The Manzanita Kink

The Manzanita Kink

Inside the Photo

The day I took this photo I spent most of it working on a project, and by late afternoon I realized I had not taken any photos yet. To maintain a daily photo habit, you have to sometimes find opportunity quickly.

This is one of the manzanita shrubs (common in Arizona, small cousins of the British Columbia Arbutus tree and the California Madrone) in my front yard.

I have taken many photos of this one; the peeling bark texture makes it a great subject. But because I thinned our a group of them last Spring (they are very dry and a fire hazard) I was able to step in and see a new angle.

The late afternoon light was good golden hour stuff. I recall taking two different photos of this branch, keeping the aperture wide open (f/3.2). I had initially framed this with space more on the right, but something suggested it would work better with the open space on the left. It had a subtle amount of bokeh in the background, but the colors on the peeling bark were pretty sharp.

This was the one I chose to be my daily flickr photo; but I had only taken about 8 that day, so the competition was thin.

And thus it came quite a surprise when I got the comment that this photo had been added to the In Explore flickr group

in explore

Flickr group invites are common, but this meant that the photo had been featured in the front row of flickr, ones the picked to be in Flickr Explore the featured photos on the flickr site. By the time I found my humble photo, it was many scrolls down below many jaw dropping gorgeous photos.

I would say the “Ex” in Explore stands for “Unexpected” as I would have never guessed my photo of a kink in a manzanita bush would get picked. That’s what makes it exciting, the un-expected notice of a photo, and one that I thought was pretty ordinary.

A few months ago another one of mine was explored; the photo of a black bicycle sculpture against a crisp blue sky in Kamloops BC was one I felt was pretty good:

Okay, I am bragging bit, it is a big deal as a photographer to get Explored. This makes my 16th (poster made via Big Huge Lab’s Scout).


Others write of things to try and get picked. I just take and share my photos. Getting explored is not my goal; mine is taking photos every day of what I find interesting. Explore is the surprise bonus.

A more important thing than my own recognition is unexpected expressions of gratitude for something openly shared on the web. These are the stories I love the most. It’s why attribution to me is not about rules and licenses, but saying thanks to someone else.

Yesterday I stumbled into some fascinating posts on gratitude in social media by MIT’s Nathan Mathias; the first was related to the kerfluffle last year when flickr tried selling posters of photos licensed Creative Commons BY Attribution- Gratitude, Credit, and Exchange Online: Flickr Selling CC Images Is About More than The Money. This lead me to read more in Gratitude and its Dangers in Social Technologies:

In conversations with colleagues, it’s clear that several things are entangled. It’s important to offer people reasonable explanations of licenses and tools to manage those licenses over time. We should also acknowledge the power that large companies have to leverage the platforms they build to make money, and the responsibility they have to treat their users with respect. Other colleagues are framing the conversation in terms of alienation or exploitation of labor. Like them, I worry that most of the discussions of this issue are treating it as a legal or economic question rather than a social one.

I suggest that the feeling of surprise and unease partly comes from the relative unfamiliarity many of us have with generalized exchange: a kind of pay-it-forward reciprocity that happens in groups or networks.

Unexpected acts of gratitude- that is something we ought to do more than once per day.

Thanks flickr!

Photo Metadata

  • When: Jul 05, 2015 03:32:23 pm
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  • Focal Length: 50mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Aperture: f/3.2
  • Shutter Speed: 1/1250sec
  • Rights : This photo by Alan Levine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (