Too Busy To… Flickr Galleries

My most recent photoblog posts here have been hosted using flickr. The upload experience is slick and efficient, and the 1TB of online storage means I can freely upload my files at full resolution and let flickr figure out the best way to serve it to a given client, whether a bandwidth constrained smartphone or a 30 inch display with a “fat pipe”.

flickr can also take care of other optimisations. Two of the key findings when I analysed my website was to use the progressive jpeg format and a content-distribution network. I could do the former myself by adding a manual step1 to my export-and-upload workflow, but the latter requires a considerable amount of effort to setup and maintain. Another unexpected but welcome benefit has been flickr’s social aspect: my photographs are seen by more people than when I host them solely here on my own site.

Hosting on flickr does have some disadvantages. flickr has no supported way to embed a gallery of images in a webpage. The photographs are being displayed here using the very good Flickr Justified Gallery plugin, although the full size image display is not quite as nice as the one used for native WordPress galleries. Entrusting my content to a third party service also carries risks for the long term longevity—will flickr still be serving my photographs in 2025? That risk is somewhat present even using the open source software that hosts this blog should it stopped being maintained, although the size of the WordPress user community means there is a good chance of an export path. While not quite the same, flickr also has a large community and good API support, so for the moment the benefits I listed above seem to outweigh this risk.

Metadata

One of the more tedious parts of uploading a batch of photographs is captioning. Most websites, flickr and WordPress included, will take the filename as the primary title. The problem with this is that since filenames must be unique within a directory, multiple files with the same title end up with a extraneous number that must be removed.2 Any text in Aperture’s “caption” field becomes the description in flickr. On a album-orientated website such as this, the title does not need to include any context since that is provided by the album itself, for example an image entitled San Telmo in an album about Buenos Aires is unambiguous even if there are multiple cities in the world with a district of the same name. However flickr’s stream-orientated approach to images means that at least some visitors may arrive at the photograph without the context provided by an album. To complicate matters, only the title is shown on this website when displaying a gallery. I include this information here purely for reference since if a few months go by between uploads then I struggle to remember the exact mappings and have to spend time fixing up the titles manually!

  1. $ jpegtran -copy all -optimise -progressive -outfile $x.new $x [back]
  2. flickr makes this very quick and easy, which is why I described its upload process as efficient above. [back]

Buenos Aires Gallery

As I previously wrote, Buenos Aires is more interesting than picturesque, but nonetheless provided some memorable images.

Atacama: El Tatio Geysers and Machuca

Our final day in the Atacama desert was a trip to experience dawn at the El Tatio Geyser field. The trip is timed like this because the hot steam from the boiling water erupting from the ground looks particularly impressive when it condenses in the 5ºC high altitude dawn air and the rising sun makes it even more majestic. The chill air was a bit of a shock to the system after the day time roasting we had received up until now, but it was a very impressive display of nature.

On the way home we made a pitstop at the remote Andean community of Machuca, and we were lucky enough to spot some indigenous wildlife.