Instagram Terms of Service

So, you have probably heard that Instagram have updated their Terms of Service, which, in typical legal language, is a little ambiguous, but it does seem they are stating that they will take the rights for any images you take through the app. They then basically state that they can use these images as they see fit, with no recompense to you. This caused a large stir amongst the users and wider industry.

Instagram made the following Twitter update to say they recognised the drama:

This story has caused quite a backlash from photographers and avid users who now fear that Instagram could be making money form their images. As expected Instagram, (who’s owned by Facebook if you didn’t know) were quick to come out and defend themselves:

As you can see, the blog post seems to reverse most of what they originally announced. Whether they really did get the original language wrong, or were just terrified of angering, and subsequently losing their user base, we will probably never know.

There are a few things we can learn from this however.

1. Always read the terms and conditions of any service you use. I’ve also seen a number of photography competitions that also use fairly vague language which would potentialy pass the image rights to themselves and of course any future revenues. As photographers, retaining the rights to our own work is paramount. Nothing is worth giving that up.

2. There are a vast number of ‘apps’, photography based or otherwise, that we can install and use on our various digital devices. Many of these are free. Ultimately however these apps need to make a profit as at the end of the day, those developers need paying. We seem to have a growing culture of expecting things for free, but this cannot be. Either we ‘pay’ by being subjected to advertising, or we pay a traditional monetary fee or subscription.

Anyway, lets hope Instagram are true to their word and will not either take the image rights from the users, nor profit from selling their photos.

Are you an Instagram user? Will you continue to use the app, or has this issue by passed you?

Chengi Village / Pulau Ubin

Whilst on a trip to Singapore, I took a boat ride over to a smaller island in the straights between Singapore and Malaysia called Pulau Ubin. I took the below shot on the ferry ride back towards Singapore. The man on the boat presumably took this trip umpteen times a day, and was there to check tickets. I took a couple of pictures of him, but chose this one, as I thought the pensive expression he has was the most interesting. Only he knows what he was thinking about.

A man on a boat in Singapore

I then spotted the three men perched on the low rocks at the waters edge fishing. I never saw if they caught anything but based on the amount of fresh fish that you can find at all the hawker food centres, there must be some good potential to catch something.

Men Fishing in Singapore

Jacobs goes into administration

I saw a tweet from British Journal of Photography last week confirming that Jacobs has gone into administration, and will close all but one store with immediate affect.

This is sad news. What I find strange is that a chain like Jessops can continue to trade, and trade well judging by the further store they’ve just added on Oxford Street, and yet Jacobs has failed, despite always seeming to be the ‘better’ shop, with staff who seemed to actually be photographers, rather than just retail assistants.

It was rumoured Calumet might come in and make an offer, but this doesn’t seem to have materialised.

Who needs a ‘proper’ camera when you’ve got instagram on your phone?

If you have a mobile phone which is less than a few years old, you will no doubt have a pretty decent camera on it. I’ve just upgraded to the HTC One X, which comes with a 8 mega pixel camera. It’s has a 28mm lens, with it’s widest aperture being f/2.0. Which gives you some good flexibility for taking a range of shots in a number of conditions. If you’ve seen any photos taken on a phone recently, you will no doubt have been very impressed with their quality too. Add to this the range of specific photo apps you can now get, which allow you to add arty affects, and you might question why you would need to bother getting a proper camera.

The problem is, your phone, and Instagram style apps, are not very flexible. And whilst the photos on the phone itself, or on Facebook/Twitter, look decent, if you ever wanted to print them out and make large prints from them, they would look pretty poor very quickly.

There’s a good reason why the latest top of the range cameras from Canon and Nikon cost in the £5k region for just the body, and some long zoom lenses getting up to £10k, and that’s because they will produce the highest optical quality for any situation. You’d certainly question your wedding photographer if they just turned up with an iPhone loaded with Instagram.

8 mega pixels might sound like quite a lot, but it’s not just this number that equates to a good image. The sensor on which the camera captures the light, is also a crucial part, and on a phone, these sensors are still very limited. For example, in dark conditions, you will need to adjust (or at least the camera automatically does it for you) the sensitivity of the sensor to light. The benefit is that you can still take photos at night, or indoors, but the downside is that you will introduce a lot of ‘noise’ to the image, massively reducing the overall quality of the picture. You can see noise in an image when it looks ‘pixalated’, which is even more noticeable should you want to increase the size of the shot. Try taking a photo with your phone, in low light, and then printing it out at A3. I bet it looks awful. You might be thinking, “hang on, what about the flash?” and it’s fair to say of course that by using the flash you can increase the light in the picture meaning the sensor doesn’t have to be as sensitive, meaning less noise, and in theory a better quality picture. However, the flash on phones, whilst bright, are also very harsh, and often give ‘red-eye’ to anyone unfortunate enough to be standing in the way. A proper flash gun, or even studio lighting will win hands down, every time.

The old adage that the best camera is the one on you, is very true, and these days you will nearly always have your mobile phone on you, and therefore a fairly decent camera, but should you want to do anything more than just show your friends the photo on your phone, or share it on Facebook, you still need the proper equipment, and just as importantly, someone who knows how to use it.

2012 London Marathon

The London Marathon, is one of the largest marathons in the World. The 2012 course came pretty close to my flat as it looped around Canary Wharf and back to the city. I took a walk down to Narrow Street which was packed with spectators, some to support friends and family, others just using the event as an excuse for a midday drink. The marathon is something I’d never contemplate doing, so I have great respect for the runners who make a great commitment and some personal sacrifices to achieve the distance.

3 Marathon Runners near the front

Volunteers hand out substantial amounts of water

Hundreds of supports lined the bridge at the Limehouse Marina


Morocco, Part 1 – Marrakesh

I took an 11 day trip to Morocco in February 2012, which kicked off with three nights in Marrakesh. This was my first visit and I was advised by my partner who had visited before that two nights would probably be enough, and she was right. The main reason most people come to Marrakesh is for is the markets, or Souks, as they call them, and to be honest, whilst these are initially very impressive, I quickly found them to be tedious, and unfortunately for me, Marrakesh had little else to offer.

Being a white Westerner, you are an easy target for the local stall holders, who all assume you have lots of money to spend on their goods. They have many tried and tested opening gambits to strike up an initial conversation with you, and at first this banter is enjoyable and one of the reasons for visiting. However, it quickly becomes very tiring. They do not appreciate the concept of ‘just browsing’. Surely if you are in a market, you are there to shop right? What they don’t realise is that the whole Medina is a tourist attraction itself.

That said Marrakesh and the Medina in particular, is a visual delight. There are lots and lots of small streets, heaving with pedestrians both local and visiting; add to that locals riding about on small mopeds, and traders wheeling carts and it all becomes quite hectic. All of the goods on sale are very colourful, and coupled with all of the spices and food, the place is a feast for the senses.

We stayed right in the centre of the Medina in a riad called ‘Riad des Sables’, which was owned by a French lady called Katy. Her hospitality was very welcoming, and I did not tire of the offer of mint tea whenever we came back. As is typical, the riad was calm, cool, and quite, which made for a great haven from the bustling streets right outside.

In the evenings, we tended to eat from the food stalls out in the main square. The food was simple, and delicious and was enjoyed by more locals than tourists, who tended to go for the more expensive and obvious restaurants.

Marrakesh is clearly one of the ‘must see’ destinations of the world, but for me, just one night would be enough. I would recommend it as a starting point to a greater adventure through the rest of Morocco, just make sure you have a big enough bag for all your purchases.

Sticky Singapore

Singapore was the first stop in a two week mini tour of Malaysia. I knew from my expat friends and hosts that for the next three nights the weather was going to be warm and humid. However this mental knowledge did not fully prepare me for the assault my body was subject to on leaving the beautifully air conditioned Changi Airport. I guess heat is relative, and this heat was nothing that I could relate to in the UK and I was happy to find myself within the cold shelter of a taxi in only a few minutes. Despite that, the sweat had already broken. Within a few minutes of dropping our bags at my friends’ condo, we found our selves over at the local hawker centre on Old Airport Road. For the second time in an hour, my senses were on high alert as this food court was full of amazing local food, with a taste and smell that would quickly become my staple diet for the next two weeks. As with the weather, when they say it’s hot, they mean HOT. Another friend of mine who had visited previously told me to ‘go brave’ at the hawker centre, which basically meant, try some fried feet, or stomach. Maybe I just wanted to acclimatise, or maybe I’m a wimp, but I passed on such delicacies for the time being, and stuck to a dish that would not have been out of place served at my local Chinese in East London.

A night struggling with jet lag soon saw the arrival of dawn, and once my friends had gone off to work, we headed back over to the hawker centre for some breakfast. Fried chicken and noodles for dinner is one thing, but it was going to take a while to get used to having it for breakfast as well. Our friends being accustomed to having guests stay and explore Singapore for a few days had some metro cards for us, and so we popped down to the nearest station to get catch a train into the city centre. There were two notable things about this metro. One, was the icey temperature that the air-con was pumping out, and two the cleanliness of both the stations and the trains. I hope Mr Boris Johnson visits before the London Olympics so he can see what an underground urban train system really looks like. We exited the metro to find that the temperature was now boiling, and being a blue eyed blond, I was already seeking out shade, but we both resigned ourselves to the fact that we would become sweaty messes and so started to explore.

The humidity and heat haze do not actually make Singapore a great place for photography, certainly for any long distance shots. A trip to the roof of the new $4.5bn Sands Marina Bay casino and hotel did offer great views for the tourist, but little opportunity for decent photos. Although I must admit, the infinity pool that was part of the hotel did look spectacular, and I’m sure coming up here at night would also offer some amazing views. So from here we decided to make a beeline to Chinatown and as the sun went down, the prospect for good photos went up. Located in Chinatown is one of Singapore’s most interesting temples. The Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple is adorned with many colourful characters, inside and out, with the gopuram (tower) being the most visible creation. It’s in these local districts that you see a different side to Singapore which is not all just glass and concrete skyscrappers as many people think. As would become a trend during this trip, local street markets soon offered themselves to be photographed accompanied by plenty of offers for tailored suits, and ‘quality’ cameras from local stall owners who thrive on Western tourism.

Some good advice from our hosts saw us taking the bus to Changi village, and then a bumboat over to Pulau Ubin. It’s said that visiting this island is like stepping back in time as it’s here you can glimpse one of the last visions of how Singapore would have looked like back in the 1960s. There’s not much from the modern world to be found here, and let’s hope it stays that way. Once we’d transfered to this small island we’d quickly secured a couple of hire bikes, water and a sense of adventure. I had taken my friends advice though, and upgraded to a superior bike for a whopping SD$15 (£7) which afforded me the luxury of both front, and back brakes. We hadn’t actually cycled more than 20 metres before we were off the bikes and snapping away at shrines, and wildlife. It was probably at this point that the mosquitoes saw fresh lunch, and started their feast as by nightfall my legs were bitten to hell. As I’ve mentioned before it was hot, so cycling around with a backpack full of water bottles, sunscreen and camera gear in the midday sun was perhaps not the best idea on paper, but the experience was very much worth it. This was like a tropical safari tour on bikes where the local wildlife and human population stared at us in equal measure whilst a couple of telephoto lenses stared back. After we’d returned the bikes we took the wise decision to sit down and get some much needed fluid, which in this case took the form of fresh coconut juice.

For some Singapore is just too clean and modern, but if you look in the right places, you will find a deeper history. Certainly places like Raffles Hotel are full of colonial interest and I found it hard not to be impressed with the place. One thing is certain, and that’s Singapore is a great base from which to explore further parts of South East Asia, helped by the good, cheap, but very often late, budget airline, AirAsia. And so, it was quickly enough, that we found ourselves heading over to the huge island of Borneo, and to Kota Kinabalu.

Malaysia Part 1: Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu, which was previously called Jesselton, is the capital of the state of Sabah, and is the arrival port for the vast majority of visitors going over to Malaysian Borneo. To be honest it’s not really the prettiest of places with the vast amount of the town being built from dull slabs of concrete. This is very much a gateway for the further attractions of climbing Mount Kinabalu, or going to see the Orangutans.

As with most of Asia, you will find a host of street markets in Kota Kinabalu, many of which come to life after the sun goes down. Up towards the harbour is a food market where locals cook up an amazing array of locally caught fish, along with plenty of chicken satay skewers. Anyone who knows me will correctly assume I stuck to the skewers. With pretty much everything being fried, the air was thick with smoke and the scent of cooked spices. Most of the stalls had a collection of table and chairs behind their stoves, and we eventually chose a place to sit down and eat. Despite Kota Kinabalu being very much on the tourist trail, the locals still eye you with some curiosity.

A few minutes walk south, there’s another huge market. This one selling not just cooked food, but tons of exotic fruit and veg, along with a lot of local craft. What struck me was how many stalls were selling exactly the same thing with nothing to differentiate themselves from one another. I can’t imagine they turn much of a profit. You also notice that a lot of these markets are selling the same local handmade items. I saw the same bits of local craft here in Kota Kinablau, and also at markets in Kula Lumpur. This does make you question just how handmade they are.

It’s not all food and drink though, as a number of the stalls were also selling clothes and jewellery. Unfortunately, most of this is just fake replicas with very little of it being of any interest. It’s hard to say whether these markets exist for tourists or locals, but it is sad that they believe it’s these fake Western products they believe might be of most interest to you. It was at this point that we were subject to a massive torrential downpour whilst walking through the market. At the first sign of a breeze getting up, the stall owners were quickly packing up their goods, but despite being well practised they still hand’t finished when the heavens opened. We managed to take shelter under a stall canopy for a short while but ultimate had to leave, and ended up getting completely drenched on a 5 minute walk back to the hotel.

However, Kota Kinabalu isn’t just all markets. Just off the coast and reached via a very bumpy and violent bumboat ride, are a number of small islands. We paid a visit to two of the smaller ones, Pulau Manukan and Pulau Mamutik. There is some snorkelling here, although the coral is unfortunately largely dead. Despite that, there were still a good number of tropical fish swimming around who had no qualms in giving you a little nip with sharp teeth.

Two nights in this town, is probably enough.