Tag Archives: black and white

Thumbnails for explore

The Instagram algorithm is often blamed for not giving your photographs sufficient exposure. In reality it is how you engage with Instagram that brings success. I find the Flickr algorithm just as fascinating. This year I have had three pictures “In Explore” compared to the same number for all of 2020. All algorithms require you to constantly interact with your social media feeds. Flickr Explore is no different. In Instagram, the algorithm relies on several easily identifiable factors. Searching the web will immediately provide tips on how to improve your Instagram likes. They are not rocket science and are generally in relation to timing of posts and the interest in your photograph. Of course this is social media and the secret is keeping your audience happy with liking and commenting on their pictures as well. That is not a secret I hear you say! The Flickr Algorithm is just the same and it is about interacting with the people who are posting the photographs. They term the algorithm interestingness and on many occasions it is not necessarily a great photograph that gets into explore. However taking good photographs does help to get your photograph noticed in the first place. Amassing a large number of likes is so intoxicating and being on Explore is a popularity contest. I find that with the Flickr app my phone starts flashing first thing in the morning and then continues during the day with all the likes tumbling in. It is not uncommon to receive in excess of 40k likes for a highly placed picture in the Flickr top 500 of the day.

20210124-Snow on the canal

The three photographs featured here received around 4k in likes plus invites into different groups. Someone told me that Flickr is dead in the water. I tend to disagree as when a picture gets into explore it feels like the site is truly alive and kicking. The three pictures featured offer nothing different to my other photographs on my Flickr feed but each has its own story. The first one featured this year is a canal boat in the snow and is a particular favourite of mine. I deliberately took the picture side on and wanted to layer it so that the lower third featured the boat and then the eyes move upwards to see the snow covered trees. It provides that snowed in feeling and it also looks very cold. The question is whether there are people living in the boat and are they feeling the cold as well? There is a sense of isolation. This picture was taken during Lockdown #3 so isolation is very much on the viewer’s mind.

20210208_Knowle Park in the winter

The second picture was in Knowle park. The back story was that there have been many dull days during this third lockdown and on this particular evening I was desperate to get a great sunset. Early in the afternoon, it looked promising when I set out and then when I reached the park the clouds closed over. I was so annoyed and started to make my way back home. Suddenly and to my joy, the clouds parted once again for around a minute. I saw a walker and aimed to catch him in the image but by the time I had lined him up he was far to the right of the picture. When I got home I was still not impressed with the photograph so I went to work with the sliders. I was a bit slap dash in my approach although it did look pleasing to me. The Flickr algorithm picked it up and the likes and comments followed.

20210303 – Clowes wood

Once you have been on Explore you cannot get back on for around 9 days. If you are in favour with the algorithm then after this time you can anticipate when the next selection is about to occur. I had a large spike in likes for one picture but no explore and then two days later this woodland scene went into explore. I took the picture in Clowes Wood near Earlswood reservoir. All the trees in this part of the wood were straight and in the foreground there was this one crooked tree. It had eventually found out how to be straight when placed against its siblings in the background. Again I played around with the photograph in post production and whilst it was misty, the fog was not that evident. I went for a Silver Efex Pro 2 filter and used the Hi Key feature. It looked good so I posted it on Flickr – once again there was a great response to the picture.

Clowes Wood in Black and White

I have done a colour version and for this one I used the Skylum AI filters which also gave a nice effect. You can judge for yourself which you feel makes the better picture.

Many people now look down on Flickr and have drifted off to Instagram but the SmugMug team have updated the Flickr algorithm and made it more relevant to present photography users. Therefore I would advise, people to give Flickr another chance.

I will leave a discussion on the Instagram algorithm for another blog as it is slightly different approach but again the key as with Flickr is interacting with your audience.

So you want to know more!
Here are the Flickr Explore links
Flickr Explore which is the official link for the top 500 photos of the day
– Although I do like the Fluidr display which is retro and cool
Here are all my pictures that are in Explore

Some previous posts on my activity on Explore
– In Explore from 2019
“In Explore” from 2017 (I have been blogging for some time!)

Finally if you want to get yourself noticed on Flickr then have a read of this article by Jeff Sullivan

My take on Instagram will feature soon!

Visiting Chesterton Windmill has been good for my spirits since the tough lockdown measures were lifted. As we visited the Windmill on a cold June Saturday morning, I wanted to do something a little different. This must go through the mind of all photographers as come back to places they have photographed on numerous occasions. So armed with both my 24-105 mm and 70-200mm telephoto lens I went to work. Interestingly both these are my goto lenses as well. So I add more photographs to a structure that has already been photographed many times.

I have been to Brussels many times but never to the Atomium and it is one of the places on my travel bucket list.  We were in Brussels for an intensive feedback with Marie Curie funding at the European Research Council. Our visit was not helped by delayed and cancelled flights with Brussels Airlines. When we eventually arrived, the conference went well and we were able to catch up with the program.  Once the day was done we took a taxi to the north of the city and walked up to the Atomium.  

Fun with shapes and reflections
Sunstar on Atomium

The Atomium was part of the world’s fair held in Brussels in 1958 (the year I was born) and consists of nine iron atoms in the shape of an iron crystal.  This is magnified over 165 billion times. It is an impressive structure and immediately commands your attention.

There is a plane in the centre if you look closely
Symmetry of the crystal
Looking up

They were getting ready for the start of the Tour de France so it was not possible to get a “clean” view of the front of the structure. There was fencing around the front of the structure with tents ready for the cyclists.  However it was a warm evening and the sun was out.  There were reflections on the metal structure of Atomium and with the low sun I was excited to be taking photographs.  We arrived when the building was shut but it was still possible to wander around and enjoy all those wonderful photographic angles.  It is a place where the locals gather and there were many people wandering around.  I converted many of my pictures to black and white so that the lines and metal texture came through.  Once I had done my photographs all taken with my Sony RX100v5, we headed back to the City for dinner. I was happy to have finally seen Atomium.

A touch of colour

On the website the copyright of pictures is outlined as the creator of Atomium, the late engineer André Waterkeyn protected his design.  So please be aware if you copy any of my pictures which are being used on my website for personal reasons only  . 


This was a special day. As soon as I arrived in Vancouver I started posting pictures on my social media accounts.  These were picked up by the Meet in Vancouver convention bureau team. They messaged me as they found out that I was both a runner and a photographer. They delivered two wonderful gifts to my hotel. One was a special pack of natural products for the after run experience.  I also received a trip for two with Electric Harbour Tours around the bay.

High Rise Living
Reflections from the front of the boat

On the last day I took up the offer of the boat trip. Captain Spencer was my guide and we set off in our boat around the bay. During the trip, we saw the harbour seal who scavenges around the left overs in the harbour.  We got close up and personal with the harbour air floatplanes.  We also got views of derelict structures with wonderful barnacles growing on them.  There was lots of history about the bay and tales about the boats in the marina. Captain Spencer kept me amused with his stories. There were fantastic sea views and amazing skyscrapers to view from the relaxing voyage of the eclectic boat. It was a great finish to the conference.

The harbour seal
Up close with the float planes
Barnacles on a ladder
View from the front of the boat
Captain Spencer

This has been a week of rain and the days have been dull. Even though it is wet there are still great opportunities to go out and take photographs.. My early Wednesday walk from Snow Hill took in the canals that run underneath Snow Hill. The arches under Snow Hill are a favourite haunt of photographers and one can always find a good place for a picture. With the rain there had been condensation with rain collecting on the tow path near to the ornate gates which used to hold horses. Now the activity on the tow path is bikers commuting into work and runners making the best of the early mornings. I settled my camera down on the dirty floor at the edge of a puddle and started to take some pictures. It was difficult to control the bright light of the centre of the picture and the dark recesses of the tunnel. I could see on the first few shots that there was a perfect reflection that made the exit look like an eye onto the outside world. Just then a runner came past. It gave me an idea and by trial and error I set the camera at a shutter speed of 1/100 and f/6.3. I hiked the ISO up to 640. I set it for rapid shooting and then waited for the next runner. Soon enough one appeared and I took my pictures. I had to pick up the shadows from the RAW picture and also do a bit of dodging of the runner. The picture came out very well and was well received on social media.

The train station over the canal

After this I wandered over to St Paul’s square and took a few pictures of the Church and the tree lined paths that criss cross the square. The early commuters were oblivious to the camera and I took several pictures of the area. The black and white treatment suited the day, my ideas for the pictures and set off the charm of that particular area of Birmingham. Here are a selection of the ones that I took.

St Paul’s Church
The paths around St Paul’s Church
The Jam house with 3 Snow Hill towering over it
Commuting down Ludgate Hill to the City

We have never been to Ragley Hall in our time in the Midlands, so when my daughter Natasha suggested visiting on one of the open days then I was easily persuaded. We only signed up for the gardens as we had my grandson, Noah but it was still good fun. The grounds are expansive and there is a lake with forrest. The bluebells were past their sell by date and the path was not passable in places. However, the gardens were in immaculate condition and the Scott Garden with statues was beautifully laid out. We enjoyed the lunch in the cellars at the Hall and next time I must go and visit the state rooms. Hope you enjoy all the pictures that I took 🙂

I have occasional meetings in London and I always plan to get down early and plan a photographic walk. I have never been to Little Venice so I jumped onto the tube and made it to Warwick Avenue. From here I got on the canal. It was a beautiful morning and the light was just pouring out of the sky. Reminds me of one of my favourite songs “The light pours out of me” by Magazine. There was a wonderful haze around the canals. I had my wide angled lens with me which I find pulls in all of the scene into the camera. I moved through Little Venice into the Paddington branch where many people where moving around on their way to work.

Little Venice
Onto Paddington
Hazy sun

Bridges and people

Lines of lights
Buildings and water

Looking down the canal

There was plenty of opportunities to take pictures where water, people and sun interacted. When I got back home, I immediately converted them into black and white and found that I had captured much more than I had hoped. I will be back to visit again in the future.

Little Venice in Colour

There will be many visits around the country in the coming few years as I am part of a research grant with 4 other universities (Glasgow, Leeds, Southampton and Edinburgh). The lead institution is Glasgow University and that is where the kick of meeting began. There was a Burns supper the night before the meeting proper and a chance to photograph in and around the University buildings. The University is very photogenic and has commanding views of the surrounding Glasgow area. The building is also impressive and the central area is called the undercroft. The University have left the Christmas fairy lights in place and it makes for an impressive site. There had been some rain the night before and this added to some of the street reflections seen in the pictures.

The Undercroft
Stairs in the Building
The lights
End of the night
Fairy lights
Always fun to look at
Snowdrops and path
Imposing facade
There was time for a Gin in the Hotel