A couple of months ago I relaunched my photoblog at BridgeCity.ca. My photos have always been popular on Flickr (more than a couple million views) but I wanted some place to pull out and highlight certain ones about Saskatoon. When I saw www.bridgecity.ca was available, I bought it, found a template, and started to upload a photo or two a day to it.
This site averages 1000 visitors a day who view on average about 5 posts each time they stop by. The site has a large archive and benefits from a decade of people linking to it. I didn’t expect 1000 hits a day but I was really disappointed when I launched Bridge City and didn’t even get a single hit some days. Now a couple of months later traffic is holding steady at about 175 hits a day and growing. Here is what I learned during this.
- Use Google Webmaster Tools: This isn’t going to get you any hits but does tell you if Google is indexing your site which is really all you can ask for. It will also give you an idea of what people are searching for. Also use Bing Webmaster Tools. To be honest the amount of traffic I get from Bing is nothing compared to what I get from Google but some people still use it and Yahoo! Search so you might as well incorporate it into your site.
- Figure out how Google Image Search worked. Google has no idea what those images I was posting to my site are. They rely on the words in the attribute tag and the words I am using on the site to describe what I am posting. I had images on Flickr that had gotten thousands of hits but only 1 hit on Bridge City. The difference was that I described what the image was well on Flickr and had not on Bridge City. When I changed that, Google figured out what the subject was and suddenly ignored content was found.
- I don’t rely on SEO very much but I do use a plugin in WordPress to see what Google thinks it is seeing and then I do my best to accurately describe what it should be seeing. Huffington Post has perfected this but often uses misleading headlines and descriptions to drive traffic. I want accurate titles and descriptions so that people can find what they are looking for.
- The hardest part has been tagging the photos. Do I call that building office or commercial? Did I call others like it a restaurant or a pub? Is it a pub or a bar?
- Do I link to the business? I try to. It’s a site about what I think is cool and interesting about Saskatoon. Since I am using business names in titles, I tend to put a link back to the business or organization. That way if people are looking for something, with a click they can find it. I have also learned that some businesses have websites that are hard to find. If I can give it a good link, it helps them too.
- There are some boring neighbourhoods in this city. You can see where I tend to spend my time by the categories and the tags at the bottom of each page but there are some parts of the city that really have nothing interesting to photograph (I am looking at you Westview, Montgomery, and Wildwood) It speaks of some really poor neighbourhood design.
- Most of the shots are on foot. Wendy and I will park the car somewhere and go for a neighbourhood stroll. Since I take a lot of shots of schools, we generally go on the weekend so as to not freak out parents, teachers, police, RCMP, Interpol, the Department of Homeland Security… you know, those kinds of people.
- Some officers from the Saskatoon Police Service has taken a mild interest in what I have been doing. One time Wendy and I were kind of trespassing near the tracks by the grain terminals and a couple of cops wandered down to see what we were up to. When they saw we have cameras their concern wandered off an instead they questioned me on the lens I was using. The same thing happened downtown when I was ask, “Is it actually focusing on things”. I then explained aperture to the officers who actually took some notes. I find that so far the cops have been far more interested in mine and Wendy’s difference in cameras than what we are doing. They actually remind me of cops in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston who seemed to be drawn to the guy with the camera and had opinions on what to photograph than anything.
- Thank you to the City of Saskatoon for posting this neighbourhood map. It the official arbiter of what neighbourhoods are called and where the boundaries are. More than one time I have sent someone to it and heard back, “I could have sworn that X was part of Y neighbourhood”. I’ve done it myself.
- A lot of buildings downtown are double and even triple attributed by reputable sources to the same architect. I have brought this up to a couple of developers who all said, “I know”. It’s been fun looking back at contradictory archival data as well. I don’t think we will ever know for sure.
- I don’t get this but architectural websites don’t always list their own works. I have a feeling that there probably was some strong disagreements during design or construction and the architect more or less washes his or her hands of the project but it makes it hard to track down who created the project. Winnipeg has a building database. I wish we had one in Saskatoon. If for no reason than to help celebrate some of the great architects in our cities history. Hopefully a project like this will happen when Saskatoon finally gets a school of architecture.
- I wish the public and separate school boards would publish a list of architects of their schools. These are tremendously important to our community and so little is known of them. Either that or I am going to have to do it.
The five most popular posts are
- Affinity Campus
- 2nd Avenue Lofts
- Irene & Leslie Dube Centre for Mental Health
- John Deere Building
- Nuit Blanche
I am biased but there are my two favourites.
As I mentioned before, I gave Oliver my old Fujifilm J10 for his birthday. The camera has served me well but it is obsolete and has been replaced. That being said, it is perfect for a six year old who loves taking photos.
To show off those photos, Oliver is now on Flickr at flickr.com/oliver_cooper. His perspective is a little lower to the ground than most of us but he manages to get some fun shots. Since your first 10,000 photos are going to be your worst, he is well ahead of many of us in that regard.
Of course the bad news is that he still can barely read and doesn’t have a computer. At the same time he is rather particular about his photos which means that I get to argue with him every time I downtown his card over which photo is any good or not. So far I am winning (no selfies) but that won’t continue for long.
So now that Oliver is six, he wants to walk to school by himself. So today he walked the half block to school and was set to play with his friends.
For his birthday, Jerry and Gloria gave him a great Lego Batman set with the Riddler, Flash, and of course Batman. He knows he isn’t supposed to bring toys to school. They get stolen and he is often heart broken but being six and so very proud of his Batman he did anyways. You know he lost it.
I heard him crying on the way home with Mark. He wasn’t mad but heart broken. He confessed to me that he had snuck Batman to school and it had gotten lost before he broke down and went to bed. He was that broken up over it.
I lost things as a kid as well and my dad was an ass about it most times and would lecture me about how irresponsible I was. Of course I was irresponsible, I was five. So instead of taking that approach, I logged online and eventually found the Lego Canada store and ordered him a new one. Of course it was a total ripoff and for what I paid in shipping, I kind of hope the real Batman delivers it in person.
That probably makes me a bad father but it sucks losing stuff as a kid, especially when it is brand new. He already knows that he shouldn’t have taken his toy to school. I am not sure punishing him further makes it any better. It didn’t for me. I never lost my favourite stuff on purpose. Neither does he.
The good news is that Oliver is happy and it curled up on the couch lobbying for some leftover birthday cake. He tells me his stomach doesn’t hurt anymore and is kind of hungry.
While the rest of the world celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday this weekend, we are celebrating Mark turning 14 at the cabin.
He has been saving up for a DLSR camera for months. When I upgraded my Pentax K-x, he thought I traded it in for a new camera. Instead I took it upstairs and have been saving it to give him for his birthday.
After having the camera’s sensor cleaned, I bought him a new 16 GB memory card and cleaned all of the lens up perfectly (if you don’t have a Lens Pen, you are doing it all wrong).
Wendy and I had bought him a a new Roots sling camera bag and placed the camera in along with some of my older lenses. Along with the camera, I gave him this 18-55mm lens that came with the camera, a really sharp manual 50mm lens, a Pentax 100-300 lens, and a Takumar-F 28-80mm manual lens (that to be honest, really sucks) but it will give him a macro to play with. I have an older Sigma 70-210 lens that I may give him as well but I am awaiting a replacement for it. Until then he can borrow it.
To celebrate his birthday we are heading north from the cabin for a long nature walk along the shores of Last Mountain Lake where we will hopefully get some shots of some birds and someone can test out his new camera. I expect you will see some photos of the day as soon as we get back into the city.
Mark blogs about his birthday here.
After a long day of work, we spent Christmas Eve at Lee and Brittany’s place in Warman. They had come by the house earlier and picked up the boys and the presents so all we had to do was go home and then drive out to their place. We had a nice non-traditional Christmas dinner (some of that tomorrow) and then opened up presents. The key to Christmas Eve is to eat quickly and no small talk (Lee famously said to Mark one year, “Less talking, more chewing”) so we can get to the presents quicker. The tradition of the last couple of years has been to even put off dessert post Christmas present opening.
- I gave Wendy a Fujifilm Finepix JX600 compact digital camera. She has been looking for a new once since her Fujifilm Finepix J10 camera needed a desperate upgrade. This one will let Wendy take better photos, HD video, and yet still be small enough to take with her wherever she goes. It also features 3D shooting options which means I will be asking to play with it. I also lucked out in that it has the same battery that I just got Wendy for her old camera for our anniversary. A nice bonus for her.
- Mark gave Wendy a ladies Timex Ironman Triathlon watch. Wendy rarely remembers to put a watch on and is always taking it off. The hope is that if we got her a watch she would love, she would actually wear it. So far so good but it is early yet.
- Oliver gave Wendy some earrings and a lightweight tripod so she can do some night photography. Personally I think he just wants to stay up later and is using the tripod as an excuse to hang out with mom. He also gave her a print of him and Mark out for a walk.
- Santa Claus surprised her with an Olympus PEN ELP-2 interchangeable lens camera. it was used but barely used. Wendy has been looking at a Nikon J1, some Sony NEX series cameras and a Fuji X series camera but apparently Santa found her one with a 14-42mm lens. I was a little nervous supporting a second lens family (yeah I know how funny that sounds) but there are some really affordable Micro Four Thirds lens that we can add that she will love.
- The dogs partnered up with Santa and got her a 16gb memory card, a Crumpler One Million Dollar House camera bag, and a 37mm lens filter. I think she liked the camera bag more than the cameras. Story of my life.
- I gave Mark a Vivitar Action Camera. He probably wanted a GoPro but I was on a budget and he is thrilled with it. It comes with a headband, helmet mount, and bike mount. Expect to see him doing things that will hurt himself soon on his YouTube account. That’s quality parenting right there folks.
- Santa Claus stopped by and gave him a Sony Xperia J cellphone. Mark has had two other smart phones, the Samsung Galaxy 550 and then last year we gave him a HTC Desire C and he has taken very good care of them. He loves the Desire C but it is seriously underpowered and really slow running Android and would not run some apps he really likes. The Xperia J should speed up his life a little bit.
- Wendy gave him some 100 watt 2.1 computer speakers while Oliver gave him some portable X-Mini speakers.
- The dogs gave him a pen and notebook set.
- Lee and Brittany gave him a set of Huskie Athletics sweats and hoodie. He’ll never take them off.
- Wendy and I gave him a Canon 28-135mm DSLR lens mug. It’s the closest thing he is coming to a DLSR camera this Christmas.
- Since he is doing some winter camping at school, we gave him a couple of pairs of wool socks. He is going to need them.
- I gave Oliver a set of walkie talkies and some 4×30 compact binoculars. He was thrilled because Mark has a pair of binoculars and I gave a pair to Lee as well. As for the walkie talkies, what kid doesn’t love walkie talkies. Oddly enough Wendy is thrilled with them because they do Morse code. I hear beeping in my future.
- Wendy gave Oliver, Little Big Planet 2 which has less puzzles to solve then the first one which means he won’t be bugging Mark about helping him solve them. Of course we also got a great family game as we got him Little Big Planet Karting. It should be fun.
- Mark gave him Lego Batman 2 for his Nintendo DS. Oliver loves Batman and insists that Mark is Robin. Mark isn’t so crazy about that. We also got Oliver a Batman bobble head. Something to inspire him with.
- Santa Claus dropped off a boom box for his room along with some CDs. Apparently Santa knows that Oliver loves chilling to music with Mark.
- Hutch got him an art set
- Maggi got him a compact camcorder. It’s only standard definition but if it was good enough to shoot Knight Rider in, it will be fine for Oliver. He loves to make adventure movies with Mark so I can’t wait to see what he shoots. The camcorder was being blown out at $10 and I tossed a 2 GB SD card in it. At only 640×480 resolution, he should be able to record himself doing a “slow punch to the face” for days. I guess I need to get him set up on YouTube (where he could be Mark’s second camera operator).
- I gave Lee a full sized set of binoculars that should last him for decades. Very similar to the ones that I have and similar to the ones my grandfather gave me. The only thing that makes me sad is that they don’t come with leather hard cases like they used to (long before I was born).
- The boys gave him a framed print of themselves being idiots while out on a walk. It seems to sum both of them up so well.
- We also got Lee, Bobby Orr’s autobiography.
- Wendy gave Brittany a small cast iron pan with ingredients to make up brownies
- Since Wendy loved the griddle I got her last year, she gave one to Brittany as well.
- Wendy gave me an Apple TV.
- Oliver gave me a rather sharp used F 1.7 50mm lens for my DSLR. He also gave me a LowePro lens case to keep it in.
- Mark got me The Longer I’m Prime Minister by Paul Wells. (you can read a Toronto Star review here)
- Maggi collaborated with Oliver and gave me a Manfrotto compact tripod.
- Lee and Brittany gave me Battlefield 4. Now I have to go and fight the world myself.
- The dogs got me a lens! Err a coffee travel mug. Now I can pour myself a steaming cup of DSLR.
I also got a Lowepro Classified 160 AW camera bag
Well that’s enough from me tonight. We are sleeping in tomorrow (as if) and then heading over to our friend’s Jerry and Gloria Reimer where we are enjoying Christmas dinner. Then it is back to work on Boxing Day for Wendy and I.
On Sunday I decided to take the family along the backroads to Prince Albert. We explored the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Ascension, Fish Creek Church, and eventually the La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam east of Prince Albert. Mark shot some video footage while there which you can see below.
Wendy wrote a little more about the day on her blog.
Apparently it’s name is Oliver.
Yesterday afternoon I was trying to get some work done when Oliver and Mark decided to go to A.H. Browne Park. As a change, I suggested that they walk to Ashworth Holmes Park and check out the paddling pool. They did and three hours later they came home with some video that Mark had shot on his camera. The next thing I knew he had his SD card out and was uploading it to my Mac rather than his PC.
So after dorking around for a bit, he found the movie trailer feature in iMovie and I know I wasn’t getting my Mac back anytime soon. After an hour of them arguing over which clips to use, Mark came up with this. Now I have to just sign him out of Twitter, Gmail, and figure out else he has done to my MacBook.