Perceiving through Flickr

by Chris Bertram on February 19, 2007

One of the nice things about blogging is the way you get to find out about new things, read books and watch films you’d never otherwise have come across, and so on. “Eszter”: recently persuaded “me”: to take part in a Flickr project where you take “one photo per day”: Some days, especially dark cloudy ones with British weather, can be a challenge, and I’ve sometimes been reduced to taking a pitiful snap of a household object. But I’ve also noticed a real impact on my perception of the world. Walking around, camera in pocket, being open to the opportunity to take a picture has a striking effect on what one sees. An interesting form here, an odd pattern of rust there, a splash of colour, an unusual building or a surprising or funny scene…. And the competitive/comparative element comes in too: you hope for comments, or for a given image to be “favorited”. You quickly get to notice, too, that there are some pretty interesting people on Flickr here and there. There’s “this guy”:, for example, who has a nice line in images of buildings taken from the same point, but 20 or 30 years apart (and he supplies the architectural and social commentary to match). Or “this one”: , (a kind of latter-day Cartier-Bresson) who captures street scenes in New York in black and white and has a sharp eye for the incongruous. So thanks, Eszter, for opening my eyes a bit.

(I can see that this is going to get expensive too: I’m already looking to buy a digital SLR and puzzling over the Nikon-Canon version of the Apple-Microsoft divide.)

{ 2 trackbacks }

a crank’s progress :: I’ve noticed this as well
02.20.07 at 4:30 am
» Tuesday - pic of the day Dickie Mills
02.20.07 at 10:38 pm



Joel Turnipseed 02.19.07 at 9:08 pm

Flickr is great–but also daunting: is there any other field in which amateurs are so good?

As to Nikon/Canon… I bought a D70s last year as a newby (after a terribly frustrating time w/our point-and-shoot digital during a month in Greece) and am very happy. However, if you ever think about doing DV, you might want to go Canon: so far as my amateur awareness goes, you can use most Canon camera lenses on their middle-range DV–something you cannot do with the Nikon gear (I don’t think).

Having spent several multiples on lenses as I did on the body, it would have been a good thing to have thought that through.


Matt 02.19.07 at 9:56 pm

For quite a while I walked around with one of those cheap disposable cameras in my pocket or bag all the time in case I wanted to take a photo of anything and looked out for interesting things to take photos of. To my mind, though, the digital camera is one of the worst things to happen since now the cost of taking a photo is so low (among other things, you’re not using up all the film you have) that people just snap away like mad w/o having to think as much. Take a hundred photos in a day and 1 or two are bound to turn out pretty okay if you’ve got any skill at all. Taking good photos (even on a low standard of good) is much more of a challenge when you’ve only got 10 chances at it.


JR 02.20.07 at 1:38 am

Don’t ignore the new Sony A100. Sony bought Konica/Minolta and this is an improved Minolta dslr. Two big advantages for a novice – an excellent ant-shake system in the body, not the lenses, and a dust removal system to keep the sensor clean when you change lenses.


Chuchundra 02.20.07 at 3:54 am

The essence of successful photography is taking a lot of pictures so that you can pick the one or two good ones. Professional photographers take dozen if not hundreds of shots for every one that that gets published or printed and they did so even back when each click of the shutter cost them money.

Now, everyone can do this because they can take pictures of anything interesting and not worry that when something really photo-worthy comes along, they’ll have used up all 24 exposures.


Matt 02.20.07 at 5:04 am

Yes, Chuchundra, I know that. But when you constantly have to wait for people snapping photos of every god-damned flower or bird or building or the like it gets really tiresome, doesn’t it?


Chris Bertram 02.20.07 at 6:02 am

Matt, you are such an old curmudgeon!


Mark 02.20.07 at 6:28 am


This is interesting. Eszter led me to Flickr via this Web site. I saw her Buenos Aires pics and when I got a digital camera I searched Crooked Timber for her Buenos Aires posts so I could find that “photo site.”

Today I read Crooked Timber and I see your post on how Flickr makes you look at things differently. And I realize it’s the Chris Bertram, qui est un philosophe in Bristol who commented on a photo of a stencil that I took.

Small world.

I remain your obt. majesty,
King Dufus


swampcracker 02.20.07 at 2:28 pm

Not merely a matter of religion, there are technical advantages to Canon, i.e., lower sensor noise, less static electricity (a cause of dust on images), and incredible lenses (L series).


eszter 02.20.07 at 3:39 pm

Chris, so glad you joined! It’s been fun learning more about your life through your pics.

I wrote a post two weeks ago celebrating my 100th photo in the project, but have yet to post it (rest of life and then travel got in the way). My impressions are similar, a whole new look at the world around me, it’s great. I’ll put up my post in a few days, I think I’d still like to post it even though you’ve captured a lot of what my entry says.

BTW, I’ve had over a dozen photos in explore and I’ve taken all of them with various Canon mini digitals (my current one is the SD 630 and I LOVE it, the tiny size overall and the huge screen are a super combo).


Chris Bertram 02.20.07 at 5:35 pm

Hey Eszter, Mark (and everyone else) thanks for the comments.


Mark 02.20.07 at 5:59 pm

I’m also a Canon mini user (SD600). Because it’s so small I always have it with me, which allows me to take pictures of anything that intrigues me.


Ivor 02.20.07 at 7:54 pm

“The essence of successful photography is taking a lot of pictures so that you can pick the one or two good ones”

Mindlessly pressing the shutter is hardly a recipe for good photography. As in other visual arts thought, concept, acute perception and skills is what bring communicative images to fruition.

Oh, and the brand’s micro politics (Canon vs. Nikon vs. Sony vs.X) is without a doubt the silliest side of this hobby. Basically all of them sell consumer electronics with artificially shortened product cycles, all of them employ a vast PR industry and make obscene annual profits. Well, a notable exception from this gang is Sigma which employs a radically different sensor, producing images of qualitative difference; and Olympus known for it’s quality optics, and generally a different approach to making cameras.

The important point is, no camera on the market today poses a serious obstacle to the one’s creativity.


nick s 02.20.07 at 8:59 pm

Mindlessly pressing the shutter is hardly a recipe for good photography.

That’s stretching what others have said. You can ‘burn film’, as the cliché goes, without sacrificing basic attention to composition.


shpx.ohfu 02.20.07 at 9:46 pm

I drive by this street sign every day, but it wasn’t till I got into pictures again that I saw it, provoking similar thoughts a while back.


Richard W. Crews 02.21.07 at 9:39 am

Does anyone get beyond snapshots, and have a use for depth of field focus? Am I missing something? I really don’t like digital pictures where the CCD is just flooded with the whole aperture. No depth differentiation. Not great art at all.
I’m waiting for enough money for a Nikon D50 or D60 – $588 on Amazon.


swampcracker 02.21.07 at 1:27 pm

Richard, consider:
A painter starts with a blank canvas and decides what to put in. A photographer starts with a blank frame and decides what to leave out.


blamanj 02.23.07 at 3:17 am

As far as Canon vs. Nikon goes, I would say this. Go to a camera shop and try before you buy. I was planning on Canon based on (at the time) arguably better high ISO performance. However, when I got to the camera shop, I didn’t care for how it felt in my hand. The salesman gave me a D70 to try and I was hooked. YMMV, of course.


Paulie 02.23.07 at 4:51 pm


Paulie 02.23.07 at 4:52 pm

The URL didn’t appear on the last post. Let me try again:

Comments on this entry are closed.