2022/11/14

Snakes in Tennessee

Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis, Cumberland County, Tennessee
Nerodia sipedon, Burgess Falls State Park, Putnam County, Tennessee
Opheodrys aestivus, Burgess Falls State Park, White County, Tennessee 1
Lampropeltis nigra, Big South Fork NRRA, Scott County, Tennessee 3
Every year indoors people make dangerous plans to go outside the walls of their own home. With no context for ever having been outside, their number one concern is rightly snakes. Forums are full of "how do I avoid snakes" questions. I wrote this simple guide to help deal with snakes.

Being outside in Tennessee is literally no different than swimming in a sea of snakes. You want to learn to keep your head above the snakes, because you cannot breathe snakes and you will suffocate. Treading snakes is little like treading water, but only if the water were snakes. Avoid snake rains entirely. You'll want to be inside when it is raining snakes, which is about 50% of the time.

If you learn to tread snakes, congratulations, you're halfway to enjoying the eternal bliss that is Tennessee! Oh no! That snake is poisonous! What do you do?
1) Eat the snake
2) Swim away slowly
3) Eat the snake
4) Swim violently in the snake sea to frighten the poisonous snake.

If you answered either 2 or 4, you're good and the snake won't poison you.

Let's not forget about those venomous snakes though. All they want to do is bite a human, especially you. How can you avoid that? You cannot. They are coming for you now. All of them are on their way to bite you this very moment.

Climb onto your roof and prepare for the sea of snakes to surge violently at you. It will be like a zombie movie but with snakes and where all the zombies only want to attack you. You cannot escape the snakes. They are everywhere. Your house: snakes. Your parents: snakes. The letters you are reading: snakes. Join the snakes.

OR

You could just pay attention to where you walk. Either or.

Pantherophis spiloides, Frozen Head SNA, Morgan County, Tennessee 1

2022/07/03

Photographer Resume

Caving gear 2

In the beginning I thought of myself as an artist. I wanted a digital camera so that I could make art more easily. Not long after getting a digital camera I realized that I had no idea what I even wanted to take pictures of and that this hobby would be short lived unless I had an idea. Fortunately I found some photographers that were inspiring, and I emulated their work.

It's been a fun road, documenting nature in mostly the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee all these years. I wanted to cook out some statistics and graphs from my published work on Flickr just to see what trends may have emerged. I share those here, not because I need to brag, but because it's an exercise in creating a dynamic dashboard utilizing Google Sheets. The data is actively scraped from Flickr, parsed, organized, and visualized into a number of graphs and raw data.

For this analysis, Albums relate to specific dated events, for example, 2021/08/08 - Cohutta Wilderness, where I hiked in the Cohutta Wilderness of Georgia.







Below are some selected entries from my CV related to photography.

2022/06/21

Lessons from a Photographer of 15 years

I have been taking myself seriously as a photographer for about 15 years. In that time I've posted about 13,000 photos on the internet, and taken easily ten times that (not counting time lapse videos). I've taken great pains to organize these photos and describe them. I've primarily photographed a region of the country which has largely been overlooked by previous generations of photographers. I specialize taking landscape photos of caves, waterfalls, natural arches, rivers, and named natural features, as well as historic and prehistoric cultural features. I am not trying to be an influencer. I am trying to be respected in my art, and I'm trying to use it as a way to make the world a better place, and if I am very lucky, maybe make enough money doing it to support my hobby.

Here are a few lessons I've learned from this experience which may be useful to people who are just beginning their photography career. Some of this may be overly specific to the tools I use. If you don't use the same tools as I do, consider my discussion of them to be symbolic, and try to find parallels within the tools that you use. If you don't have parallels, consider finding new tools. The functions of the tools I demonstrate are useful and will serve you well.




METADATA

“Any system is only as good as the metadata that it ingests.” ― Chris Bulock

Metadata is data about data. The EXIF data in your images is a type of metadata. When I describe an image on Flickr there is a title box, a description box, there are comments which other users can add, and there are metatags. I try to describe each image with words I would remember if I needed to search for that particular image.

Here are a few example images, and their associated metatags for your consideration.

Dukes River Cave Nr1 twilight, Jackson County, Tennessee JK24, Dukes River Cave Nr1, cave, twilight, Jackson County, Tennessee, TN, kayak, water, stream, creek, Cumberland River, Cordell Hull Reservoir
Honey Creek Falls, Big South Fork NRRA, Scott County, Tennessee 4 Honey Creek Falls, Honey Creek, river, stream, creek, water, waterfall, falls, Honey Creek trail, BSF, BISO, Big South Fork, National River and Recreation Area, NRRA, Scott County, Tennessee, TN
Complex Narceus americanus, Chlorociboria aeruginascens, Cohutta Wilderness, Murray County, Georgia 2 Cohutta Wilderness, Wildlife Management Area, Murray County, Georgia, GA, Animalia, Arthropoda, Diplopoda, Spirobolida, Spirobolidae, Narceus, N. americanus, American giant millipede, worm millipede, iron worm, Fungi, Ascomycota, Pezizomycotina, Leotiomycetes, Helotiales, Chlorociboriaceae, Chlorociboria, C. aeruginascens, green elfcup, green wood cup
Hashtags, used on Instagram aren't paricularly useful for conveying data. They are a marketing tool. On Instagram, if I use the same metatags as hashtags, it generally will not help others find my things, and it will generally not help me find my own content because their search tool just brings up the most recent or hip things on the platform with that tag. Popularity rises to the top, not usefulness.

On Flickr I can search my own content, I can search my friends content exclusively, I can search all my friends content, I can search the entire platform, or I can search the entire platform for Creative Common images. Sure, there are some downsides to Flickr, like it not being the cool and popular place anymore, how it's hard to identify active communities, and its user interface is unweidly and doesn't work sometimes (refreshing the browner page often fixes this issue). But there is even more to love about Flickr which I touch on in the next section.




ORGANIZATION

“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” – Anonymous.

This section is important enought to break down into two parts: Local Organization and Cloud Organization. Local organization is how you have your data organized on your computer. Ideally this is where you keep your camera raw files. Cloud organization can be a private drive where you have your stuff off-site and backed up, or it can be a public image host like Flickr, Smugmug, Instagram, or Facebook. I should also note that metadata is an important part of organization, but not the only kind of organization that needs to be done when tracking a large data archive.

Local Organization

Folders y'all: use 'em. File Explorer in Windows is my best friend, and I organize my data in folders and subfolders. What follows a snippet of my organization technique on my own local computer.

Folder template
YYYY/MM-DD - [Description of Folder's Photos]

Subfolders
/ - Raw files from cameras.
/docs - Documentation about the trip. Could include scientific papers associated with the subject, magazine, website, books, articles, or other documentation. Could include landowner contact information.
/gps - GPS points and tracks of the trip in .CSV or .GPX format, processed GPS tracks, geotagged camera photos, geotagged drone photos, other relevant GIS data. An an Android user, the software I use is Locus Pro, and GPS Average.
/keep - Finished JPGs and videos.
/photos by others - Subfolders for individuals who have shared photos with my from the same trip.
/recorder - Google Recorder app output of .WAV or .MP3 and a transcribed .TXT file. This is an excellent tool to quickly make notes.
/video- Videos, Premiere Pro files.

Cloud Organization

Like folders and subfolders, Flickr has collections and albums. I use these to organize my data in the exact same way as I do my local data. Instead of YYYY/MM-DD - [Description of Folder's Photos] I use [collection]/[album] where the collection is YYYY and the album is YYYY/MM-DD - [Description of Folder's Photos].

For example, the album 2021/08/08 - Cohutta Wilderness is nested inside a collection called 2021.




BIG PICTURE STUFF

“It's hard for young players to see the big picture. They just see three or four years down the road.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Why do you take photos? It's important to have a clear vision of why you take photos, and what you want to photograph. Do you want to shoot weddings, events, landscapes, macros, or aerial imagery from a drone? Who is your intended audience? Are you trying to impress your friends, flesh out a newsletter, document history or science, or score some swag from the marketing team of a brand? I recommend writing down your "mission statement" and keeping it handy. If you need to revise or revisit it, it will be there to guide you.

My own mission statement, which you may remember from the first paragraph of this post reads,

    "I specialize taking landscape photos of caves, waterfalls, natural arches, rivers, and named natural features, as well as historic and prehistoric cultural features."




I hope that the above advice is useful to you. Feel free to share with me your own advice in the comments.

2022/05/13

Caver Resume

Twilight, John Henry Demps Cave (Sullivan Entrance), White County, Tennessee  1

The table to the right and the charts below are dynamic, and part of a larger tracking system I've created to allow me to organize my caving trips. Within the Google sheet I include date, who I was with, and links to external references like Flickr, or Facebook. Many old time cavers have journals, this is the same practice, modernized (with some benefits and some losses).

I provide this data publicly to:
  • Encourage other cavers to better catalog their own trips
  • Provide myself with some baselines and a better mechanism to track my own caving career