Thursday, March 11, 2021

No More Nikon? ... Maybe? Possibly. IDK!

What on earth could possibly be the case. I'm thinking of switching. Dare I say it twice, and heaven forbid a third time? Yes. I'm thinking about switching from Nikon, to... well, I actually don't know to what, if anything.

What phantasmagoria has betwixt me?

If I choose to continue my photography, professionally, I need to consider not only my future, but that of the field of photography, and by extension, Nikon. The decisions that Nikon as a company make when deciding what camera to make, what features to include, or not include, affect me as a photography. 

Allow me to explain. What if, for instance, Nikon decides not to make a pro-grade camera that has exceptional autofocus, but not enough lens choices. As a photojournalist, I may need a wide angle lens to document a political event, but what if a lens doesn't exist for that camera? This may seem arbitrary, but it is a possibility for Nikon. It does, quite honestly, sadden me to say that Nikon is losing money, as a company. Yes, the overall industry is declining, but Nikon seems to be on a further, more rapid decline.

And therein lies the issue. What happens, if because Nikon decides a lens, or camera or feature isn't worth pursuing, I can't purse my task, my job, my passion? I'll admit, it may be a stretch now, however it may be possible in the future. I need to accept that Nikon is not a company to continue to invest in.

WAIT!!! What is this sudden nonsense propaganda about Nikon's future? I'd be remise if I didn't follow the photography industry, and fellow photographers of all levels. No one can learn on their own, completely. Take, for instance, a painter. They can learn about as much as possible about materials, techniques, methods of applying the paint, etc. But what about the painter's they look up to, are influenced by or are surrounded by? We all learn by studying others, it's in our nature, and photography is no exception.

All the same that can be said for studying other artists, athletes, whatever, can certainly be applied to also studying the respective industry. What is the latest camera, the newest flash, the newest technique, the newest up and coming multi-pop artist? Who can I learn from? Where are the newest, never before seen photography spots? Who are the yet to be discovered models? 

Lastly, I need to follow, arguably, closest of all, the company(ies) that make and supply the tools I choose to use. If I choose to continue my passion of photography, I need to know about the financial security of the companies I invest in. Is Profoto going to be financially stable enough for me to be able to get service, maintenance and future products? What about Nikon? What about Apple? As many photographers can attest, photography is a long-term commitment. For some, it's a life-long commitment.

There are those who can appreciate the following statement: "They don't make things like they used to." My dad bought, about 5 years ago, an old tabletop saw, and table. It was probably 300 pounds, and certainly made in the late 80s. It's older than me, and quite honestly will probably outlast me. Yes, there are many things that can, and will degrade over time. Things fall out of use, popularity and even usability. When it comes to cameras, that is certainly the case.

Canon completely got rid of the FD and FL mounts. Some may argue the mounts are still usable, but I don't think anyone will argue with this: The FD and FL mounts were almost indestructible, bulletproof even. Canon saw enough need, demand and future potential when deciding to change from the FD mount to the FL mount, and eventually the penultimate decision: to change from the FL mount to the EF mount. 

And that's my point. I can't say for certain that Nikon has the cashflow required to sustain the decisions it will need to make in order to continue to be an option for me. Now I could be wrong. It may very well be the case. In fact, I just received a preview email from Nikon, detailing an upcoming, all new, Mirrorless Nikon Z9. This camera is going to be a game changer, pun intended*

*I hope. Seriously, I truly want Nikon to remain successful. I do! I want Nikon to finally catch up to Canon, the way many Nikon photographers have wanted for years, and yes decades! However, I need to be optimistic. That is why I am slowly, thoughtfully and cautiously considering my future as a Nikon photographer.

> LATER THIS WEEK — I'll talk about the latest rumor-inducing announcement, that is the Nikon Z9!
> LATER THIS MONTH — I'll detail my newly updated branding designs, and I'll also explain how branding can be important for any photographer, or creative designer!


—Michael Tollestrup

Subscribe To Receive Blog Post Notifications HERE!
Check Out My All - New Photography Website HERE!

Friday, February 19, 2021

Focusing on the details of my new website.

WARNING! NERD CONTENT LIKELY! I will post a warning, though, whenever it is coming up!

While I will certainly provide a bonkers amount of nerdy content, I will also make sure those of whom aren't as tech - centric, won't get lost.

First, when it comes to websites, the name is the name of the game, and in all things digital, its name, name, name. Professionally speaking, michaeltollestrup.com is much more professional sounding, than texasphotoguy123.com (not an actual website, I checked). I used to use "mjtphotograps.smugmug.com". After a few years, and seeking advice from many photographers at many levels, I determined I should just use my own name. I often provide this advice to many people, regardless of career type, because your name can be a truly powerful branding tool, and asset. 

Even if you pick a good name , it may not be available. I got lucky, in that my last name isn't as common as others, and that meant that I could keep michaeltollestrup.com . A friend of mine tried to set up a personal website, but their first and last name are much more common, and the "doppelgänger" for him happens to be a lawyer in London, England!

Once I picked a good name, I needed to pick a service to host my domain name. I had seen several TV ads for GoDaddy, and I didn't really consider other options. My first year, I paid a promotional price of just 1.99, and now I pay just over $40 per year. More specifically, I should mention that SmugMug partnered with GoDaddy and created SmugDomains. That's partially why I chose GoDaddy because they partnered with SmugMug, and I wanted to ensure a seamless integration for me, but more importantly for my visitors and clients. 

The Setup


GoDaddy has a system of networked computers and hard drives, and that's what they use to host my website, amongst many others. You may actually be familiar with the more common term for this "networked computer system," a Server. When a customer requests some amount of information when visiting a website, a server is displaying that information for the customer. The server "serves" the information, which is stored on a bunch of computers.

Briefly speaking, a website, like all digital information, is really just some variation of a visual representation of computer code. For instance, a few lines of computer code that define my website are:

                class="hdr-logo header-color7 header-font7"
                style="position:relative;top:-55px;padding:20px 0px;width:333px;height:100px;background-image:url(https://cdn.zenfolio.net/img/s/v-12/u697154948-o955444234-111.png);background-position: center center;background-size: 333px 100px;"
                title="Michael Tollestrup">

Could you catch what all that code defines? It turns out that's the code for my business logo! All of that code, and in almost every case for websites, is written in a language called, HTML.
    HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) is the basis of my website, and defines all of the objects on my website. Images, text, links and other items are defined, written out and displayed with HTML code.

As for all of the colors, fonts, underlining, shapes and other special styling is done with a different language called, CSS. 
    CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is the language that takes the HTML code and styles it with all kinds of variations. If you look back at the HTML code above, you'll see that there actually is some CSS embedded into the HTML.

                class="hdr-logo header-color7 header-font7"
                style="position:relative;top:-55px;padding:20px 0px;width:333px;height:100px;background-image:url(https://cdn.zenfolio.net/img/s/v-12/u697154948-o955444234-111.png);background-position: center center;background-size: 333px 100px;"
                title="Michael Tollestrup">

That styling defines:
    Padding: How much of a margin above and below is required
    Height & Width: Size of the logo on the screen
    Image Link: When you click on the link, it takes you to my homepage
    Position: Where on the page is it located: Center, Center.

SUMMARY: Everything on my website (the images, fonts, logos, colors, transitions, shopping cart, buttons & links etc) requires HTML and CSS coding to work. All of that information needs to be stored somewhere, and that is where GoDaddy comes in to play. GoDaddy's computers and hard drives, remember that is also known as their "Servers," store my code, and display it whenever someone wants to visit my website.

The Hosting

So all of the code is all fine and dandy, but where should I build my site? And by build, I mean where should I design, setup, layout and add all of my content. While I know enough HTML and CSS to get me started, I can't do anything too technical. I know surprising right!

Like I previously stated, I originally chose SmugMug, and they were great! Previously though, I decided to switch to Zenfolio, my current website builder. I previously did a write up on my decisions for switching, and some of the philosophy of my choices during that switch — to read all about that, check out my blog post HERE!

Once I decided to use SmugMug, and also when I transferred my site to Zenfolio, I needed to connect the website builder to the website hoster. When anyone hosts a website, and connects it to a builder, some records are needed to tell the customer's computer what to do, when they request access to a website. Those records are almost always going to be a CNAME record. CNAME records are basically just local guides in a city, that point your computer in the right direction, eventually leading your computer to the server that hosts the website. Imagine a treasure map:

When you want to visit my website, your computer searches the web, and will find that GoDaddy hosts my website. With the CNAME records, GoDaddy will then tell your computer that Zenfolio builds my website, and finally you end up on my homepage. Without the CNAME records, or without GoDaddy, your computer won't be able to find my site. Basically, GoDaddy is the travel agency, and the CNAME records are the local tour guide. 

How The Photos Work

Oh dear. How on earth was I going to transfer more than 52,000 photos. I briefly answered this question on a previous blog post (HERE), but I wanted to go into further detail. Before I go into file sizes, download speeds and other fun nonsense, I will briefly detail what all is going on.

Photos (now) are digital files that contain information about the scene the photographer took a picture of. Every time the photographer takes a picture, the sensor records values for each pixel of the sensor. When light comes into a sensor, if the sensor is excited (receives light), and detects that the light is either red, blue or green, it will record that information as a number value. If it is fully red, it will display RED255. The full brightness for any color is recored as 255. If it is fully Green, it would show GREEN255.

If a sensor has a size of 5568 pixels X 3712 pixels, it would be roughly 20.8 Megapixels in size. The transferring of sizes from Megapixels to Megabytes is way too complicated for this post (comment or message me if you want to learn more!), but just keep in mind that the majority of my photos (43,680) are roughly 20 Megabytes (MB) in size.

Image courtesy of Apple, Inc.

As previously stated, each of my photos were roughly 20 Megabytes (20MB) in size. There were some files that were smaller and larger, but roughly 84% of my photos fell within a 2 Megabyte range of the 20 MB average. As a result, my 52,000 photos, videos and panoramas comprised more than 2 Terabytes of total size!

As I stated in my other blog post, I used a service that downloaded all of my photos, videos, panoramas and other content from my SmugMug site. My download speed at my house is not slow by any means, and took roughly 16 hours. I had to connect an external, 8TB hard drive, and download the entire archive onto the drive. 

Thankfully, and thoughtfully, I made the decision to not post every photo from the original site. I also decided I would only post a limited number of photos on my site. In total, I have roughly 120 photos publicly available, and several thousand available only to my clients. As a result, I only use a few hundred Gigabytes of data for my new site.

Lastly, Technical Website Stuff!

I'll keep this section shorter than the others. When it came to my new website, I didn't make too many changes from the default for the template, other than the following:
        • Logo
        • Font Used
        • Background
        • Theme

The default title for the website, is simply my name, and I decided to change it to my formal business logo. I also added the word "Photography." This formal logo is used on formal business documents (invoices, quotes, terms & conditions etc), and is used for formal settings, i.e. my website.

As for the font, the default used I believe was Rosenvelt, but I changed it to a Google Available Font, "Cormorant." A brief type specimen for Cormorant is displayed here, the weight of the font used for the logo is "Medium."

The background and theme for the website for changed only slightly, and were changed for the purposes of easier, more visually discernible use. A white line is used as the background for the menu bar, and the background for the entire website is set as a light gray (Hex Code: #f4f4f4 | RGB: 244,244,244). The font color was not set to black, and rather as a dark gray, again for the purpose of easier, more visually discernible use.

That's It For Now...

Hopefully that makes sense, if not of course comment or message me, and I'll try to explain it easier! Most of the changes from my old site to my new site were minor. However, I thought I'd detail the transition, for those of whom are interested. 

> LATER THIS MONTH, I'll detail my newly updated branding designs, and I'll also explain how branding can be important for any photographer, or creative designer!

—Michael Tollestrup

Subscribe To Receive Blog Post Notifications HERE!
Check Out My All - New Photography Website HERE!

Monday, February 15, 2021

An All New Website! (Seriously!) - Creating my new Zenfolio Site

"All - New" This term is used rather loosely, but I mean it! Seriously!
Its actually an All - New:
• Website
• Layout
• Design

It wasn't something negative about SmugMug, or that I hated something about it, I wanted to refresh my website and online presence. Additionally, creating a new website had the added benefit of re-invigorating my photography (more on that later).

The Reasoning

Previously on Michael Tollestrup TV... no seriously though, I used SmugMug ("SM") to host my photography website (not the website address "michaeltollestrup.com" which is hosted by GoDaddy, but more on that too, later). I started using SM around 2014, I think, and have loved every part of it. Like I said earlier, I didn't hate SmugMug, and I have never had a website issue that couldn't be resolved, or at least one that I didn't get an answer on. Speaking of answers, its customer service platform was excellent, and I always got a response from a well - trained, highly - knowledgeable expert. Their award-winning (btw I'd like to see that award show) service was also friendly and reachable at many late hours of the night.

My point is, SmugMug was perfect. Its Service offering was perfect. So why the change? First, I decided recently that I wanted to further pursue journalism as a career. Or at least something similar (more on that in a future post). As a result, and for the time being, I will be focusing on my photography, as a business. Unlike the past, I will put photography first, and that means I need to get paid! SmugMug unfortunately has no way for me to book clients, for clients to schedule appointments, for me to take payments or manage clients.

Zenfolio has such an offering. Previously I accomplished this with two separate services. The first being Square, and the second being Setmore. Both were great, but the integration with SmugMug was not ideal. Sure I was able to include a button that would direct clients to book an appointment. Doing so would take them to Setmore, and more importantly, it would take them away from my website. Then, if the customers wanted to schedule an appointment, there was no way for me to collect partial payments, or discount my services with coupon codes.  

Again, Zenfolio had the ability for potential clients to book appointments, process partial payments as a booking confirmation, and could even offer discounts. Another thing was that Zenfolio was just a fresh start, something that seemed visually cleaner compared to my old site (not necessarily SmugMug's fault though).

Portfolio Worthy?

Sure a website is crucial to establishing a brand, online presence and acts as a key marketing tool, but I was focused on a more technical benefit to a new website. Many photographers have said that a portfolio, an online collection (or even a print collection) of work, is the best way to ensure I stay consistently motivated. Seeing that old bird photo from 4 years ago, 5 years ago or even longer would constantly motivate me to go out and replace that photo with an even better one. 

On my website I have 7 different portfolios, each showcasing photos from various points in my photography career. Some photos in my portfolio are from 6 years ago! Not that I want to replace that photo, but a portfolio provides a visual depiction of my best work. A visually measurable offering that clients can see and respond with.

Where do the photos go?

So what on earth am I doing with my photos? What am I doing with all of the old photos from my SmugMug site? Fun fact, I found out my SmugMug archive contains over 52,000 photos, more than 100 panoramas and takes up more than 2 Terabytes. I decided to make a digital copy of all of the photos, videos and panoramas, but I also decided to keep using SmugMug.

WHAAT? Keep using SmugMug? That's right!

Consider this: What online cloud storage service lets you:
• upload unlimited photos
• upload unlimited videos
• upload pdf and even raw digital files
• use an unlimited amount of online storage.

All for a low monthly fee? Well Google, Amazon, Backblaze and others let you upload any kind file, and some let you use unlimited storage, but it can get expensive real quick. Smugmug's cheapest plan, paid month - to - month, is $7. Paid year - to - year: it's only $60 ($5 per month). Thats darned cheap. As a result, I figure why not continue to use their cheapest plan as an online cloud backup of my important content. 

BUT WAIT! How would I download the photos in the event I had something go wrong (drive failure, computer failure? How would I transfer all of my 52,000+ photos to my new site, or somewhere else? I tried doing the painstakingly long, and labor intensive process of downloading each gallery, one at a time. After, I would upload them to my new site, however, luck prevailed. Luckily I found an app that I could use to download a carbon copy of my website content, and it would also retain. the hierarchy. Unfortunately I won't say which app, as I want to keep it a secret should I need it again. I plugged in an 8TB external drive, and downloaded the entire archive in one go. My home internet speed isn't terrible, so it only took a mere 16 and half hours! 

Lastly, I made a crucial decision regarding how I would present the content on my new website.

Presentation. Presentation. Presentation.

I used to be of the mindset that I should just take lots and lots of photos, and post all of them. You read that right, ALL OF THEM. Yes, I was crazy, and I'm still partially crazy now, however my reasoning at the time seems logical enough. If I take 1,000 pictures at a football game, why not post all of them? So as long as the photos were in focus, looked decent and I didn't see anything overtly wrong then why not post them. Sadly, when culling (sorting, organizing, choosing, et cetera) through my photos I had to laboriously crop, edit and retouch every single photo. No matter how many I took.

Just about any photographer should (my opinion) tell you that I was insane for doing that. I remember one of my first galleries I ever posted was a track and field meet for my high school. I think I probably posted more than 1,200 photos. And because I care too much about the little details of things, it was actually 1,215 photos. Yikes!

This got me seriously thinking about my new presentation. How would I present my best work, and still let family, friends, the public and my clients see all of my exciting explorations (some more so than others). Then it hit me. Well not really, it wasn't like it was too much of an issue, for me at least. I would only show my portfolios (10-15 photos per type), and I would only show a limited set of photos from my "explorations."

Paolino Real Estate Headquarters, Providence, RI | 2016
Nikon D7000 | 18-140mm lens at 18mm | f/4 — 1/200sec. — ISO 400

Sugar Land Memorial Park, Sugar Land, TX | 2020
Nikon D500 | 200-500mm lens at 500mm | f/5. — 1/200sec. — ISO 400

I love exploring, doing research and finding out all kinds of stuff about really anything. Using photography I have found that I can explore almost anything, with a uniquely visual restriction. While my current explorations are a bit generic (Christmas, sunsets ...), there is a lot I want to research. I am planning on visually exploring adaptive living, mechanical engineering and smells .

This more creative part of my website means I don't have to worry about getting the "best" photo possible. For my portfolio I need to take a photo that is at least better than my worst picture for the topic. However, with my explorations, I can post photos that reflect my current understanding of a subject. Yes, this is more geared towards fine-art, but more and more I find myself wanting to take photos without having to worry about clients, deadlines or perfection.

Next Steps...

While I'm not entirely sure about what all this means (philosophically), I am exceedingly optimistic about what all my new website will mean for my clients, my work, my creative development and for my photography career & lifestyle. Throughout the rest of the month I will be updating, adding and revising my website, so stay tuned for the next chapter of my creative visual presentations.

** Oh, I almsot forgot. In a post later this month, I'll detail the actual process of transferring my domain, photos and setting up the finicky parts of my site. 

—Michael Tollestrup

Subscribe To Receive Blog Post Notifications HERE!
Check Out My All - New Photography Website HERE!