Introduction: Every now and then, we have the pleasure of featuring guest blog posts from members of our wide community of users. We’re always delighted to see and hear about the ways you’re using SmugMug to share your picture memories. We’re excited to feature Gary Arndt from Everything-Everywhere.com. Four years ago, he decided to leave his job to travel around the world. He’s been globetrotting, photographing and writing ever since. Here’s his incredible story.
By Gary Arndt
In March 2007 I sold my house, put my possessions in storage and set out to travel around the world.
I also thought it would be neat to someday cover a wall of my house with photos taken from my trip. So on my way out of the country I purchased a camera which was way over my head: a Nikon D200.
I didn’t know my aperture from my ISO. Like many people new to photography I shot everything in full auto mode, saved everything in jpeg (because it saved space on the memory card) and uploaded every image to Flickr without any post processing or selection. I had never taken a photography course or workshop and had never read a book on the subject. I knew absolutely nothing.
This is a five exposure HDR image taken in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Unlike most HDR images, I let the motion in the photo blur. I like the effect and the impression it gave of movement. Jerusalem is perhaps the most photogenic city I’ve visited in the world. It seemed that no matter where I turned my camera, I could capture a good image.
The first stop on my trip was Hawaii, where almost four years later I’m writing this article. You can still see the first photos I took in all their horrible glory. The composition for most of them is unspectacular and the exposure very sub-par. I’ve decided to leave them visible to the public as a reminder of how far I’ve come since the start of my travels.
Over time I started to read photography blogs and listen to photography podcasts. I began to look at my travel photos with a more critical eye and tried to understand why my good photos were good and my bad photos bad. I eventually picked up a copy of Photoshop and the readers of my website noticed small, but consistent improvements in my travel photography.
This photo was taken in a moving motor boat. I visited Rennell, one of the more remote islands in the Solomon Islands. The village I visited didn’t get too many western visitors, so the kids had a great time following me around. When I left the village, the kids got in a canoe and started to follow my boat. This is the resulting photo.
In November 2007 I made the decision to start posting a photo every day on my travel blog, something which I’ve been doing every day now for almost three years. This was huge step for me because I had to come up with something reasonably good every day. Not every photo was going to be a home run, but I certainly had to try to not strike out. Every. Single. Day.
As photography became a bigger and bigger part of my site, I began to look for alternative photo hosting and sharing solutions. I didn’t want to be limited with the size of photos I uploaded, I wanted to fully customize the look and feel of my galleries and I wanted an easier way to integrate photos into my blog. In addition, I wanted a site that was easily searchable, public in nature and could help drive traffic to my official website.
I eventually decided to move my photo hosting from Flickr to a Gallery2 installation, which I could host myself. This turned out to be a disaster. I didn’t save any money because of the additional storage costs from my web host. Trying to customize Gallery2 was a nightmare and extremely expensive. Worst of all, there was no real SEO benefit to hosting my own images. Self-hosting photos turned out to be a a bigger challenge than I was willing to deal with.
This photo was taken at the Indian Holi festival in Singapore. Much of the festival involves throwing colored dye on other participants. Keeping my camera clean and dye free was a challenge as most of the participants had no problems throwing dye on a man holding an SLR.
I had heard many photographers talk about SmugMug on some of the photography forums I read, and so decided to give them a try. It turned out to be incredibly easy to import all my photos from Flickr, even with a bad Internet connection overseas. I could use my own domain name, which was the main reason why I wanted to host my own images in the first place, and with SmugMug’s many sharing options, I could create images of any dimension just by modifying the URL of the photo (something I couldn’t do on Flickr).
Of all the decisions I’ve made in blogging and photography, moving to SmugMug has been one of the best. Every week or two there are new features being released; the SmugMug elves never seems to be resting on their laurels.
Since my move I’ve become a personal evangelist, telling everyone I know in the travel blogging community about SmugMug. I know I’ve been responsible for more new SmugMug customers than my referral code would suggest! I wear my SmugMug camera strap wherever I go and make sure to tell everyone about it when they ask me what it is.
I was in Bangkok in 2010 during the redshirt protests. I went out several times to photograph the protesters. I managed to position myself one day between several thousand redshirts and several hundred police officers. The photo of a young boy with the protesters really stuck with me.
There’s still a lot I want to do with my SmugMug account. My system of categories and subcategories needs some tweaking, I need to go through and properly tag my photos and at some point I’d like to hire someone to professionally customize my site. In 2011 I also hope to redesign my blog to allow readers to order prints of all my daily photos.
I can’t really envision having a serious photography website without having SmugMug as the back end.