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2015 Year in Review – Nikon Photography

As 2015 has come to a close, I’m left with the impression that it’s gone by way too quickly. I’ve no doubt taken a lot of photos this past year, with some new favourites created along the way. And, as part of my Toronto Sunrise Series, this past year more than ever I took it upon myself to create even more sunrise photos than in 2014. I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos I’ve posted here on my blog and on my various social media feeds. In this post, I’ll recap some of my favourite photos that I’ve taken in 2015, sunrise or otherwise.

2015 Year in Review: Nikon Photography

Swan spanning its wings during sunrise.

Swan spanning its wings during sunrise.

This swan lake photo was very popular amongst my social media feed, and it earned a lot of reposts throughout various Instagram hubs. At the time I took the photo, I really didn’t think it would be so popular. I remember, however, how I was happy to have caught this moment as it had been one of the items I had on my list of things to capture. Being conscious of keeping the CN Tower in the background, I followed this swan with my 70-200mm lens as it moved along the lake. When the swan decided to spread its wings, I was ready for the shot, keeping it in focus with the CN Tower placed just off to its side.

Peyto Lake Sunset

Peyto Lake Sunset

In 2015, I was fortunate enough to travel to the Canadian Rockies, where I was in awe of Mother Nature and her beauty. Yearning to capture a priceless moment, I was out every sunrise and sunset, even if I had no idea where to go. While most of my sunrise and sunset shoots were clouded over, I still captured what I hope represented the priceless moment in front of me with this one, taken in Peyto Lake.

90-second exposure sunrise with the Lee Big Stopper

90-second exposure sunrise with the Lee Big Stopper

In the latter half of the year—or more precisely, in December—I bought myself the Big Stopper, 10-stop ND filter from Lee Filters. I managed to do a couple test runs with the filter, producing this shot that I thought captured the moment well with the clouds.

Toronto skyline from the Thompson Hotel rooftop lounge.

Toronto skyline from the Thompson Hotel rooftop lounge.

While I may be more partial to landscape photography, I did manage to grab a few pictures of the city that I really liked as well. This one comes from the rooftop of the Thompson Hotel in Toronto, where they hosted an Instagram meetup in the early fall. The sunset brought out some great texture in the clouds, bringing an even more dynamic scene to this already great vantage point.

Nikon D800, 1/6 sec., f/13, ISO100, 70mm

The most striking sunrise shoot of 2015.

This sunrise moment may have been the most striking sunrise shoots I’ve been on in 2015. The moment passed by so quickly that I didn’t have time to even think it would be anything special. I just knew that the combination of low-lying clouds and the colours really made this a stand-out sunrise for me. And by the looks of things, my social media feed definitely agreed with me as well.

Violent sunrise from one of the windiest mornings of 2015.

Violent sunrise from one of the windiest mornings of 2015.

What was one of the windiest sunrises of 2015 yielded some of the best photographs as well. It was a cold October morning with the winds whipping around violently across Lake Ontario. Initially I wasn’t too careful by the shorelines and got my equipment and self wet from the splashes from the rocks. It was that violent. So standing further away from the shoreline, using my 70-200mm, I caught this moment, with some of the most colourful skies in the background.

Bow Lake Sunrise

Bow Lake Sunrise

Bow Lake was a surprise to me as I wasn’t expecting much from it. But even though it was overcast during the sunrise hours, the calm lake and mountains made for a striking image that can’t be forgotten. This bridge acted as a great lead-in for the eye and in turn produced one of my favourite images from my trip to Alberta.

Lake Louise boathouse in the calm, early morning hours.

Lake Louise boathouse in the calm, early morning hours.

This picture of the Lake Louise boathouse turned out much better than I had expected. Wanting to get a unique vantage point from this often-photographed icon of Lake Louise, I opted for a long exposure during the sunrise hours that I was there. Normally seen against the backdrop of the Canadian Rockies, I also opted to crop this image right at the tree line to minimize any distractions. This put all the focus on to the boathouse, yielding in a photo that I absolutely love.

There are many more photos that I took in 2015 that I loved, but I can only choose a handful for this summary. I hope you like these as much as I do, and that you have enjoyed seeing them on my social media feeds. Truth be told, some of these may be new to you as I may not have even posted them online until this post!

Any one of these photos would look great in print, don’t you think? Stay tuned, as that’s my next project for 2016. Let me know in the comments below if you’d be interested in a print of one of my photography.

Coming up in my next post is my 2015 year in review for iPhone photography!

Being on Instagram’s Suggested Users List…Twice

Before I delve into the details, let me clarify by writing that this post isn’t about promoting my Instagram account, nor about boasting about what happened to my account. I’m writing this post to be an informative one for those wondering what exactly happens when a user gets on Instagram’s Suggested Users list. The Suggested Users list is a list of users on Instagram that are recommended to be followed, and is presented to every new account upon creation. For those of you who are wondering how one gets on the Suggested Users list on Instagram, don’t hold your breath—nobody really knows how one gets on the Suggested Users list, so I will merely give my thoughts below, on how this can be done. Now, let’s get to the details.

Thoughts on being on Instagram's Suggested Users list.

Thoughts on being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list.

Being on Instagram’s Suggested Users List the First Time

This section will explain what happened to my account when I was put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list the first time. I don’t have any screen captures of this event, so this will be a recollection of what I remember. On May 29, 2014, at 12:29pm, I received a Direct Mail from Instagram congratulating me for being put on their Suggested Users List. That DM looks a little like this:

Direct Message from Instagram

Direct Message from Instagram

To see if they actually respond to their DMs, I decided to write back to them and thank them for putting me on. This dialog went a little like this:

Response from Instagram.

Response from Instagram.

With two emojis, this conversation ended before it actually began.

My Instagram account at this time was strictly photos taken with my iPhone, or my iPhoneography. Before being put on the list, my follower count was approximately 1100. I didn’t know what would happen so I decided to just enjoy the ride to see where this took me. Within minutes I started getting followers. My activity list was just a list of messages stating xxx started following you. At one point, I was receiving more than 1000 new followers per 12 hours. This barrage of new followers continued steadily for the next 14 days.

By the end of the 14 days on the Suggested Users list, my total followers count was somewhere in the upper 20,000s. What’s one to do with all these followers? Not to worry because as weeks went by that number started to diminish little by little. There’s a number of reasons why you may start to lose followers:

  1. People who initially followed you no longer had an interest in your account.
  2. Spam accounts who automatically follow people on the Suggested Users list may unfollow you just as quickly.

In fact, I remember even months after being put on the Suggested Users list, I was still losing a small number of followers. It wasn’t until months down the road where my total followers finally settled down to the low 20,000. Fast forward a few months later when Instagram decided to purge inactive accounts or those that they found to be spam, and I found myself with even fewer followers afterwards. My total follower count after this purge settled to be around 18,600. From then on, my follower count fluctuated somewhat but was always around the 18,500-18,600 mark.

Here’s a summary of the roller coaster ride my follower count went through the first time on Instagram’s Suggested Users list on May 29, 2014.

Number of followers while being on Instagram's Suggested Users list.

Number of followers while being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list.

Who Are These Followers?

Now that’s a good question. The Suggested Users list is shown to all new users who create an account for the first time. You can also get to the list through your settings pages. And more recently, when you follow an account, a list of three other similar accounts will be suggested for you at that time as well. Whether the people on this list come from the Suggested Users list though, I do not know for certain.

I would gather that many of these followers are people who created an account out of interest and curiosity. These people may not necessarily continue to use the app and therefore will likely never engage with you on your account. So although you may have a large number of followers, those who actually engage with you may only be a fraction of those followers.

Instagram Followers

Instagram Followers

It’s important to note that just because they don’t engage with you, it doesn’t mean that they don’t see your photos. I’ll talk a little more on this below.

So How Did You Get Put On The Suggested Users List?

There are a number of sites out there that will tell you how to get on the Suggested Users list. While these techniques may be valid, there really is nothing proving that they work. The first time I was put on though, I was consciously following those very tips:

  1. Post regularly good quality photos.
  2. Engage with your followers by replying back to their comments on your photos.
  3. Visit your followers stream and engage with them on their photos.
  4. Visit other non-follower’s photos and like and comment on them.

So, is that what I should be doing with my account?

The whole point of social media platforms is to connect with other like-minded individuals. If your goal is to meet new people and connect with them, then yes, doing the above will likely get you further than if you were to simply ignore those steps. Don’t forget, joining contests and doing collaborations will also get you noticed by other members, increasing your chances of gaining new loyal followers.

Being On The Suggested Users List The Second Time

The second time I was put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list, it happened a little differently so this intrigued me quite a bit. On October 19, 2015 at 2:31pm, this time I received an email from Instagram congratulating me for being on the Suggested Users list. That email looked a little like this:

Mail from Instagram.

Mail from Instagram.

This took me by surprise though, since this came at a time where I was only sporadically posting at best. There were times where I wasn’t even posting, commenting, or liking, for five- or six-day stretches. I was certainly not following any of the four points mentioned above. My followers count was roughly 18,500 on that day. And this time, Instagram put me on their Suggested Users List for three weeks.

I decided to do things a little differently with my account this time. For the longest time I prided myself in uploading only my iPhone photos on my Instagram account. This time, however, I decided to now include my Nikon photos to my account. The difference in quality is still very much noticeable and so I decided to up my account to the next level along with my follower count.

So how was I put on the Suggested Users list the second time?

If you look at the email above, they gave you a link to click to suggest other users. If someone else was put on the Suggested Users list and got this same email, perhaps they remembered my account and decided to suggest me at that point, regardless of how often I was posting, commenting, or liking.

This would show that Instagram does listen to what other users are saying by taking their suggestions. It’s just a wonder why I was never presented with this option the first time around.

So what does this mean?

This means, you’re still better off cultivating a loyal base of followers by connecting with them through comments and likes. The more top-of-mind you are to other people, the more you’ll likely be suggested by another user to be on the Suggested Users list.

Here’s a graph of my follower’s numbers from the time I was put on, on October 19, 2015, to the time I was put off the list, exactly three weeks later.

Number of followers while being on Instagram's Suggested Users list.

Number of followers while being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list.

The increase in followers this time was incredible. At one point I was getting almost 700 new followers an hour. November 6 had an increase of about 7,000 new followers over the course of only 12 hours as well. I really don’t know where all these people are coming from!

At the end of being on the Suggested Users List, my follower count was roughly 153,600, an increase of 830 percent!

Engagements, Follower Count, and Likes Oh My!

With such an increase in number of followers, you hope you will get an increase in engagement as well. My likes and comments have increased a lot, but my posting dSLR photos have definitely made a difference in this as well. My engagement and like levels may not have increased by the same amount as my follower count had, but I have noticed more interaction from my users.

Seconds after posting a photo.

Seconds after posting a photo.

You can see here that seconds after I posted a photo to my account, people will immediately start to like it.

Seconds after posting a photo.

Seconds after posting a photo.

While being on Instagram’s Suggested Users List, I would still be getting followers while people would be liking my photo that I just uploaded seconds ago. Notice how there aren’t any comments though? Liking only requires a double-tap while commenting requires more effort and time.

With a large amount of followers, how come engagement isn’t as high?

There could be a number of reasons for this. I mentioned above that many of these followers may be new to Instagram and therefore may not use the app on a regular basis. These people may not engage with you as much as someone who loves photography and goes on the app several times a day. I believe this reason alone yields in an imbalance between follower count and engagement.

What about impressions?

Impressions are a metric for marketers to measure the success of a social media post. For example, YouTube views can be equivalent to its impression figure. The number of open e-blasts may also be used as an impression.

Instagram can be a little different though since you never really know who may or may not have seen your image. For example, if your follower count is 100,000, then your potential impressions may be 100,000 as well—although this is likely never the case. People who don’t necessarily like or comment on your photos may still see your photo, which will count as an impression because down the road, those people may still very well remember your photo.

The takeaway to this is your photos may still get a large impression because of your follower count, but your engagement may not be as large because of their decision to not like and/or comment on your photo.

Does Any Of This Matter?

This is a question you’ll have to ask yourself. To some people, these are just silly numbers. To others, they mean more potential for partnerships and collaborations with brands. Whether this matters, depends on what you want out of your Instagram account. I welcome new experiences and opportunities so I’ll see where this takes me—if anywhere. If I continue to post high quality photos and be inviting to my followers, I hope to cultivate a loyal following where people will want to come back to my stream for more of my photos.

Personally I am very thankful for being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list twice, as I enjoy engaging with new people around the world. If I am able to show my photography to more people, I will be more motivated to continue and learn the craft to better myself as a photographer, all the while making friendships around the world.


Have you been put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list? Do you even care about any of this? Let me know in the comments below as I would love to hear what you think about all of this.

Muskoka Lakes

 

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 20mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 20mm

Lake Muskoka is a great little getaway for those in the Greater Toronto Area. It’s just a short two hour drive from the city and offers a great nature getaway for the nature-lover in you. This is just one of the beaches of Lake Muskoka—it was the first one we saw on our drive there, so this is where we stopped and ate our lunch. It’s hard to believe that just a couple hours before, this beach was filled with cottage-goers enjoying the water and sun.

The storm that was quickly approaching when I was up by the lookout (in my previous post) brought about some menacing looking clouds as you can see. The formation was really interesting and offered a great opportunity for pictures.

I took this photo on my way back as I noticed the clouds were getting darker and darker. It was this that I wanted to highlight. The framing of this photo with the trees on either side was intentional and offers a good “border” for the picture, allowing us to focus more on the clouds.

Luminato Festival 2015 Wrapup

Inside the festival tent.

Inside the festival tent.

It’s just over a month since the Luminato Festival ended in June but the events are still vividly clear in my mind. Looking over these photos, this year’s festival was another big success with such a variety of events for the public to enjoy. The 10 days of the festival went by very quickly, and while I was taking photos for most of those days, it’s hard to believe that there are so many other events that I wasn’t able to see. The variety of events is what always attracts me to the Luminato Festival.

The grounds at David Pecaut Square.

The grounds at David Pecaut Square.

The grounds at David Pecaut Square were always packed, and that’s a nice thing to see. The added artificial turf was a nice touch this year!

Jörn Weisbrodt, Artistic Director of Luminato Festival, does karaoke with Toronto Mayer John Tory.

Jörn Weisbrodt, Artistic Director of Luminato Festival, does karaoke with Toronto Mayer John Tory.

Perhaps the mayor doing a karaoke song with the festival’s artistic director was the highlight of that day, as the crowd loved every second of it.

Having fun under the lights.

Having fun under the lights.

During the evening hours, the lights lit up the square making for an even grander festive mood that I saw many people enjoy.

Looking towards Metro Hall.

Looking towards Metro Hall.

These panels created by acclaimed Brazilian artists Regina Silveira added a very colourful touch all day and night long, and drew many people underneath it to rest and enjoy.

St. Vincent at Times Talks.

St. Vincent at Times Talks.

The multitude of events at Luminato Festival is always a crowd-pleaser: The New York Times‘ TimesTalks brought in Nelly Furtado, St. Vincent, and Charlotte Rampling; there was a cabaret series at the Festival Shed; David Collett’s Basement Revue was always a crowd-favourite; and then there were performances like Apocalypsis, bringing in 1000 performers, and David Byrne’s Contemporary Color, bringing color guards to the forefront.

No matter rain or shine, there would always be a crowd at David Pecaut Square, the hub of the festival. With free outdoor concerts, why wouldn’t there be?

Performer at Luminato Festival.

Performer at Luminato Festival.

The final weekend did bring in a lot of rain, but the Brazilian block party was still a lot of fun with bands and audience members soaking it all in under the festival tent.

The crowd in the rain at the Luminato Festival.

The crowd in the rain at the Luminato Festival.

Of course, the festival wouldn’t be complete without the help of volunteers! There were no shortages of volunteers to help you navigate this festival, and it’s always a pleasure to be able to photograph them in action as well. The Youth Volunteer Photography Program, which I also taught this year, had many of them think creatively to get some fun photos for the festival.

Youth Volunteer Photography Program members at Luminato Festival.

Youth Volunteer Photography Program members at Luminato Festival.

Volunteers at David Pecaut Square

Volunteers at David Pecaut Square

The festival brings many unique photo opportunities, which are always a good challenge, and that’s why I love coming back to this festival year after year. For those of you who would like more information on the Luminato Festival, you can check out their website at www.luminatofestival.com.

As always, I leave you with one last photo, which is one of my favourite shots that I took within the 10-day extravaganza. This photo was taken within the Air Canada Centre at an angle that really makes the venue seem so grand. You can see the stage and performers including all the audience members enjoying the Contemporary Color performance.

Inside the Air Canada Centre for Contemporary Color.

Inside the Air Canada Centre for Contemporary Color.

For my post-festival wrapups from prior Luminato Festivals, you can check them out here: 2013, 2014.

Scaling back for more growth

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 60mm

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 60mm

This year I took it upon myself to regain some spark on my blog by posting something new every single day. I have been doing so since January 1, 2015, and I have had great feedback throughout the first six months, increasing my readership. Increasing my blog audience is important for me as I love the interaction I get from people reading my posts. The past few months were filled with varying posts including new reviews I’ve done for Social Print Studio’s photobook, my Think Tank Streetwalker HardDrive camera bag, details on how to take sunrise and sunset photos, and even starting a new series on how I edit my iPhone photographs, in addition to some posts on the new Periscope app.

My recent posts have largely become more photography-oriented, with daily photos of trips that I have taken in the past, and more recently. However, with these daily posts, it’s becoming more and more time-consuming to be able to write something of value to my readers. I worry that a simple photo post is no longer enough to keep my readers from coming back to my blog on a daily basis. Originally I made it a point to at least write in my posts, why I took the photo, or what I liked about the photo, in hopes of enriching my audience’s experience on this blog so that they can take something away from each of my posts.

The Next Step

Now that half the year has gone by, I am ready to start something else, which is to further add value to each of my posts by posting more in-depth articles on my photos or experiences. These posts will aim to be a little more detailed than my usual daily photo posts, so that people can learn a little more about my thoughts and ideas as a photographer and designer. I’ll aim to do these posts at least once a week, with the remainder of the week being filled with more photos from my archive or recent travels. I’ll also be taking a little break from posting photos on weekends so that I can concentrate more on writing these in-depth posts.

I always welcome any feedback on my blog so feel free to comment below, or reach out to me on any of my social media feeds, linked on the right side of my blog. As always, thanks so much for joining me on my blog, and I look forward to an even better six months ahead.