How to Find the Best Photographic Vantage Point

Jordan-Hare Stadium at NightJordan-Hare Stadium at Night

Jordan-Hare Stadium at Night

Isn’t this an amazing time to be interested in photography. Whether you’re a fan of the hype or not, the announcements of new tech are almost never ending. This week Apple announced the iPhone 7 Plus. With this Apple showed off the first dual camera on an Apple smartphone. This was something I had been anxiously awaiting. Just the technical achievement in having two different camera sensors, two different focal lengths, in your pocket, brings a whole new life to what’s photographically possible.

Nikon, Canon, Sony, Samsung, and all the big tech names in photography have been working diligently on that steady pace of incremental advancements that we often scoff at in tech reviews, and perhaps some would say boring. While we always want to see giant leaps from one year to another, the slow steady incremental advancements in technology are usually how innovations are made. This has been said for a long time over the history of technology. Walter Isaacson took a fantastic long look at this concept in his book The Innovators which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the topic.

Another camera company currently working on multiple sensors I’ve been eagerly following is who have been developing a camera called the L16 which uses 16 different sensors. is taking a different approach to multiple sensor from Apple and LinX. The new iPhone uses two sensors to house two different focal length lenses where the user can choose to use one or the other. is taking a 16 images from 16 different sensors and stitching them all together for a final 50mp high res DSLR-like image. But none of those advances alone can create beautiful or successful images. After watching the progress on the L16 for a while I was thrilled when they asked me to explore the aspect of  finding a good “vantage point” for photography here on my blog.

There are so many elements to photography which come together to make an image “successful,” and when it’s done really well it’s hard for the viewer to even put their finger on why, they just know they like it. One of those elements is the vantage point of the image, and that’s what I’m exploring here today.

The Jordan-Hare Stadium Vantage Point

A “vantage point” is a “place or position affording a good view of something,” and it’s not always the most obvious place. What’s unique about this vantage point at Jordan-Hare Stadium is how well it tells the story of this particular night. You can see so many visual elements within the frame, thousands of solum fans milling around from edge to edge, the blackness of night soaking down all around the stadium, except inside where everyone’s left. Even the trash around the grounds tells part of the story. Then you have the stadium itself. A solid, strong, towering creation stretching endlessly around the block, patiently waiting for next time, the next game.

Since we are now full-force into the college football season in Auburn the image I decided to start with is this photograph of Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn that I took after the Auburn vs LSU game. While I’m offering a few suggestions from the perspective of Jordan-Hare Stadium as the subject, this will work well in any large venue. So, to find the best vantage point for any given image I would offer up these three suggestions.

1. Explore All Possibilities

It took me years to find some of the obvious locations to capture the best images of Jordan-Hare. And it took exploring the stadium for all possible angles, from all possible vantage points 365-degrees around the stadium grounds, and at all given times night and day. I’ve shot from the ground, from the top deck, on the walkways, from Plainsman Park (the baseball stadium next door), from the basketball arena (both of them), from super far away, super close up, and all points in between. Some I like more than others, but I keep coming back to this one spot on the south side of the stadium.

In fact, the vantage point where this image was taken wasn’t even possible years earlier before “the night the barn burned” to the ground during the 1996 Auburn vs LSU game, and more unique vantage points have grown up over the years as Auburn has grown. I finally found one of my favorite spots after a very dejected loss to LSU as fans slowly sulked out of the stadium. I ran up to the top floor of the parking deck on the south side of the stadium and captured a few images with my camera perched on the concrete wall.

2. Always Have a Camera With You

As security at big events has become tighter and tighter it’s been more and more difficult to get high quality pro gear in or near sports venues. Auburn implemented a no-DSLR rule a while back (though I would argue not for security reasons), and now they have a restriction on the length of lens you can bring into the stadium (i.e. have with you because you aren’t going to walk back to the car once you are there). So, the compact cameras have now become my go-to cameras when it comes to shooting scenes like this, but you never know when you are going to find that perfect vantage point, so always have a camera with you. This shot was taken with a Nikon D700 (a 12mp full-frame DSLR, which at the time was huge) and the Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lens, neither of which I could get in with today, but it was what I had with me that night. As Chase Jarvis has famously said, “the best camera is the one you have with you.” For secure venues like this almost any compact camera will do. I love the Fujifilm X70, and the iPhone, both fantastic cameras to take this very shot. Once the L16 openly available in 2017 it will probably fit the bill in an amazing way.

3. Ask the Local Photographers

This is something I think many of us are hesitant to do. We photographers can be very competitive, threatened by anyone with a camera self-conscience types, always questioning our own work and hunting down the best vantage points. So the thought of giving up your sacred secret spots was once taboo at best, but has since vanished (for the most part) with the proliferation of photography in our digital age. Besides, what’s the worst that can happen, they don’t respond or say no, but any time someone asks me where I took this or that shot I’m more than thrilled to point out the specifics. So my suggestion would be to hit up the locals wherever you are on Twitter or Instagram and just ask. Most likely they already know where the best vantage points are, and are happy to share them with someone who also has a love for photography.

One thing Apple did was bring photography to the masses, a fundamental shift in the world of photography. That didn’t make everyone an award winning photographer, but it removed biggest barrier, owing an easy to use camera. Whatever the camera, constantly trying to improve my own photography is one reason I’ve spent so much time studying photography on every level I can find, the #VantagePoint being one of those areas. I especially love deep thick philosophical photography books, and one of the absolute best I read this summer was The Road to Seeing by Dan Winters which I’d highly recommend. Until next time, happy hunting that unique vantage point.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Purple, Oil and Water

Oil and Water in Purple and Yellow

This is for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge of Purple. I hate posting the same old thing, and trying to find unique and creative ways to do things is just one thing I love about photography. The photo above happens to also serve as my Project 365 photo for Day 243, getting closer and closer to that 300 day mark. If you are wondering how I did this, great, because it’s not that hard, but does take some patience and a bit of prep work. Every time I do this kind of photography it always turns out different, which makes it a unique technique to try.

The image above, and the other below, are simply a mixing of ordinary cooking oil, and tap water, placed together in a glass cooking bowl or cake pan. Making the colors is the fun part, you can be creative here, use food coloring, fabrics, a colored bowl, or like I did here, just different colors of copy paper. Here I used two yellow and two purple pieces of paper off-set with each other where they all came together in the center. That is how you get that the bubbles with a mix of different colors. To use paper, you just place is under a clear glass bowl, to use food coloring, just place a white piece of paper under a clear bowl.

The hard part is getting the focus to work because there are several different focal points, like the bottom of the bowl, the water, the bubbles, and paper under the bowl and so on. In this case, I used a Nikon D7000 camera body, a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens, mounted on a Nikon PK-13 (27.5mm) extension tube (extension tubes are really cheap if you have a DSLR). Using an extension tube is a way to do macro photography without having to buy an expensive macro lens. If you try to use an extension tube, just keep in mind the lens will have no aperture value, especially if you are using a newer lens with no aperture ring. You will only have the ability to change the shutter speed to gain the proper exposure, and the focus will be very very narrow.

I will say that purple is one of the most difficult colors to shoot photographically in the digital age. The color tone always wants to shift blue, so getting a true purple is actually very difficult. I did try this out last year, and got totally different results, but you can see those at Testing the Oil and Water Theory Close Up. So this is my interpretation of “purple” for this week. See you here again next week with whatever the theme happens to be next week.

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How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth Book Review Critique

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth Book Review Critique

This review below is a summary of the full review (you can read the full review here or go to my Writing Section under “reviews”) for a book called How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. This particular book has been on my list to read for quite some time now, but I was finally forced to read it for my current Hermeneutics class. If you don’t want to read the book all the way through cover to cover, there is some good reference information contained in the first few chapters and the appendix, which contains good info about many commentaries.

The need for a hermeneutical book such as How to Read the Bible is a testament to the greatness of Scripture itself because “either you understand perfectly everything the author has to say or you do not. If you do, you may have gained information, but you could not have increased your understanding,” and that is what the authors here intended to facilitate.[1]  The strength of How to Read the Bible comes from the overall guide and tone, in general terms, given to the reader, and the methodical details presented in each section or chapter.  This guideline, while far from being a step-by-step process to Biblical understanding, does give the reader general principles to better understanding the Biblical literature, and how the Biblical authors intended their writing to be understood.  This was achieved in a manner that can be easily understood by readers of all levels, and yet provided enough depth to maintain the attention of those readers quite familiar with hermeneutics.

Unfortunately, the book’s weakness, which cannot be understated, comes from the author’s discussion on translations, and their overall choice of the TNIV to underline their text.  Readers today, in 2012, have the benefit of almost a decade of scrutiny towards the TNIV, which the authors did not have when revising How to Read the Bible in 2003.  One would hope their scholarly opinions might have changed somewhat since the publication date.  Any revised edition to the text in the future should include a completely rewritten section on translations, or the authors could leave more of their personal opinions to the side, allowing the reader to decide on their own which translation is best given the information in the book.  This suggestion would follow the author’s own statements when they stress the importance of finding a text where the authors “discuss all the possible meanings, evaluate them, and give reasons for his or her own choice.”[2]  This was attempted, just not executed as well as one would have hoped for.

Overall, How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth is, and will be, an excellent source for beginning a study in hermeneutics.  The text is not an end all of hermeneutical material, but well worth the investment in time to complete.  Any student, laymen, or individual interested in understanding Scripture to its fullest possibility will benefit from the work of Fee and Stuart.  This review and critique examined the manner in which the authors achieved the task of being obedient to the Biblical texts through teaching a hermeneutical process, and for the most part, the authors accomplished this task admirably.

[1] Mortimer J. Adler, Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1972.

[2] Fee, Gordon D., and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

Late Evening Thunderstorm and Some Lightning Photos

Last night just around midnight we finally had a thunderstorm go through our property. Feels like the first one that has come across our house this year, but it brought some nice lightning with it, for a very short time period. I took these shots right out my office window. I rendered the one image above both in black and white and color so you could see the vapor trail from the previous bolt that hit just prior to my shutter being pressed. Look on the black and white just to the left side of the image and you will see where the bolt that is no longer visible went through the clouds. I really love shooting lightning, wish the opportunity came about more often than once a year or so. You would think being in the deep south that wouldn’t be the case but we seem to be lingering in a 5 year drought. As usual the exif metadata can be found on flickr if you want to see how the shots were taken. This was really the last time I have been able to get some decent lightning at our place, back in the summer of 2008, see How to Successfully and Safely Photograph Lightning and Humidity, Storms, and Lightning in Alabama are Back for my last two examples.

Photographers are Always Learning the Post-Process

I actually starting shooting an SLR camera way back when you could only put film in the camera (that stuff that required a chemical bath to process), and that meant processing was something that was done by someone else. The complex techniques of dodging and burning were left to those elusive black and white photographers who mysteriously did their own chemical bath with a very dark room and very red light.

Of course today that is so far removed from the type of post processing that is done, but only in the physical method used. The techniques for processing an image actually remain very similar to what has been done for decades, if the image was overexposed you process the image to correct it. Today of course your skills as an editor and processor greatly depend on your computer skills and how well you can master Adobe’s Photoshop. I am not sure the actual programmers who wrote Photoshop for Adobe have even mastered the complexities of CS4 or CS5 but that’s what makes it so powerful in post processing (LR or LightRoom is another favorite among photographers), and that is what has made Adobe the choice among photographers. Creating great HDR (High Dynamic Range) images, extreme low light, and unheard of ISO speeds are becoming commonplace. Even Apple in their latest iOS 4.1 release will allow their iPhone to now shoot HDR images, can’t wait to try that out.
The images being produced today by amateur photographers using basic consumer equipment is just stunning, and it has as much to do with their abilities as a post processor as it does with having an eye for subjects, placing, framing, and exposure. If you are new to photography it can be totally overwhelming. Your photos shot using the “automatic” settings can sometimes look flat and dull, but get a good basic understanding of the rules of photography and the post-processing will follow.

By example I give you the image below. The same base image can have two totally different looks and present different ideas and feelings. The image below is much more harsh and full of contrast, some people like high contrast, some people like soft pastels like the image at the top. Either way it still took a photographer with a certain vision to shoot the original image, and that why it is called “post” processing. The veteran nature photographer John Shaw has two great eBooks out if you are looking for some instruction. He has a book on both “Lightroom 2 and CS4” and “Lightroom 3 and CS5”, both well worth the money.

Which edit do you like better?

How to Convert PDF to ePub File for an eBook Reader

I recently purchased a copy of John Shaw’s eBook called John Shaw’s Digital Processing, A Personal Workflow using Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 (a great book if you are a photographer looking for some insight into post-processing and the digital workflow process, well worth he $25) hoping I would be able to convert it to an ePub file and read it in iBooks on my iPad. I was able to convert his previous eBook, John Shaw’s Photoshop Field Guide, but have just about given up on his new one, the structure of the PDF looks to be just too complicated to convert, but I am going to use his two eBooks as the example since one will convert and one won’t.

I have searched long and hard for a how-to on converting PDF files to ePub files so you can read them in iBooks or a variety of eBook readers, and have found almost no consolidated information, so here it is.  There are several reasons why converting PDF files to an ePub file is not the easiest thing to do, and they often seem to error out or format improperly. This how-to guide is written for the intention of taking a PDF eBook (or any PDF file) for loading it into iBooks in iTunes for use on your iPad, but the same process can be used for most all eBook readers.

Some Basic PDF Info

All PDF’s are not made the same.  They all have different formatting, some have images, some are just plain text, some are print screen save-as files, you can basically take anything you can see or print on the Internet and turn it into a PDF.  The reason is most everyone everywhere can read a PDF, and most have the free version Adobe PDF reader (at this writing the current version is Adobe Reader 9.3.2).

Because these files can be created by almost any means, often they do not make the greatest, prettiest looking, eBooks, and it is not an exact science to get a PDF to an ePub file, even harder to get it to look nice on your eBook reader. Your final outcome is going to depend on how the file was created in the first place, not something you have control over most of the time.  Some PDF files because of their structure will never be able to be converted to an ePub file and you will have to look at alternatives like a good PDF reader like Goodreader on the iPad.

Ways to Convert PDF’s to ePub Using ePub2Go or Stanza

Once you have your PDF file you want to convert, you can try the quickest and easiest PDF to ePub converter first, and if that doesn’t work, then move on to the next alternative.  First thing to try is a site called ePub2Go.  This is basically the ONLY online PDF to ePub conversion tool you can access for free and without downloading another stand alone app or program.

Step 1 :: ePub2Go The process is pretty simple, just click the link the pdf is on my computer then let them convert the file.  Once it’s finished just click on view or save it on my computer and your done.

If you get finished with the conversion and you get an error message you pretty much have to move on at this point.  You can get a variety of errors like the screen shot below.  That is just one of the error message you could get, but once you get that, you won’t be able to convert the file using ePub2Go.

Step 2 :: Stanza The next thing to try would be to download a free copy of Stanza by Lexcycle (download available for Windows or Mac), a great generic type eBook reader, and convert the file using the desktop app or program. Stanza has moved their main product line to the mobile eBook reader but they have a great conversion tool in the desktop app.

After you download and install the program it will prompt you to open a file.  Just open your preferred PDF file. You will probably need to adjust the number of columns and on larger screens, depending on how the PDF is created, it may or may not look formatted properly, but this will be similar to your final ePub output file.

Next just go to the file menu and choose –> file –> export book as –> ePub.  You can also see there are a host of options available to convert the PDF to a Kindle file and many others.  If that works, great, if it doesn’t, you are quickly running out of options.  Stanza also has a tutorial on how to convert files as well that is very helpful.

Step 3 :: Adobe Acrobat / HTML / Word / Plain Text If step 1 or 2 doesn’t work then you are left with trying to manipulate the file into behaving properly enough to do a conversion, but even that may not work at this point, this is the last ditch effort before you have to just stick with reading the PDF.

If you have Adobe Acrobat (not the free reader but the full version of Acrobat) you can export the PDF as a variety of file types (but not an ePub).  Many times you can export a file as an HTML file and fix the issues the PDF had that caused the conversion to ePub error and then try step 1 or step 2 above after you have corrected the problem.  Explaining how to correct the file in HTML is beyond the scope of this article but it’s often easy to see where the conversion is getting hung.

In the case of my above issues with Shaw’s newest eBook, I tried to export it as a Word Doc, RTF, HTML, and Plain Text and due to the complexity of the PDF it just wasn’t feasible to convert the file in a readable format.  In that case, I am going to just pull it over to my iPad using Goodreader and read it as a PDF.

I was surprised how few PDF to ePub file converters were really available.  I did leave off several paid for programs that convert these file types but most of them just use the same process as step 1 and 2 above and I really wouldn’t pay for the programs myself.  You can get a PDF to ePub Converter trial from CNET, PDFtoEPUB from DNAML Software, or PDF to ePub from DONGSOFT, but all are pricy alternatives after the trial runs out.

Coming up I will finish this article with taking the new ePub file you have created (or the PDF that you couldn’t get converted) and showing how to load it into iBooks using iTunes.  How do you convert your PDF’s?

How To Make a Milk Carton Flash Diffuser Video

This past weekend Deb and I went to Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain Georgia to go for a bike ride and do a little photo and video shooting at the Butterfly Day Center (see my Callaway Gardens Butterflies // Friday Feet).  Generally when you are shooting butterflies in an enclosed area you will need some type of flash, and to get a nice even smooth light across your subject, you need to diffuse the light source.  It is all in how you want the end result to turn out, you can shoot with a more harsh light (no diffuser) and get a nice solid black background with a brightly lit subject, or use a diffuser for a little softer look.

You can buy several very expensive diffusers and there are some very good ones on the market, but if you are looking for a cheap and quick fix when you don’t have any diffuser, or any money to buy one, try a milk carton.  They are cheap, and quite effective, and can you make one in about 5 minutes.  I started cutting up this milk carton on Friday and realized some video would be a good idea.

How to Make a Milk Carton Flash Diffuser from Scott Fillmer on Vimeo.

The tools you will need are a semi-transparent milk carton (not a white one), a razor blade, some tape, and that’s about it.  The equipment I used in this photo shoot was a Nikon D90 and a Nikon SB-800 flash (borrowed from Jak Blount) a flash braket and flash extender cable.  The video is about 4 minutes long and includes some images from the shoot as well.  Hope you enjoy.

Thought Out Well Planned Acts of Kindness, Not Random?

I read a post the other day from Brian Johnson called Random Acts Of Kindness // sounds like a cop-out and pretty much lifted my title here right off his blog.  (For the purposes of continuing his discussion, I feel it necessary to first make the disclaimer that the title are his words, not mine, thanks bro.)  I figured a comment on his blog post would take up to much space and just decided to write it out here.  I love listening to or reading articles that are thought provoking and inspirational, but in my mind I usually come back to, so that’s great, but how do you do that.  Many of us have listened to great sermons on living scripture and walked away from the experience thinking, ok great, now what.  So here is a beginning to my thought process, in 5 steps of course.

1. The Whole Idea is More Difficult

This is not to say that Brian’s post was incomplete, I don’t think that was really the purpose, but it did make me think, yeah, now what, or even, why should we think making this part of our lifestyle in the first place?

Random acts of kindness make it seem like what your life is about has nothing to do about kindness and only randomly will you offer an act of kindness to another individual. You recognize that it is  a good thing, but its not really what you do€¦its just a random act… the whole idea [thought-out, and well-planned acts of kindness] is much more difficult.

Much more difficult indeed.  Random acts of kindness are all the rage possibly because they are easier to successfully achieve, sometimes (maybe most of the time) require small amounts of time and money, and once completed, leaves no further obligation of any kind. So how do you do thought-out and well planned acts of kindness, and really, and as I said above, why are you doing this in the first place?

I mean really, we have a lot going on each day and just as the saying goes, nice guys finish last, not a business principle being taught in many MBA programs right now.  The word kindness does appears 59 times in the [NIV] Bible, my favorite being the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

2. Practicing Kindness is a Lifestyle

So there, apparently we are supposed to practice kindness.  So what does it take to do this?  I would say, time.  The most precious resource we have is really what it takes.

  • Who is the person (or organization)
  • What is your relationship
  • and most of all what are the needs, wants, or troubles this person is dealing with in life


Nothing to me says I don’t know a thing about you or your organization (or case to) more than giving them something they don’t need or want.  Why bother giving a millionaire a $25 gift certificate to a local restaurant… if you know one, perhaps find out what is important to this person and volunteer to help in an area important to them.

Point is basically you need to get to know someone before you try to understand what their current needs are in this life, and perhaps you might need to spend some time getting to know a person before you can understand what kindness means to them.  I would argue that it means different things to different people.

3. Get To Know Someone by Listening

If you want to get to know someone there is a surfire way to do that, which I don’t do very well.  Listen.  Listen without interruption, without thinking about what you are going to say next, without looking at your cell phone, watch, or being distracted by everything else going on in our world today.  Pretty tall order, and very rare when you are talking to another person.

This is something I try to work on all the time but it can be very frustrating on the other end (the one doing the talking) to have someone do everything but pay attention to what you are saying.  Even if you are listening but the other person can’t determine if you are or not, you aren’t.  If makes the other person feel like why should I bother opening my mouth and saying anything.

4. Execute, Live it Out in Your Life

If you are going to follow the Fruit of the Spirit, ultimately it comes down to actually doing something, right?  So if you have taken the time to do everything to this point, why not actually put it into practice in your life.  This is not something to do to check it off your list.  We are talking about a lifestyle of being kind to others. (If you think this is complicated, see step 5.)

One other note on execution.  Kindness is not a reciprocal thing, it is something you do because you want to and are lead to do, not because someone is going to do something or give you something in return.  The reciprocal part of being kind has already been sacrificially paid and that totally defeats the purpose.

5. Do Not Make it Complicated

This elongated comment on Brian’s post is basically a long random thought (random thoughts are ok, just not acts, ha).  This does not have to be complicated at all.  In some cases, a smile works or where appropriate, a hug, can go a long way.  I wouldn’t particularly advocate standing in a circle and singing kumbaya since that is what people already think we do anyway, but it doesn’t have to be some long drawn out thing.

I realize for some, this is much harder than others.  Being kind for some is about like pulling teeth and for others it comes naturally, but it can be simple, thought out, and well planned, not random.

5 Steps on How to Easily Improve a Blog in 2009

I love stats.  Some people call you a stat whore or call stats evil, but there is a reason you can get a degree in statistics in college.  Stats are used everywhere.

Sports, financial, technology, everywhere data is kept and you can gain so much information by examining statistics beyond surface level.  It can show you where you need to improve, what works, what doesn’t, and how to reach more people.

There are many reasons to have a blog, but is one of them to reach more people?  If so, you should know something about how to reach those people your blog is targeting.  Statistics is one way to evaluate how to do that.  If you don’t care about reaching new readers than I guess none of that matters, but many bloggers want to reach out.

A quick few tips for reaching new readers in 2009 on your blog would be something you can gain from your statistics.  Your stats just tell you how you have done, not what to do.  So, my few tips for what they are worth would be:

1. Keywords – be descriptive in your posts and your titles, the Internet runs off keywords.  If you had to pick one or the other, blog titles would come first.  Google keys off title tags so choose a title that is descriptive (like a newspaper headline) that accurately describes your post.

Keywords are not bad, they are just describing your post more accurately for the search engines to find the post.  For example, instead of saying we are going to be watching new year’s eve shows tonight, say we will be watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 2009.

2. Content – the phrase content is king is still true.  Want people to be interested in reading your blog, write original and thoughtful content.  Don’t repeat material found on other blogs and don’t re-post content from other places but instead, write about your thoughts on that topic and link to the original content.

3. Show Some Link Love – one of the best things you can do for a fellow blogger is link to the direct post.  Linking to their blog is great, linking directly to a post they have written is even better.  The reason behind this is by doing so, you give their specific post more relevance when being looked at by google and it creates a pingback to their blog.  Google operates their search algorithms by deciding what is more relevant that something else, and one of the ways it does this is by the buzz around a post or article, and lets face it, the higher you are on Google’s list, the more visitors you will have to your blog or website.

4. Consistency – post with some consistency.  You don’t have to post every day, but posting once, then a month later doing another post, then a week later doesn’t always work well with search engines.  The code on your blog should be consistent as well.  This pretty much taken care of by WordPress or Typepad but the more frequently you change the focus on your blog or theme or coding the less relevant Google sees your blog.

5. Focus (remember your readers) – know your readers and pick a few key subjects and focus your blog on those topics.  For my personal blog, I focus on faith, photography, and personal topics and I try not to stray to far away from those topics (which are broad anyway).  Remember your readers.  You may think you are writing your blog for yourself, but you are really writing for your readers.  If you are writing for yourself and no one else, then there are several journal programs that will accomplish that purpose, but supposedly a blog is a “web log” about life, sharing ideas, information, and most of all communicating with others (i.e. your readers).

Bonus. Read other blogs and comment – ok, so there were actually 6 points, but I left the best for last.  To me, one of the most important things to do as a blogger is read other people’s blogs, and leave thought driven comments.  Blogging is a two way communication, not one way.  You should be ready to interact with your readers, and interact with other bloggers.  Blogs that only go one way become stale and cold.  Bloggers love comments.  If you want comments on your own blog, leave comments on other people’s blogs yourself.  Don’t spam your fellow bloggers.  Read, and if it was a thought provoking post, leave them a comment with your thoughts.


You can have the best content, the highest ranking, the best graphical design, and if you don’t allow comments, and never interact or comment yourself, your blog will be cold and corporate.  When I come across blogs that don’t allow comments that are in my feed reader, I title them in my reader with the extension “(blog title) – [no comments]” and they are usually the last blog I read, if at all.

The best example of how not to do it I have is from Desiring God.  John Piper has one of the very best blogs, period.  The content is incredible, the design is great, he has a ton of readers, and he doesn’t allow comments on his blog and (as far as I can tell) does not interact with his readers or responds to his email (at least not mine).  His blog also does one big no no on rss feeds and that is provide a partial post that requires the reader to actually go to the site to read the article.  And because of this, I rarely read his blog, but it is one of the best on the Internet.

UPDATE 01/11/09: I have to say after a bit of reflection, I am not sure the above criticism of John Piper’s website is all that warranted, strictly because of the value of the content that actually is posted.  I guess my point was that in the blogging community, comments make the blogs go round, and I still think it is very important, but I guess purely great content can totally overcome this point, and the Desiring God blog is one example of having such outstanding content that it may not make any difference, but I think that is an exception.

What are your plans for your blog for 2009?

How to Make a Custom iPhone Wallpaper Background

I wanted to post something a little different today, so here is a slightly useless use of your iPhone’s wallpaper screen, an electronic business card or ID name tag.  I have found a few uses for doing this other than it looking a little conceited and vain, but it was a lot by trial and error and I just wanted to write down the specifics of how I did create the wallpaper.  You may not want to create a “business card” per say, but you can use this exact technique for creating any customized wallpaper for your iPhone.

This actually came from a friend of mine, Michael, who had found a Nikon D100 camera body and lens back this summer.  Back in its day, this was a $2,000 camera body and someone, somewhere was going to be missing this camera.  It took great time and effort for him to actually find the owner of the camera but he did.  A phone of course is not the same thing cost wise, but I thought about putting some digital name tag on my various paraphernalia, so this is one way to do this with your iPhone.  Besides, with as many of them as there are around, if someone picks up yours by mistake they will instantly know who’s phone it is and be able to return it rather quickly.  That’s the idea anyway.

This type of thing can also be done on your Twitter background and it works just about the same way since Twitter doesn’t really give you an exact as how they control their background image sizes and such, and that takes a bit of trial and error too.  The background I used here came right off my Twitter background image with a little size adjustment.

To Create a Custom iPhone Wallpaper or Background

To start, I have assumed that you have some image editing software like photoshop.  You need to create a new blank image in photoshop and I am referring to the diagram below for the sizes I used.  The size of the iPhone wallpaper image is 320px wide by 480px height, so make an image that exact size.  You can use something larger or smaller but this will keep the iPhone from automatically resizing the image and in most cases distorting something.

Next, I made a two tone black and white out of the 480px height.  The part the phone’s date and time covers will remain white in most cases, so if you put a light colored background it does gray out a little of the background, but it is far easier to read if you make it a very dark color.  So, color the top section (approximately 115px from the top of the image down) a dark color of choice.  You can also do the same thing on the bottom (not in the diagram, but at 95px in height) but the bottom is already a lighter color so it isn’t as hard to read.  I left my bottom 95px white as you can see, but you can make that a different color too if you like.

The actual usable space is the center, which basically measures out at a 270px square if you want a nice margin on the right and left side.  For the image you can really take or create anything you like and just make sure it is cropped down to a 270px square and it will fit perfectly.  If you wanted to make this a don’t loose me name tag, put some way to get a hold of you in this center info.

iphone wallpaper

Like I said, you are probably asking who cares or what’s the point, me too, but none-the-less, there it is.  A customized iPhone wallpaper.  All together this took about 20 minutes to do at the most (not including this post of course).  Anyone else happen to do this on their phone?  Now customizing your Twitter background page might be a little more tricky, but, a little more useful.

iPhone 4 Update

I wanted to update this post since the iPhone 4 does not use the same screen resolution as the iPhone 3 or 3G (or iPhone 2 for that matter). The concept still remains the same as it did in the original post, but you will need to get the dimensions of the iPhone 4 to make this custom wallpaper by taking a screen shot with your iPhone 4, which come to 640×960 pixels. Just take the screen shot by holding down the home key and the lock key at the same time for 3 seconds and then you will see the background image.