal travel snapshots.

I just read an article announcing that the Tulum ruins in Mexico, situated along the Riveria Maya coast, has added a new fee structure. The entrance fee into the park is currently 65 pesos (currently $3.47 US), and each device capable of photos (phone, tablet, video camera, DSLR, etc) will be an additional 45 pesos ($2.40 US).  Video cameras were already the subject of an additional fee, but now all other devices are included.

There are already fees to park, to take a shuttle from the parking area to the ruins, and you can choose to pay for a guide to show you around the key sites and learn more about the culture. So is an additional fee for photography a surprise?  I don’t know, but a lot of people are upset about it.  I have mixed feelings.  There are already over 3,000 visitors per day to the Tulum ruins.  If the incremental fee goes toward protecting what makes this area so special so that people can continue to enjoy it – then maybe it’s a good thing.  I think it’s better than just raising the general ticket price and preventing other visitors from enjoying the ruins camera-free.  But is this indicative of other tourist areas implementing additional fees?  Would that be a bad thing either?  I guess time will tell.

The fees are scheduled to go into effect this year, but no specific date was given in the Yucatan Times.  So if you are planning a vacation and Tulum is on your itinerary, you might want to pack a few extra pesos.  Or, consider leaving some of the camera gear behind.  Ha!  I couldn’t even type that with a straight face!

 

P.S.  If you’d like to go, Frontier Airlines is having an amazing sale on flights to Mexico.  I just received an email from them showing $59 each way to Mexico.  Dates and availability are limited.  Valid on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday flights.  Buy by 2/11 and fly by 4/30/16.  www.flyfrontier.com 

P.P.S.  This lovely couple below is actually in Aruba, but I couldn’t resist using a selfie stick image 🙂

Beach selfie JenniferMcCallum

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Black Friday deals for photographers

Announcements, Shopping By November 27, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , No Comments

It’s 4 am on Black Friday. No, I’m not waiting in line at a store to shop, but I am wide awake, darn it. I hadn’t planned on being up this early (apparently my dog did but he is happily sleeping by my feet now and I’m still awake), but since I am I decided to check out some of the Black Friday deals.

I’m trying to avoid the sales on camera gear….too tempting and I really don’t need anything…until I start looking. But I did find two sales that caught my eye.


The first is by Topaz Labs. I’ve purchased a few of their software programs ad hoc (Clarity is my favorite), and their latest introduction, Topaz Texture Effects, has been on my mind for the past few weeks. I love adding Mextures texture effects to my Instagram uploads but until now I hadn’t found a similar program for larger files on my computer. Topaz Texture Effects is exactly that program. I signed up for one of the Topaz webinars (highly recommended – not only do you learn about the programs but they always give at least a 20% discount on the products showcased) and got a sneak peek into the Texture program. I downloaded the free 30 day trial and have only had a chance to play around with a bit, but I could see spending a lot of time and having a lot of fun with this one. So when I got the email from Topaz this morning that their entire collection is on sale for Black Friday at 50% of the regular cost I had to check it out. Here is what they had to say:

“With the recent addition of Topaz Texture Effects, the Photography Collection now includes 17 products for only $499.99. With the 50% discount, new users can purchase the entire collection for ONLY $249.99! The savings aren’t just for new collection purchases either. Owners of the older Topaz Collections can take advantage of the savings as well! They will just need to log in to their accounts to see their unique Collection upgrade price, then apply the code for 50% additional savings!”

This discount is valid until November 30th. I suspect that I will be purchasing mine later today. Here is a link to the promotion, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you! (this is an affiliate link). Use the coupon code ‘BLACKFRIDAY2015’

 

Hot Air Balloon with textures

Topaz Labs linkThe second tempting sale comes from Red Bubble. I’ve been dabbling in selling items on Red Bubble for a few months now (user name JMcCallum). I love that they have unique photo items like tote bags and throw pillows. They even have skirt and legging products in addition to the usual prints, notecards, and notebook options. I just bought one of my own throw pillow designs (a collection of corks) as a Christmas present for a family member, I can’t wait for it to arrive.

With 20% off all items through midnight on November 27th (use code BF20), I may have to order a few things for myself some additional Christmas presents.

Cork photo throw pillow by Jennifer McCallum

My Red Bubble homepage

So, if you’re waiting in lines at the stores right now you’re obviously not reading this blog and are more committed to saving money than I am! But if you’re at home enjoying a cup of coffee and looking for deals online I can personally recommend both of these! And let me know if you find any others!


Use Coupon Code ‘BLACKFRIDAY2015’ to save 50%

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Carbonite – Photographers beware!

Reviews, Tips By October 21, 2015 Tags: , , , No Comments

Backing up files is an important consideration for anyone, but especially for photographers.  I once had a hard drive fail and spent six long weeks waiting and hoping that a data recovery team could retrieve any images from several years worth of personal photographs – including images of pets who had passed away several years ago, family vacation moments, etc.

 

That was an important lesson for me and I did a lot of research before deciding to sign up with Carbonite.  What I liked about Carbonite was that it had a good reputation, it would automatically save a copy of my files off-site (no worries about fire, etc), it was a reasonable price, and I could access the files remotely.  And for the first two years Carbonite did as promised.

 

My issues apparently began in February of this year, as far as I can tell.  But I didn’t realize there was a problem until June.  After returning home from vacation in early June I uploaded several thousand photographs.  I assumed Carbonite was doing it’s thing in the background.  But for some reason I decided to open up the program and take a look.  I was surprised to see that Carbonite was idle and had backed up approximately 20 of the several thousand images.

 

Within the Carbonite program you can look at individual files and see the status.  It shows if they are pending backup or if they have been backed up.  You can also manually select which files should be backed up.  I went to my most recent photograph folders and tried to manually select them for backup.  It didn’t work.

 

At that point I looked a little deeper into the program and discovered that many folders only had a small portion of the files backed up.  The top level folder was checked, indicating that it had backed up.  But most of the files within each folder were not checked.  All the way back to early February, maybe longer, because at that point I stopped looking and started panicking.  I was unable to add any files to the manual backup.  After restarting my computer there was no change, and I could not get Carbonite to do anything, it remained idle.

 

I called Carbonite immediately and spoke to a very nice customer service rep named Stephen.  He took diligent notes on the problem and agreed that many files had not been backed up since February.  After approximately an hour of working with Stephen the Carbonite program had been uninstalled and reinstalled, he told me to give it a day or two to get back up to speed.  Within 4 hours the system had crashed and it listed no files, only the status of “account disabled”.

 

The second time I called the Carbonite customer service desk I spoke to Shannon.  She was also very nice and actually read through her notes so that I wouldn’t have to repeat the entire situation.  After an hour of the same uninstall/reinstall process I was told to give the program a day or two to catch up.  Once again, within hours the status showed “account disabled”.

 

My next customer service rep was Steve, I had been “escalated” to the next level up.  Once again, no results.  After my next call I was told that I was now Tier 3 and that I would need to make an appointment with one of the product engineers.  I did so, and here is how that discussion went.

 

David called me and started the conversation off with exactly what I wanted to hear.  He said he knew what the problem was, and it could be fixed.  The underlying issue was that I had 3.1T of files backed up.  I explained that yes, I had 3.1T of files backed up but that many more had not been backed up, I love photography and that means lots of large files.  David then stated that I would need to “drastically scale back” the number of files to be backed up or switch to a professional level subscription to Carbonite, at a 300% increase in cost.  He was actually really impressed that the program had managed to back up the 3.1T because he said it wasn’t built for that much information.

I would need to “drastically scale back” the number of files to be backed up or switch to a professional level subscription to Carbonite, at a 300% increase in cost

I quickly pulled up the Carbonite website as he was speaking.  I reaffirmed, my subscription was for unlimited data storage.  When I asked David what unlimited meant to him, he just kept responding that it was amazing that system had already backed up 3.1T without crashing.  I tried to specify, “So, unlimited data storage to you means 3T and under?”.  Same response, 3.1T was too much data.  Even for an UNLIMITED storage account.

 

After going in circles for over twenty minutes I was getting increasingly angry.  I was raised to be polite, so for me to lose my temper openly with someone is extremely rare.  But I had now wasted several hours and had many, many files at risk.  I finally told David to cancel my subscription, refund my money, and send me a hard drive with the data that they had backed up since my account was still disabled and I was unable to access any backed up files.  He told me that I would have to pay, or once again upgrade to higher (more expensive) account to have a hard drive sent to me.  He refused to give me any kind of refund, full or partial, because the product was working.  After all, I had 3.1T worth of files backed up.

 

I was almost speechless at this point.  I tried asking him how he could say that the program was working when it had not been backing up my files for at least 4 months out of the past 10 months, maybe more?  If the program was working I wouldn’t have had to call the customer service desk FOUR times.  I told him I wanted to a full refund.  He said no.  I asked to speak to someone else that could help me and he said there wasn’t anyone else.  He said that he would try resetting my system one more time but if it didn’t work that was just too bad, because the system wasn’t designed to store that much data.  

 

David was kind enough to offer to remove the auto-renew setting on my account.  I may have said, “Yes, please, because I would rather die than give Carbonite one more penny of my money” or something similar.  It took all of my resolve not to swear at him, something I rarely do, but I managed.

 

Not surprisingly, the uninstall/reinstall process did not work.  Once again I was unable to access any files because the account was disabled.  I debated my options.  I thought about calling the credit card company and denying the charges, but the charge had been made 10 months ago.  I thought about complaining to the Better Business Bureau or taking them to small claims court.  But I was so angry that anytime I thought about it my blood started to boil.  I needed to take a step back for my own piece of mind.  Finally, almost four months later, I can write about it without being in a bad mood for the remainder of the day.

 

I don’t think I’ve ever written a bad review of a service before.  But after my most recent experience with Carbonite I feel that I need to warn other photographers.  At best, Carbonite failed at backing up my files and had horrible customer service.  That’s giving them the benefit of the doubt.  I have come to believe that Carbonite is a bait and switch, false advertising con game.  After all, why should the program fail at 3.1T worth of data but miraculously work when I sign up for a higher priced service level?

 

If anyone wants to start a false advertising (unless my definition of unlimited is incorrect) class-action lawsuit, I am in.  I know that the only real winners in class action suits are the lawyers but maybe that would call attention to dangers of backing up files with Carbonite so that other people don’t have the same experience that I did.

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The Dark Hedges – behind the scenes

Behind the scenes, Landscape, Photos, Travel By August 13, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , No Comments
Dark Hedges photo by Jennifer McCallum GOT Game of Thrones

One of my goals on a recent trip to Ireland was to visit and photograph the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland. I was already familiar with the tunnel of trees from various photography websites, but it was most recently made famous in HBO’s “Game of Thrones”.


Backstory:
I was slow to get into the “Game of Thrones”. I think I was initially reluctant from overhearing part of the TV show while I was working around the house. It sounded extremely dark and violent, which doesn’t appeal to me. I probably wouldn’t ever have gotten into it except that my husband asked me to read the books and then watch the shows with him so that he could talk about the characters and compare the books to the TV show. My husband loves to read but fantasy isn’t really his genre. So if he wanted to discuss the characters I knew they had to be good.

Fast forward several months. After I finished the first book we binge-watched the first season on HBO. The same after the second book and so on. I’m officially hooked! I completed the fifth book of the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin while I was traveling in Northern Ireland. It just seemed like the right thing to do, except that I had to carry that huge book around! And yes, the books are dark and violent, but the characters really are that good.


The shot:
While planning our Ireland trip I found all kinds of listings for GOT filming locations. My priority was the Dark Hedges since I consider it beautiful in it’s own right. I knew I wanted to shoot it at sunrise. That morning came early, crazy early, like 4:00 am early. On vacation. But I needed to get to the site before the sun came up to plan my shot.

I got to the Dark Hedges before sunrise. It was so cold, even dressed with every layer I had. An unusually strong wind storm had passed over Northern Ireland the previous day (have you ever seen it rain upwards? Now I have). Apparently the storm wasn’t completely gone yet. The wind was blowing so hard that even with a tripod I couldn’t get a shot in the low light before sunrise.

I sat in the car with the heat on high until the sun came up. Once the sun came up I saw a sign posted nearby warning against being under the trees in any kind of windy weather. Whoops! Glad no branches came down on my little car!

Even with the additional light after sunrise I was unable to use a large f-stop to get any kind of depth of field because of the wind. This was my only chance to photograph the Dark Hedges so I tried to make the best of it. It was still so cold and windy that my eyes wouldn’t stop watering and my fingers were numb. But I moved around and tried various compositions until I found a few that worked with a shallower depth of field.

I’d still like to go back to the Dark Hedges and shoot them in better weather. And I’d still like to have the quintessential Dark Hedges at dawn with the sun rays filtering through the branches photo in my portfolio, but I’m actually quite pleased to have a variation on the traditional scene. What do you think?


P.S.
I still find the HBO version of “Game of Thrones” to be heavy on the gratuitous nudity and the over-detailed violence. But I do like to compare and contrast the TV version to the books. If you haven’t read the books I highly recommend them. Follow this (affiliate) link to Amazon for the full 5-book boxed set and celebrate National Buy a Book day a little early! And yes, that’s a real holiday.

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