I am curios – how does it feel to run the most hated service in the world?

A few days ago, the self proclaimed “most loved” payment service decided to freeze my account. Just because. To be exact, they “determined” that I was involved in some dark illegitimate affairs and by doing so, violated their Terms of Service or something to that effect. It still puzzles me what kind of illegal stuff I was plotting, yet the following events were even more bizarre (however hard it may be to imagine).

It is not that hard to imagine that emails to the customer service went unanswered. After all, PayPal is famous for it’s “customer service denial” system.

Next came the phone call, which prompted me to blog this in the first place. The conversation went as follows:

- PayPal: We see that you have a problem with your account. Unfortunately, we can no longer offer you our service
- I : That’s exactly why I’m calling you. I wish to close the account
- PayPal: We cannot do that. We can lock it.
- I : No, I wish to close it. You just said you can no longer offer me the service, so close it.
- PayPal: We cannot do that. We can lock it.
- I : Why?
- PayPal: Because closing is not possible for limited accounts
- I : How long the limits will stay in effect?
- PayPal: Indefinitely
- I : I wish to close the account
- PayPal: It is not possible
- I : Can you provide an explanation?
- PayPal: No
- I : Why not?
- PayPal: Because we don’t see a reason. Goodbye!

Who needs a muscle these days… The days of bullies are drawing to the end folks. Modern bullies wear suits and ties. You don’t need to be strong, you just need to be PayPal, the most hated payment service in the world.

How do you feel, PayPal? Fine, I’m sure…

It’s ’tis time of the year – Portfolio Reviews

It's 'tis time of the year – Portfolio Reviews

Getting ready for the reviews and tuning up the portfolio (many thanks to Chris Dean for his invaluable help!). With all the technology and Clouds and all, there is still no better way to do it than just spread all the images on the floor and kick 'em around :) while enjoying a glass of wine and a great conversation…

Cant's wait for the final printed book!

#wp

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You are invited to visit my other sites:
Commercial work: www.astepanov.com
Travel & Art Photography: www.smallbigplanet.com
Behind-The-Scenes and articles on PHOTIGY are here

My new E-Book has finally arrived!

Many thanks to the wonderful people at PHOTIGY (www.photigy.com) – with their support, my long-awaited e-book on copyright is finally out into the world and on the virtual “bookstore shelf” here. Come check it out!

This book is different from most other books you will find out there. First, it is not just legal talk – and, to the most part, I tried to speak “plain English” and avoid the “big words” as much as practical. But that’s not what makes it different. The major difference is that this book is written by a photographer for photographers and it discusses things that are rarely covered in the volumes you will find on your local bookstore shelf: it talks about such things as whether your website is covered by copyright, how to submit your work to the US Copyright Office, how to set up the submission process in the way that it does not become a painful chore and many other things. It is a very practical guide and that’s why it is called a “Field Guide to Copyright”.

Please take a moment to take a look at the full book description and read the sample pages here. Enjoy the reading!

Cheers
Alex Stepanov, Photographer

www.astepanov.com
www.smallbigplanet.com

It’s a “mistery” – the sequoia rainforests of North California

It's a "mistery"

Or maybe "foggery" :) The sequoia rainforests around the Crescent Bay area. A spellbinding experience straight out of some unbelievable fantasy novel, where the ocean fog drapes the thousand year old trees…

#foggy #landscapephotography #sequoia #wp  

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You are invited to visit my other sites:
Commercial work: www.astepanov.com
Travel & Art Photography: www.smallbigplanet.com
Behind-The-Scenes and articles on PHOTIGY are here

“To Flash or Not To Flash” – why is it even a question?

There are certain debates that never die down. They may subside for a period of time, only to come back with new vigor after a few months (or sometimes years). With time, each side in those debates gathers almost religious following and amasses a formidable amount of arguments, facts and cool soundbites, only to unleash it all when the next tide comes to the shore.

One of those perennial debates is the all famous “Flash websites vs. Non-Flash websites”, or rather “Pros and Cons of Flash”. Since my “big” website uses Flash-based presentation, I was automatically thrown into the “Flash” camp (quite against my will) and now hardly a week passes without one web designer or other commenting on my website, specifically on the fact that it’s core is based on Flash. With the upsurge of the iPhones, iPads and other i-things, the comments have gotten on a new twist: “Flash needs to be avoided because it’s not iPhone-friendly” (read: “does not work on iOS platform”).

One web designer, who is also doing consulting (helping other people improve the “curb appeal” of their websites), offered me the following insight: “I’m not sure I would recommend using Flash at this point, unless you have a ghost site for mobile phones/iPads. If you’d like some more detailed instructions and recommendations on what we would suggest changing with your website, we could consult with you at our hourly rate. We can also create a custom website for you that would run on WordPress, and would be full HTML/CSS

Oh dear…

Leaving aside the whole “WordPress” nonsense, let me ask you a simple question: What is the purpose of your website?

That’s right – tell me in a couple of sentences, what is the purpose of your website and why do you have one? To show your work, right? WRONG! Not just “to show your work” but to present it in the most beautiful, glorious, dazzling way humanly possible. That’s the real goal of the website (and I’d be the first to admit that mine fell short of the mark on this one).

Now, let’s move on to the mobile platform argument. Have you ever tried browsing your big and beautiful website on iPhone? Or Android for that matter? If you haven’t done so recently, I strongly urge you to do it right away. Your eyes will open. When I saw my site on Android tablet (which supports Flash by the way), I was ready to cry. Yes, it was that bad. Which made me rethink my entire approach to what website is and how it works in the modern world. It is very simple actually – if you keep in mind the “big picture”, the big goal of your website existence (see the bold text above) then it becomes almost a no-brainer: you cannot expect your “desktop” site shine on the mobile platform.

The mobile platform is not just smaller – it is entirely different in every aspect, from small form factor to navigation, to how users engage and how they control the site (pinches and twists vs. mouse clicks for once) and the list goes on and on… Which makes it rather obvious: you need to have two separate web sites, each one is tuned to the specific platform it is intended for. I know, it’s not what most folks would like to hear but that’s the reality of it – you have to have a separate “shadow” site developed specifically for mobile devices. Your “big” desktop site will never look good on a handheld device and you have to dazzle the mobile users just as you do the “desktop  and laptop” crowd.

Which brings us to the initial argument – “avoid Flash because it doesn’t work on iOS”. Now, how come it is even a question? Your Flash (if you use it) belongs to your “desktop” website and your mobile web experience needs to be completely re-thought and re-engineered from ground up anyways. Stop trying to drive a square peg into a round hole – it won’t go. Stop trying to make your “desktop” site “work” on iPhone – even if it does, it will scare people. Stop making bogus pseudo-technical arguments and just give yourself a moment of quiet time and think: what is my goal? And then everything will start falling into its place.

Cheers,
Alex Stepanov, Photographer.

When in Washington DC, try to free up an hour…

When in Washington DC, try to free up an hour or two and make your way to the Library of Congress – specifically, to the Old building. Even if you are not big on history and museums, the interior itself never fails to "wow" anyone who comes here. In my personal roster, this building is easily #1 just for the magnificent ceiling ornaments alone… Not to mention everything else.

#wp #architecturephotography #libraryofcongress  

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You are invited to visit my other sites:
Commercial work: www.astepanov.com
Travel & Art Photography: www.smallbigplanet.com
Behind-The-Scenes and articles on PHOTIGY are here

Is it not amazing how different the same city looks…

Is it not amazing how different the same city looks by day and when the sun goes down? That's the ever-changing and never changing New York for you, folks… The city that looks "same old" yet changes every second (sometimes, every "New York second").

As a friend of mine, a native New Yorker, put it – "it's crowded, dirty, noisy and smelly. It's perfect!"

Enjoy!
www.smallbigplanet.com

#wp #newyorkcity #newyorkcityphotography #panoramicphotos  

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You are invited to visit my other sites:
Commercial work: www.astepanov.com
Travel & Art Photography: www.smallbigplanet.com
Behind-The-Scenes and articles on PHOTIGY are here

Being a tree in the City is rough…

Being a tree in the City is a pretty rough business. I always wonder how those trees manage to survive and grow up and (what’s even more intriguing) – how those trees up there made it up the wall? In the concrete jungle the trees are on the defensive, never mind the people…

Happy Friday everyone!
www.smallbigplanet.com

#wp #cityscape #cityscapephotography

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You are invited to visit my other sites:
Commercial work: www.astepanov.com
Personal & Art: www.500px.com/astfoto
Behind-The-Scenes and articles on PHOTIGY are here

Flying over the mountains of Peru The majestic beauty beyond…

Flying over the mountains of Peru
The majestic beauty beyond imagination…

Please pardon crazy color shifts, it was taken through the crooked glass of a passenger jet :)

#wp #peru  

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You are invited to visit my other sites:
Commercial work: www.astepanov.com
Personal & Art: www.500px.com/astfoto
Behind-The-Scenes and articles on PHOTIGY are here

At long last… For quite some time, I could not…

At long last…
For quite some time, I could not figure out what to do with the growing pile of pictures I take while wandering out and about. The didn't fit into my "big" site (www.astepanov.com) and I was posting them here one by one but then they would come out small and not as good…

Finally, yesterday I gave myself a nice kick roughly where the rump is :) and put together a site, which will be a new home for all this stuff (what you see below and much more). Here it is folks: www.smallbigplanet.com

Hope you enjoy and have a great Thursday!

#wp #travelphotography  

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Find the original post here… https://plus.google.com/104646146884143207478/posts/5bjCxySYmdZ

You are invited to visit my other sites:
Commercial work: www.astepanov.com
Personal & Art: www.500px.com/astfoto
Behind-The-Scenes and articles on PHOTIGY are here