Flickr’s Explore Algorithm & “Good” Photography

Photos of mine have been captured by Elickr’s Explore algorithm a handful of times. Each time I wonder why for a few moments before I remind myself that a computer program can’t see photos, derive possible relevance, think about or consider what the photographer may have been thinking about when the shutter was pressed.

That makes me think, why would anyone care whether one of their photos made it into Explore? I can’t come up with a reason that a photographer would be motivated to try to get his images into Flickr that could possibly relate to the quality of his photography.

After all, who could possibly aspire to impress a computer’s programming?

It’s easy to imagine one possible motivation residing in a miniature version of Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame, and I know some photographers who are looking for just that. At the same time, I can see Flickr’s motive in developing and refining the Explore algorithm. I don’t browse the images in Explore very often but when I do I see lots of close-up photographs of birds and a lot of huge landscapes with surreal or at least very dramatic color.

The photos in Explore are nearly always conventional in the extreme. The occasional unusual photo (unusual either in subject or execution) nearly always strikes me as something that made the algorithm experience the computer-software equivalent of bemusement, for a mere fraction of a millisecond. Today there’s a simple photo of a miniature figurine of a lion. I can imagine the data chain inside the algorithm wondering silently to itself, is that miniature lion really alive?

That question got me thinking about just how unlikely it is that the algorithm will ever be able to judge truly interesting let alone good photographs. Think of the objective differences between an Ansel Adams photograph of Yosemite National Park and the millions of other images captured from the same or similar vantage points. Now think about how you would go about creating a program that recognizes artistically good light and a well-seen composition. It’s hard enough for a human viewer to get a sense of what the photographer was trying to achieve and so wholly arguable as to how well that effort or vision was achieved. The genuine wonders of artificial intelligence notwithstanding, identifying good photography is going to remain a real problem for Flicrk’s algorithm. I’m sure the folks at Flickr are doing their best but it’s not very good.

This brings me to the photo of mine that found its way into Explore.

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Crap, even I don’t like this one all that much. I took it about twenty minutes after the sun fell behind the foothills. I had been out looking for an oak I photographed back in April. Somehow, I couldn’t find it even though I though I was certain about where it was. Obviously, I wasn’t. As I hustled through the canyon, trying to beat the coming darkness, I spied this huge tangled mass of an old tree and looked at the road go on beyond it.

As I did I thought to myself, that old oak knows exactly where that road leads; toward autumn. So, I turned around and snapped this. Yes, I kept the branches of the tree on the right in the frame intentionally.

Now thousands of Flickrites have viewed it and hundreds have faved it.

Yay.

No, I’m not upset this photo is in Explore.

Yes, it’s nice that so many people are seeing it (I suppose).

But, in the end I am far too selfish to care what a bunch of people who don’t know me think about one of my more marginal photos. I’m trying, in my way, to be a better, more aware, more sensitive and more creative photographer. It’s doesn’t matter to anyone other than me if it happens. Maybe in some backhanded way having this image in Explore has rekindled that singular clarity of mission.

It could be that Flickr algorithm is better than I thought.

 

 

 

Flickr’s Explore Algorithm & “Good” Photography

Thinking about cameras & a quick review of the Road Runner Bags Camera Strap

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about cameras.

Me? I love a good used camera. First of all, they’re cheap. I bought my Nikon D300 for $200. I mean, was there ever a better value in the history of the world? Second, I tend not to worry about used cameras. I always make sure the stuff I bought has seen some actual use. That way any bumps and bruises are easier to regard as marks of character rather than evidence of carelessness on my part.

The sad news is that my Fuji X100 gave up the ghost; very disappointing. Or, to channel our 45th president; sad. If I were given to complain (and I am) I would say that it’s pretty dang disappointing that Fuji is unable to fix what they regard as a professional camera that’s little more than a handful of years old. I ended up in the funny spot. Fuji could either ship back my pretty much useless X100 or I could pony up some cash and they’d sent me a brand-spankin’ new X100T.

Fine, fine, fine…here’s my credit card number.

Thing is, I knew I wasn’t going to keep the X100T. I’m kinda soured on the Fuji thing at least for now. Eventually, I may get myself another small mirrorless camera with a 1″ or m4/3 sensor but for now I’ve decided to simply toggle between my aforementioned D300 and a battle-scared old Panasonic LX3.

Sure, I used to own an LX3 (and later and LX5 and an LX7) but this little camera has me enamored for some reason.

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The mighty LX3 and its new Road Runner Bags strap in olive & black…yes sir!

This little camera rocks hard. I picked it up well-used over at Fred Miranda for $55. Nearest I can tell the little fellah has over 100,000 clicks on the odometer and it works perfectly. Heck, I even bought a second Panasonic battery for it; yup, I’m going all out. The neat little Leica lens is quite sharp over its entire range and the focus and metering are spot on. If Panasonic would upsize this exact camera with the same zoom range and a 1″ sensor I’d buy it.

The cool olive & black Road Runner Bags strap was supposed to be for my repaired X100 (sniff, sniff…) but I put it on the LX3 out of spite for Fuji. Like another favorite company of mine, Courier Ware, Road Runner isn’t much on self-promotion. The strap doesn’t even have their name anywhere on it…just a small label that says, Handmade in California. The webbing that Road Runner uses is very smooth on the skin and their form-follows-function-factor is admirably high. Road Runner Bags is a neat little company. All their stuff is made right here in Los Angeles and they certainly did a fine job with their first camera strap. I’m hopeful they’ll continue to work on more bags and straps for all the two-wheeled photographers out there on the streets and trails of Los Angeles.

Check their website out today and buy something.

Anyway, I enjoyed the Fuji because it was so easy to bring along. I disliked the Fuji for the same reason everyone else did. It was rather fussy, sometimes inscrutable, and the focusing was always marginal and then it got worse. How does that even happen? I also found the X100 rather fragile feeling. I don’t know if Fuji got it right with the S or the T or the F. All I know is Fuji’s naming convention for the X100 series is going to be tough for whatever follows the X100F. I’m not off Fuji forever; then again, maybe I am.

I can’t quite get my brain around how some folks are able to get along with an iPhone as their sole camera. Of course, I wear a wrist watch. Still, I do see the appeal to less is more when it comes to cameras. With the departure of the X100 and now the sale of the X100T I’m left with the LX3 and the D300.

Both of them suit me just fine.

Thinking about cameras & a quick review of the Road Runner Bags Camera Strap

Rejecting the Global Golf Uniform in favor of Style & Comfort

Here’s a boredom-driven multipart question. Yes, in fact, multipart questions are the only kinds of questions I ask.

  • What’s your preferred golf uniform? Do you always or usually wear purpose-made golf shirts, slacks and shorts?
  • Do you change the style of what you wear to where you play? In other words, do you wear better looking clothes when you play better (read: more expensive) courses or do you pretty much wear the same kind of threads no matter where you play?
  • Has you golf attire changed over the last few years?

I ask the last question because I’m starting to make a big change. I’m rejecting what I see as the Global Golf Uniform. Pretty much every male tour player the world over wears it. You know the look. I don’t have to detail it here. I don’t know why but it’s especially loathsome when I see this getup worn by skinny 10 year olds and fat guys over 50. The mere sight makes me want to take up bowling.

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Rors looking fit & dapper in his Nike GGU

One last question: Has your choice in headwear changed? Me? I’m getting ready to dump the ubiquitous baseball style hat (who ever found that style of hat functionally suited to golf anyway?) in favor of something befitting the dignity of my rapidly advancing years.

Yes, I’m thinking bucket hat.

A few years back I wore this uniform: Shorts year round and irrespective of the weather. Hey, I live in Los Angeles; it’s easy. The shorts are Patagonia and I have pairs in medium tan and medium gray. They’re just standard cotton shorts not golf shorts. Last year I started wearing dark gray Kuhl shorts because of the slimmer fit and the very clever phone pocket it has.

I used to prefer Travis Mathews and Adidas golf shirts and an occasional Nike (they always seem to have good, simple back shirts).

I have come to hate fully 90% of the paper-thin synthetic crap that pretty much every golf shirt company is peddling these days. Not only do they look like crap on nearly everyone they also have a hyper-synthetic feel to their coal-based or polymer-based fabrics.

No, I’m not pining for the days where every tour player wore pleated Docker-styled slacks and wildly oversized cotton polo shirts (usually made by Ashworth back in the day).

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Our 45th president out on the links in high rise, pleated slacks. Thumbs up to you, Donald!
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Woods & Garcia back when cotton was king and the polos were huge.

This is where I’m really bucking the system. Where doable, I’m ditching the golf shirt. I have a great collection of non-collard casual shirts that I’ve come to prefer over the scads of black, blue and red golf shirts I’ve worn when out hacking in the past. The change has brought a palpable relief to my psyche and sense of style. I’ve hated the me-too formulary of the golf uniform for long enough.

If a course requires a collared shirt, and I really want to play there, I’ve got it covered. But, the fact is that I may end up asking myself if I really want to play a course that requires me to wear something I don’t like wearing.

Yup, I’m swimming upstream on this one while I’m still walking the golf course and carrying my sticks on my back. Life’s too short to wear polos and a baseball hat every time I play golf.

It’s gonna take some guts to actually put that bucket hat on…I admit it.

Rejecting the Global Golf Uniform in favor of Style & Comfort

Edel Golf: A Master Putter Maker in the Wooded Wilds of Oregon

Readers are forgiven if they have yet to hear of Edel Golf. David Edel is a very different breed than the average teaching pro, club fitter or putter maker. Our initial correspondence hit on a lot of subjects that won’t be brought into this article, but suffice it to say that Edel is one of the most interesting and forward thinking men that I have come across in the golf industry.

In a world of copycats, of the both subtle and overt persuasions, Edel is the kind of guy who is always on the prowl for a better way of doing things and is willing to travel some hard roads to reach his destinations.

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The golf industry needs guys like him to maintain its vitality. Let’s hope his work is well rewarded…

PC: What are some common mistakes that golfers make when they buy putters off the rack?

David Edel: First off, the most common mistake buying a putter off the rack is not knowing where it aims. All putters aim differently. Some vary more than others, but none are equal. The buyer should first know how their current putter aims. Based on this knowledge they can look for something that either cures their aim bias, or matches it; matching it, as the stroke is biased to that aim. If you do not want to change your stroke, then find a putter that matches it. For example, if you aim eight inches left, then don’t buy a putter that aims dead center, because your stroke will not match your aim. It would not seem logical to play with something that aimed you crooked, but most do. Our studies have concluded that only four in a hundred can aim their putters dead on, while fifteen out of hundred can only manage to aim within the hole (two inches off center) and with loft issues. Dead on meaning for average speed greens the laser at 6 feet is center cut and six inches off the ground (2.5 deg loft)

When someone buys a putter that they want, it may not be what they need. Grabbing a putter off the rack without understanding how the putter aims is harmful. With simple lasers and a mirror, you could check and see “Does this putter aim well?” I have people in the fitting process say, I aim this putter really well or That line helps me aim and I evaluate them and they aim a foot left. So what people want to believe and what they do are often very different.

PC: As a follow-up, can these buying mistakes lead players to develop poor putting technique?

David Edel: Yes, poor putting technique is related to many factors. Some are directly related to the putter and some not. Putting can be broken down to what we call the Triad: Aim, Path, & Speed. What you do with those three things relates to ready greens and execution. If your putter aims a foot left, then you better make compensation a foot right. Sometimes this is done with path, or speed. Path pushing to the right, or speed –hitting it harder to take a higher line. The player starts to get multiple factors compensating for erroneous aim. This can set into sub routines like: If I forward press my hands, take it inside, or I go to a short back stroke and accelerate.

Compensation is the only honest thing that we do, and many try to go against what they know they need to do it. Like, if you aim right, you better take is outside on the backstroke, have a long backstroke short finish, or close the face manually. But our friends or teachers say, we better fix that outside move, yet they don’t fix the aim or even understand where they aim. Many say, “So what if you aim at address, you may not be there at impact.” My thought is…no kidding Sherlock.

But, our studies have shown that a reduction in the standard deviation of a putter stoke reduced by 38% in 19 of 22 categories. With areas improving up to 63% immediately after the fit. If you start from a better place then chances are you will return to that place. Putting is similar to the full swing, yet much less dynamic. The inclined plane is the boss. It is possible to move the putter during the stroke to the same place it started. If the putter does not aim correctly or has other factors like poor weight, length, lie, loft, then the mind will work away from those issues.

PC: What do you think most players understand better, their full swing or their putting stroke?

David Edel: I am not sure players understand the swing. I think they have an understanding of what they need to do to get the job done, but understanding the full swing or putter motion, I am not sure. I have been a PGA member since 1994 and a pro since 1990, and have worked with some of the best teachers in the world. I think I have a really good understanding of full swing motion, but I still think I don’t know anything.

We’re talking about people and that is the issue. Every person processes information differently than others. I think the missing link in most people’s games stems from lack of basics. Understanding the laws of physics of how the base golf motion works and other basics like how the mind works and processes information. People get so caught up in methods like Single Plane or Stack and Tilt etc. Not that those are wrong, but if you work for a while on a concept and jump to the next, that’s sure to cause confusion. Like if you play a putter for two months and switch again and again, each has multiple distinctions in playing characteristics, and the players develops a habit of grabbing for something when it hits the fan.

PC: What affects the player more, the putter design or how well (or poorly) he has been fit for the putter?

David Edel: I think it is important to understand the word fitting as it relates to putters. There are three forms of fitting as I see it:

Static
Dynamic
Effective

Static fitting is measuring a person’s lie angle, length, loft to name a few. It deals mainly without motion, figuring out general variables that influence set up. Many companies have offered a system that deals with this form of fitting.

Dynamic fitting evaluates via monitoring systems the movement of the putter, body and makes changes in the putter to alter impact. Systems like SAM, Tomi, and Icub have complex systems designed to evaluate the motion of the putter and give great data. Video based systems are also used during dynamic fitting. My perception of this form of fitting is to change variables so they produce the correct impact position. Often instruction is involved and it can be difficult to distinguish a fitting from a lesson.

Effective fitting is a process that is more interactive with the player. Effective meaning true angles like 4 degrees loft, processed and changed to an effective angle like 2 degrees. Effective angles are terms used by fitters to describe what the player does with the club to change the true angle. Effective fitting is a process and or system that allows the fitter to accommodate the player’s personal perceptions during the fitting. If I put a mallet in their hands and they aim it more right and I combine it with another variable and it elicits a different response then that’s effective fitting.

We also incorporate dynamic variables like length, head weight, loft, counter weight, shaft flex, and grip type to their value to speed control. So if you aim in correctly, and can control speed more precisely, then your probably going to have much cleaner path and you’ll also be able to feel your path better.

That is what I call effective fitting and that is what we do at Edel Golf. So my answer to your question is, yes; design or shape of a putter can be a preference, but is more an obligation as it relates to aim. Some people want an Anser style head, but aim it totally left. What they want and need are totally opposite. Depending on the style of the fitting process, getting fitted may not apply to desired result. Education is paramount for people to make informed decisions.

PC: What led you to build your putters in a workshop where you live?

David Edel: What led me to build putters where I live is simple. There are huge stores of German stainless here. No, seriously, I grew up here. I have family businesses here. I left teaching the full swing to dedicate myself to making putters. Getting started was a slow process. I started making my first putter in late 1996. Everyone told me not to do it, that it was too difficult. I obviously did not listen. I built a small workshop next to my home here on the river. I ran my family business during the day, and when I had free time, or made time, I made putters.

It could be the worst place to have a putter business and for this reason I am trying to move to Ft. Worth, Texas. We have done a lot of good work here mostly developing and prototyping products etc. but for people to come directly and get a fitting is very complex. I am looking to develop a large facility that incorporates manufacture and has a large inside putter studio with a monster putting green. A place to do schools and educational seminars, etc. Someday…hopefully soon.

PC: How do the professional players you work with putt differently than amateurs?

David Edel: Professionals do not putt all that differently than good amateurs. Some amateurs putt better than pros. Tour players are a different animal. The difference lies mainly in speed control. Professionals have more time to practice speed control. Most professionals aim left. I think this is predisposed to the putters they choose. Most professionals and good amateurs select the same styles of putters, mainly Anser or blade style putters. A lot of high handicap amateurs aim right, which is mostly to do with poor set up fundamentals and a lack of routine. I believe the full swing and the putter swing is governed by the same laws, so if the putter and fear-set is don’t go left then the motions are often the same.

PC: Which other putter makers do you respect?

David Edel: I think I respect anyone that can make a living at making golf clubs. It is hard to do. There are so many variables to contend with, namely money. Big companies have the advantage, because they have clout. Small guys like me are using your own finances to make world-class product. My advantage is the willing to do what the big dogs do not. I think what Mr. Cameron has done is incredible. The machine he has developed deserves respect. Karsten Solheim is the man. That guy did it all. We are all posers. T.P. Mills was the father of making tour quality unique custom putters. I remember the waiting list times were six to eight months for a putter. That is great. Tom Slighter has a nice following. He is making really nice custom putters like how you want it. Kirk Currie started the custom fitting/Aim process so I have to say he is in there. Kevin Burns has come up with some nice designs. He sure had a nice run.

I have to say that I think what we are doing is a continuation of a lot of past knowledge. I don’t make the best putter in the world. That is hard to quantify. I think we configure the best putter in the world. When you can get past the Circle T hand-stamping stuff or this tour player uses this or that and get into it’s different, but I can aim it then hands down I think I offer more to people than any other maker past or present.

Besides, we hand make every putter for each player. We have over 50 million combinations to manufacture on a daily basis. That is custom. There is big difference between custom and handmade. Nothing is hand made. I hand-machine putters but they can take two days to make. Everything is CNC with lots of handwork involved. hope that does not sound cocky, that is not the intention. The fact is I do not know anyone who is doing what we do.

PC: I have to tell you how refreshing it is that you recognize Karsten Solheim. It’s getting to be that people are all to willing to believe their own press releases. Everyone is so quick to tell you about their designs but all too often their designs are Solheim’s. It is the design equivalence of plagiarism so it doesn’t sit well with me at all. Which other putter designs (either modern or classic) do you admire?

David Edel: I really like the Karsten Anser style head. I can’t use it, but I think it has a great profile. I liked Kevin Burns and T.P. Mills / Anser style heads. Those looked clean. I think less is more. There is too much shit on putters these days. Between colors, funky shapes, lines, and weight ports it is total confusion. That stuff should aim, right? People get lost in all that geometry and most of the time cannot hit a barn with their aim. The Bullseye is hands down the best aimer. Pretty simple design. John Reuter did a great job with that one. The Two Ball works for some, but is not for everyone. I wish I came up with that one from a financial standpoint.

PC: Are you working on anything new right now or working to refine your fitting technique?

David Edel: We are always working on something new. Since I have been developing new fitting systems and methods for the last 11 years, our focus has been very different than much of the industry. This focus has enabled us to think about a new box. I have had relative ease getting some patents, because the line of thinking opens different doors. We are working on redefining the fitting model and fitter education. Creating school formats for people to get all three sides of the Triad (Aim, Path, Speed = Reading Greens) going. People do not want putters. They want results. I think the group that we have working together is going to change the face of putter fitting and instruction.

We have come out with a new putter called Variable loft Vari-loft. It has removable face technology with weight ports. Combined with aim value, this is a huge asset to the refined player. These putters take a combined machine/hand effort of over 11 hours to manufacture. When a player is educated on how to use it, it is hands down most versatile putter out there. Since few know about the value of what we do, our attention is focused towards education. Making new designs to keep up with large manufactures is not the solution. Figuring out how to inform players of other options, getting past bias, and overcoming objections from the current power structure is objective #1.

PC: David, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Your candor is refreshing and I hope this interview helps a few more people to find you and take advantage of your ability to help their games. Is there anything we haven’t covered, or anything you’d like to add in closing?

David Edel: We are very proud of our product and process that we have developed. My head styles are very basic and classic. The fact is we offer so many variables not because it sounds big, but people need them. Our fitting process allows for us to individually analyze each variable as it relates to the next. When the total package is put together, then it’s yours and yours only. We seldom make the same variation twice, something is always different. 95% of your thought happens at a subconscious level, and we build a putter that aims using the 5% of your conscious and its interface with the other 95%.

Aim is the one solid tangible that you can triangulate your game from. From aim you can evaluate your path, speed, and the combination of all three is your technique. If you’re confused, get fit. If you’re happy now, stay away. One saying that I have always loved is, “If you don’t need a haircut, then don’t go to the barber.” If you’re reading this, then you’re probably looking for help. We’re here if you need it.

Edel Golf: A Master Putter Maker in the Wooded Wilds of Oregon