When Less is More is More Than Less

It’s amazing we are at a point where I will see half a dozen long form reviews of a two dollar application flood my RSS feed. Are we so desperate to save 1-5 dollars that we devote an hour to reading different perspectives on simple cheap apps? The web and the iOS app store have fueled the fire when it comes to this recent explosion of small, single use applications as well as our low expectations price wise. Now, don’t get me wrong, I admire products that can take one idea and make it shine. I love the simplicity of this approach but when is enough enough? How many different single use applications will I chew through before I am satisfied with one particular workflow or need?

As a photographer, audio engineer, and more recently, a writer, I find that there are a lot of useful tools available to me that aid me in these processes but this is  also where the waters start to get murky. I see blog after blog now chalking up minimalism as a bare bones, fundamental approach to living a tightly organized life and sometimes I feel it reaching near religious followings. Everyone wants their chance to show off how neatly organized they are, how they have discovered The best way to write a story, launch an application, or manage their time.

This is all well and good and I enjoy reading through different ideas and opinions but at what point is enough enough? When does minimalism start to become cluttered and excessive in itself?

Take writing for example, a task so basic and fundamental, in its essence it can be broken down to pen on paper or a stick in the sand. Yet here today we have a plethora of various writing applications because at some point in the past 15-20 years of modern technology we have managed to damage and greatly exaggerate the basic fundamentals of recording our thoughts and feelings into their written word. We have somehow sucked the romance out of it and turned it into nothing more than a means to reach an end.

Life and work have become so overly complex that there is now a sub genera of writing applications that strip out functionality in an effort to bring the focus back to writing. This is great and all and I myself use two such applications, but I am starting to wonder when we will realize that what we have is good enough. Why continue to spend countless time and energy (that we clearly realize is precious else all of this minimal talk sort of negates itself) researching new writing applications when you have one already that you are happy with? What on earth prompts you to think you need more than a keyboard and a few basic niceties to help organize, archive, and share the information?

I guess first off you have to ask, what constitutes happiness or contentment in a computer application that transcribes your thoughts. We construct our personal ideal in our mind and tell ourselves what features or lack of features we need to seamlessly get these thoughts out of our heads and onto the screen. So where do we get these ideals to begin with? Well, the way I see it, in today’s social media blitz of a world it’s peer pressure. No one is invulnerable to this. More than ever before I see people, including myself, fall prey to this most basic of social pressure. The web and tech has turned our minds, our needs, and our desires upside down and it’s gotten to a point where even something like writing has become a task easily influenced by the collective, ever shifting ideas of the people we follow online. It’s suddenly an urgent need to feel as though you are keeping ahead of the curve, staying relevant.

This means that, to a degree, our idea of contentment with an application is constructed of the things we let influence us. Now with a never resting movement of information this has grown increasingly difficult to keep up with and without realizing it we find ourselves thinking that there is always greener grass on the other side even if in reality we are perfectly happy with what we already have.

You end up coming across conundrums within the logic of finding a good app to suit your needs. If app X only had the ability to change the text size it would be perfect. If app Z would just let me pick my own typeface and adjust my kerning and leading I would really be able to get some good writing done. I like app Y a lot but it just has too many features to deal with… My point here is that at what point will we learn to satisfy this highly bizarre balance of both wanting so much more from so much less? When did we get so spoiled that we are left never feeling satisfied enough not to poke holes in everything. It’s depressing.

How many different conduits do we need to accommodate our writing needs? How many more ways do we need to sync data to feel as though we have control over it from every location possible? How many articles about being minimal do we need to read before we feel as though we have a natural understanding of our own needs? How much more do we really need to feel happy with less? I feel the answers to these questions in some ways speak volumes not only of our computing habits but the way in which we live our lives.

The same types of questions are brought forward within any number of other fields, most notable for me of course is photography. It’s almost painful to watch the speed at which trends come and go as various applications and techniques go through their month long cycle of interestingness. It seems everyone is out to discover the next best photo application or way to manipulate digital photos to look more analogue, a contradiction that will never really make any sense no matter how you look at it. When you break down what you really need as far as post editing tools are concerned (from a classic photographer’s standpoint)  you really only need iPhoto, or perhaps Aperture or Lightroom if you want to get more serious and shoot RAW which I always suggest you do if there is the option. Simplicity in post processing is key to developing your skills as a photographer. No matter how good you may think you are at something the only true path to honestly calling yourself a professional is time, patience, and an unwavering knowledge and precision within your craft. It doesn’t matter how many toys you have around to manipulate your images. Don’t play victim to current trends if you are trying to make your way as an artist. This is where these sorts of social pressures not only clutter and contradict the fundamentals of living an organized, minimal life but can also end up stunting your growth as a master of your passion.

Something else to be taken into consideration when debating the need for yet another app to try and fulfill our bottomless expectations are the various app stores out there and the dawn of pushing technically incomplete software into the market as the norm. While in some cases you get a product that grows in healthy ways with user feedback this has also turned software development into a rat race to push out new ideas first resulting in one too many half finished pieces of software. Since when was it ok to state, “as long as they add feature X in the future like they say they will this app will be the best ever!” in a review? This practice has thrown our expectations into a tail spin of disappointment and confusion leaving us constantly in search of what’s next before what we have is even truly fully realized. To me, that’s a maddening prospect.

To bring this back around to my original point, I am simply starting to find it daunting to read through endless reviews rambling about every negative nuance possible within a product which ends up reinforcing our driving need for more. Nothing is ever good enough anymore, even positive reviews seem to find the need to look for what is NOT there. This causes waves of developers scrambling to make new software to fill gaps that only ever existed because of newly imagined holes in our needs to begin with. If you are honestly trying to devote yourself to a minimal approach to computing and living, its amazing how simple this task really is and it astonishes me how much effort some people seem to go through in order to emulate the sometimes utopian standards projected to us online. Whats the big secret? Knowing yourself well enough to be honest with your own needs and learning to be your own you. It’s fine to keep up with the latest and greatest but you can’t let it define you. Age old advice but true now more than ever.

I find myself enjoying writing articles like this here on FFS because my mind is often running wild with curiosity and wonder as I read through the statements being made by fellow writers online and I can not help but want to jump in with observations from more of an aerial view. I find countless parallels between every creative field out there from writing, to music, to photography. I am interested in continuing to explore these observations from varying points of view through reviews, photographs, and simple observations like those mentioned here today. In the future you can expect not only a continuing source for photography and focus on that field (and of course plenty wallpaper imagery) but also growing observations on life in a world more and more dominated by technology. Speaking of which the often spoken of changes to the sites design and features are still very much underway! Just hit a few snags in the coding process of the new design, thanks again for being patient as I work towards building fiftyfootshadows into something even better.

Update: I have written a few more thoughts after a provoking comment left after publishing the article. I have pasted the comment and written a response after the ‘Read More’ link below.


seoul photo

Seoul Photo 2011

I’m not sure how many readers reside in Korea but I once again have photos on display in Seoul and this time I thought I would point it out as I think its a great exhibition to check out. I only wish I were there to participate. The images on display/ for sale are a selection from the collaborative effort between myself and YoungDoo over at OurWindow.net. While it has been some time since we have posted to the series we hope to pick it back up again in the future to add to the collection. The photo art fair seems like a wonderful display of fine art photography and I am excited to be part of it, even from a distance. Here is a link to the flyer over on YoungDoo’s Flickr photo stream.


The Print Aid Project

It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for Japan. For years my one traveling goal was to spend time in that wonderful country, however with time and the unpredictable nature of life my travel time was split between Europe, India, and South Korea. I still have intentions to visit Japan one day in the future but for now I simply continue to admire its beauty from afar. Due to this love for the land of the rising sun I found myself pretty shaken by the events that took place recently. Digging through endless conflicting news stories and photographs I could not believe some of what I was seeing and reading. Its incredible the magnitude of problems that seem to have risen from the disaster and the continuing struggles so many people of Japan face today and for a long time to come.

Among all of the news reports and ongoing coverage of what is happening you can’t help but notice the huge amount of creative support people have been giving to aid the people of Japan in whatever way they can manage. At one of my favorite local coffee shops I noticed a bowl full of folded paper cranes along with a note reading, 1000 cranes to raise $1000 for Japan, or something to that degree and a glass next to the basket where you could donate a dollar and have a paper crane as a token of appreciation for the support given. On a larger scale, all across the web I see a number of amazing efforts to raise money for those in need including beautifully designed shirts, compilation albums featuring original music, amazing posters and now, photographic and illustrated prints for sale.

A few weeks ago I was asked if I would participate in a project that was being started up by a few great photographers called The Print Aid Project. I thought this would be a fantastic way to do my part to help out and so I went searching for a great photo to share. I settled on a favorite of many of my followers, one of the images from White Sands, NM. Perhaps not as bold as some of my other photographs but I love the subtlety of the image and thought it would make a great print for anyone to enjoy around their home or office.

So while I continue to work on getting a store page up here on 50ft this is a great opportunity to grab a printed version of one of my photographs at a great price and at the same time show your support for the people of Japan as they go through these rough times. You can head straight to my image on the Print Aid website here.



I’m sure I am not the only one out there with more blank books than ideas to fill them and I thought it would be fun to share a few acquired while I was in Seoul about a year ago now. If you are not familiar with Korean stationery you are missing out. It is among the most creative I have seen available anywhere else in the world, aside from Japan perhaps which also has its fare share of wonderful blanks and the best pens around. I see design blogs post images of clever blank books sometimes and I can not help but but wonder if the rest of the world will ever really catch up to the brilliant offerings I have seen from South Korea. Only problem I suppose is that its near impossible to find these wonderful items for sale anywhere else. A couple of the books pictured below I have not used simply because it seems like a crime to defile such lovely books with my tiny handwriting but I’m sure with time these pages will find their way under my pen.

Although not pictured here in this post my favorite Korean stationery is easily that made by a company called MMMG (Millimeter Milligram) which makes a never ending evolution of creative stationary using simple geometric shapes and figures with just a hint of simplified english statements and ideas thrown in which are dripping with cleverness and charm. They have an amazing Café in Seoul (Don’t even get me started on the amazing coffee shop culture in Seoul heh) that doubles as their offices and shop but currently do not ship overseas but it seems they could one day expand to include international orders. I can only hope. You can see their products on their site at mmmg.net.

Anyways, I figured I would pull out a few of my favorite blank books and casually snap a few images to share with everyone. I would offer up a couple as desktops if I had the time but I figured I would gauge the interest first, otherwise click through the read more link to see the lovely books.



One Shot

It has been a while since posting anything to my One Shot posts. I am realizing now that I never formally introduced this series. I typically use them to share some of my film photography with readers of the site that may not follow my flickr stream closely which is where I usually share more of my film work. Due to continuing hold ups with the new site design I have been pushing back the launch of my expanded writing ideas and focus on the site but you can still expect more around here in the future! Anyways, I loved the classic feel of this shot, soft and filled with warm grey tones I feel as though this moment existed only in black and white. I developed this film a little differently than I usually do. While shooting I underexposed 100 ISO film by two full stops and then pushed the developing time to make up for the underexposure. This can be a bit unpredictable but the added contrast and grain I was searching for ended up being too much for my taste and a lot of the shots on the rolls I tried this with ended up more or less unusable in my eyes. As I continue to scan them in I will be posting a few more over on flickr if you would like to see more of the results form this little experiment.

For anyone wondering this was shot with my Voigtlander R3M and 40mm f/1.4 lens using Fuji Acros film. I typically do not use my film photography for desktop images but may reconsider this in the future if I get my hands on a better scanner.


Of Watermarks

On April first I decided to have a bit of fun with April fools day again this year and chose to add a gigantic watermark to a nice new desktop image as the joke. Looking back on it now I think I was a bit too convincing! I failed to remember how quickly conclusions are drawn online and how many visitors to 50ft are simply stopping by for the lovely wallpapers and running off else where online. This lead to more confusion than I had anticipated so I made the decision to pull out early and leave a note explaining it was only a joke. After thinking about it I discovered that I had never taken the time to write about my feelings on watermarks on images. I have a list brewing full of post ideas and topics to help me get started when I start devoting more time to posting soon and this topic was defiantly on the list.

Here is a simple fact. No one likes watermarks. I am certain that it is impossible to look at a heavily watermarked image and get any real sense for the emotion or feeling behind the image. This completely defeats the purpose of sharing it to begin with. That much should be obvious by looking at the two versions of the wallpaper I posted on April 1st. I think that it all comes down to trust and understanding. Those who add obtrusive watermarks show no trust in their viewers or the users of the web in general but this is easy to understand due to rampant theft of images and other creative works online. Which leads me to the fact that it takes at least a moderate understanding of how todays socially driven internet functions to fully grasp the ups and downs of watermarks.

When it comes to trust, it seems almost impossible to have any faith at all in the online world. It’s so easy to imagine there are people out there hunting your images like prey. Stealing them away from you and selling them, making ads with them, or claiming credit for them. I imagine dark ghostly carbon figures passing through web pages when no one is looking lifting copies of our precious pixels. It is an endless loop of thought and imagination that leads us to be so overly protective of our work and understandably so. No creative wants their work stolen from them but you really must learn to have a trusting attitude when sharing online if you ever expect to grow. I am often criticized for being too trusting of others at times but I can’t imagine being any other way. Life is too short to be so damned skeptical all the time. The truth is that there is always a risk of someone taking your image and passing it without credit and sometimes that person somehow gets that image landed in a highly contagious circle of sharing without your name attached to it which is just so horrible right! Ack!

Enter understanding; Stage right. This would not happen if your image had a big gaudy watermark slapped across its face but is this kind of exposure really a bad thing? Your ego may bruise a little after seeing your work floating around without credit but if you play your cards right and seed your name in the right places you can generate traffic to your original, dignity in tack. It’s important to understand that for your work to  be seen, people need to actually see it and for it to have its intended impact it needs not be seen through a fence, it needs to be seen in its original unfiltered splendor or else whats the sense in sharing to begin with? If you choose to share online and wish for anyone other than close friends to ever see your work you need to come to terms with the fact that by allowing your image to be posted online you are letting yourself be venerable and thats OK. It is not the end of your photographic carrier if an image of yours appears on another site or elsewhere without credit. If anything you should see it as your’e doing something right if so many people loved your image enough to share it. Besides, you, as the copyright holder of your original art, always has the upper hand and while there are exceptions to this optimistic viewpoint it’s still something to keep in mind.

When I come across an image of mine on a site that did not ask permission to use it I first check to see why its there, then check to see if there is any link or credit back to fiftyfootshadows.net. I then either decide to just let it slide or write a simple note to the site host with a notice to take the image down or agree to a few simple terms. When sharing your images if you don’t want someone to be able to print it well simply don’t make it available in overly large resolutions, stick with somewhere around 1000px wide at the most. No one with any real ambition can use an image that size for any print design. There will always be people out there that have ill intentions but the best you can do it keep an eye out out for abuse of your rights as the image creator and continue to press on with your’e own self promotion. I can’t help but say this tired old expression but, you can’t make an omelet  without breaking a few eggs.

Getting back to the idea of watermarks. They don’t always have to be so intrusive. Most of you probably notice the tiny watermark I leave in the bottom right corner of all wallpaper images here on the site. I have been using the same micro/pixel font for years now while posting desktop images and it has proven to be an incredibly simple, unobtrusive way to tag the images I make available at higher resolutions. The idea is not to permanently brand the image in efforts to make it unusable but to simply include it as a tiny source if it manages to loose its way along the span of being shared with friends or illicitly posted somewhere else online. In it’s true essence in my mind, it is a digital signature. An unobtrusive mark to show its worth and credit its creator and source. In higher resolutions the pixel font down in the corner is rarely even seen. Especially when a screen is not exactly the same resolution as the wallpaper and crops the image slightly. When I think it’s feeling too heavy in white I add a hint of transparency to help it fade away from sight. (Funny thing about iPad wallpapers is that you can put anything you want in any of the four corners of the square image because they are cropped out of sight by the iPad anyway.)

While a small pixel font works well with higher resolution images it can be much more obtrusive when adding them to smaller resolution files. I find even modest logos or clearly visible watermark tags highly distracting when looking at a photograph and rarely end up enjoying them because I get so distracted by the elephant in the room. If you must add something to your image, add it in a way that allows it to be ignored and not even seen unless you really look for it. The bulk of photographers that I see using watermarks are amateur photographers who somehow have an irrational fear of posting their photos online. Many of which have never had anything stolen from them to begin with. Ironically, these are the type of photographers that often struggle to find eyes to look at their imagery so why fuel the fire by hindering your audience from enjoying the image as it was intended?

All in all, I firmly believe that the benefits of tagging your images heavily is a mistake in todays world of rapid fire consumption not only because the negatives greatly outweigh the positives but in those precious few seconds you have to capture someones attention and make them feel something for your photograph the last thing you want to do is give them a reason to skip over it. Simply put, images with prominent watermarks often come off as amateurish and can send a message to the viewer that the creator doesn’t trust them to look at the image without stealing it.

This is simply my personal feeling on watermarks, certainly not everyone has this point of view and any artist is obviously entitled to make any choice they wish when it comes to this topic. I can’t help but be curious to hear readers viewpoints on the idea of using watermarks and should anyone have something constructive to add to the topic feel free to chime in with a comment below. As always I am open for discussion.




Update: Time to close the joke here, I think its had well enough time to work its magic but fear some may be glancing at this in the good ol’ internet short attention span way and thinking this is how things will be in the future. Didn’t mean to scare off anyone! In response to this I have decided to go ahead and start writing up an article with my thoughts on watermarks in todays online world and post it in the next few days. It’s a big topic but something I have been considering writing about for some time now as its kind of fascinating in a way. For the record I will never add such mess to images posted here on 50ft, promise! Funny to end up with my foot in my mouth here, lesson learned. Don’t use your own product as the punchline ;) I left my original text down below as well as the image in its normal calm loveliness.

Note: The following is a satire. (Well, I really hate to have to do this guys but image theft is running out of control with my photographs online. Wallpaper sites, iPad and iPhone apps, posters, they are everywhere I turn it seems and so something just had to change. While I usually frown upon the use of watermarks I am left with no choice! I like to think I have come up with an elegant solution for the watermark problem though. Simple, clean, efficient. It’s even Helvetica so I won’t loose too much street cred with my younger audience. All in all I think this is the right way to go with the wallpaper images to keep them safe from theft. I hope not too many of you mind this change, It’s something I have thought long and hard about and those few tiny pixels in the corner just were not cutting it anymore.)


So that mess out of the way, I can talk about the shot a little. As you may have noticed it’s from the same pier as the last desktop only a few seconds later and a minute or two away from twilight. I think it’s amazing how fast the sun feels like its moving in those last moments of sunlight. The slow transformation of colors across the sky and on the ground never gets old, especially in open spaces like this. As for the direct, centered composition, I think the bench there on the right gives a subtle balance to the weight of the sun on the left side of the image but maybe I’m just reading into it too much. Really, I simply like the feeling of calm I get from looking at this shot and hopefully it can bring that feeling to you as well.

To whom it may concern,



• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
• Share fiftyfootshadows.net with friends.
• Send me a quick mail if you are interested in using an image for commercial or personal use other than wallpaper.


• Post desktops elsewhere online.
• Share links directly to images.
• Pass them around in mass.
• Make prints.
• Use images for web banners or graphics. (send a quick email to ask, I’m pretty easy going about this with permission.)
• Use them in commercial work.

If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J


By downloading any content from fiftyfootshadows.net you agree to the following terms:

All of the images contained within this website, fiftyfootshadows.net, are property of, John Carey unless otherwise posted. The images are distributed as freeware but they are available for personal use only on your personal computer, tablet, or smartphone as your wallpaper image. Any use of these images for any purpose other than this is a violation of these terms and anyone found using said images will be asked to either compensate the creator for doing so or be asked to stop using them immediately.

I ask that you refrain from using any images found on fiftyfootshadows.net to create physically printed material of any kind. This includes posters, photographic prints, fliers, etc. Under no circumstances may you make a physical reproduction without written permission.

These rules also apply for any artwork or imagery submitted and shown within this site which was created by an artist aside from myself. Any images submitted and shared as wallpapers are the property of the artist who created them and in the same manner as my images, you are asked to receive permission before using them in any way aside from their intended use. Any use of these images outside of for your own personal use as a desktop wallpaper image is prohibited without permission from the author of the image. Commercial licensing is available upon request. Please write with any inquiries.

When sharing images via your personal blogs I kindly ask that you link back directly to either the post the image was taken from or the base of the website at www.fiftyfootshadows.net and give a credit to www.fiftyfootshadows.net. Do not re-post full resolution desktop images anywhere without permission. If you would like to use an image for your blog background or something of the sort simply write to ask first. Support the artwork you admire! Also, it is greatly appreciated if you do NOT link directly to the zip files. This is more or less the same as re-posting them as it circumvents the tiny bit of support I ask of you which is to simply link back to the original post for others to enjoy the site.

It’s not fair to artists if you do not credit their work and link back to the original content creator. It is theft plain and simple and blogs that attempt to somehow be mysterious by not giving credit to the creators are simply hurting the artistic community as a whole. If you love it so much then please, support it! The artistic community on the Internet is based on trust. Without trust then what do we have? are you going to be one of the responsible users out there or will you be among the bottom feeders, stealing content and passing it off as your own to make a quick buck in ad sales.

Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

John Carey (curator, owner)