Over on the photo sharing site Flickr, my photo of Tiffany Bridge is having a viral moment. Woke up this morning to what Flickr calls “Explore.” The Tiffany Bridge picture will have 4,500+ views and perhaps more before it’s over. Tiffany started the morning at 129 but has slipped as of now to about 145 on the ranking site, Fluidr.
The picture isn’t all that great, really. It would never muster much of a score if judged in competition. Flickr Explore, however, isn’t like that. Explore is a machine; an algorithm. Based on what is known about Explore, the algorithm is set up to uncover what they call “interestingness.” It needn’t be a great picture, it just has to tickle the algorithm in a way that causes it to pull a picture out of the upload stream and stick it in the daily Explore feature page. The machine picks out 500 pictures every day.
In defense of Explore photo quality, my thinking is many of the top images would do just fine in a competition judged by humans. But, it’s a machine in search of something interesting not strictly its technical or artistic merits.
The first time Explore happened to me it was startling. I kept thinking, “what on earth is going on?” Explore has happened a few times since then and the experience still has a little jolt. What this means to me is that it’s fun when it happens, the recognition is still cool, but you can’t plan for it or take it too seriously.
Once in awhile you get a result you can feel good about:
Found in the Nordic Trail section of the Southern Unit Kettle Moraine State Forest, Wisconsin. A few minutes later I was in a downpour.
1.6 mile, Nordic Trail, purple loop, Southern Unit Kettle Moraine State Forest, Wisconsin.
It was still, humid, and about to rain. Quiet, too. Only little things to look at.
There wasn’t much to the winter this season. Snows in December and 70 degree temps in February. Nice little snow in March but that’s gone now too. Did manage one wintery farm scene.
She surveys her sward
It has been said that if you’re taking pictures for the “likes” or the “faves” you’re taking pictures for all the wrong reasons. Well, maybe. A while back someone asked me “why” I’m a photographer. At the time I responded with something trite like, “it’s fun” or my standard refrain, “I’m too lazy to work and too honest to steal.”
When I thought about the “why” of taking pictures, a few other feelings began to surface. And as I sorted it out, one thing stood out. I like to please people. Oh, photography is a tool in the survival toolkit and I do things to make a living so I can keep a roof overhead and some food around.
But a real trigger to keep taking pictures are the reactions people have. When someone looks at a picture and smiles; I like that. When someone looks at a picture and it brings a memory or story back; I like that. When someone looks at a picture and says, “That doesn’t look like me!” my heart sinks.
Not that a negative reaction is always bad. Back in my journalism days a picture that pissed someone off or forced an issue made me very happy. See, it’s the reaction that’s satisfying. The desired reaction, be it pleasure or something else, is motivating for me.
So when one of my images happens to trip the Explore algorithm, I get a nice kick out of the extra views, faves and comments. And I’m going to enjoy it.