I’m fighting an ongoing battle against copyright infringement. It’s sometimes a tricky subject – which battles to pick – and sometimes the choice is completely obvious. I host a lot of photos on my Flickr account. I try to only post my best and most unique photos, and I’ve discovered people out there exploiting my work.

My “better half” asked “Why don’t you just put a watermark on your photos?” In the photo world, that’s always a dilemma. A clear, unobstructed photo looks, well, clear and unobstructed. It’s most aesthetic. It just looks good and, if anyone wanted to license a photo, I wouldn’t have to look through my 100+ GB archive of photos from my domestic and international trips. I could just grab the full res. image I uploaded to the server and provide it to the licensee.

In an attempt to protect myself, and my property, I’ve added to every Flickr post: “Please don’t use this image on websites, blogs, or other media without my explicit permission. ¬© All rights reserved.” It’s starting to seem that’s insufficient. People must think they can host photos of their public structures (and that it doesn’t void my rights) or photos as a not-for-profit use on a blog. They’re wrong.

The worst and most blatant infringement I’ve seen so far was a company offering one of my images for sale on a coffee mug. That’s insane and to think there are no consequences…. wow.

Here’s the tally so far (and don’t worry, I’m not going to link to weird sites that might blow up the internet):

$20 Bills
my post: https://www.flickr.com/photos/53135611@N08/5992643526/
not my post: https://twitter.com/BuzzFeed/status/421021189826674688

Santa Barbara Mission
my post: https://www.flickr.com/photos/53135611@N08/6031391488/
not my post: https://plus.google.com/113662442292147469372/photos/photo/5727270185275512002?pid=5727270185275512002&oid=113662442292147469372

Old Lemon-Monroe High School – Monroe, Ohio
my post: https://www.flickr.com/photos/53135611@N08/7039953453/
not my post: (removed after sending a “cease and desist” notice) http://kamgraphics.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Lemon-Monroe-2012.jpg

Old Lemon-Monroe High School – Monroe, Ohio (again)
my post: https://www.flickr.com/photos/53135611@N08/7039953453/
not my post: http://www.monroelocalschools.com/popup-news.cfm?id=414

In-N-Out Burger sign
my post: https://www.flickr.com/photos/53135611@N08/6115300870/
not my post: http://www.socalcarmeetsforum.com/viewimage.forum?u=https%3A%2F%2Fc1.staticflickr.com%2F7%2F6089%2F6115300870_eb8246246d_z.jpg

This is a fair warning to the infringers of the world: Do your research. It’s gonna get easier, not tougher, to track down stolen content. I’m protecting myself, and the hammer of justice soon will be coming down with more force and more frequently.

If you think it’s okay to use photos in an unauthorized fashion, read this:

“The $8,000 Mistake That All Bloggers Should Beware”


I’ve written about it before, and I’m writing about it again: data management is extremely important if you want to keep files around for the long haul. And maintaining organization for those files is key, as we only have so much time on this planet to deal with such issues. I’m writing this as my other computer is copying old CD-RW files to an external hard drive. I have stacks of media that need consolidated, and it’s a shame that the project requires so much of a time investment. That doesn’t have to be the case for data generated today.

In an earlier post (check it out here), I spoke of technology like the Drobo S, which we use at work to backup video footage that costs millions of dollars to produce. As it’s frequently said these days, “storage is cheap,” so there is very little excuse to NOT backup all your important documents, including (but not limited to) your photos and videos.

The file management system that works best for me is a combination of an external hard drive and a pair of DVDs. That is, I try to be meticulous about backing up every single important file to that external drive, and then to a primary and a backup DVD when enough data accumulates and warrants burning a disc.

Also, for my system, I try to keep the data conventions simple. I really enjoy travel and taking pictures – probably spending more time doing so than I should – so I keep a primary folder on the external drive called “Photos-MainBackup”. From there, all photos are narrowed down into more folders displaying the year (if known) and content. For example, one recently created folder is called “2012-Italy”. Nice and simple. That way, you can search for content based on year or the subject. And sometimes it helps you to figure out exactly when the heck you went somewhere.

Also, many of us have pretty sizable music collections these days, so it might not be such a bad idea to create a “Music-MainBackup” primary folder, and maybe even a “Documents-MainBackup” folder.

Of course these are merely suggestions. This is the system that works best for me, so I don’t have to spend a whole lot of time sifting through data to find what I’m looking for. Again, if “storage is cheap these days,” there is very little reason to lose data forever. It’s bound to happen, though, if you don’t plan ahead. Backing up does take a little time investment, but the time spent is very well worth it. Otherwise, it seems that the time invested in creating content that isn’t worth saving is a waste right from the start.


Colorful Circuits

What a great gift! For my birthday last year, my lady bought (us, technically) a voucher for a hot air balloon ride in Temecula, CA. It was going to expire at the end of this month, so we booked a ride about a month ago. That fell through, as the weather didn’t cooperate, so we ended up rebooking for yesterday.

I had imagined it as being just the two of us and the pilot. In fact, it was us, the pilot, a co-pilot, two other couples, a pair of brothers, and a pair of sisters…. quite different from what I expected!

We all met at a winery at 5:30 AM, and we were then driven to the launch site in an open field a few miles away. It took probably a half-hour to get the balloon set up and we were up, up, and away!

Temecula Hot Air Balloon

Inflating the Hot Air Balloon

There was a heavy marine layer at about 900 ft. so, while the balloon was up in the clouds, we were hanging just below it. The pilot occasionally took us completely up into the clouds so he could get a better feel for how the wind was blowing. I have driven through fog more times than I can count, but it’s a completely different feeling to be floating through through the clouds.

The scenery was gorgeous, with huge estates, vineyards, and grapefruit groves for as far as the eye could see (and the marine layer would allow). At one point, the pilot took us way down, and we gently glided over a vineyard. We were so close you could see grapes on the vines, and my photos look like they were taken from a ladder.

Temecula Vineyard

Flying Over a Vineyard

When the hour-long flight was coming to an end, the balloon was guided down to a field. From there, the ground crew grabbed a hold onto the basket and steered us right onto the trailer! It felt even more calculated than an aircraft carrier landing… pretty amazing.

Fruit Basket at a Temecula Winery

Celebratory champagne (mimosa) post-successful hot air balloon landing

I had never heard very much about the wine in Temecula. Most winos I know haven’t been there, whereas they have all been to Santa Barbara for tastings, and many of them have been even further north to Napa. It now seems like Temecula is a well-kept secret. My expectations were admittedly low, but much of the wine I tried was really, really good. We have never joined a wine club before but couldn’t resist on this trip. I’m looking forward to getting my first, two-bottle shipment in August!

Siena is such a confusing place, initially, when arriving by rail. You walk out the front door of the train station, and all you see in the vicinity is a mall, straight ahead. The mall, in this case, is key in getting you where you need to go, as it contains a system of ten – yes, ten – escalators that eventually hoist you to the top of a mountain. Had I done my homework beforehand, or happened to carry a topographical map, I would have known that Siena is one of those mountaintop type of towns I was curious about in the “Italy in Cursive” post.

At the top of the mountain, you make a left, go probably half a mile, and you’ll end up in the old part of Siena. Since it’s a walled town, all main roads basically lead to the Piazza del Campo. That’s a massive, open “square” (it’s more circular), where all kinds of people congregate to socialize, eat/drink, and take in the lovely architecture. Also, there is a bareback horse race that takes place in the piazza every year. Nearly all the Sienese neighborhoods are represented by a rider, and the only rule seems to be that the quickest horse must make three laps to win – with or without the jockey still on-board. The race has a rather bizarre history, with the lore including stories of jockeys being kidnapped, riders smacking each other with whips during the race, and horses being drugged before the big event.

Piazza Del Campo in Siena, Tuscany, Italy

This is part of the Piazza del Campo, as described above.

Trying to take in a little bit at a lot of different places, we decided to depart from Siena for a day and take a tour of the medieval town of San Gimignano. From a distance, the town is incredibly beautiful, with 15 of the original 72 towers remaining, dating as far back as the 11th century. The towers were apparently built by wealthy merchants as a sign of power. Aside from the incredible architecture, the tiny town is a huge tourist trap.

San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy

The second half of our guided tour was spent at Tenuta Torciano winery. The visit was more of a class than just a simple tasting. The proprietor (well, one of them – it’s a family operation) showed our small tour group the proper way to hold the glass, swirl the wine, smell the bouquet and, finally, drink.

Pairing the wines with locally-grown and -made salad, salami, cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and truffle oil made the experience above and beyond the many U.S. tastings I have tried. Plus, it’s refreshing to have a vintner NOT try to steer your pairing preferences. You might be able to imagine him telling us in a thick Italian accent: “If you-a like the bold meat with a white wine, you like-a what you like.”

Back in Siena, it was a little bittersweet leaving the town because it’s rustic charm was a little addicting and made it hard to want to leave. On to Florence!

Duomo di Siena Cathedral, Tuscany, Italy

Another one of the beautiful Sienese churches

Siena, Italy