Finally “completed” my website

Completed in the sense that I’m happy with the current design. I kept putting off getting it done, though, daunted by the shear amount of photographs I’ve taken over the years, and especially over the past three years. Over the past couple of weeks though, I’ve come to the realization that I don’t have to do ALL the photographs and artwork at once. I could get a few up, just to get things started, and then once or twice a week work on another batch to post.

Having that burden off my shoulders really motivated me for the push to finally get it finished.

My primary goal was to put all emphasis on the art, and get the rest of the page out of the way. I also wanted to keep the site as “pure” as possible. I used one javascript library, Slideshow 2, for the home page slideshow, Twitter’s javascript code to pull my 5 latest tweets, and only very basic PHP includes so that I could avoid having to duplicate tons of code-rewrites over dozens of pages whenever I decide to re-design. Which actually already proved useful, as I even had a last minute re-design that I got implemented. Really more of a tweak of the existing design, but still it was relatively painless thanks to CSS and PHP. Everything else is purely HTML and CSS. I tried to avoid any elements of HTML5, or CSS3, just to keep browser compatibility at a maximum, with a minimum of effort. When they finally reach a standard, I already have a few ideas I’d like to try out 🙂 That said, if you’re on anything prior to Firefox 3, or Internet Explorer 8, I cannot, and will not guarantee the site will render properly. I leave it up to you to take an active interest in your own computer’s security, and get your browser updated.

This was also a bit of a learning experiment for me, too. I’ve always had a pretty decent grasp on HTML, and if tasked to, could write a website from scratch. But I’m a visual person, so my default way of creating websites has been with visual WYSIWYG (or “What You See Is What You Get”) editors. My editor of choice since I got a crack at the pre-release beta many years ago, has always been Dreamweaver. But while I had a pretty solid grasp on HTML, I understood next to nothing about CSS. Especially CSS for design elements, to me it was nothing more than defining font colors, and link behaviors. I was all about tables, and nested tables, and CSS “blocks” just made no sense to me. So I decided to eschew the visual editors, and write all the code by hand. I’ll be honest, that sent me to Google more than a few times looking up CSS syntax, and if it was possible to do things in CSS that previously Dreamweaver would write out the javascript for (such as rollover images, or drop-down menus). Once it finally clicked how the block elements work, and how you can literally place them just about anywhere on the page that you want, CSS really started to make sense overall. I have no illusions that my code is pretty. I’m still very much a novice with CSS, and learning as I go. But I do learn from my mistakes, and when I find a better way to do something, I do it that way. I expect I’ll be periodically re-writing sections of the site as I figure out more efficient ways of writing the code.

This has both re-sparked my interest in web design, and reminded me, sometimes painfully, why I never really pursued web design in the first place. I’ll happily do the graphic work, the design and layout, I’ll even continue doing small, simple websites. But I think I’ll leave the coding to those with more patience than I.

When I started going back through my library of artwork, and photographs, I quickly realized that the artwork would be easy. Just a matter of getting the pieces I like the most up. The photographs, however, not so much. Back in January I once again switched back to Aperture, after having used Lightroom for quite some time. That meant that all of the processing I had done to photos in Lightroom prior to the switch were lost. Yes, they would still be in the Lightroom library, and I could certainly still open that up. But when I set my mind on doing something rash like this, I don’t half-ass it. I was switching to Aperture, so that meant Lightroom had to go. All of it.

Of course it dawned on me recently that it might have been handy to still have it around as I started making picks for what to put on my website.

So to start with, I began parsing through my Flickr account, and I noticed a disturbing trend: my older photos seemed almost dull compared to my newer photos. So I grabbed a few samples, and set about re-processing the RAW files. What I found to my surprise, my current processing method applied to my older photos made a dramatic improvement to them. Comparing them side by side with what I had previously uploaded to Flickr, I was honestly shocked.

So for the pictures going on my website, a lot, if not all of them are also getting re-processed and replaced on Flickr. I’ve learned a lot about processing over the past few years, and have developed my artistic style. Some of the older photos, I feel, suffered from my lack of post-processing knowledge. Some contrast, some exposure correction, maybe some spot removal, and call it a day. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but over the years I’ve grown to appreciate a little more dramatic sunsets, more saturated and vibrant colors, etc.

The thing is what the camera captures, and what the eye sees aren’t always in sync. As an example: on the beach I may have had a “wow” moment, and quickly set up and took a shot, only to later get it in Lightroom (or now Aperture) and be a little underwhelmed by it. Technically it’s still a good photo, framed like I wanted, everything in focus that I wanted to be in focus, etc. But any number of factors at play could cause it to just not be awesome. Maybe the sunlight was too harsh and washed out the colors, or mist from the crashing waves gave this overall hazy look, or I neglected to attach my CP filter, or warming filter, or any number of things that just weren’t what I saw when I was standing on that beach. Three years ago, I did not fully understand what all the adjustments in Lightroom would actually do beyond the basics of white balance, exposure, brightness, contrast, and saturation. I’ve learned a lot since then.

Now I’m left with a dilemma:
A) Reprocess and re-upload/replace all my older photos.
B) Just reprocess and replace the ones I want to put on my website?

B would be easiest, but then it will leave sets with originally processed and re-processed photos, and especially for similar shots that can look awkward.

A would require the most work, and as Flickr only lets you replace one image at a time, no batch operations for that, the prospect of a couple thousand photos to replace just makes me cringe. The only viable way to do it would be to sacrifice view counts, and just re-upload the re-processed images, and delete the older images. And then there’s the matter of images that have been favorited. I would likely just manually replace those in order to not break anyone’s favorites link.

Right now I’m leaning toward going with B initially, and then over time going through and replacing all the old images. For sets with only a few images, I’ll probably just replace them, thus preserving view counts as well. But for sets with 100+ images, I think I would rather smash my face into a brick wall several times over, than manually replace them one at a time. For photos over, at, or near 100 views, they will be manually replaced. The rest can kiss their view count good bye.

Ugh! Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me.