Checking Items Off Your Bucket List: Photography

Neighborhood cat escaping his yard

A neighborhood cat escaping his yard.

Back in February, I blogged about making a reasonable mini-bucket list. We all have big, bold things we'd like to do someday, but often someday doesn't come or the task is too big/expensive/time-consuming for us to fit into our lives. So I wanted to make a list I could reasonably tackle right then.

You can read the full post here, but one of my items was to learn more about photography. Here's what I said back in February:

I have always been interested in photography. It's one of those creative pursuits I "hope to learn" one day not for career purposes but for a hobby. But especially after my blog photo lawsuit debacle, I now am REALLY interested in learning how to take my own photos. I've gotten a few fun apps on my Iphone, but obviously that's very limited.

And I know a DSLR camera would be the next step, but those are expensive and at this point, I'd have no idea how to operate it. So I feel like I'd need to take a class if I decided to invest in that pricey of a camera. So this one has some cost involved. But I'm still really interested in pursuing it.

So, I was a bit intimidated by the learning curve and the upfront cost. However, in March, I took a trip to NYC to visit the Penguin offices and meet the publishing team involved with my books. On that trip, I had the chance to do lots of sightseeing and took lots of pictures--but all I had was my Iphone to do it. So when I came back home, I decided that the next royalty check I got, I would treat myself to a fancy camera and find a camera class.

In April, I bought the Canon Rebel T4i and a 50mm lens after chatting with Twitter friends/photographers on what I should get (extra thanks to Jenn LeBlanc for sending me long, detailed emails answering my newbie questions.) Then I researched and found an Intro to Digital Photography class at a local university for a really reasonable price. It was seven classes, two hours once a week. 

I just finished the last class this week, and I'm so happy I decided to take the plunge. It was a risk to do during deadline time. And I almost talked myself out of it with "you need to be using all your non-mommy time on writing" but sometimes you need to refresh your brain with non-writing creative pursuits. 

Of course, this was only an intro class and now I want to learn more, so I'm going to probably sign up for another class in the fall. But at least now I can use my camera on manual mode and feel confident about taking photos.

So if you have one of those lingering bucket list items that is doable, I encourage you to take the time to try to fit it in. It's a nice feeling to do something purely for your own enjoyment or enrichment. Not because it's practical. Not because it's necessary. Not because you need to make money from it. But just because you want to.

And though I'm still learning, I'll share some of my pics I've taken over the last few weeks. If you want to see more, check out my Flickr.  (And btw, I list almost all of my photos as creative commons on Flickr so feel free to share using the creative commons guidelines.) : )










So what's on your reasonable bucket list? What would you like to tackle next? Or, what are you currently checking off your list? 


Must Do Monday - The Reasonable Portion of a Bucket List

Typically here, Monday is Must-Read Monday. However, between finishing up my deadline (yay!) and the fact that I'm in the middle of judging books for the RITAs (and can't reveal which I'm judging), I haven't read any new books I can share with you.

So, today I thought I'd change it up a bit and have Must-Do Monday. No, this is not a list of hot mancandy. ;) But rather a list of the things I hope to do or learn at some point. This is not an exhaustive list--we'd be here all day--but some realistic ones I want to tackle.


Photo by Steven Depolo (Flickr cc)

1. Become a tea person

So I was talking about this on Twitter last night, but recently I decided to get off of sweeteners. Since I hate coffee, don't drink soft drinks, and love caffeine, I end up drinking 3-5 glasses of iced tea a day. That's a lot of Sweet N Low. I didn't want to replace it with sugar because that's a lot of calories to add in, so it's pushed me to start looking beyond my basic Lipton black tea and experimenting with different flavors. My current fave combo for iced tea is regular black tea bags, a green tea bag, and Tazo's Wild Orange tea. It gives a great flavor.

However, I know there is a whole world out there of hot tea I haven't explored. Plus, I know there are countless varieties and loose leaf options. So this weekend I bought a kettle, a loose-leaf steeper, and a tin of loose lead Earl Grey (figured I'd start simple.) I also picked up a Red Velvet variety of bag tea. So we shall see. But it would be nice to truly learn about the ritual of tea and experience the different flavors.


Photo by Slawek Puklo (Flickr cc)2. Learn more about photography

I have always been interested in photography. It's one of those creative pursuits I "hope to learn" one day not for career purposes but for a hobby. But especially after my blog photo lawsuit debacle, I now am REALLY interested in learning how to take my own photos. I've gotten a few fun apps on my Iphone, but obviously that's very limited.

And I know a DSLR camera would be the next step, but those are expensive and at this point, I'd have no idea how to operate it. So I feel like I'd need to take a class if I decided to invest in that pricey of a camera. So this one has some cost involved. But I'm still really interested in pursuing it.



Photo by Tony George (Flickr cc)3. Get more advanced in yoga.

I love yoga. It's the only exercise I don't dread. However, I'm still at the beginner stage with most of it. I strive to be able to do the more complicated stuff. And this one is totally on me. The more I do it, the better I'll get. I recently signed up for a membership to My Yoga Online and that's been great. I dropped my gym membership where I used to do yoga because I wasn't able to get over there enough. Now I can get the yoga in my living room (I mirror it to my TV via Apple TV so that I can get it on a bigger screen.) And unlike buying DVDs, this gives me new routines every day so I don't get bored.




So those are my three, mostly achievable Must Do's. What are some of yours?

FAQ on the Blog Photo Debacle

Photo by Alexander Henning Drachmann (cc)So I'm still recovering from RWA this week. I have a fun combination of a sick child, a cold, and lingering jet lag. But I thought I'd pop in really quickly to answer a few questions. I've been getting a boat load of emails since my photography post. Most have been kind words--I appreciate that--but many have also had additional questions about the post and/or copyright.

I don't necessarily have definitive answers on some of these because I am NOT a lawyer and this is NOT legal advice. However, I can tell you what I've found in my own research during all of this.


FAQs from my inbox:

1. If I can't find out who owns the photo, can I use it?

No. Just because you don't know who owns it, doesn't mean it's not owned. Just find another photo that is creative commons or that you can pay or get permission for.


2. What about still shots from TV shows or movies?

This was one I really wanted to know. It *seems* like this is okay under Fair Use because you are only using a small part of a whole and not impacting the ability for the movie to sell. Jane at Dear Author spoke a little bit about this in a recent post.


3. What about YouTube videos?

If you are the one making the videos, then be careful. Don't use copyrighted material in your videos. However, if you want to say, embed someone else's YouTube video on your blog, is that okay? I haven't gotten a black and white answer on this. But here's what I've gathered. If it's a very short movie/TV clip, then it *probably* falls under Fair Use under the same logic as the movie still. If it's a music video/movie preview/clip hosted by that brand/artist/TV show/movie studio and there is an embed feature enabled, then it's *probably* fine. Like I said, don't take this as legal advice. But the nice thing about YouTube is that if you embed something on your blog and then You Tube finds out that the original person used copyrighted material, they take down the video and it will disappear anywhere it's embedded. So use with caution, but some particular uses are probably fine. (And obviously if a clip has the embed feature disabled, then don't use it at all.)


4. What about LOL Cats/Cheezburger photos or those funny e-cards?

For the e-cards, there are specific rules on how to use them. You can go to their terms of service and look, but it seems like the proper way to use them is via embed code NOT just cutting and pasting.

From SomeEcards TOS:

If you include or post any of the Content on another website, YOU MUST EITHER:

  1. use the sharing and embedding buttons on the Site for Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest; OR
  2. use the embed code or post the link of the Content ONLY.

Any other downloading of Content or dragging it to a third party site violates our rights to the Content.

As for the other, Jane at Dear Author contacted LOL Cats and it seems that they are okay if the embed code is present. Here's a quote from her site:

I emailed LOLCat about the embed codes and was told that some of the images don’t have embed codes for copyright images and that you needed to click through to the individual page of the LOLCat to see if there was an embed code but if there was one, it was there to be used.


5. What about recipes?

Recipes ARE copyrighted. You can copy a list of ingredients, but the directions on how to cook those ingredients are copyright protected. So no cutting and pasting someone else's recipes on your sites. (That obviously goes for the food pics that accompany them too.)


6. What about song lyrics or poetry?

Copyrighted. You can't use them in full. A small quote of a line or two would probably be fair use. The only exception would be things that have outlived their copyright term and are now in public domain.


7. If I post a link in Facebook and it adds that small pic from the original post to the link, is that breaking the rules?

Since that is a thumbnail sized pic and is a link to the original site, that appears to be fine. You didn't actually make a copy of the picture and paste it into Facebook.


8. Do these photo copyright laws apply across all the platforms: Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, blogs, etc.?



9. What about celebrity photos?

Those are copyrighted just like anything else. Most of those big gossip sites probably pay a fee to certain companies to get a certain amount of access. They are not free to share. If you need to talk about a celebrity, a better option may be a screen shot from a movie with them in it.


10. If a site has a Pin It button, is it okay to pin?

Not necessarily. For instance, any blogger can put a Pin It button on their site, but if they are using other people's images (knowingly or unknowingly), you could be pinning copyrighted stuff. However, if a retail site has the Pin It button on their own product pages, you're *probably* okay. Never hurts to check their Terms.


11. What about book covers and movie posters?

Publishers get the rights to the book covers to use them for promotion, so bloggers using them to talk about the book is fine. However, you cannot take part of the image and use it for your own purposes (i.e. lifting off the text and using the photo on the cover for other purposes.) I'm assuming the same applies to movie posters since they are a promotional tool and when used in the context of commentary or review would probably fall under Fair Use. (Though like I said above, don't take my word as law. There are other ways you can't use movie posters and book covers. Here's a bit of an overview for movie posters.)


12. Can you release the name of the photographer or details of the case?

No. I wouldn't do that anyway, but there are confidentiality rules. So if you hear anything out there about what amount was paid or who was involved, it's probably not true because I haven't released any details and won't be doing so.


13. How do these apply internationally?

My research has been U.S. specific, but most countries have copyright laws. Things are going to be different from country to country so be sure to look up the rules that apply to you.


All right, I think those were the main ones. Hope that helps! 


A Bright Side - Writers Building a Photo Sharing Community

Wow, it's been a crazy weekend here at the blog with my copyright post this last Friday. I had to close comments finally because things were starting to spin into the name-calling direction. But before that, there was a vibrant and impassioned discussion in the comments and I appreciate everyone who chimed in with things that added to the discussion.

And clearly based on the shear volume of visitors and attention the post has I gotten, I wasn't the only one confused over the Fair Use laws. So I'm glad that even though this wasn't a fun thing to go through, the word on the right way to use photos is getting spread. That's good news for bloggers AND photographers.

One benefit that came out of this was bloggers and writers getting inspired to create their own photos and to share them. Kristen Lamb, founder of WANA International and the blogger/author behind the #myWANA (We Are Not Alone) hashtag on Twitter, even started a group on Flickr where we writers can submit our photos for free sharing with other writers for blog use. Already I'm astounded at the gorgeous pics some of the WANAs have submitted to the group. I guess I shouldn't be. Writers are a creative lot. : )

And it's definitely made me start looking at random things I could photograph for blog posts. On today's agenda was kidlet's toys. Here are some photos I've taken. (I think kidlet had as much fun as I did with the process.)

USA map puzzle

His favorite puzzle



For back to school posts



Recreating the Jurassic Park scene for my Plot-Driven post



Yes, I violated kidlet's dolls to create a pic for my Sexual Tension post. Let's ignore that they're technically brother and sister. I was just channeling Flowers in the Attic.


Kidlet's creation

Kidlet's creation.


So I'm a person who always tries to find the positive, the bright side, of situations. Life's too short to stew in negativity. So that's what I want to do in this situation as well. One obvious positive thing that has come out of this is awareness in the blogging community and a swell of people changing things now that they know better. But also seeing writers get together to help each other out warms the cockles of my heart. 

I hope the creativity and the desire to make things better continues.

Now just a heads up--I'm going to be attending the RWA conference this week so my internet access is going to be limited at best. I have the lovely Tori St. Claire guest blogging here tomorrow, but the rest of the week, I'm taking off from the blog. I hope to come back from RWA with lots of great new information to share.

I hope you all have a fantastic week!

How has learning about the copyright rules changed how you're going forward with your blog? Are you more motivated to take your own photos?