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Six Years On

August 12, 2013  |    0 comments  |  Site-related

I started 75Central.Com six years ago today. Longtime fans might remember when it was LeftyRodriguez.Com, the result of me owning that domain name for inside joke-related reasons.  In the intervening six years, I’ve never missed a day of posting a photo, though I have been a little late on occasion.  Sometimes it’s been hard to find something worthy of sharing, such as a six-month or so period in 2008 when I didn’t shoot at all and had to dig deep into the archives.  Other times, I’ve been flush with photos that I wanted to share, almost to the point where I worried that I was posting too many photos from the same place or of the same subject, such as my many trips to Las Vegas with Laura, my wife, or on our adventures in the Caribbean over the last year.  In less than a month, we’re heading off to Alaska for a week and I’m already worried that this site might become too “Alaska-centric” over the following months.

My first photo posted on this site was of an armillary I found at George Eastman’s House in Rochester, New York.  What better way, I thought, to kick off  my photoblog than something interesting I’d photographed at the home of the founder of Kodak—the company that became synonymous with “photography” and brought so many “Kodak moments” within reach of the everyman?

 

George Eastman’s Armillary

The first version of this site was a home-brewed mishmash of ASP code that I cooked up one weekend in a coffee-induced frenzy.  I’d decided that I was going to start a photoblog and, dammit, I was going to do it as soon as possible:

First Version

After growing tired of trying to write my own extensions/maintain the code for this version of  the site, I found the ready-made Pixelpost platform and set about migrating over to it, giving me this rather-dark design:

Unfortunately, within a couple of months of migrating over to Pixelpost, the once-vibrant community behind it gave up its enthusiasm and the project died.  In fact, if you go to the Pixelpost site today, you’ll find that it’s forever stuck on version 1.7.3, the very same version I started using in 2010.  By 2011, I was ready to try something new, so I once again migrated to another platform: WordPress, which is, in retrospect, where I should’ve started.  For the last two years, this is what 75Central has looked like to visitors:

site3

In May of 2012, four-and-half years into photoblogging, I decided it was time to retire “LeftyRodriguez.Com” and move to something more professional.  The idea for 75Central came to me while sitting at a light at the intersection of US 75 and Spring Creek Parkway in Plano, Texas.  Glancing up at the street sign along the freeway, I noticed that it was signed “75-Central Expressway” and the name clicked.  It would be a great tribute to my home here in the Dallas area, where US 75/Central Expressway is a major highway as well as a subtle nod to my birth year of 1975.  And, most importantly, the domain name was available.

And, just in the last month, we’ve redesigned the site into what you see today…automatic slideshow, responsive theme and integrated print ordering.

So, now, six years on, I’m still shooting and hope to continue for a long time.  I made this mosaic in celebration of this milestone; it’s made up of some of the 2,192 photos that I’ve shared over the years.  Thanks for being a fan!

75m

Rebranding

June 18, 2012  |    0 comments  |  Site-related

You might have noticed that LeftyRodriguez.Com is no longer LeftyRodriguez.Com.  I’ve rebranded—obviously—as 75Central.Com.  I’m also using my real name rather than a fiction made up on a drunken night years ago while hanging out with former friends.

Why 75Central?

I’d struggled for months trying to find the perfect domain name that was available.  More and more individuals and start ups are having to come up with “odd” names just so they can secure a needed .com domain name.  One evening a couple of months ago, I was sitting at the intersection of Campbell Road and North Central Expressway in Richardson, Texas, waiting for the light to turn green.  I glanced up at the signage over the freeway and saw the numerical designation of North Central and was inspired: 75-Central Expressway.  It was weirdly perfect.  It subtly showed off the fact that I’m based in Dallas.  It was unique.  And, on a personal level, I was born in 1975.

I raced home to see if the domain was available.  Of course, for completeness, I’d need 75-Central.Com, Seventyfivecentral.com and, of course, 75Central.Com.  I lucked out and the first two were readily available, so I snatched them up.  Unfortunately, the last was expired but not yet out of the renewal period.  If I was lucky and it wasn’t renewed and I was able to snag it before someone else registered it after it became available, then I’d be set.  So began the waiting game.  Three weeks later, the registrar finally deleted it and I grabbed it.  I had the three domains I needed.

After some modifications to my site’s branding, here we are.  75Central.Com. Or 75-Central or Seventyfivecentral.  They all work.  Even LeftyRodriguez.Com still works, for completeness. (Also, I’d hate to break permalinks!).

Retraction

April 1, 2012  |    0 comments  |  Site-related

One of the problems with running a daily photoblog with almost 1700 entries is sometimes it’s hard to remember what you’ve published already.  Last night, I posted today’s (original) image, went to sleep, got up, took my dog to the dog park then realized that today’s image seemed really familiar.  Returning home, I searched my archives and discovered I had posted a remarkably similar photo in July of last year.  I quickly updated the post with a new image, but am slightly disappointed in myself.  Anyhow, see for yourself:

 

Today’s original image:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balconies and Glass, published July 8, 2011:

Holiday Sale!

November 28, 2011  |    0 comments  |  Site-related

I just realized that I hadn’t blogged in a while, so I thought I’d make it up to everyone by running a print sale. From now until December 15th (my birthday, incidentally), get 25% any purchase of $50 or more by using coupon code 8CCE0A .

How awesome is that? Pretty damn awesome.

To use, just choose a photo you want to buy, click “Buy Print” below it, choose your options and enter the code on check out.

Winston approves!

Randomly Viewing 500px

September 21, 2011  |    0 comments  |  Apps Site-related

Certainly, if you’re into photography, you’ve heard of 500px, the upstart photo-sharing site from Toronto that’s starting to “put the hurt on” Flickr.  One of the great advantages of 500px is that the quality of the photography seems to be a lot higher than that on Flickr, mainly because it’s not a dumping ground for family snapshots, crap art projects and Instragram-esque drivel.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, there’s one feature that I’ve found lacking on 500px—the ability to randomly traipse through the photos on the site, discovering new favorites and making new connections with fellow photographers.  Sure, they recently added a button on the bottom of the screen that welcomes the user to “StumbleThru 500px”, but all that does is let you use StumbleUpon to view photos on 500px that StumbleUpon’s users have favorited.  What I wanted was a way to randomly move about 500px in an uncontrolled manner.

So I created a way.

Introducing Lefty’s 500px Randomizer.  Using it is simple: follow that link or go to www.LeftyRodriguez.com/500px, click “Randomize” and a new random photo page from 500px will load in an iframe below.  Click “Permalink” to open that pic in a new tab so you can bookmark it.  Easy, eh?

I can’t promise that the Randomizer is bug-free and there are a few features I’d like to implement still, but it’s yours to use.  Have fun!

Second Guessing

Sometimes (by which I mean, honestly, “a lot of times”), I second-guess the photo I’ve chosen for a particular day on the photoblog.  I usually post the next day’s photo the night before, queuing up several days if I’m going to be busy or out of town, choosing a photo that I think–at the time–has interesting composition and subject matter and looks great.  But then, sometime the next day or week or even  month–I’ll look at the photo and be like “what the hell was I thinking?”.  Ninety-nine percent of the time I catch my mistaken choice too late, once the photo has been published.  And, since I’m not a fan of rewriting history, I let it stand and make myself promise to do better next time.

Only rarely do I get a chance to fix my mistake before it’s “too late”.  Take last night, for instance.  I’d planned on going out to the roof of our parking garage late so that I could try to get some decent shots of the Moon while it was full and, for the first time in a few days, the skies were clear (or at least what passes for clear in Dallas-Fort Worth).  Knowing that I’d be up late shooting, I decided to go ahead and get a photo posted.  I’d traveled to Fort Worth on Saturday and had wandered around downtown there, taking photos like you do.  I noticed that Tarrant County was in the process of remodeling the clock tower on their courthouse, so I took a few frames from the roof of a parking garage several blocks away, unsure of how usable they’d be backlit against the stormy grey sky.  So, then, last night, I was surprised to find that they had a nice silhouetted effect that brought out the intricate details of the construction scaffolding and proceeded to choose one to process and post.  Unfortunately, in my haste, I chose poorly.  The frame I chose showed the scaffold on the left side and a crane on the right.  At the time, I think my thoughts were that these two subjects–while not traditionally composed–would balance each other out and make for an interesting comparison between the pieces of scaffold and the framework of the crane.  So I posted it.

And went about my business.  I shot the Moon. Came inside, showered off the humidity and downloaded and reviewed my Moon shots.  Then went to bed, reading some of my favorite photo-related sites and forums on my iPad.  Then I started to fall asleep.  And, as I lay there about to succumb to the Sleep Monster, it suddenly occurred to me “I’m about to publish a crap photo”.  So I leaped out of bed to my computer and chose another photo that was basically the same as the one I’d chosen, but used a strong centered composition–something one normally avoids but I think works well in this situaation–that focused on the clock tower scaffolds alone.  Processed and published, I went to bed.

And, now, almost 9 hours later, I’m still happy with my choice.  Here’s the photo I ended up posting on the photoblog:

 

And here’s the misfortunate first choice:

So, did I make the right choice?

The point being, never be afraid to second-guess yourself.  Oftentimes, our first instincts aren’t the right ones, despite what conventional wisdom says.

Four Years On…

August 12, 2011  |    1 comment  |  Site-related

I started the LeftyRodriguez Photoblog four years ago today.  It’s hard to believe that it’s already been four years of “daily photo goodness” and–more importantly–that I’ve never missed a day of adding a new photo (though I can’t say that I’ve never been a little late!).

A lot has changed in those four years.  I’ve lost some friends and met new ones.  I’ve met and gotten married to the most wonderful woman I’ve ever known.  I’ve traveled from the lush hills of Québec to the flat, never-ending plains of the Texas Panhandle to the Gulf Coast to the desolate desert of Nevada, stopping off in the mountains of Utah, the hills of Arkansas and the arid nothingness that is eastern New Mexico along the way.  Four years ago, I didn’t have a pet…now I have two cats and a dog living with me.  I’ve moved from a Canon 400D to a 60D.  I’ve (mostly) switched from PC to Mac.  I’ve moved from Dallas to the tiny enclave of Addison.  I’ve been through two VW GTIs and now am driving a Tiguan.  Even my photoblog’s software platform has changed–from a home-brewed application I wrote myself to Pixelpost to, finally, WordPress.  The list of changes over the last four years could go on and on…

Things change, but I’ve never lost my passion for photography.  Each time I go out shooting, my skills still improve.  Composition.  Exposure.  Emotion.  These are things that you can’t learn from a book, but from experience.  Looking back through my archives, I can definitely see how this real-world education has improved my photography–some of my older stuff is almost embarrassingly bad!

So, to celebrate my four years of photoblogging, I put together a visual map of all of the 1462 photos in my photoblog, using a technique that I previously discussed here.  Basically, in the image below, each 20px x 20px block of color represents the averaged color of one of the photos on the photoblog.

It seems I like darker pictures!

Also, if you want to relive all four years in less than 2:30, here’s a video of every photo in random order:




So, anyhow, thanks for four great years and keep coming back for another four years of “Freshly Brewed Photos”.

Importing Your Flickr Comments to Your WordPress Blog

March 7, 2011  |    0 comments  |  Code Site-related

If you go to my photoblog, you’ll notice that my pictures have a lot of comments that are actually comments on that photo from my Flickr photostream.  Pretty cool, eh?  I achieve this by using a WordPress plugin called Live Flickr Comment Importer that lets you add a photo’s flickr ID to a custom field in a WordPress post, then on the next load of that post, it pulls all the comments for that Flickr ID from Flickr and creates WordPress comments from them.

The only drawback to this plugin as originally written by the developer is that the “author URL” of the commenter linked back to that comment on Flickr.  Which, in my opinion, is useless.  I’d much rather see their photostream rather than a comment on my own photo.  So I decided I’d fix this problem.  I started looking at the code and discovered that the way the developer was determining if a comment was already pulled was if the URL for the comment already existed in the WordPress database comments table:

$test_dupes = $wpdb->get_results( “SELECT comment_ID FROM {$wpdb->comments} WHERE comment_author_url='{$comment[‘permalink’]}'”, ARRAY_N);

So, basically, they were using the comment_author_url as the unique key for determining and rejecting duplicate comments.  This works, but I wanted to use comment_author_url to store the commenter’s photostream URL.  But just shoving their photostream URL into that field would cause the function that determines duplicates to break, since a Flickr user might comment on any of my photos more than once.

Fortunately, the WordPress comments table has another (almost) unique field:  comment_date.  If I used this as a unique key, the only time that I’d miss importing a comment from Flickr to WordPress would be if two Flickr commenters posted their comments at the exact same second as each other.  I could live with this possibility, as it was close enough to zero that it might as well be zero.  So I modified the code a bit and got my modified version of the plugin working.  If you want to use it, you can download my modded version here.

 

Things Are Going To Be A Bit Different Around Here…

February 17, 2011  |    0 comments  |  Site-related

You may have noticed that things look a little different around here…

Well, that’s because I’ve migrated from Pixelpost as my site’s backend to WordPress. Why would I do this? Mainly because Pixelpost seems like a dying platform. The last update came out in September 2009–an eternity in web software release cycles. No one seemed to be doing any active development on it anymore and the plugins available for it were scanty, whereas WordPress is one of the world’s most popular and actively-developed blogging/CMS platforms with literally thousands and thousands of plugins and extensions available and new versions of the software being released regularly.

The migration itself was semi-difficult, as I’d already migrated from a home-grown photoblogging platform that I’d written to Pixelpost a couple of years ago (when it was still an active platform) and wanted to avoid some of the problems that I had the first time around. These included (because Pixelpost has no import functionality–a serious oversight) losing all of my comments and having to manually upload each photo and write a description and categorize it. Two or so years ago this wasn’t trivial, but at least my photoblog only had 600-700 photos on it. Fast-forward two years and I’ve got nearly 1300 photos, which would’ve been a serious time-sink to reupload to my WordPress instance. The great thing about WordPress, though, is that it has an import system to import blogs, so I knew I could leverage this. The bad part? Pixelpost, in a huge oversight, has no export functionality. So, strapping on my day job as an app developer, I wrote a piece of software to extract the data from Pixelpost and reformat it into WordPress import format. Then I simply imported it, tricking WordPress into thinking it was importing from another WordPress blog. Plus, it brought over all my comments and categories.

So far, I really like WordPress as a back-end, with a few exceptions, the major one of which is that with Pixelpost, I had a plugin for Adobe Lightroom that would let me export my photos directly from Lightroom to LeftyRodriguez.Com. But, really, that’s not a huge deal.

Anyhow, I hope that you will like the new site. The interface is cleaner, the pictures are larger and the platform is strong.

Thank you for your patronage!

Site Updates

May 4, 2010  |    0 comments  |  Site-related

It took a bit of tweeking to Pixelpost, but I got the Facebook “Like” button working for each individual page rather than just for the base URL. Also, I’ve added a “ShareThis” button to the site. Thinking about a much-needed redesign of the site, however…it’s about time.

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