A Murmuration Of Starlings

I have decided on a change of pace and lifestyle. On social media platforms I am one Starling in a host of others. It is very hard to focus on any single Starling when they flock in their tens of thousands, which by the way is called a ‘murmuration’ (I don’t know why). A murmuration is a hypnotic sight, almost liquid. Like watching waves crash on the shore. Breathtaking. They move in a synchronized airborne ballet most beautifully, almost as one living breathing organism. It’s impossible for any one Starling to be seen in such a crowd.

Sometimes, to be seen you have to fly solo. And I feel it’s time for me to do that.

The tortured metaphor here is that going into the future I want my primary focus to be creativity and exploration. Rather than trying in vain to stand out among many thousands of other beautiful social media Starlings. So, I am stopping. Getting off the treadmill.

This decision has been long in the making. I’ve been thinking about it all Summer and making moves. Numerous factors drive it. Long hours, for one. Most evenings and weekends are spent waving a camera or in front of a computer. And I enjoy that still, but I realized some time ago that I’m no longer doing it for me. I’m doing it for the grinding machine that we call social media. A machine that needs to be constantly fed. Unlike the machine, I am fed up. Pun intended.

Start Rant

Another factor is the soul-sucking pointlessness of making images only to have them shamelessly anonymized or nicked. I find this aspect of social media takes away much of the joy and I spend way more time and effort and worry on it than I ought. Examples? OK. Here are just three.

  • One friend tells me with a smile of a folder full of my images downloaded for use as desktop wallpaper. And shared with friends. Who share with theirs. After taking off my watermarks of course, he says with another smile.
  • Another screenshots a hundred (100) images from a gallery to promote their band on Instagram. A gallery from a day long charity event, with image sales going to charity. Cheap. On so many levels.
  • Several others share my now-unbranded images as cover photos. I watch people comment “Wow! I want that for my wall!” and I think, well, if the watermark was still there you could have asked me.

I have more examples. I see more. I say nothing. But I watch. And I’m tired of it.

This paragraph is written with tongue firmly in cheek, but the examples above are very real, and yes, it grinds my gears. Yes, I know social media can be frustrating. Yes, I know anyone putting photos online should expect to have them shared. I do. That is, after all, the point. Share and enjoy. But it’s a social contract. Play fair.

If an image has a watermark, leave it in. That’s all I ask. I’m not posting cat photos or pics of my breakfast. I’m trying to create a brand. Make my side hustle of travel photography into a living. A future worth living.

I put watermarks on (some of) my images for a reason. It’s not vanity. I’m hoping to pull in some business. Gain new clients. Have people say “Wow, I must call that guy!” and make a buck or two. Or at least get name recognition to build the brand. It’s advertising. Pure and simple. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I speak for many in the same situation: Removing a brand is like taking money out of our pension fund. Friends don’t do that.

End Rant

Don’t get me wrong. The examples are, in a way, evidence of just how much my images are enjoyed. I get that. Makes me happy. I’m going to keep taking all those lovely photographs, because that’s the part that I love. Being out in nature. Capturing a moment. I am at peace with the world. But. I won’t be putting a fraction of those photographs online any more. I’ll keep posting, just not as often (and maybe smaller files, with bigger watermarks).

I’ll keep the rest, and instead of spending hour after hour preparing and scheduling posts to social media I will channel my energies elsewhere. I am instead going to use the time to focus on building out my Photo Site, and my Product Catalogue. Time in Photoshop or Illustrator is never wasted. It’s fun. Being creative and designing things that I like is getting back to my core skills and will also, I hope, build me an extra income that will help support my love of travel: Gas and gear don’t buy themselves.

Any proceeds will go into the travel fund, so I can expand Somewhere In Niagara and even throw in some photo road trips to exotic Canadian destinations. If you like what I do and would like to support continued growth please consider a small purchase from the Store. Does not have to be a huge wall print. Every little helps. From coasters to fridge magnets or window stickers. That’s it, pitch over. See how painless that was?

Anyway, just wanted to share this news. You can expect to see less of me online, at least on the photography side. I’m going back to my blog, back to making content and things which make me happy. I am sure there are some out there that will heave a sigh of relief. I know my output can verge on the ridiculous when I’m in the zone. I just figure that my efforts will be more productively spent creating and designing. It’s what I do best.

So off I go. As a parting gift, here are some images of (you guessed it) a murmuration of Starlings. I cherry-picked some close-ups while we were literally surrounded on all sides by a swirling noisy maelstrom of birds all moving in unison. We were at the eye of the storm. Imagine trying to photograph a leaf from inside a tornado. I was honestly in awe of the moment. After taking a few shots I just put the camera down. Didn’t even go for video. I just soaked it in. This unexpected event took place during a drive through the back roads and reminded me how wonderful this world is. It can still surprise and delight and amaze in equal measure.

These shots do not encompass the full wonder of the waves of wings, and the noise from thousands of avian throats. But they’re not bad. Not good enough for Facebook, but not bad.

Enjoy.

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