iPhone vs DSLR

I have a passion for digital photography and photo post production. I guess it comes from my technical background – I’ve always been a photoshop meddler, and curious about computers and hardware of all sorts. I studied computer programming and was always good with hardware – I worked for Gateway as a phone tech support rep in the 90’s. So as soon as I was able to afford one, I had a digital camera. I started off with a ‘compact’ (it wasn’t all that compact – believe me!) which dissapeared in my luggage between LA and Dublin one time, followed by a bridge digital camera which I used until it fell apart, and then finally moved on to a DSLR. The combination of using the camera hardware, lenses, flash and accessories to create something that can be manipulated later on a computer using programs such as Photoshop has always been interesting to me, and it’s brought out my creative side. As much as I’d love to, I can’t draw or paint or play music (beyond a few simple chords on the guitar) so digital photography is my single creative outlet and I really enjoy it. I’m no pro, and there’s a lot I’ve still to learn but I’ve done some nice stuff – even if I do say so myself. Some examples below.

Up until a few years ago I spent quite a bit of time taking photos with my SLR. I’d take it everywhere, take tonnes of photos (I have 68,000 in my personal collection) and spend hours afterwards cataloguing, tagging, and doing post-production work on them using Photoshop and Photoshop Lightroom. I’d then post them to Flickr, and spend even more hours tagging, commenting and promoting the photos – adding them to groups, etc.

Then I bought an iPhone and it all changed. For me, the world of digital photography was thrown upside down with the advent of instagram. What I used to spend an hour doing on my SLR and Photoshop could now be completed in seconds with a few clicks on my iPhone. What’s more, I could also share my photos on flickr, twitter, facebook etc with another few clicks. From a user experience point of view, the workflow was simplified ten-fold. Sure, the results weren’t the same quality as I could get with my SLR and the options for processing my photos were limited to some preset filters and basic editing, but the benefits outweigh those limitations in the vast majority of cases. I’m lazy, and the easy route wins. Result – my SLR is gathering dust on a shelf.

However, I somehow miss the labour of love required to produce something truly unique. There isn’t that same sense of satisfaction generated from pointing my iPhone, pressing a few buttons and being done. There’s something about enjoying the output from hours of work that I just can’t get from a couple of clicks. I guess it’s probably similar to how people feel when they bake their own bread, build a house rather than buy one, fix something themselves rather than replace it or pay someone else to fix it. Maybe there’s something innate in us that compels us to feel reward for effort put in – a basic survival instinct. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it! Either way, I’m going to stop being lazy and put some more time into something I know I get great personal satisfaction from.

PS: You can see some of my work on my website here: ragorder.com/photography and on instagram here gramfeed.com/markstanley

What do you think? Comments below…

Incredible lack of customer support from fiverr – @fiverrhq

I recently visited fiverr.com for a cheap service I was looking to purchase knowing that there was a good chance someone would be offering it, and looking forward to making my second purchase on the site – my first one was way back in March 2010. For those who haven’t heard of fiverr, they describe themselves as being “The world’s largest marketplace for small services, starting at $5”. As a web guy, I love the idea and it’s a great site. My initial purchase was for some minor SEO scripting services which was well worth the $5 I paid.

Back to recent events. When I went to login, I had forgotten my password. I tried and tried several combinations without any joy, and soon realised that my account had actually been disabled. Come to think of it, I thought, it had been a while since I had a weekly digest email from fiverr – makes sense. So, I logged a support case with them expecting to find an easy way to re-enable my account (I was working on the flawed assumption that my account had been disabled for lack of activity). How wrong was I. Turns out, my account was “restricted due to suspicions of multiple accounts possibly from the same location and/or with the same PayPal address”. Restricted, as in disabled. As in, I could not login. What’s more, I was told “The account will not be reinstated”. mmmm odd. Ok, these things happen right? It’s the internet. People claim to be other people, fraud sometimes happen, but there’s a way for the genuine user with a genuine account to get their account back right? Wrong. When I asked should I create a new account, I was told to “refrain from opening any new accounts”. Huh? I realise I am not paying for this service, and I’m at no financial loss, but REALLY?!

In this day and age where impersonation online happens countless times daily, where fraud is being committed from dusk till dawn, and where online customer support is more important than ever, surely there is a more sophisticated way to identify genuine users, and to treat your customers with the dignity and respect they deserve?

Below is a transcript of the conversation with their support rep so far. To be fair to him (because I am a nice guy and respect his privacy), I will not name him. I haven’t heard back in 24hrs, whereas the other responses were almost instant. I’m really not expecting a response, so I took to writing this post to see if it prompts some action.

Anyone else have similar experiences with fiverr? Anyone else think this is incredible? Comments below please.

Mark Stanley
Jul 15 01:57
My account has been disabled. What gives? [USERNAME PROVIDED]

[SUPPORT GUYS NAME] – Fiverr’s Customer Support Team
July 15, 2012 10:37
Fiverr.com’s Help Desk
Hi Mark,

Your account has been restricted due to suspicions of multiple accounts possibly from the same location and/or with the same PayPal address. The account will not be reinstated.

Regards,

[SUPPORT GUYS NAME]

Mark Stanley
July 15, 2012 10:58
Hi [SUPPORT GUYS NAME]. I am a legitimate user with only one account (this one). What should I do to get my account back? Create a new one?

[SUPPORT GUYS NAME] – Fiverr’s Customer Support Team
July 15, 2012 10:59
Fiverr.com’s Help Desk
Hi Mark,

Please refrain from opening any new accounts.

Regards,
[SUPPORT GUYS NAME]

Mark Stanley
July 15, 2012 11:15
[SUPPORT GUYS NAME] you have to be joking right? I am a legitimate user who was using your service and then suddenly had my account closed with no notice from you and only when I asked a vague explanation referring to multiple accounts, of which I have no knowledge. I genuinely want to purchase a service through your site and you are telling me my account has been shut down with no recourse and I cannot open a new account? That is incredible. Do you understand the term ‘customer support’? I can understand if there was some sort of strange activity on my account by some third party – it happens – this is the internet, but any reputably service would provide a system through which an innocent user can reestablish their account. I am flabbergasted quite frankly. Surely you can do better than this?!!!

No response since….

Recommended reading via Amazon Store

I’ve been busy doing some leadership development courses recently, reading books and listening to audio books on management topics. Over the last few weeks I’ve received lots of recommended reading which I’ve put together in a small amazon.co.uk store on the website here. I intend to read each one of these books one by one – I may even add some reviews here. I figured these may also be of use to some of my website visitors, so go for it! Please let me know if you’ve read any of these and whether they are worthwhile.

Find me on Instagr.am

Due to the fact that I now carry an iPhone4 everywhere, and a DSLR hardly anywhere I find myself taking more and more photos with my phone. There are more and more impressive mobile photography apps appearing every week, so I’m now using flickr less and less over time and using facebook and instagr.am on a much more regular basis. My photos page pulls in my flickr feed. When I get some time I will find a nice way to integrate my instagr.am feed into this page. In the meantime, please check out my photos via web.stagram.com and add me with the handle markstanley.

Conservatory Roof Conversions

Somewhat of a shameless plug for my friends in Pro Build here but one I think may help spread the word about something lots of people can benefit from. Are you one of those people who added a conservatory to your home over the last few years? Did you go with one of those polycarbonate roofs and find them to be really badly insulated – either freezing cold or incredibly hot and rarely comfortable? I rented a house for three years with one of these conservatories and it ended up being used as a store-room due to this. Well the good news is that Pro Build have invented and are the sole suppliers for a new conservatory roof conversion system that can easily and affordably convert an existing conservatory to a sunroom in a few short days. They have lots of before and after photos on their website so you can see the transformation so head on over and take a look. They provide a free no-obligation quotation so you have nothing to lose, and potentially stand to gain a whole lot more use from that uncomfortable conservatory you have today.

No Canvassers Sign

Are you like me and don’t want politicians wasting your time knocking on your door? Get your ‘No Canvassers’ sign today, print it out and keep them from your door. I’ve personally heard enough from politicians over the last few years through the media and now they want my vote they’ll be knocking on the door in their droves. Well I couldn’t be bothered talking to them. I know who to vote for and they won’t change my mind, so I’m going to give them a fair opportunity to avoid me or face my wrath if they decide to ignore the warning. I’m putting this ‘no canvassers’ sign on my door and you can too. Download the PDF here.

Builder in Dublin

I’m currently renovating a house in Dublin. One of the hardest parts of the project has been identifying building contractors and suppliers that offered the services I needed, good value for money and were easy to work with and trustworthy. Anybody building a house will understand this and those that set out on similar projects will soon find it out! I’m writing this post to help those working on similar projects in Dublin or anywhere else in Ireland. I wanted to give people embarking on similar projects the benefit of a lot of research I’ve done into builders and other suppliers. The following are the contractors that I’ve come to work with and that I’ve been happy with. There are others that I won’t mention here that didn’t turn out so good for different reasons!
Builder in Dublin

Dublin Builder
Firstly there’s my main contractor, Pro Build. These guys have done work for me in the past when they built a sunroom for me on my former home (see the first picture in that link you just read past). They did an excellent job on the sunroom project so they were the first people I called for this bigger renovation project. These guys can do it all – window and door supplies, conservatories, sunrooms, conservatory roof conversions, complete house builds, public sector work and extensions and renovations like mine. They’ve really been great to work with and I would highly recommend them for any construction work you are considering – large or small.

Dublin Plumber
Because I’ve decided to go with quite a specialised heating system (an air to water heat pump and underfloor heating) I went with a specialised subcontractor rather than my main contractor. NI Solar are based in Northern Ireland (but do a lot of work in Dublin) and cover a range of renewable systems as well as standard heating systems and all domestic plumbing. In my case the are providing my air to water heat pump, solar panels, gas boiler, and underfloor heating in an integrated system. They are also doing all my domestic plumbing. I can’t recommend these guys enough. They’ve really been great to work with, really flexible, responsive to my design requirements and my deadlines and also very competitive on price.

Kitchen design and supply
Mark, Kealan and Mike at Kitchen and Home Solutions have been working with us on the design, supply and fitting of our fitted kitchen, wardrobes, storage presses, utility room, tv cabinet, my home office fit-out and anything else we decide to come up with. They’ve even been able to supply all our kitchen appliances. They offer a really personable bespoke service and can work to deliver the best quality product your budget will allow. Couldn’t recommend them more.

Bathroom design and supply
Bathroom design, fixtures, tiling and wood flooring was supplied by Devine Midwest Tiles in Ennis, Co. Clare. I came across these guys purely by chance – Nora who’s the boss here is a friend of a relative of mine and that’s how the connection was made. I called her looking for help with flooring and she impressed me so much I ended up giving her all my bathroom design, sanitary ware supplies, tile and wood flooring supply, and tiling. She really can do it all and the advice, guidance and support she’s given have really taken a lot of pressure off me. She’s done a tonne of research for me. She’s worked directly with my builder and with my plumber, and I haven’t had to get involved. Another highly recommended supplier – can’t say good enough things about her.

Chandeliers and antiques
Our house is quite an old one as far as houses in the suburbs of Dublin go – around 1920, so we decided to put some chandeliers in. We came across Martin Fennelly totally by chance one day when driving down Francis Street in Dublin when looking for fireplaces. My wife had had her eye on a particular chandelier from one of the countless home renovations magazines we had stacked up at home, and she spotted the exact one in Martins window when driving through Dublin. We popped in and discovered a treasure trove of beautiful chandeliers and antiques. Martin is a gentleman and provides a very personal service. He’s extremely flexible and if you like chandeliers and antiques I highly recommend you pay him a visit.

Financial Services
David O’Neill from Liffey Financial Services has to get a mention here. David has helped me with everything from my mortgage to my life assurance to my house insurance. He’s a very knowledgable, helpful and overall nice guy. He offers lots of other financial services also such as pensions and investments, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him – you’lll be glad you contacted him.

There’s probably more people I could mention here and I may well add to this post over time, but for the moment they’re the big ones. Hope this proves useful to someone…

Cruagh Woods, Dublin Mountains

Last weekend I spent some time doing two things I love and two things I haven’t done in a while – hiking and taking photos. My family and I (parents, wife and kids) walked up to Cruagh Peak from Cruagh Woods in the Dublin mountains where I took the following photo on my Canon 400d. I processed the photo in Adobe Lightroom.

[flickr size=”small” float=”left”]http://www.flickr.com/photos/ragorder/4873167484/[/flickr]