May is over, and it feels like I’ve spent most of the time that I had available with a lot of “behind the scenes” work, cleaning up… and most of it has been pretty invisible! You can read about what I’ve been doing. One or the other thought about the plant & flower photography is worth sharing too, this month. You’ll find that and more below, in my monthly end notes for May 2022. Garnished with a few photos too, as usual!
On The Trail
May is definitely the time when hiking at the higher elevations of San Diego County is most enjoyable. The temperatures are lower and the impact of the sun is reduced by cool winds from the west. This is the same onshore flow that sucks the marine stratus over the coastal areas at night and makes it possible to have pleasant temperatures for hiking at lower elevations too — as long as one doesn’t mind the somewhat gloomy “May Gray” of those clouds, and luckily, we actually had a number of such days! Nevertheless, down here the vegetation is, after a winter with lower than average rainfall, drying up pretty much already, while we still have nice blooms in the mountains.
I made a lot of “un-epic” photos, just to capture and hold on to the joy of being in those nice places: we hiked to Mount Woodson via the Fry-Koegel Trail and went for some “forest bathing” at Palomar Mountain with my photo club; my friend Tracy and I went for an evening walk in the Laguna Mountains and I also hiked there with Shuwen, a week later. And on Memorial Day we returned to Corte Madera Peak (it was the fifth time for me) in San Diego’s Mountain Empire region.
Two New Portfolios (With Old Photos)
A few days after completing that one, I looked at my black & white favorites from that time, and decided to compile a gallery for those as well: no particular theme, just Monochromes 2007-2010. A lot of the photos in there are NOT intimate landscapes but rather, landscape photos, and many of them are from the mountains of Germany and Austria, where my love for photography began.
I have also retouched some of them and the combination of better software with better skills (or perhaps just more experience) made this a really fun exercise too. If it wasn’t for developing my photos on the computer, I’m not sure if photography would’ve had such a big impact on me. I love that part of the work.
What I don’t love is time spent in front of the same screen, trying to identify the plants I’ve photographed. I’ve reached a tipping point with my flower & plant photography — what began as an honest pursuit of showing the beauty and diversity in nature has partially turned into a chore. The most commonly appearing plants that one can readily observe are mostly easy to identify (with apps like “Seek” and communities like iNaturalist being a big help), but the phase of photographing those easy to identify plants is definitely coming to an end…
And while I very much enjoy photographing plants for their beauty, I’ve come to loathe the time I have to spend trying to find out which plant exactly it is that I photographed — in particular when there’s no way to properly identify a plant from those photos, because of subtle differences between subspecies or variations that one would ideally have to see side by side to be able to tell them apart… (and/or have more in-depth knowledge of botany and botanical terms.)
Actually, I do find it enjoyable to really “dig in”, read the dichotomous key for a genus, look up the botanical terms — but I had to ask myself: is it time well spent for me, as a photographer? And I have come to the conclusion: no, it is not — it takes too much of my time doing that, and for photos that will only be useful in a plant portrait, but don’t have that much “impact” otherwise, on their own.
And I began to feel like I’m drifting away from what really moves and motivates me when it comes to photography. When I was out with Tracy in the Lagunas that one evening, I realized: I miss landscapes! (even though it was exciting to find a nice patch of blooming Thermopsis californica var. seminola, that evening🤣).
So as much as I’d like to continue building my plant portraits, and my big “one of each” gallery with San Diego’s native plants, in the future there will probably be more plant photos with captions like “A blue larkspur (Delphinium species) in bloom”, instead of “Delphinium patens ssp. hepaticoideum in bloom”. No, I haven’t actually identified a larkspur of this species, but I’ve chosen this as an example because we have at least eleven larkspur species with blue flowers in San Diego County. 🤪 It’s just too much to try and identify them, within a reasonable amount of time — unless I’d specialize in the larkspurs alone… ;)
I want this type of photography to be more about the beauty of flowers and plants again. It still excites me to find a flower, even a very common one, in a beautiful setting — and the thought of identifying the plant should not dampen the excitement. Just take this Miner’s Lettuce, found growing along the Fry-Koegel Trail:
Blog Archive Additions
I’ve “closed” my January 2022 folder — wow, that was quick, I know! — and no un-evaluated and un-processed photos remain there. Woo-hoo! I’ve pushed the last blog post with January photos, titled “The Peak of Spring”, into the RSS feed and to social media, but then dated it back to not inundate readers with too many emails (wishful thinking, I know).
Next, as part of my “Media Library clean up” I’ve discovered some “disconnected” photos that should really go together, like these flower & plant photos from Valley of the Moon, made in April 2011 (!) — they’ve all been on the site, “archived”, just not in a gallery or blog post. Grand! :P
Looking at these photos makes me wish and/or hope for a winter with good rains that will reach the high desert. Back in 2011 I wasn’t aware of the incredible flora of San Diego County yet. I’d love to go back to Valley of the Moon to see some of those blooms.
And while not from the same day or location, these night time cityscapes from San Diego are very popular images here on the site. The skyline from Coronado in particular of course. :)
My “Flowers from the Vault” gallery has also received some updates, with flower photos from the same time period that I had on the site already, “archived”, but not in any article or page. Duh! :P
Here are some articles that I’ve read and other things that I found interesting, thought provoking, or just worthy of sharing.
- How I Started To See Trees As Smart (The New Yorker)
- Should I hike to Hyperion? (NPS; and if you even need to ask, the answer is of course: no, you shouldn’t)
- Could Google’s Carbon Emissions Have Effectively Doubled Overnight? (The New Yorker)
- Wildlife Photographer Shoots TEN Mountain Lions … in His Backyard in Ramona (video, NBC… and also: using the word “shoot” for making wildlife photos is stupid)
This section is, once again, more on the technical side and behind the scenes, so unless you’re a WordPress user and photographer, it’s probably not too interesting and you won’t be missing much if you skip it — unless you’re interested in learning about all the struggles and victories behind the scenes. ;)
I have reached a “milestone” in cleaning up the old photo archive, here on the WordPress site, and the ~400 photos that I deleted in the process can now only be found in my Photoshelter-powered, new photo archive — with much better search functionality. The photos that did remain online are now properly “attached” to a blog post, portfolio, page or wherever else they’re actually used. This was a pretty mind-numbing task, and I’m really, really glad that I’m done with this.
Another change is much more subtle, didn’t take nearly as much time, but has a great impact: for the longest time, I’ve been manually adding the link to my print-on-demand store to the photo captions in WordPress’ database, because I found no way to customize the WordPress [gallery] shortcode captions. Manually adding URLs to captions is absolutely stupid because… what happens if I decide to change the whole thing, and just not use Fine Art America anymore? There’d be a ton of broken links in my captions, of course!
About a month ago, I found a WordPress plugin that adds the functionality to customize the gallery captions. It’s called “Gallery Image Captions“, but it was lacking the feature to add a so-called “custom field” to the caption. My idea was: the custom field holds the link to the print-on-demand store, and the plugin just adds that to the caption, with a little bit of code (which is the way the plugin works, anyway). If anything changes, I can just change the code, in ONE place — instead of changing hundreds of captions.
And so I reached out to the plugin developer, and he was very responsive and liked this idea so much that he added it to the plugin. w00t! Awesome! Since I don’t have to manually add URLs to the captions anymore now, I’m able to sync the captions from Lightroom, continuously. I couldn’t do this in the past, because it would overwrite the URL in the caption (which is obviously not in Lightroom). This makes everything easier and better.
I did have to edit all the existing images that did have the URL in the caption of course, and remove it. I pondered doing a database-wide search & replace for that, with a wildcard (RegEx or something) to catch all URLs that match, but quickly figured that in the time it would take me to learn how to do this, test everything, and backup the database, I’ll probably get close to doing this manually. :} Which is how it happened.
The result is the same: hooray for synced captions, and URLs to the store for the photos that I have online there (adding that URL to my custom field is still a manual process — can’t have it all — but at least it’s much, much easier…).
As usual, here are some photos that recently sold as prints. Thanks to the art buyers from Del Dios, California; Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania; Poway, California, and Norfolk, UK!
What makes me particularly happy is that among these are the first print sales made directly from my new PhotoShelter archive. It was a good confirmation that I’ve made the right decision in abandoning the idea of building my archive with WordPress alone, and instead choosing a fully featured platform that makes the process easier for the art buyers.
And that’s all for the month of May 2022. As always, I hope you found this summary interesting and enjoyed the photos. Thanks for your time, and for your support!