A number of recurring themes have surfaced in my photography in the last decade or so, one of them being clouds.
In my eyes they’re one of nature’s greatest wonders.
I especially love how clouds are ever shifting, ever evolving, sometimes rapidly, sometimes so slowly you can barely see.
I doubt I’ll ever tire of photographing (or just gazing at) clouds.
In recent years, the word “cloud” has taken on a different connotation.
In short, storing your data “in the cloud” means having it online, on someone else’s servers and hard drives, rather than on your own computer and/or hard drives.
Despite considering myself quite competent with technology (and owning a laptop, iPad and smartphone), until very recently I had a slight fear of the cloud.
But my doubts are lessening.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve been experimenting with a couple of new ways of storing my files that so far are proving to be very simple and pleasing.
Despite being an Apple fan, I’m also pretty fond of Google. I guess I kind of trust them, unlike other online companies (Facebook, let’s not go there).
Through their innovation and services, Google in my eyes have genuinely improved people’s lives and made them simpler, quicker and more efficient. You might consider them the anti-Microsoft.
Just think about what Google are most famous for – their search engine. So famous in fact that our language has changed from “I’ll search online for that” to simply “I’ll google it…”.
Of course they are also the brains behind Android, which I would assume from recent visits to high street phone shops is by far the dominant Operating System (OS) on portable devices these days, ahead of Apple.
I’ve used Google search, maps, Gmail, Chrome, Google+, YouTube and other apps of theirs for years now. So it made sense to go to them to explore life in the cloud more.
Most specifically for photos, but also for music.
Since realising my iPhone is no longer a sustainable tool for photos or music, I started looking at other options. I don’t like that Apple disable any kind of storage expansion or the ability to use an external SD card. Then make the iPhone models that have ample storage so expensive.
Sony have worked well for me in the past on the camera phone front, plus their phones use Android (Google again), so it made sense to lay my hat at their door, so to speak. And a 32GB Micro SD card is less than £15, all the photo storage I need.
With my new Xperia, I’ve set up (or rather explored further, I think I first signed up to them years ago) two apps – Google Play Music (let’s call it GPM) and Google Photos.
I don’t want to talk too much about music, but the issue with my iPhone before was lack of storage. A collection of apps plus half a dozen albums and 100 photos and it was struggling with storage.
I was constantly deleting a couple of albums and adding new ones when I wanted a change of my playlist. A frustrating and very un-21st Century experience.
Now I’m on GPM (free, I haven’t subscribed) I simply upload music I already have (mostly on my MacBook and/or from iTunes store) to GPM. There it is available to stream from any of my devices once I have the app, or, even better, to download for listening offline.
In the end I’ve decided to use my old iPhone purely as an iPod, and so have essentially just the GPM app and a collection of albums I’ve downloaded.
Adding new music to my iPhone to play offline involves simply tapping the download button when I’m online and downloading the music from my GPM cloud to the device itself.
That’s more like it.
If/when the iPhone does get full, I’ll simply tap the same button within an album and it deletes it from the device – but of course keeps it in my GPM cloud.
At this point it seems apt to listen to this, by one of my greatest heroes and inspirations.
For photos the process is similar with Google Photos. Yet even smoother.
I have my Xperia synced to that when I am online (on WiFi) it uploads all new photos on the phone to Google Photos. Which are then available to view on any other device with the Google Photos app.
My workflow with a digital compact (let’s say the Ricoh GRD III) looks like this –
- Take photos.
- Plug camera into MacBook, copy and paste photos from SD card into a new folder.
- Send photos from MacBook to iPad using Photo Transfer app.
- Edit and process photos on iPad with Hipstamatic.
- Send photos back to MacBook from iPad.
- Delete photos from iPad.
- Upload best photos to Flickr.
Certainly not bad, and quicker in practice than it sounds. But with the Sony Xperia, so far it’s looking like this –
- Take photos.
- Process photos on phone via Snapseed (also Google!). Approx 20 seconds, and a couple of swipes and taps.
- Once home, photos upload automatically to Google Photos. Edit photos on MacBook (in Google Chrome, naturally!), delete those unwanted in Google Photos.
- Download remaining best photos from Google Photos to a new named folder on MacBook.
- Upload best photos to Flickr.
The first step and the last step are the same with both approaches above.
But what happens in between is significantly easier and quicker with the Xperia and Google Photos.
Plus I have the photos there to view on any device in the interim should I wish to see them, rather than have to keep uploading from device to device. Arguably too, I don’t need step four at all, I could just leave the best on Google Photos, plus the other copy on Flickr.
So far I’m really happy with how this Google shaped cloud is working out.
Yes, I could have done the same thing with my old iPhone and used Google Play Music and Google Photos before.
But it wouldn’t have solved the limited storage issue on the device itself and adding two further apps would have limited the storage (and no doubt the general processing speed) even more.
At this point I’m quite tempted to try a one month one camera challenge with this set up.
Especially as the last one I tried last summer crashed and burned after maybe a week. We’ll see.
The fluidity and near seamlessness of the Xperia/Snapseed/Google Photos combo is very appealing, and genuinely feels like a new frontier in how I make, store and share photographs.
I’m looking forward to playing with it more in the coming days and weeks.
Does The Cloud have a place in your photography processes? How does it work for you? Or do you hide from it with suspicion and fear?
Please let us know in the comments below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.