What are you Oggling at?
This week saw the launch of Hipstamatic’s long-awaited photo-sharing app. And what have they decided to call their new app, I hear you ask? Well, no doubt after great investment in some expensive Los Angeles PR consultancy, they’ve settled on the name Oggl. OK, yes, like Flickr, Tumblr, Grmblr, they’ve missed out some letters. That’s the first five minutes of the consultant’s fee. But what about the actual meaning of the word. Or the things that people think of when they hear it. Did they road-test it in the UK? Possibly not. Did they even road-test it anywhere? Possibly not. The (presumably American) Urban Dictionary gives as an example of the word’s usage: “Dude, don’t oggle my Mom’s tits”. So far, so bad. Think a bit more and “oggle” has the connotation of looking at something without one’s brain switched on. Not very good for an app for a “Community of Creative People”.
Maybe they chose it to lure the takeover interests of Google, which wouldn’t have to do much rebranding if they decided to launch Google Oggle? (Shame Google aren’t called Goggle, as Goggle Oggle would have been a cracking name). Perhaps some additional research could also have been spent on finding out whether @oggl already existed as a user name on Twitter. It does. Poor Oscar Garcia (1 follower, me) must have wondered where all his new-found popularity had come from when he picked up his phone last Saturday morning.
But perhaps the Hipstas are one step ahead of the game (they usually are)? Perhaps it is a knowing wink to a tradition of embarrasingly named killer brands. Our own mobile world continues to suffer something of an identify crisis. Last year we saw the coining of the term “motography” (nothing to do with Jeremy Clarkson) and to untrained ears the most universally accepted term in the mobile photography world, iphoneography, raises some eyebrows. And of course my own attempt to coin “iphoggy” must - I think I now have to admit - be deemed a failure. I didn’t do any research into that one either.
What are you Oggling at?
Oggl goes to Ostend
Oggl seems to be monopolising my blog lately and today’s blog is about the day I discovered it, when I was in Ostend last Saturday. You might remember a blog I did a while back when I wrote how stupidly overjoyed I was to be invited as a blogger on a trip to visit Ostend (all expenses paid!) by the lovely people at the Ostend tourist board. They had just launched a tour about the fascinating story of Marvin Gaye’s 2-year stay in Ostend.
Part of the reason for me being there was to take photos. I had done my homework and had a plan. Meet the other bloggers at 10:00 for the tour and shoot in Hipstamatic. I expected to be taking loads of photos and posting some of them up straight away. And I would be with a group of other people so I didn’t want to be sat in the corner apping away all day. I wanted a good shot, some nice filters and, bam, up on line. And since the photos from the trip would be presented as a group, I wanted a consistent style. Hipstamatic ticks all those boxes. I chose a Jane+Inas82 combo. Clean, nothing too fussy. But my plans were thrown into disarray by the news that Hipstamatic had launched Oggl. In the mercenary scramble for followers, I knew the first movers would pick up some numbers. So, change of plan. I used Oggl as well as Hipstamatic. But I soon noticed that the pics weren’t saving to my camera roll and, as I mentioned yesterday, I got the feeling the photos were looking a bit fuzzy. So I switched back.
As I made my way to the starting point for the tour, I noticed some amazing kites being flown on the beach. I was particularly drawn by a huge clown’s face kite, flying high in the sky. Then there was a huge whale. And the multi-coloured teddy bear. I was running around the beach like a little kid, enthused by these mad kites, now lit by some lovely sunshine against a blue sky. And before I knew it, I was late for the tour.
As an iPod-led walkumentary, I was able to catch up the rest of the group, so it didn’t matter too much. And a fascinating tour it was. It’s good to make plans but you have to go with the flow and go where the pictures lead you. See some of those pictures here.
The weird and disappointing thing about Oggl
As we take a closer look (quite literally) at Oggl, we discover some weird and disappointing things. In my blog yesterday I initially said that the pics seemed to be saving on my camera roll at full res. My good friend Brad Puet at Juxt questioned this and when I tried to find a picture that I’d published to Oggl and which I thought I had on my camera roll, I realised I couldn’t find it. I had dual-posted the picture to Flickr via the Oggl app, and it showed there at a very weak 640x640 pixels. And on closer inspection (quite literally) the photo displayed on the Oggl app (and on Flickr) was looking a bit fuzzy. So, when you post photos to Oggl, they don’t save on your camera roll and they publish in low-resolution versions.
But the totally weird thing (as discovered by my good friend Federico Sardi) is that you can produce a high res image via Oggl on your camera roll. Here’s how. You take a picture. You see it in your Oggl lightroom but it doesn’t save to your camera roll. However, if you change one of the filters on the picture, it saves to your camera roll in full resolution. Why? I’ve no idea and it looks like a bug.
So we have a workaround to save onto the camera roll. But we still have a photo stream of very low res images. Scrolling through the photos of other people on Oggl, I start to get an overwhelming sense of visual disappointment. All these photos are displaying at around a quarter of the size of most photos on Instagram. And it shows. They all look a bit wishy-washy. That’s a bit disappointing for an app with supposedly sound aesthetic credentials. And disappointing for someone (me) who is a massive fan of Hipstamatic.
A bit fuzzy and a bit disappointing
Oggl: another assault on Fortress Instagram
It all happened so quickly. Well, the acceptance of my expression of interest in joining Hipstamatic’s new photo-sharing app, Oggl, did. Of course, the actual launch of the platform was about 2 years late. The mobile world would have been very different if Hipstamatic had got there first. It seems only yesterday I was saying the same thing about the new Flickr mobile app.
So what do we think of it? First of all, there’s still a certain hipsta elitism about it. Membership is being released only slowly (via invites) although I’m sure that’s partly because they want to go easy on their servers at first (there is early talk of crashes). But already we are hearing grumbles (understandably) from Hipstamatic “customers” who haven’t yet received invites. Also, the purity of the hipsta filters is being preserved by uploads only being allowed from the app’s own camera roll. So no cropping out those frames or Snapseed-messing with the saturation. There is some surprise that the old Hipstamatic app and Oggl haven’t been connected (so you can’t upload your old Hipsta prints) but this might come in the next upgrade. The photos you take in Oggl save to your camera roll, which really means there’s not much point shooting in the old app anymore. Unless, of course, if you were silly enough to have bought any of those daft “camera cases”.
I know I bang on about resolution. And alas Oggl exports at a rather low 640x640. What’s worse, you can’t manage your photos via your camera roll. The best you can do is via one of the other platforms you can parallel post to (eg Flickr) but that’s quite fiddly. I do like the curation idea. “You can’t curate your own photos” the app tells me as I try to boost my own popularity. We’re hearing the word curation a lot now in the mobile photography world so maybe Hipstamatic have tapped into the zeitgeist. Curation seems to be like an uber-like you can give people’s photos (I haven’t got one yet). It also means you mix up other people’s photos amongst your own Collection, which is kind of nice. I also love the ease with which you can switch “lenses” and “films” and even preview their effects before shooting and copy other people’s combos. And the app itself is super slick, as you would expect from a Hipsta.
So this is another serious assault on Fortress Instagram, which has already taken a bit of a battering from first Eyeem, then Flickr and later a variety of other smaller assailants. How long can it hold out?
Assault on Fortress Instagram!
Google have been talking about bringing out glasses that promise you a ticker feed of stock prices from New York in the left-side of your peripheral vision. Oh yipee. Much better would be if Hipstamatic brought out glasses that replicated some of their fantastic filters. See such a hipper world world through a Jimmy + Dream Canvas combo! Go back in time with the B-type + Tinto combo! You may be multi-billionaires and be able to avoid paying any tax anywhere, but that would be so much cooler, Google.
After you’ve been using a particular Hipstamatic combo for a while, it’s like walking around with a pair of strong sun glasses on. The colours are richer, the world is more contrasted, there’s a touch of cool about everything. The actual sunglasses that I wear have prescription lenses, which means they also give me a bit of definition, which means they really do give me a different vision/version of reality, a hyper reality. Whenever I take them off, I feel a mild sense of disappointment (and lack of clarity) in the face of the reality of… reality. And I often get the same sense of let-down when I take a photo with the native iphone camera.
As I blogged before, the “lenses and films” etc are really just filters that you stack. They may be loosely based on old films and lenses but I’m not sure how historically accurate they are. I’d love to see their research. Anyway, they can be as historically accurate as Eroll Flynn’s portrayal of Robin Hood for all I care, they’re bloody brilliant. Let me know when you bring out those glasses.
Hipstamatic sunglasses: better than Google goggles
The man who doesn’t know what Instagram is
William Eggleston has no idea what (or who) Instagram is. He revealed this and a very limited number of other things in a recent interview with an illustrious panel of photographic luminaries published in The Independent.
If you’re a fan of Eggleston’s work you might also be the sort of person who puts on one of Schoenburg’s records and has a jig around the kitchen. Or are first in the queue when your local Odeon is re-running The Sorrow and the Pity. His work isn’t what you’d call chocolate-box. His most famous photo is of a light bulb. Please. There is the tiniest suspicion that people in the world of photography daren’t say anything against him for fear of being ridiculed by their peers. Yes, I get his use of colour within the context of a fine-art photography previously dominated by black and white. Yes, I get his disdain for cliched subjects. And I guess that if you spend enough time studying something, yes, you probably get bored of those chocolate box pictures of quaint cottages or horses running on beaches. If you’re on Instagram you can relate to that right, having clocked up your 1,000th view of a backlit jumpstagram? Just as well he doesn’t know what it is.
It’s the same with those architects. I’m with Prince Charles on this one. The Trellick Tower may be a listed building but does its design perhaps have anything to do with the locals’ nickname for it, Jumpers Tower, owing to the number of people who have, yes, jumped off it? Could its brutal post-modern lines and unrelentingly concrete have something to do with those people wanting to kill themselves?
So maybe I haven’t been looking at photos enough down the years. The thing is most of Eggleston’s photos are just a bit boring to look at. Of course there’s no objective arbiter of photography (and there’s also no accounting for taste) so why do journalists call people like Eggleston the “world’s greatest”? And if he wins a prize we all know that prize organisers will usually have some self-serving reason for their decisions. So why do so many people spend so much time, devote so much energy and write so many articles about his work? Oops there’s another one.
I’m with Prince Charles
Let the kids have the kameraz!
I’d almost forgotten about the app Action Shot. The easiest way to explain what it does is to look at the photo shown here.
You get the idea? I remembered it the other day because I was invited by Sport England to take some photos of one of their Sportivate initiatives, a group of Free Runners (a sport also known as Parcourt, or Parkour in its cooler version) and I thought it would work a treat.
The way you take a photo with it is to hold your camera still and let your subject jump/skateboard/fly from one end of your frame to the other. The app takes a number of shots in burst mode and you decide which ones you’d like to include in your final frame. You could achieve the same result by using an app like Quick Camera and then blending the results. (Quick Camera has the advantage over other apps, like Camera+, which also have a burst mode, that it delivers high-resolution images.) You could then use an app like Blender to merge your best shots into one. But that would be quite a long and tricky process. Action Shot effectively gives you a macro that takes those steps for you. A bit of finger dabbing on your screen and, hey presto, you have a pretty cool-looking pic to impress your skateboarding emo mates with.
Part of Sport England’s thinking with asking me to cover these events with the iphone camera is to show the kids that they could take photos of the sports they’re doing with their own smart phones. Action Shot is a great example of this sort of empowerment.
Become a filter designer
I recently did a photo shoot for Sport England. I took about 150 photos and narrowed my final selection down to around 30. Then I wanted to app them. Yes, all of them. As we’ve established many times before, apps were put on this earth to be used and the iphone camera takes pretty dull photos. So I wanted to app these photos. But I’d also had quite a hard day and I wanted to go home. Either I submit fairly uninspiring photos or I go through all 30 one by one and edit each one manually. Since this sort of shoot is probably the most enjoyable work I’ve ever done, I decided it was in my interests to edit each one manually. So using Snapseed: open, drama (I know), sharpen, brighten, saturation, subtle vignette. To keep a consistent style, I gave most of the photos very similar edits.
When I got home I did some research and discovered I could have saved myself some work. Filter Storm allows you to create custom presets, or automations, as it calls them. So, if you have 4 or 5 edits that you apply over and over, you can save those steps as one single preset. It’s a great time-saving way of not having to repeatedly go through the same steps. I then discovered that you can do the same thing in another app, Photo Toaster. There may also be other apps that allow you to do this. For me though, this was new and amazing.
The world of iphoneography has often been criticised for being “just a bunch of filters”. With custom presets though, you take creative control of your images. You decide the exact look of your photos. You effectively become a filter designer.
I call this my Cheerleader filter
What’s the story with Backspaces?
I’ve been going to support my team Luton Town on and off for many years. Last week was the last home match of the season. It had been a terrible season. We’re in the fifth tier of the English league system but used to play in the very top league against Manchester United and Chelsea. So whenever the press talk about Luton, the narrative is that of a club that has fallen hard times, seen better days, hankering after former glories.
The narrative. That made me think of this new app I’ve been using: Backspaces. It’s all about narratives, or stories. So as I caught the train to Luton last Thursday, I thought I’d try and put together a little story about Luton Town Football Club. Perhaps I’d take that “former glories” angle, or maybe something more personal. And perhaps I’d just tell people a few things about my football club. That was as far as I planned the story.
If you’re following Google Maps to find Luton’s ground, you go up a street of tightly-packed terraced housing and you might wonder where a football stadium is going to fit in. It suddenly appears, seemingly out of no-where, at the end of the road, surrounded on three sides by houses, the other side by a main road. Many of these grounds are disappearing from England as clubs move to new more comfortable out-of-town grounds. This became my first story. Then I went for a drink at the Eric Morecombe Suite, a pre-match club for season-ticket holders only. Who was Eric Morecombe? He became my next story. After a drink there, we made our way to the narrow turnstiles. A sign warned supporters to expect to be searched. It reminded me of the bad-old days of 80s hooliganism. Another picture, another story. At every turn, I found stories, little gems of information, some amusing, some poignant.
The Backspaces app is a real eye-opener. Quite literally. Putting together a series of photos with text is a new way of approaching photography. It allows us to add more meaning to our photos, to be more personal, to tell our stories. To see this particular story, click here.
What’s the story with these two guys?