A.D. Wheeler is a New York based travel photographer specializing in landscape and a style he calls “abandonscape” photography. He runs TheExplorographer and is the creator and editor in chief at Travel Obscura.
To supplement his travels and the work he shares, A.D. sells limited editions of his work on metal. He also licenses his work for businesses, hotels, office buildings, and more.
In July of 2014, A.D., was invited to be a master and mentor at The Arcanum and he’s been mentoring an active community ever since.
WordPress/Photography Related News:
- Scott is speaking at Canada Photo Convention in Toronto, on Image SEO. It’s from October 4th - 6th.
- Scott is speaking at the Out of New York photography conference on WordPress. It’s from October 14th- 16th.
- WordCamp Boston is July 23rd-24th at Boston University.
- Ultimate Membership Pro
- Art of Abandonment
- NextScripts Auto Poster
- Offline image optimization
- Shared hosting vs managed hosting
Where to find A.D.:
In this episode Rachel joined with audio only, from vacation. Here is proof:
Scott: Welcome to episode 19. My name is Scott Wynn Givowits and I'm joined by my co-host Rachel from Photo Scrap. Hey, Rachel.
Rachel: Hey, Scott. How are you?
Scott: I'm doing well. You are not on video today. Anybody who's watching the video Rachel is calling in audio only because she's actually away and she's working while on vacation.
Rachel: Yes, at the beach which is awesome. Never stop dreaming, right?
Scott: Actually I did the same thing last week. I went to the beach here in Jersey and we spent a few days in the beach and I wound up working the entire time from the hotel room.
Rachel: I know. The perils of working from home means you have the flexibility that sometimes it ... I actually don't mind because it's one beach day. I'm a very pale Irish/Swedish so the sun and I don't always get along. I'm excited to be here and to talk to our guest this week.
Scott: Today we have A.D Wheeler who is from New York. He is a New York based travel photographer specializing in landscape in a style that he likes to call "abandonedscape" which we'll let him talk about. A.D. runs the exploroghrapher and is a creator and editor in chief at a new website, which I'm also excited for him to share with everybody called travel obscura and that's travelobscura.com. To suppliment his travels and the work that he shares A.D. sells limited edition prints of his work on metal. He does a lot on metal. He also licenses his work for business, hotels, offices and many more. In July of 2014 A.D. was invited to be master and mentor at the Arcanum and he's been mentoring an active community ever since. In fact I was teaching at the Arcanum for about a year and when I decided to leave a lot of my students wound up going over to A.D's cohort, which are what the classes are basically called at the Arcanum. I've known A.D. now for over a year and we've shot together a few times and he's awesome and I'm very excited to share A.D. with the Imagely community and the Word Press photography podcast community and see what he has to share with everybody. Welcome, A.D.
A.D.: Thanks guys. Thanks for having me.
Scott: Before we get into what's going on with you and to talk about travelobscura and of course to talk about what abandonscape is, let's dive in to a little bit of Word Press Photography related news, we got three pieces. The first one is at ... This has been out for a while now but I've got a new speaking engagement so I want to make sure I get them all out there on the table in the podcast. If you are in the Toronto, Canada area I will be speaking at Canada Photo Convention in October. It's October 4-6th and I'll be speaking on Image SU, very excited about that one. I will also be speaking at, and this is a new one that I just got booked for, Out of New York Photography Conference. That's October 14-16 and that's going to be on Word Press for photographers, perfect topic. Out of New York is the first conference of this series in New York. Chris Smith who runs Out of Chicago Photography Conference is doing his first one not in Chicago, you could say it's outside of Chicago. There's a fun pun. That's going to be a fun one and we'll have links of those in the show notes. Rachel has another bit of news she wants to share.
Rachel: Yes, Word Camp Boston is July 23 and 24 at Boston University and you can find out more at the Word Camp Boston website, which I think is just wordcampboston.org, but you can always Google it. It's a great time. There is a contributor day again so if you're interesting in coming and learning more and then contributing to the corewordpress.org you don't have a developer, you can be a designer, you can be a photographer, you can come and just learn. It really is a good time. I have been in the planning committee for a couple years. I wasn't able to do it this year but I will be there as a volunteer. I will be there the entire time just hanging out, it's a good group of people.
Scott: I was there last year and that was a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun at that one.
Rachel: Yes, it's a good group.
Scott: A.D, tell us what is abandonedscape?
A.D.: It's a made up thing. I'm going to actually be at the Out of New York thing too.
A.D.: I'm not speaking, I don't believe. I'm not sure yet. Hopefully we'll get to hang out again and do some more shooting. Abandonedscapes is kind of just ... I started out shooting kind of landscape sort of stuff and I live in, in a really small area, small town and kind of just couldn't find anything ... Everything I was shooting I had already seen before and seen other folks do and do amazingly well. I was just trying to find something different to do. There's a lot of abandoned things here in upstate New York, a lot of them. I guess the 14 year old in me started exploring a little bit and looking for something different and a friend of mine who got me into this, an amazing artist, Walter Arnold, I haven't been able to get him in the group of people, he works way too much but if you guys check out artofabandonment.com, my buddy, Walter is the man responsible for getting a DSLR in my hands and when I first got my camera he said, "Let's go shooting," and I said, "All right I got all these waterfalls," and he's like, "No, let's shoot something weird.
Let's find something crazy to shoot," and we went on a four day excursion back in 2008 and I just feel in love with it and it was just shooting old abandoned buildings, old historic sights have been kind of left for dead or nature had reclaimed, that sort of thing and then I started writing about it. It just became natural to write about the adventure. We ran into some trouble at some of places and just the fun things that happened and the history on some of the places was amazing and finding out more about this and then one thing lead to another and abandonedscapes for me was born and I've been doing it ever since, although, since the Arcanum I've done a lot less of it. Scott, as you know, it's a very all encompassing thing and takes a lot of your time and I don't do as much as I use to but I'm traveling more now than I ever have.
Scott: It's especially time consuming when you've got more than one cohort.
A.D.: Oh brother. I have 46 apprentices I think right now total and it does, yes ... I'm on sabbatical right now actually, taking time off. I was able to find time to actually do this podcast. They do use up a lot of my time but I love it. I love everybody in it.
Rachel: I went to the website, the Arcanum and it's like magical, digital ... I'm like for the Harry Potter fan in all of us who is also a photographer it definitely has a very targeted market. I love the idea of abandonscape. I love that you're doing beautiful landscapes but with this element of intrigue and things that you find in your local community. When you say that you're writing about it we're you blogging? How were you getting that message out to go along with your images when you first sort of started this journey?
A.D.: When I first started I wasn't big into social media so the whole goal was to ... Actually I don't think social media was all that big when I first started it. I really just wanted to create a website and write little stories and include all of my photos. I wasn't very choosy about the photos. I would basically put everything in there that I shot and some of my stories, especially my earlier stories on my website are almost like mini novels. They have 30 and 40 photos in the story and I go through the whole history and multiple visits and all sorts of different things. It just was a way for me to kind of record what I did so that I would remember about the history of these places because they don't last very long. It's interesting, in abandonscape photography generally what happens is you will find a location and it will either be abandoned and pristine, and I mean pristine as in overgrown by nature, nobody has really been there. There's no tagging, there's no scrapping, it's kind of just this rundown building or site that just looks likes humans just disappeared off the planet. That's the ideal time to get it, but shortly after a few dozen people shoot there and people, even if you don't release the location, people still find it and then it gets destroyed and then it's gone. There's a very small window.
These locations are so amazing that you cannot, not share them. A lot of advocates out there will say, "Don't share. Don't share." The thing is people still find them and I think it's really important for people to know that we kind of are a throw away society. In Europe, I first got into abandonscape because of the Europe scene and over in Europe they have this amazing urbex scene as they call it, urban exploration and they find these sites and they not only photograph them but they clean them up and this is the photographers and artists. We don't do that over here. We also don't reuse, we don't reclaim, we just tear the stuff down after while and but up a cinder block building or something. I recently went to Chicago and you can see that on the travel obscura site. I did an architecture on art about Chicago because I just love the fact that they've kept the old buildings and they've worked really hard to restore and take away some of the modernization of those old buildings to bring them back to what they originally were. Now the amenities are all modern and whatnot but they've restored the beauty in the buildings and taken out additions and things like that and brought the buildings back to what they were originally and I really appreciated that when I was in Chicago.
I had never been. This was my first visit this year. It was pretty awesome.
Rachel: I wanted to address the reclaim because I think that, that is becoming an element in more of the portrait and wedding photography because I think that, that the trend is interest to see those reclaimed barn doors coming in. It's interesting from the different points of view, the different sort how you monetize your photography business where you're doing travel and landscape you have this one point of view and for the portrait and wedding photographers who are out there drooling over those reclaim elements to add that vintage feel to have it whether it's with people or without people. I wanted to get back to you just started writing in terms of not worrying about building an audience but did an audience just start to happen naturally because you were putting it out there?
A.D.: Yes. I didn't get a lot of coverage at first and I really wasn't concerned with that as much as I was just getting it recorded and I also was doing art festivals at the time. I was doing a lot of juried art festivals trying to get my work out there as far as just the photographs themselves and I started to ... Walter helped me with this too because he's kind of like a pro at it. It really just kind of evolved after a while because people wanted to know when they'd see the stuff on the wall or in my booth they wanted to know more about the location so the stories started coming forward and then after a while it was like, "Just check out my website," and then of course social media came along and the shift went away from the website and for a long time, and I say a long time, three of four years, which is a long time when you're working on a project, one single project, I tended to lean more towards just putting stuff on social media and kind of not supporting the website like I should and it wasn't until this whole teaching in the Arcanum thing that they called upon me for a higher level class, what they call a sphere two experience, which is a tuition based part of the Arcanum.
At that point in time the whole travel obscura thing was kind of born and I really shifted the focus and taught 16 people to come back to that core, which is your website because Facebook, as much as we love Facebook and as much as we love Google plus and all this stuff they're going to go away at some point in time, they will go away but the websites will still be there. Building that core and having your own thing is really important to me. I've shifted that now and we're back ... It's a big paradigm, now we're back to ... Everything happens at the website first, nothing happens social media, or any place else until after it happens at the website.
Scott: I think that also kind of goes hand in hand with the fact that you can have a website but it could be on a platform that you've got no control over that could go away any point in time. That brings it back to Word Press because Facebook could go away, Google plus could go away, Twitter could go away then website platform ABC could go away but if you're on Word Press it's not going anywhere because it's software that you have control over.
Rachel: That's the million dollar question. When you started did you start on Word Press because we can really get technical about it and I think that's what our listeners like to hear is not only your business side of it but how did you translate that business to Word Press? When you first started writing those novellas, let's call them, where you on Word Press or did you switch to it later in your journey?
A.D.: It was a pretty quick switch. I started with html and really just coded everything by hand and notepad, those were the days, and then I started learning about PHP scripts and I was running my own server at the time and I couldn't pay for a server and was just basically running out off my cable connect out of my house. It was kind of just one of those natural progression things. As the shows starting going better and I started selling I started putting that back into how can I get away from spending a lot of time at the console and programming and how could I really spend more time shooting and writing and doing the creative part of it. Along came Word Press where you have a team of dedicated developers always watching out for you that work for you basically for free and I pay for development here and there when I need it but I do a lot of it myself and I just think that, that kind of support is amazing, the community and to be able to do that. That's why I really like when we were talking about the OBS, open broadcast studio earlier. I love that open source and people helping each other out and making an amazing product, I mean unbelievable and sharing it, just can't beat and I recommend everybody.
There's Drupal, there's Jumla, there's all these other platforms out there but I still come back to Word Press and all of my students use Word Press now. They were resistant at first, I think a lot of people are intimidated but we've got in the sphere we also have a Word Press 101 video course and a Word Press 102 video course to get people kind of going on that and we have weekly hang outs talking about the intricacies and this and that and here we are 8 months later and I have 16 Word Press pro's. These guys are teaching other people. It's one of those things, it looks intimidating at first but I tell anybody if you can write an e-mail, you can handle Word Press, you really can.
Scott: The biggest hurdle that I see most people get faced with is the user interface is really not simplified enough but there's education to get around it, there's plug in's that can walk you through the process. It's getting easier and easier. Let's talk about travel obscura. What is it? Why did you build it? How did you build it and all that kind of fun stuff.
A.D.: Like I said the Arcanum came to me for a sphere 2 and because I'm urbex, or abandonscape based photographer it's very hard to teach that because there's a liability issue that goes along with properties and photographing sometimes. When I first started it there was a whole lot of just walk on, if the door was open so to speak we went and shot it. I guess I wasn't young but I can say I was young and stupid at the time but I do things differently now. We handle it as a historical aspect and I contact owners and the network has grown, which is cool but when I had to develop something for a sphere 2 project I couldn't come up with anything other than the fact what I had done is progressed from A.D Wheeler Photography, which is what I started out as and I displayed everything, it wasn't just abandonscapes, it took me a long time to realize what I really wanted to bring to the public. I did all these things like macro and portrait and weddings and model photography and everything, it's photography. We're all photographers. You like to take pictures of everything, that's what we do but you need to be focused for the public I think and kind of define yourself.
Progressions lead here and there and the Arcanum asked me to define myself and I sat down and looked in the mirror and went, "Okay, it's time. I got to peel away all the other stuff. I can still have fun and do that stuff but what am I going to put out there," and I did the explorographer, that was my first part of it and what I wanted to do for the sphere 2 thing was to teach other photographers how to focus, how to ... You can be a wedding photographer and a travel photographer, just don't put them on the same website folks, separate them so people know. If you want to be the best I would really suggest you focus on one or the other but I've seen people do both and do amazing work but you do want to have them separate on the website so that they're focused. The whole idea for travel obscura was it started out with just the name of this cohort and I was going to teach people to do travel blogs, how do you do a travel blog and how do you put your photos to words all this kind of stuff.
Then along in the middle of it I had this wild, crazy idea to start a resource magazine for travel photographers and what can I do with the Word Press core and offer a better experience or more of an experience on Word Press that you can actually take with you or you could plan a trip or you could do all sorts of different things with this website. We're still building but I've got these 15 amazing writers photographers working and collaborating on this site, sharing every location that they shoot at and we have a little thing called a bucket list where you can go and you can favorite the post that you like and we have a profile page that saves those favorites so that you can go back and find those. If you're on the road you can just call it up on mobile, it's a very mobile friendly site and when you call up those favorites there's also a world travel map where you can find directions from where ever you're at in the world to this location. What we want to do down the road if we can get enough support, it is a support subscription based website. There's a lot of free stuff on it. You can go and you read all the stories you want and enjoy all that, you can favorite all the things you want, you can use the bucket list feature, that's all free.
You do have to sign up in order to use all that stuff but it's free. We have a $2 a month subscription rate, which gets you a bunch of features and then we have a $5 supporter per month subscription which is a reoccurring thing and that gets you into private communities, it gets you photo critiques, it gets you travel tips, maps, hiking, jeep trails, all sorts of crazy stuff and the goal is to get the website so that it's user supported and then once we get to a certain level we want to develop an iOS and an Android app which uses the data from the website in a really nice well laid out app instead of just a mobile page, which is what we're doing right now.
Scott: You should look at app presser and reactor.
A.D.: I have. I've looked at both of those and I'm very excited. We're not ready yet. We have a lot of fine tuning. The thing that's cool is that the site has a link on it, a beta link and you can provide feedback directly to us and if you want to see a feature on the website ... We've got a lot of really cool features. We've got private forums right now, we've got gare reviews done by our very own ... You know Stu Davidson is doing gare reviews for us? It's pretty amazing and I'm so happy that everybody is getting something cool out of this. That's the thing it's this collaboration which is what makes it work. I'm just a guy who put all the junk together and pulled it into one spot but everybody collaborates.
Scott: Is it majority of it your apprentices that are running the show or are you still doing a lot there besides from just maintaining the site and stuff like that?
A.D.: I'm in a full editor role really. I just kind of oversee the site. They're all handling ... What's really neat is we have everything pretty much automated from each Word Press site and we're using the next strips auto poster to actually when they post it auto feeds right into travel obscura and then it's parsed in travel obscura and reformatted for travel obscura to fit that theme. What's really nice is it's pretty no load on most people.
Scott: You're actually cross posting from their own sites to travel obscura. Are you giving the appropriate canonical for SCO purposes so there's no duplicate content issues?
A.D.: Yes. The other thing too that we're also ... They're also adding content to that. What's really nice is that there's bonus content at travel obscura that you don't get on their website. If we include maps or hiking trails and things like that or restaurant tips or anything that has to do with traveling to that location it's locked content and that's what we're going to talk about there, the recommended plug in thing that we're using. It allows us to lock certain parts of the content so until you're a subscriber you get this little neat little box that says, "Hey, you should unlock this. It's worth it. Check it out."
Scott: Let's talk about that. We can rearrange the order of the show. Let's talk about your recommended program because it does relate to this. Typically we go into a topic, a general Word Press topic that photographers might be interested in and then we would go into a guest recommended plug in. The plug in that you recommend for photographers to check out. The one you're going to recommend is specific to anybody who's going to have a membership based site like travel obscure or something else..
Rachel: Right. Before we talk about that where would a photographer, any kind, any genre, where would they use this in their business? To me I see the possibilities in if you're forming a group of local affiliates or if you're forming an education site, what do you recommend to bring it back to Word Press can do it but why would you do it as a photographer or a group of photographers?
A.D.: You mean use this plug in?
Rachel: I love what you're building here where you have .. You've talked a lot about the editors and the writers and the content but the whole development part, which I know we're going to get into with the plug in but what was your thinking? Are you building this community because ... It is no niche and I love it but how would a photographer who wanted to create community like this of their own, how would they use this idea for themselves?
A.D.: The way that we're using it for is it's one of those pay it forward sort of things I think as a travel photographer. I'm always looking for new locations and I think if you can bring groups of people together that like to do the same sort of thing there's strength in those numbers. The whole idea for me actually by doing this was to lend my network strength to my wonderful students who all deserve to have an audience for sure and are doing really well with their SCO and I've trained them on all of this sort of stuff and the social networking and how to properly share and all that. We go through all of that, but I think that having this one centralized location, it brings the team together and it helps us work as kind of in force and it will just grow our library of places ... I've already got a whole list of things bucketed on the website of places I want to visit that my apprentices ... I think that was probably part of that little thing that went off in my head is I've been out to California to visit my apprentices. I've been down to New York City, I hung out with Scott and his apprentices and then went to Philly and Washington DC and then Chicago here just recently.
It was all hanging out with ... I say students, they're just fellow photographers. I'm learning as much from them as they've learned from me really. It's that mutual beneficial thing I think that kind of brought all this together and I just thought that, "Wow if we're all working on this together kind of tour de force of travel photographers." That's just going to bring even more folks to the fray and they're going to enjoy sharing their locations and we're going to enjoy checking those out for ourselves too.
Rachel: I love it.
Scott: I do think that the idea of travel obscura could be used in other photography genres. For example wedding obscura where it's best locations for the bridal party photos and stuff like that or engagement locations and stuff like that. I don't know if a membership based plug in or site could be used in just a general photography business. I haven't found a reason why, but in any education, if a photographers doing education it could be really useful. What's the membership plug in the you recommend, that you're using, that you think other photographers that are looking to do something similar should consider?
A.D.: I went around and I looked at a bunch of different subscription based and I tried a bunch and actually bought a couple and they didn't function completely the way that I wanted. I wanted social logins. I wanted a user list that I could look at, different membership levels, lockable content, all of that kind of stuff that kind of in a complete package and the base price of the plug in I think is $49 and it's called Ultimate Membership Pro and I purchased it through Code Cannon, which is part of the Invado network. If you go over to themeforest.net that's where Invado does all their Code Cannon things over there and if you do a search for that plug in and you guys have a link to that too that you can include. It's just a great front end. It's really easy. It uses short codes or lockable content. It's super easy to set up. It migrates your current users. All of my authors were already users on Word Press, it migrated those in and I gave them special levels. We have levels that this thing we set up with it, the traveler, the explorer, the master travelers and they all get different ... You can assign them different levels of content.
It also interweaves itself into your post editor so that in the post editor you can say, "Well I don't want anybody except for this level to be able to see this post," and it literally will not show it on the page unless they're that level. It's really super easy to use. It took a little bit of getting use to but they have a really good tutorial video set out there for it and highly recommend it. It's a great plug in.
Scott: Nice. Let's move into a different topic. You've got a couple of websites, and mainly you do the abandonscape and landscapes, you're doing some architecture stuff with that now. Let's talk about travel and landscape photographers specifically. What features of a website, what aspects should a landscape travel photographer include on their website no matter what? What should they have that is visible for visitors to see on their website?
A.D.: I think it's super important to make sure that your website represents a launch pad for your social media, for everything and I see a lot of times when I go to websites that social media and social sharing is kind of buried and I have to hunt for it and I think that putting it out there right in front of folks when they're viewing the website. We've done a lot of study if you look at ... If you go to the about page on travel obscura and you go down through all of the authors everybody's individual websites are there and you'll a lot of their websites looks similar. We've done a lot of data study in looking at what is working for travel photographers out there and we've basically given foundation websites to all these folks so that they concentrate on their writing and on their content over little design elements. All the basic design elements are there, grid design and whatnot and side bars, monetization and all that sort of stuff. I think as a travel photographer it comes down to what you need on your website. If you are individually wealthy you probably don't need to have revenue streams everywhere. Some of us folks though, myself included, I have several plug ins that I use. I've worked out affiliations with those people and those affiliations ride along side my content.
People know when they see my photos they know what I used to create those photos. I also do quite a bit of Amazon linking and that sort of stuff when I do product reviews. I think all of that stuff is important. There's a whole bunch of little tiny weeny elements out there that may not seem very important but when you put them all together in a certain format they work really well together. I think probably what I see the biggest problem that I see with a lot of photographers is image size management and slow loading websites. No matter how fast your server if you include five photos on your website and they're all hosted by Word Press and they're all full resolution photos if you think each photos maybe 8 MB you're talking about a 40 MB load for one page.
Scott: It's a problem that I think is a issue that sites like Smug Mug and Photo Shelters and Folio sort of paved way for photographers to think that they can use upload the largest images to their own website. It's something that we're trying to educate photographers about all the time and it's an issue. There are plug ins that can automatically shrink them but photographers don't always realize that they need to install that if they're making this mistake over and over again.
A.D.: It's the number one thing I teach is image optimization. What's really cool is in the latest version of Word Press when you send something over to the media library you can actually call that item up in the media library and click an edit button and then there's a little crop thing over there and if you change ... Say you upload something, I found this was pretty amazing. You can try this as an experiment. Size your image to 1920 long edge. Make sure that the longest edge of your images is 1920 pixels. Upload to your media library and then go into the media library and re-scale it by one pixel. Change it from 1920 to 1919, it will cut your image size in half.
Scott: It's because Word Press by default includes compression. I think it brings it down to I think 60 or 70 of the ... When you go out of Photoshop or whatever and you can compress..
A.D.: I've done 60% out of Photoshop and then taken it to Word Press and done that same thing and cut it in half again.
Scott: Yes, it's going to keep compressing it. If you keep doing it, it's going to keep compressing.
Rachel: That was new as version 3.5 too, right?
Scott: Yes, it use to 80 now it's down to 60 or 70.
A.D.: The image quality is still pretty darn good.
Scott: If you do it once it should be okay, if you do it more than once then you're going to have an issue.
Rachel: There are plug ins to turn that off for photographers. Like we talk about on jpeg mini and there are the plug ins to choose ... Is Smush It a good one? I've seen that on a lot of site?
Scott: I use Smush It while Yahoo had that algorithm live and the plug in used Yahoo's actual smush algorithm. When Yahoo discontinued it and that smush plug in was acquired by wpm dev I stopped using it. I just do offline compression with jpeg mini now. I don't even bother using the plug in anymore but there's tons of plug ins out there. There's a really good article that I wrote that was fairly controversial and got some good traction about doing offline optimizational instead of online and I'll link to that in the show notes so everybody can read it.
Rachel: I think the conversation there is that what we were talking about is making sure you have beautiful images and make sure that they're not huge images and the Word Press is constantly changing because for business that aren't photographers they don't necessarily have the knowledge of how to do the compression so Word Press is trying to do it for them. As photographers because your images are your number one thing you really need to know where to upload, how to compress it and the options that are out there because what if you do, do online compression and then Word Press changes again, there always these things that you can't ... We tell that Word Press you own your content, and you do, but you still need to understand at least the basics of this image stuff.
Scott: One plug I would recommend photographers who keep making this mistake and even thought they might realize and they keep making the mistake, check out Insanity. It's basically a plug in that will automatically shrink your pixels. If you upload at 3,000 pixels on the long edge it will automatically re size it to whatever size you set the plug in for automatically, you don't have to think about it. You can upload full size as much as you want and it won't make a difference because it will shrink it before it even touches your website.
Rachel: Wow. That's interesting, and there's no compression lost? That's what I worry about.
Scott: There is compression lost only because Word Press by default has that. If you are worried about the compression that Word Press does then yes, I would say install the plug in that will disable that feature.
A.D.: On the other side of that too, all of my apprentices right now are serving their images from Smug Mug. The server load is not even coming from our media libraries. We're serving great directly from Smug Mug.
Scott: Why did you guys choose to do that instead of uploading? Was it because of image sizes?
A.D.: Partially and then partially because of the way we have it set up if you do ... Whenever you go to a website the number one thing that people love to do is click on a photo. That's it. That's what we do on the internet. We see a photo, we click on it. On all of our websites when you click on the photo it takes you to buy and purchase options right at Smug Mug and we also code Smug Mug so that it looks just like the website so they don't feel like they're being transported away from the website too when they do that.
Scott: Why not sell your images on your Word Press website instead of setting someone to..
A.D.: Self fulfilled?
A.D.: Just simply because this is a foundation building exercise for these students. I'm not ready to teach them how to mat and print and do all that kind of stuff. Actually, what's really funny is that even though Arcanum is based around photography this part of it we're really teaching more about the web side of it and getting them a good foundation start.
Scott: You don't need to teach about matting and printing because self-fulfill, even though it's self-fulfill you can still send it to a printer lab like Big Photo..
A.D.: There's a lot more repped into that with licensing and all sorts of things too though that I'm not encompassing all of that in this particular course. This is more about the writing and showing them how to embed images and that sort of thing but it also, the other thing is too is that I cover ... Right now I'm running an optimized Word Press server from Blue Host and in order to keep the ... The amount of stories that we have pouring in pretty much from these sixteen people, I think right now travel obscura has 121 entries on it right now, places so far and that's, that site and then we have sixteen other websites besides my own. The server load's pretty heavy without CDNing or doing any of that stuff, which I can't foot the cost on everybody's website for that without providing another server to handle the image load.
Rachel: You're having all of your servers in house for this as well? Is that true?
A.D.: For most of it. There're a couple of folks that are serving, and we have a gentleman who's in the UK and another one who's in Osaka, Japan, and they're both self-serving because of their location but for the most part most of the students ... Basically part of the course was that they would get web space and all that sort of stuff.
Rachel: We talk a lot about manage versus shared hosting here because most photographers don't necessarily know someone. Do you have a recommendation on what you recommend for people that don't have space on your severs?
A.D.: I've used Blue Host for quite a while and have had great luck with them. There's a technical side of it what you're going to have to learn. Learning C panel and learning the backside of a server but the Word Press optimized Blue Host set up is like ... They've made it pretty push button. A Word Press installation is one button and boom you've got Word Press and you just follow the prompts and you're good to go. They have Varnish they use which works with some plug ins, doesn't work with all plug ins. On my server I've actually had to disable Varnish because it interferes with my digital downloads which I do self serve for all my photo tools off my website, I do self serve all of those and Varnish interferes, it's caching just doesn't work.
Scott: For anybody who doesn't know what Varnish is basically it's layer of caching, like a caching plug in for Word Press except it's on the server side. Varnish is a really good caching level but it is finicky. If there is something that does not play with it your site will have more issues than actually helping it.
A.D.: It was very frustrating because I just got my site finished and moved over to this new server and everything got migrated over and they turned on the stuff and everything was working great and awesome and then I armed by plug ins and all of a sudden everything blew up. I finally narrowed it down, their support was great though. They narrowed it down and realized it was Varnish that was causing the problem and we turned that off and everything went back to being normal.
Rachel: I feel like caching and CDN are always something that you want to talk to your website host about and that's why we really talk about managed hosting for photographers because then you can have that conversation like, "Oh, this isn't working. Why," and they can recommend, "We have this CDN," I know Imagely has that provided for their hosting and then some of the shared hosting so they recommend that you install it and then it could break it. Having that conversation with whoever you are hosting with is very crucial because even I'm a halfway technical person, I'm not as technical as either of you guys but that gets confusing when you're talking about CDN and caching and where things are going when you're a photographer and you just want to upload good, beautiful images.
A.D.: That was the goal with this sphere two was to take ... I would take that role for them and ease them into it. That's one of the problems that we talk about in the Arcanum sometimes things ... It's just too much to handle all at once. That's my position there is to kind of ease that for them. They don't have to worry about that sort of thing right now but they're learning about it which is important that they don't have to try to do it on the fly for real on a live website. We started out with a lot of the websites, we sand boxed a lot of them and didn't go live with them we just allowed people to kind of played around and get them the way they wanted to and then we armed them with the real domains and started releasing them to the search engines and all that sort of stuff.
Scott: Rachel brought up something earlier that I wanted to just quickly touch on. There's always this area that where I hear people compare shared hosting to managed hosting and I recently put out this article about the difference between the two and actually how you cannot compare the two. I just want to quickly touch on it before we close up because it's such an important topic because Image Light Hosting is a managed host and Blue Host is a shared host that might offer a managed plan but they're actually very different. Shared hosting is basically a server that your website sits on but has hundreds of other websites, hundreds of customers on the same server which has it's vulnerabilities and has it's upsides. Upsides, it you're basically renting space on a server with many other people. Imagine you're renting an apartment in a huge apartment complex it's going to be less expensive than if your apartment was an apartment building that had 4 apartments. The rent is cheaper.
A.D.: Let me interject real quick there while you're on that subject because I do have a little story that goes along with that. When I first started with Blue Host I was on a shared server and I was experiencing horrible performance and I didn't know why and when I looked at the error logs I saw that whoever was sharing the server with me had a, let's just say bad website on it, let's just say bad website, let's go that way and I went to Blue Host and I said, "Hey, man. This isn't me but I'm having poor..," and they're like, "Well, you're on a shared server." Blue Host actually offers a dedicated server, which is what we have. We have a dedicated Word Press server that I actually have 15 websites on but we're not sharing it outside of our group. No one else is on our server.
Scott: There's many different levels. There's shared, there's VPS and then there's dedicated and then there's cloud. Shared hosting, getting back to the fact that it's cheaper, it does have its vulnerabilities like what A.D. just said. If somebody else on the server is having an issue your site can have an issue. If one site on the server gets hacked, your site can get hacked.
Rachel: Most photographers are on shared hosting, and they may not know it because they go to Go Daddy or Blue Host, both are reputable, but they're shared. Even Site Ground, those are shared hosts, so you are on a server with other ... Even though you may not know it.
Scott: Manage hosting is actually not a style, a server of hosting. Manage hosting is literally a company that is maintaining your website, doing the security checks, doing the updates if it's available, doing backups, handling your CDN, doing all that kind of stuff, that's a managed host. Handling the maintenance of your website for you is a managed host and there are different types of managed hosts, like what Rachel just said. Site Ground is a managed host. Every plan that they offer is managed but most of their plans are shared hosting, even their cloud plans are shared cloud hostings. What I wanted to bring into this was the difference between a Blue Host shared plan, even a Blue Host VPS plan a dedicated plan is going to be very different but an Imagely manage host, we only offer one type and it's basically a single account in Amazon's cloud. Not only is it single but each of your sites that you have hosted with Imagely has it's own private cloud server. They're very different. Whenever you hear somebody compare shared to manage keep in mind you cannot compare them. They're very different. I'll link to a big article about this as well that I think everybody should read. Actually I did it as an audio as well. If you want to read you can listen to it.
I go on a nice rant about the difference between the two, and it's been going over well in photo community, so I'm thankful.
Rachel: It's obviously something that's close to your heart, Scott, but it's also the conversation here and it's great that we had the conversation start because A.D has his own server but when you sign up the conversation should be about who can you as a photographer taking pictures talk to about these things. We're here for education, we're here to try and help you but ultimately when your site goes down you have to fix it especially if you're on some of these plans. With a shared hosting, regardless of the server or the cloud you need to call them and say, "My site is down," and the answer may be, "There's nothing we can do for you," and then what do you do? Whereas when you are a managed hosting or where you are with someone that you trust who's doing your server there's a conversation that can happen and sometimes that conversation is worth more than sort of all the money in the world because your website is your business. It's your store front. It's what people see as clients and it's what brings in the revenue really, if you really think about it. There's a lot of levels to that.
Scott: A real good example of that is if you're on a shared hosting plan un-managed and you had an issue with Word Press plug in and you didn't know what it was and you went to the hosting company and you said, "Hey, my website's got this issue. I don't know what it is," they might say, "Well, it looks like it's this plug in. You're going to have to go to them. Here's a link to their support forum," or whatever. That's pretty much what you'll get. They might help you diagnose them and then just send you on the way, whereas a manage host, no matter the manage host that you're with, whether it's Imagely or Site Ground or someone else, Go Daddy has a manage plan too, doesn't make a difference. One of the beauties about a manged host is that they're not only going to find the problem but they're going to help you to fix the problem even if it's not their own product. For example they might say, "The problem is this plug in XYZ. I'm going to introduce a patch to fix it but here's what I recommend you to submit to them so they resolve it in the future."
Rachel: That's part of the community of Word Press and then bringing in the community of photography into the community of Word Press I think they're very similar in structure, they're both very strong communities centered around a passion for something it's just how does the photography community communicate to the Word Press community and it helps to have someone in between who understands both but we should mention there are other manage hostings, WP Engine is a big one. Just to bring it back to the point about you can do as much work as you want but being able to have a conversation and feel like there's someone to support you is a huge relief. I can't even think of the word. Piece of mind, there it is.
A.D.: I'll throw out this plug really quick if you guys don't mind. If there is anybody out there, who is interested in what we're doing with the travel obscure thing I actually just did open up another five slots available for another round of folks coming in. If you're part of the Arcanum or thinking about it or whatever, that's out there. Just..
Rachel: That's awesome. I was actually going to ask you about that about if you were going to open more. Do you have to be a member of the Arcanum to sort of get into that running?
A.D.: Right now as it stands the project is kind of closed to the Arcanum apprentices, travel obscura is. The thing with the Arcanum is you have to come in and do sphere zero, sphere one before you can get to this program with me because it goes by levels. If anybody's interested in the Arcanum, they go through the first couple of levels. It's pretty quick if you put your mind to it you can be through it in a month and then you can come on and possible get into this project. We've had a lot folks ask us about, "Are you taking on writers? Anymore authors? Any of that sort of thing," and right now we're not. The biggest thing we need right now are supporters to help us kind of shape the site and get it so that it's working perfectly for everybody and then we'll start considering that but the overall goal here is to revenue share at some point when we get to self sufficient to revenue share the website income with the authors. It's going to be a paid thing some day if we can get there.
Rachel: That's awesome. We've talked about I think a lot in this episode. Is there anything else you want to add, Scott?
Scott: Nope. I was actually going to ask A.D the same thing. We're going to link to the explorographer and travel obscura in the show notes but A.D is there anything else you want to add? Any final thoughts or any other place that you want people to look for you?
A.D.: Nope. You can start at website. That's the best place.
Scott: Thank you, A.D for joining us today. Thank you, Rachel for being an awesome co host like always.
Rachel: Thank you, Scott. One more plug, this is episode, so our next episode 20 is our Q&A. We really want you to ask questions. I promise there are no stupid questions. If you have a question about WordPress and you're a photographer, there are probably 7, 10, 100 other photographers out there that have that same question. Please submit those questions and Scott and I will talk them through on the podcast number 20.
Scott: Yes. You can submit those questions at Imagely.com/podcast/q and you can find the show notes from today's episode at Imagely.com/podcast/19.
Scott: Yes. Until next time..
Rachel: Thank you.
Scott: All right. Have a good one.
— Imagely (@imagely) July 21, 2016