Tagged: Flickr

My Photo of the Not-So “Bad Old Days” of DTLA

It happened again! Someone used a photo I posted on Flickr for a news story.

KPCC, an NPR member radio station in Pasadena, California, used a photo I snapped in January 2010 to illustrate a story about the rising crime in downtown Los Angeles. The 37% increase in crime, over the last two years, has recently unnerved residents, workers, businesses, and tourists. The area has undergone a “renaissance” over the last decade, perhaps best exemplified by the presence of a Whole Foods Market at Grand Avenue and 8th Street. But the recent rise in crime could undermine gentrification in the area.

I snapped the photo in January 2010 during a Los Angeles Conservancy walking tour through the Historic Core of downtown Los Angeles. The photo shows a bustling street on a Saturday afternoon, teeming with pedestrians walking alongside the businesses on Broadway that largely catered to Latinos. A lot has changed in downtown since I took this photo.

Los Angeles Historic Core

Although this is not the first time that a photo of mine was used for a news story, nor do I mind very much that it was used in the first place, I do find its use to be a bit uninspired. The photo doesn’t really illustrate anything that is discussed in the news story. My photo doesn’t show the relatively new nightlife scene, it doesn’t show any symbols of gentrification in the face of growing homeless camps in the area, and it doesn’t show any signs of crime in the area.

But to be fair, this is not something unique to KPCC. You can see this on just about every news outlet’s site that doesn’t employ a professional photographer or photo editors.

It’s Only Fair Use

Last week, in time for Manhattanhenge, I received a request to use one of my photographs to illustrate an article about what the kids today are calling LICHenge.

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I often read DNA Info’s coverage of Long Island City and environs so I let them use my photograph free of charge. Also, since I use a browser plug-in to block ads and tracking software, meaning they can’t easily monetize me, I figured it was only fair to give something back for all that content I’ve read for “free” over the years.

A few days later, I ran into a former student around NYU. He informed me that he had shared an article about the Four Seasons restaurant with another former student of mine. He reported that they both did a double-take when they noticed that it was my photo illustrating that article.

Pool Room

Unlike DNA Info, Curbed didn’t ask for permission to use it. In all fairness, they didn’t need to ask for permission. Many of my photos, including the one of the Four Seasons, are available for use through Creative Commons. They’re free to use them just as I am free to use other’s content for this website and whatever other original work I create. Old fogies and enfants terribles call this sort of thing fair use.

Besides, I didn’t even take the photo. Sarah took my camera on the OHNY tour while I went to a softball playoff game. It’s really her work, anyway.

Sunset + Storm

Yesterday was a classic summer day. It was hot, humid, and almost intolerable if you were in direct sunlight. But around six o’clock last night, a thunderstorm brought us some relief. Around eight o’clock, the sun began to set behind the western horizon, and it made for absolutely stunning sunset from Long Island City.

Sunset + Storm

Sunset + Storm

And then there was lightning storm.

Embedding Photos with Flickr and Gallery

Since I switched over to WordPress for managing this website in 2009, I have been using an even older platform for sharing my photos: Gallery. Although it took a lot of tweaking, I managed to get WordPress and Gallery to work nicely via a plugin called WPG2, which I am pretty sure is deprecated by now.

Using WPG2 as “middleware” between WordPress and Gallery 2 has made it really easy to embed an image in a blog post. All I have to do is add a bit of shortcode. The code is based on Gallery’s own item number for an image. For example, the image located at http://juanomatic.net/photos?g2_itemId=47586 has an item number of 47586 . To embed this image into a post, I simply include WPG2’s own <wpg2> and </wpg2> wrapper around the Gallery item number.

<wpg2>47586</wpg2>

When added to a WordPress post, the code above will call the appropriate image from Gallery and display it according to the size stipulated in Settings > WPG2 > WPG2 Tags. In my case, I’ve set everything to 500 pixels to allow landscape-oriented images to take up the entire width of the content area, but you can set it anything you want.

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However, given the increasing size of my photo gallery, which is now approaching five gigabytes, the fact that both Gallery2 and WPG2 are by now pretty old, I pay for a Flickr Pro membership, and having my Flickr images on served via WordPress.com can produce retina-caliber images, I am tempted to migrate from Gallery to Flickr. Both WordPress and Flickr natively support oEmbed, a pretty common way to share content, with only requiring a simple URL. That makes it possible to include in a WordPress post, something like this to embed an image in a post:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/juanomatic/8424712368/

oEmbed works with several popular platforms, such as YouTube, Vimeo, Slideshare, Soundcloud, and many more. When I try to embed a Flickr image inside of a WordPress post, it generates an image, as one would expect, however, it is not the 500 px size I want.

Why do I agree to do this?

As you can see, the image is only 320 pixels wide. That’s because when WordPress makes an oEmbed request from Flickr, it sends three (maybe four) pieces of information.

  1. the URL of the Flickr page where the interesting content (i.e., my image) lives;
  2. the maxwidth of my theme so that Flickr provides a right-sized image;
  3. the format of Flickr’s response. WordPress and most others prefer JSON but XML is also common.
  4. It might also send the maxheight of my desired content, which I understand WordPress defines as 1.5 times the width by default.

My theme does not actually specify the width of the content because in previous versions of WordPress, the user had to specify desired sizes of embedded content in Settings > Media. However, since WordPress 3.5, you now have to add a function that specifies the content_width. To comply with the requirement, I added the following to my child theme’s functions.php file:

if ( ! isset( $content_width ) ) $content_width = 500;

Looking around the wp-includes/class-oembed.php file in my WordPress installation, it appears that when WordPress makes an oEmbed request, it uses the content_width value for the value of maxwidth. Since I added that value to my WordPress theme, the request should be for an image from Flickr with a maximum width of 500 pixels. Flickr actually natively resizes images to 500 pixels, among a variety of other sizes, for viewing on their website. For oEmbed, however, it only serves a 320-pixel image. I found that when I change the content_width value to anything greater than 640, it serves a 640-pixel image. The same is true for values higher than 1024. But if content_width is any value between 320 and 639 pixels, it will only serve a 320-pixel image.

How do I get Flickr to serve a 500-pixel image? Looking through countless message boards, it appears that Flickr not only used to serve 500-pixel images via oEmbed, but also restricted the size of images to exactly 500 pixels.

Not being able to easily embed a 500-pixel image from Flickr has left me with a few options:

  1. Continue using Gallery2 and WPG2 for the image gallery and embedding.
  2. Use a theme with content width of 640 pixels. This is actually a pretty good idea since I can use or devise a single-column theme that looks good on desktop, mobile, and tablet environments.
  3. Look to yet another image hosting solution. I would think that 500px.com would be a perfect solution, since I’m looking for images of exactly that size, but they don’t support oEmbed.
  4. Deal with teeny, tiny 320-pixel images. Nah!
  5. I could also change the CSS to make images in the content layer no greater than 500px wide. But this seems like inelegant solution because that would require changing the content-width value to 640, which could cause problems with other oEmbed content I might add later.