Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata)
Twitch: a British term used to mean “the pursuit of a previously-located rare bird.”
During our previous visit to Kutch, Gujarat, we had manage to photograph almost all the major bird species, however, the Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata) had eluded us. Yes, we had managed to get a sighting but I was not happy with the quality of pictures that we had… Continue reading for details and 4 more pictures
Tea estates under the clouds
I am Wookie - A young lion-tailed macaque looks me in the eye
Click for 13 more pictures, map and the GPX file
Honestly till some time ago I had never heard of Valparai. It was Kalyan and a few others who mentioned it on twitter off and on. Being creature of arid or dry deciduous forest, I had resisted the rain forests for a long time. Seeing the lush green, HDR without the HDR kind of landscapes and the amazing macros of creatures unseen was tempting but the real lure however was the opportunity to photograph one of the most rare of the primates; the Lion Tailed Macaque
Valparai is located about 100km from Coimbatore; unfortunately from Nagpur there are no direct flights and it meant hopping flights in Mumbai. Till a few hours before our departure Mumbai had been experiencing the heaviest downpour of the season, I was a bit worried about flights getting delayed and we might miss the connecting flight. The rain Gods relented and we landed in Coimbatore dot on time. The drive to Valparai was one of the most enchanting drives that we have ever experienced. The 40 hairpin bends around the hills which give a progressively awesome view of the Aliyar Dam and reservoir is something to be experienced. The drive also gave me the opportunity to test my new GPS – Garmin 60CSx
As we drove up it was raining… If you want just pictures wait for part 2 else read on….
500px - your main photo-stream page
Suddenly everyone and their cousin is talking about a Flickr alternative that is attracting users in large numbers – 500px, oh! well, 45k may be large for some I have been putting my digital photographs online since past 10+ years and have moved from uploading them to my own personal site, to flickr and then joining the 500px bandwagon recently.
My first reaction to 500px was indeed WOW! this is so much better. After using the app for a while the WOWness wore down a bit, some what like the second year of a marriage, I began to notice the shortcomings. Not wanting to get too frustrated I decided to blog the good and the bad and keep using the site. May be I will come back to review this post a year later.
500px is not Flickr – the Good
- The user experience on first flush is indeed very nice. The large square thumbnails with semi-transparent caption overlays are definitely how a photo website should be.
- The tabbed interface for Photos, Activities, Friends etc is clutter free and intuitive.
- The main photo display page gives a good 900px wide display which is much needed to appreciate a photo.
- Below the main photo display is a filmstrip display of recommended photos – great for discovering photos
- The concept of Blog and Wall integrated into a photo sharing site is indeed useful and nice.
- The editorial picks ensure that there is a human curating the choicest of the photos for you.
- You have an easy to remember URL for your portfolio with your user name eg: mine is http://tariquesani.500px.com/
- The portfolios can be themed and are separate from your photostream. Portfolio also has sections for Biography and Contact – Add to that the fact you can point your own domain to your portfolio and you get a ready made website solution for photographers who are web challenged.
500px is not Flickr – the bad
- No public API!!! I could not find any mention of any API, no API means no upload app for any device, no possibility to create mashups or easy way to integrate your pics in other places. Yes the sharing to Facebook, Twitter etc is there but can I make a plugin for my favorite CMS? No! I may be wrong here, so if someone knows where the API is let me know.
- No Geo-location integration – yes that map with red dot thingie.
- No way to view extended EXIF info – these two points are very important for me.
- No HTML in description, URLs in descriptions do not become hyperlinks automatically.
- No way easy to see pictures in various sizes
- I did discover a tedious work around though. If the photo url is http://500px.com/photo/799387 then you can view the various size images at http://photos.500px.com/799387/1, http://photos.500px.com/799387/2, http://photos.500px.com/799387/3, http://photos.500px.com/799387/4 and http://photos.500px.com/799387/5 - Update: No longer works but is available thru an API call.
- No concept of permissions – everything is public by default.
- No way to declare licenses for your pictures – I like to explicitly indicate that my pictures are under a creative commons license.
- There are categories but no concept of groups. Special interest groups are needed to popularize your pictures to your intended audience and creating communities.
I guess I should leave the good and the bad equally balanced at eight points each. In summary a lot of effort has gone into the UX and UI part of the app now what we need to see is more features. Also I do wonder how things will scale up with increasing user traffic. Given the fact that they have received a funding I do hope to see accelerated rate of development. Plus at least at this point the developers appear to be communicating with their users.
P.S. That there are better photos at 500px as compared to Flickr will soon become moot as more and more users join in.
Update: An API was launched Mid Aug 2011 and you can get the details at http://developers.500px.com/
Yendbodi Waterhole tigress with cubs
A very hectic work routine at the office, Aasim on a Himalyan trek – it looked like we were going to spend our 17th wedding anniversary doing mostly nothing. However on the flip side was an invitation from Kalyan who is shooting for National Geographic in the jungles of Tadoba. To hell with everything we said and decided to spend our anniversary in the blistering summer heat doing what we love most – photographing the wild with friends. Once decided everything else was a breeze thanks to all the meticulous planning by Swati and assurances by Kallu about taking care of logistics at Tadoba. Continue reading, 12 more pictures
Southern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicoides) - In flight
Show me a bird photographer who has not been fascinated by Bee-eaters and I will point out a liar
The sheer grace in flight and resplendent colors coupled with their boldness and tolerance to camera makes them a photographers delight. A couple more pictures
Indian eagle owl - Adult in flight
Capturing birds in flight is a vexing subject for many newbie bird photographers. Well instead of just randomly trying to get a shot if you think and plan consciously the subject is not at all difficult to master and the results are indeed very satisfying. Am writing down here a few points which can get you started in the right direction – these are by no means the only things you must do, just somethings which have worked out right for me Continue reading for the tips and several example pictures
Osprey in flight
There are some species of birds which are common, almost everyone and their aunts have a great picture of them but I somehow do not have any decent pictures. The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) till very recently was one such species. Continue reading for some interesting trivia and 2 more pictures
Indian Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak)
All my previous sighting s of this animal have been fleeting glimpses as it disappeared into the bushes. Indian Muntjac commonly known as the Indian barking deer is a small, very alert and shy member of the deer family. Read more with one more photograph