Instagram – to share or not to share that is the question

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My dogs Ivy and Luna are no strangers to having their photos posted on Instagram. Posted 12/18/2012.

The first thing they teach us as kids in kindergarten is to share. So is it any wonder why in the digital world people are so open to sharing their photos and personal details on the internet. Sharing is in our DNA.

Instagram tossed a grenade into the photo sharing world on Monday Dec. 17, 2012 with controversial changes to their Terms of Service. Professional and amateur photographers around the world flipped their wigs over the changes.

Here is a concise explanation of the changes via lightbox.time.com by Adam McCauley

“According to the changes, effective January 16, 2013, any photograph posted on Instagram’s service can be repackaged and sold by Instagram for advertising purposes without the user’s knowledge or consent.  In addition, by agreeing to the new terms, users are responsible for any legal claims that may result from the promotion or use of their images.

Long story short: Instagram can use your content to increase their revenue, and if a legal claim is brought against the company regarding how these images have been used, you (the user) might be responsible for the damages.”

Instagram reacted within 24-hours to the firestorm of complaints and they are “listening.” http://blog.instagram.com/post/38252135408/thank-you-and-were-listening

I have my concerns about Instagram’s decision but I do think the photography world needs to take a deep breath and look for perspective while we await Instagram’s next move.

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Veterans Day program at the 9th Street Commons Park, East Moline, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012.

Instagram is a wonderful tool to SHARE your visual thoughts in the same way Twitter is a wonderful way to share your thoughts and opinions. It’s a wonderful way to get some feedback on a boring day. So at its core Instagram is a free sharing service. It’s not your personal website, It’s not your PhotoShelter site, It’s not your company’s file server, It’s a sharing site/method and It’s a free sharing service to boot.

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Election Night 2012: The Rock Island County Republican campaign party at The Stern Center in Rock Island, Ill., Tuesday Nov. 6, 2012.

As a professional photographer I post all sorts of images at http://instagram.com/tmizener/ but nothing I would be worried about being monetized by Instagram. My concerns fall with the legal implications of my photo being used. I am not going to rush to judgement on the New Terms because and my guess they are going to change.

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Fine wine and craft beer are frequent post topics on my Instagram account.

Instagram’s  ham-handed roll out of the “New Terms of Service” reminds me of Netfix’s PR nightmare last year when they botched the attempt to split their DVD and Streaming video services. Instagram will respond to their user’s complaints and I firmly believe they will amend their amendments. That all being said – who really thought these guys invented Instagram out of the goodness of their heart? Not me. So I am never surprised when this stuff happens. Someone has to pay the light bill. I am just glad the photo community rose up to keep Instagram on their toes. However, I think the people who deleted their accounts in a fit of rage might have jumped the gun. Everyone needs to kick back have a glass of wine, post it on Instagram and wait to see if Instagram can avoid driving their business over the cliff and into internet oblivion.

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My niece Zara enjoys a New Glarus beer in this Hipstamatic image posted on October 16, 2012. http://instagram.com/p/Q3fzTRK7zR/

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A proud Marine says goodbye to his grandfather

Today I had the great honor to be able to deliver a eulogy for a friend.

If you read my recent post you already know about my relationship with Joe Colmer and his wonderful family. The Colmers were kind enough to ask me to speak today and I was humbled and honored to help them to celebrate Joe’s life.

Unfortunately I am no stranger to eulogies having delivered them for each of my parents and my beloved aunt Marilyn but today was different. My seat was in the third row. I was merely a supporting player, someone to help lend a unique perspective to the prism of Joe’s life.

I was the last of the four people to speak and the only non-family member. As I sat in my aisle seat, with my speech in one hand and a bottle of water in the other, I was blown away by the eulogies delivered by each of the three family members – Glen, Adam and little Sabrina.

I know how hard it is to muster up the courage and composure to speak eloquently about someone you have loved your entire life. It is for that reason why I am so proud of Joe’s grandson Adam. The young Marine rose from his seat in the front row walked to the podium with a stiff spine and a gentle quiver in his lip. He unfurled the folded piece of paper containing his hand written prose and then proceeded to give one of the best eulogies I have ever had the honor to witness.

What made it even more impressive was that he only referred to the words, that he had probably crafted  very carefully in blue ink on a sheet of notebook paper, only a few times during the 4 to 5 minutes speech. Dressed in his Marine dress blue uniform he stood next to the flag draped casket of his war hero grandfather and took gentle aim at the hearts of everyone in the room. Adam’s eulogy was part history lesson, sermon and love letter. When Adam finished his proud father stood and hugged him. Their embrace reminded me of all the hugs I have photographed over the years when young soldiers return home safe from far off conflicts like Afghanistan or Iraq.

When the service was over I stood in line to say one final goodbye to Joe and standing proudly at the foot of his grandfather’s casket was Adam. Never has a young Marine worn the U.S. Marine Corp dress blue uniform with such distinction and pride. I shook his hand, gave him a hug and told him that he made his grandfather very proud today.

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that a hero like Joe Colmer would have a grandson like Adam.

Joe Colmer and my debt of gratitude

My friend Joe Colmer.

My friend Joe Colmer.

“Just wanted to let you know my dad passed away today,” Sheri

When the Facebook alert popped up on the screen of my iPhone I could only read “Just wanted to let you know my…..” Deep down I knew what the rest of the message said and my heart just sank. I turned to my wife Lisa and said “I don’t think I want to read the whole message.” The message was from Sheri Colmer-Williams, the daughter of Joe Colmer.

Fate brought me together with Joe and his wonderful family back in 2008. I met Joe and Sheri at the pre-flight dinner for the Inaugural Quad-Cities Honor Flight. I had picked Joe’s name off the long list of veterans going on the trip because he was traveling with two of his three children, Bruce and Sheri. My dad, Blair Mizener, and Joe were both members of the Greatest Generation. Blair had passed away a few years prior to Honor Flight robbing him of what, in retrospect, might have been a healing trip for him. So as a bit of an homage to Dad I thought my story should revolve around the bonding experience of a soldier and his child on Honor Flight.

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Bruce Colmer and Sheri Colmer-Williams with their dad, Joe Colmer, at the WWII Memorial in Washington DC on November 1, 2008.

Who knows what brings people together. In my case with Joe something just clicked. Not only did he remind me a little of my dad but his life story was so compelling I could talk to him all day. During that first interview, conducted in a little room at the Knights of Columbus Hall following the dinner, it was clear that Joe was skating around some of the traumatic details of his service during WWII. The longer we talked the more I understood there were obviously some things he just wasn’t going to talk about.

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Every time I asked Joe what he though of the Honor Flight experience he smiled and said “It’s great. I just can’t believe it.”

It has been my experience that members of the greatest generation don’t like to talk about their service. As far as they are concerned they did their job and came home. Talking about it wasn’t part of the deal they made when they signed up. Personally, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the WWII vets. My dad, who served stateside because of medical a condition, always called them the “real heroes”. They were his classmates and friends. Those who came back were cherished and those who did not were revered.

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Bruce Colmer and his father, WWII veteran Joe Colmer, at the WWII Memorial in Washington DC on November 1, 2008.

Joe and Bruce.

Joe and Bruce embrace after Joe finished an emotional interview with me at the WWII Memorial during the inaugural Honor Flight of the Quad Cities.

On the day of the Honor Flight, as Bruce and his dad worked their way around the WWII Memorial in Washington DC, I think Joe finally got to say goodbye to some of the ghosts that had been quietly haunting him for years. So as he sat in his wheelchair, with Bruce steadying him with one hand and holding my mic in the other, Joe finally told the story. For the first time in his life he told the story of the young private who was shot in the head by a German sniper and died in Joe’s arms. His voice trailing off he asked to stop the interview. Bruce hugged him and I did my best to capture the moment, which of course is my job, but still be respectful of their moment.

Later in the day, as the old warriors were loading up on the bus to go to the airport, Bruce pulled me aside and thanked me. He told me that Joe had never told that story before and he was grateful to have been there to share in the moment. I don’t think I will ever get a thank you more meaningful than that one.

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World War II veteran Joe Colmer of East Moline leaves his wheelchair behind as he takes a moment to be by himself while visiting the World War II Memorial. Colmer, a veteran of D-Day and other major battles during the war, was among 96 local veterans who traveled to the nation’s capital in November of 2008 to visit the World War II Memorial as part of Inaugural Honor Flight of the Quad Cities.

Soon after the interview, Joe asked for a moment alone and he stood up from his wheel chair. With his cane to steady him he walked away leaving the chair behind. His walking away is the moment captured in my photo. The remarkable thing about that photo is how alone Joe is in the frame. The memorial was packed with people and yet not one other person wandered into the frame. I believe my Dad in heaven was the angel on my shoulder as I lined up the image though my viewfinder.

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Joe gets a big hug from his wife Alberta upon his return to the Quad Cities International Airport in Moline, Ill.

Following Honor Flight I felt like Joe and his family had given me such a huge gift letting me tell their story I couldn’t help but want to do something to thank them. I had some prints made from the trip, burned a few DVDs and delivered them during my one and only trip to the Colmers’ home in East Moline. It was amazing how welcome Joe and his wife Alberta made me feel as we sat and chatted in their kitchen.

Before I left their house they surprised me with a gift certificate to Appleby’s which I tried to gracefully refuse but Alberta was not taking ‘no’ for an answer.

I left the house with every intention of stopping back on occasion. I thought about it every time I glanced up at Joe’s photo which hangs over my desk. They said the door was always open to come by anytime and I believed them. Now I saw Joe a few times at various events around town but I never made to back to their house. In the heat of the work day you are focused on the tasks at hand but in the quiet of the night you start thinking about all the things you have left undone, the letters you need to write, the places you need to visit, the stories you want to tell and the people you need to hug.

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World War II veteran Joe Colmer is greeted at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., after he and 93 other Quad-Cities veterans arrived at the nation’s capital as part of Quad Cities Honor Flight.

Maybe I didn’t stop by because I didn’t want to have to run in and run out. Joe deserved better than that. But to never stop by, that was just wrong. My guilt is lessened a bit by the messages I have received from his daughters in the last few days. Following the passing of Alberta, his wife of 58 years, in early November Patti and Sheri read him a note I had posted on Sheri’s Facebook page and Patti responded “I just read this to Dad, Todd…..he continues to talk of you so often and said he cannot believe you would have his picture above your desk!!!!! Thank you for always thinking of us”

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Joe, Bruce, Alberta and Sheri at the Quad Cities International Airport just before the veterans and their guardians boarded their charter flight to Washington D.C.

And after Joe’s passing Sheri sent the following –  “Thank you. He thought a lot about you too. He truly enjoyed being on the Honor Flight with you and talking with you. He was always asking me if I had talked with you. Thank you again for everything you did for our family.”

I probably spent a total of 48 hours in the presence of Joe Colmer, but he changed my life forever. So as far as I am concerned I owe Joe, and his family, a debt that can never be repaid.

Thanks to Joe, I got to have my own father and son moment at the memorial.

WWII veteran Joe Colmer of East Moline, Ill., visits the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.  as part of Honor Flight of the Quad Cities, Saturday November 01, 2008.

WWII veteran Joe Colmer of East Moline, Ill., visits the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. as part of Honor Flight of the Quad Cities, Saturday November 01, 2008.

RELATED VIDEO FROM HONOR FLIGHT:

Here are the some of the videos I produced as part of my coverage of the inaugural Honor Flight of the Quad Cities. I can’t help but watch these videos with the critical eye of time and experience. When I went on Honor Flight I was just getting started as a video storyteller after 20-plus years of only shooting still pictures. But then again I need to remember hindsight is 20-20.

Honor Flight of the Quad Cities: WWII veteran Joe Colmer

Honor Flight of the Quad Cities: A solider’s story

Honor Flight of the Quad Cities: The Guardians

Honor Flight of the Quad Cities: Video Montage

Black Friday – Hipstamatic street photography

Black Friday 2012 was perfect for some late night street photography. I didn’t really have any intention of heading out into the fray but this year’s early start made it a little easier for me to be convinced to participate. Over the last few years my nephews and I have maintained a Black Friday tradition of shopping together at a few select stores. I thought we were going skip it this year when we couldn’t find any thing to buy in the newspaper circulars but they were not to be deterred. So in the name of tradition we headed out to Target and Best Buy in Moline, Ill.

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Once we arrived at Target I became focused on photographing the madness. The line outside the neighboring Kohl’s was too good to pass up. After shooting the long line at Kohl’s I headed into Target to find my nephews and checkout the craziness. I made a few nice frames there and then we were off to Best Buy.

At Best Buy, where Jeff was kinda looking for a good deal on a 40-inch TV, we got in the back of the growing line of shoppers. It was cold and I could not believe how many people brought their small children out at midnight to shop. The following in a collection of images from our 2 1/2 hour adventure. Oh by the way our purchases consisted of Matt buying a game at full price, I bought a 32GB SD card for no good reason and Jeff never did find that 40-inch tv.

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Lincoln School: The beginning of the end

I can’t count how many times in 23-years at the Dispatch/Argus that I have been assigned to take an updated “building mug” of the old Lincoln School in Rock Island. Since it closed in the 80’s the building has been on a slow and steady descent into hell. Its demise has been so slow that it never seemed to look any different. The beautiful red bricks and striking arches are an architectural mirage. According to the demolition crew the reality is the 119-year-old building is long past saving.

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Since the final decision was made to demolish the structure there has been a steady stream of people stopping by to say goodbye to their old friend.  Everyone I spoke to at the site said the same thing “I wish they could have saved it.” “They should have turned it into a … fill in the blank.”

When the school was closed back in the 80’s the Quad-Cities’ economy was being ripped to shreds by the farm crises. I am not a historian but my best guess is that Lincoln School is an unfortunate victim of circumstance. When the factories which employed so many of the neighborhood’s residents started to struggle, the resulting socio-economic changes left very little money to rehab a money pit built in 1893. Ralph Walters, the school’s retired physical education teacher, told me that the building was a maintenance nightmare during its final 20-years. 2012 is a brand new world when it comes to rehabbing old buildings but we need to remember what was going on economically in the area when the building was shuttered. It will be sad to see those wonderful arches fall to the wrecking ball on Monday. Hopefully something useful will spring from the roots of the beloved old school.

Over the years of photographing old Lincoln School I have never taken the time to walk around it and study it with my camera. On Monday, during the process of shooting photos for the D/A with my Nikon D300s DSLR, I started to make some some photos with my trusty iPhone. I utilized my favorite photo app on the iPhone Hipstamatic. After I had what I needed for the paper I spent 30-minutes trying to capture the character of the building using Hipstamatic. If you follow me on Instagram (@tmizener) you know I am an iPhone photography addict  and this project is taylor-made for a Hipstamatic essay. I love the dramatic black & white 1:1 format, especially for portraits.

On Thursday we got the word that the demolition of the school’s gymnasium addition was going to start so I headed back to the site. The distance of the demolition action from where I had to stand behind the safety fence isn’t conducive to taking images with an iPhone. As a result I concentrated my Hipstamatic photos on the people who showed up to watch. During the 2-hours I was on the scene I had to toggle between my responsibilities to the newspaper and the Hipstamatic project.

Lincoln School alumni John Baxter with his class photo from 1964-65.

Once I was back in the office and finished my newspaper edit I was finally able to look over the Hipstamatic images. I was pretty pleased with the results. I have picked 14 of the better images from both days to a slideshow posted below.  I especially like the photo of John Baxter (above) holding his class photo with the school in the background. I hope to capture more of these ‘alumni portraits’ on Monday during the demolition of the main building. With any luck lots of Lincoln alumni will take the time to stop by the site. Fingers crossed.

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*Note the only non-Hipstmatic photo in the slideshow is the one of the cat living under the school steps. That image was taken with a Nikon D300s and a 70-200mm lens. I cropped it to the 1:1 format and toned it in Photoshop to give it a Hipstamatic feel.

Instagram: Twitter for photogs

I sat down tonight to write about my new found fascination with Instagram and quickly discovered that PhotoShelter Chairman and co-founder Allen Murabayashi did it much better in his PhotoShelter blog post entitled “Why Instagram is Terrible for Photographers, and Why You Should Use It”. So why am I still typing? Because I can’t sleep 🙂

Instagram post of the Rock Island Co. Fair Queen. Shot with a D300s, transferred to my iPhone and posted via Instagram to Twitter and Facebook.

Despite being 46-years-old my brain seems to naturally sync well with today’s social networking way of life.  For as much as I post on Facebook these days it is ironic that I started using it reluctantly. My nieces and nephews strong armed me into joining and I never looked back. I came to Twitter reluctantly – when my employer suggested I Tweet. By the way if you follow me on Twitter please accept my humble apologies for not being very interesting. I embraced the camera app Hipsatmatic the first-second I found it in the iTunes App Store. I thought

“Wow, what a cool photo toy.” I quickly realized however that the Hipstamatic app is not a toy. It is has quickly become an invaluable tool for me as a storyteller.

Anti-meat protest in Davenport shot with Hipstamatic app

Eventual John Deere Classic winner Zach Johnson with Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz. Shot with Nikon D300s, transfered to iPhone, tweaked with Snapseed and posted via Instagram.

Last but not least I have finally come to embrace Instagram. If you are a professional photographer the Instagram fine print probably scares the bejeebers out of you – I know it scared me. But then again any kind of fine print frightens me.  My journey to Instagram was sparked by a question on Facebook from an old high school friend – Karlton Uhm. He was looking for some ‘expert’ advice on which photography iPhone apps to use. I gave him my 2-cents worth advice which I believe included a jab at Instagram. But his question got me thinking about the app – why did Facebook buy it? Why is everyone taking about it? Am I the last one to the party? So I started to play around with it and discovered that some of my friends and colleagues were posting on Instagram. Photographer friends like Marianne Mather (fotomather), Brian Ray (brayphoto), Scott Strazzante (scottstrazzante), Amy Vinchattle (amyvinchattle), H. Rick Bamman (hrick30), Rodney White (Rodney) and Talya Arbisser (photosbytalya), just to name a few, were all on Instagram and posting some cool stuff. Hmmm. If they’re not scared off by those spooky details maybe I should give it a whirl.

Golf fans sports some wacky pants during the John Deere Classic shot with the Instagram app on my iPhone.

Sleeping golf fan during JDC. Shot with Instagram app.

What I quickly discovered was that Instagram is basically Twitter for the typing impaired – a.k.a photographers. Photographers are visual thinkers and posting our thoughts and observations in the form of photos seems a perfect fit. I really embraced the app during the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic. Some of the photos I posted were transmitted from my D300s via the EyeFi card into my iPhone where I edited them and posted them via Instagram. Others were shot with the iPhone using various camera apps including Instagram. It was fun to try something new visually as I walked around the course. As a photographer Tweeting that I was walking up the 9th fairway is pretty boring stuff but posting a quirky picture of two golf fans in wacky pants is kinda interesting – or at least it is to me.

I use a variety of sources for the photos I post on Instagram. Some are DSLR photos transferred to my iPhone. Others are shot with Camera, Camera +, Instagram and my favorite app – Hipstamatic. I won’t get into the debate over the app filters. If you want to read about that click in the link I mentioned at the top of this post. The bottom-line for me is that I love a challenge. Trying to make great photos with my iPhone is just like trying to paint in oils after years of using watercolors. The goal is the same but the tools are different. Being a photographer is all about connecting with your audience and the best way for me to connect with people is to utilize the various social networking platforms. My stuff varies from work related images, like the ones from the John Deere Classic, to a photo of my dog Ivy sleeping on the couch. No matter the photo I am not interested in posting crap so even if I am posting a dog photo I try and make it a good one.

So after a slow start with Instagram I have come to firmly believe that it is one of the best ways to for both pro-shooters and amateur photographers to connect with their audience/friends.

Feel free to follow me at tmizener on Instagram.

My dog Ivy chases birds. Photo taken with the Instagram app and cross-posted on Facebook.

Shot with iPhone Camera app, cropped and posted via Instagram.

Shot with Hipstamatic app and posted via Instagram

Nice moment at JDC shot with Nikon D300s and transfered to iPhone and posted via Instagram.

Street photography in my backyard

I haven’t had much opportunity to do any street photography in the last year so I decided today that the annual Coal Valley Community Garage Sale might be a good opportunity to get back into the game. In the past I have shot with either my Canon G-10 or Nikon P700 but today I broke out the vaunted iPhone. I shot from my right hip using the Hipstamatic app. To make things even more challenging I brought Ivy, my chocolate lab, with me.

Most street photography is practiced in urban settings but today’s adventure was strictly suburban. The village-wide garage sale attracts a unique blend of folks all furiously looking for a bargain. The streets of our sub-division quickly morph into a bizzare flea market for the day. It can be treacherous walking, especially when you are taking pictures and walking a dog.

The fun thing about this kind of photography is that you take aim without taking aim. I hold the camera, mostly to my side, and point it in the direction of what I think might be an interesting photo. Sometimes I walk and shoot and other times I stop and wait for a moment to come to me. I wasn’t sure anyone else approached street photography in the same way until Scott Strazzante, the award winning photographer from the Chicago Tribune, started his blog Shooting from the Hip. Scott is the current master of this art form and his blog is well worth bookmarking.

Since you point and shoot without the aide of looking through the ‘viewfinder’ sometimes you strike gold and sometimes all you get is knee caps and asses. You shoot a lot and sometimes you capture a nice moment. The art of street photography is a well worn photographic art form. More examples of current street photography can be found at www.street-photographers.com/ and www.lfph.org/what-is-street-photography

If I had to pick one image from today that I was really satisfied with it would be this one of a little boy in the $2 “Thing” mask. I saw it developing as a walked up the street and was able to get to him in time before he took it off. I missed the shot of his brother trying on the “Thing” shoes.

One of the other freeing things about this kind of photography is that it is photography for photography’s sake. My newspaper photojournalism requires me to get names and talk to my subjects. When you shoot like this on the street you are just a fly on the wall. In a few of my shots the subjects are reacting to Ivy which adds a unique spin to the aesthetic.

Here is the rest of my edit. It could be tighter but it’s Saturday and I am enjoying a glass of wine while I type. – Todd