My failed experiment with Creative Commons

Himeji Castle in Himeji Japan
The west keep and the main keep of Himeji Castle

Years ago when I started photography I was amazed at all the free learning resources other photographers were giving out online. Later, when I started uploading my images online, I thought that it would be great to give something back to the Internet community that had helped me so much in the beginning. I thought that I could contribute by publishing some of my images under a Creative Commons license that would allow other creatives to use the images on their projects. I chose to use the Attribution-NonCommercial license so that the images would be available for anyone wishing to use them on their blogs, school projects, etc. I also saw that many photographers had had good experiences with the CC license.

Now, about 10 years later, it seems that my experiment with Creative Commons was a failure. Over the years I have seen my images being used in scientific articles, illustrations for horror stories, and many other uses. It has been rewarding to see them used the way I intended and to see them in contexts I couldn’t ever have imagined. However, that kind of usage accounts for about 5 per cent of the total. The second group of users are bloggers, who seem to think that Creative Commons means “free”, and use the images without giving me credit. Sometimes I’ve sent them a message asking for my name to be included, but most of the time I haven’t bothered. And then there is the majority of image use I see: companies using my images without permission to advertise their products or services. As I said, the CC license I chose restricted the use to non-commercial use. Some companies seem to think that it’s OK to use the images nonetheless, as long as they credit the photographer. The majority of them, on the other hand, just take the images and use them. I’m sure some of these organisations genuinely think that they’ve using the images within the terms of the license, but most of them just don’t seem to care.

And therein lies the problem. I have found the hard way that by using the CC license, I have essentially given away my rights to demand compensation for my work. Especially when a company has added my name under the image it seems to prove that they have used the image in good faith, and it’s very hard to get a proper compensation after that. Even when companies haven’t given me credit, it still seems hard to justify why they should pay for the images when it has been available for free for non-commercial use.

So, after all these years, I am tired of arguing about copyright and I’m tired of feeling powerless in front of all the companies exploiting my work. Therefore, I’ve decided to remove the CC licensing from all my photos that I’d published under it, and from now on will only publish images under full copyright.

It feels like a failure, and it feels like I’m giving up, but trying to educate people about copyright and spending time fighting for my rights just takes too much time. At least from now on, it’s a clear-cut situation: either ask for a permission to use the image, or you don’t use it. I’ll just have to find another way of giving back to the community.

Summer Giveaway!

The Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto at sunset

It’s been too long since I’ve updated the blog, but I hope a giveaway will make up for my absence. I have been planning to write a post to explain what I’ve been up to, but I just haven’t found the time to do so yet.

Anyway, to keep things simple, I’ve decided to make this giveaway an Instagram exclusive. This is the biggest giveaway I’ve had to date, and one lucky winner will receive two prices.

The first price is a 16″ x 24″ (approximately 40 x 60 cm) print of the above image of one of my favorite places in Japan – Kinkakuji, or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. The print will be mounted on foamex board, signed and numbered. In addition to the print, the winner will also receive a cute little emperor tamarin figurine. It is a unique piece hand-crafted from polymer clay by Mai Darling Designs. The tamarin’s crown is made of Swarovski crystal. If you like the figurine, go see more of Mai Darling’s work on Instagram and on her Etsy page!

An emperor tamarin by Mai Darling Designs
As an additional gift, I will also make a unique A4-sized (about 21 x 30 cm / 8 x 11 inches) print for a friend the winner has tagged on the competition entry on Instagram. I will ship all prizes to the winners free of charge.

To participate, all you have to do is

1. Follow me on Instagram: https://instagram.com/theexplodingfish/ (@theexplodingfish)

2. Leave a comment on the competition post saying you want to participate. To participate, see the competition post on Instagram.

3. If you know someone who would also like to have this image on their wall, tag that person in your comment. If you win, your friend will also win an A4-sized version of this image.

You do not need to follow Mai Darling Designs on Instagram to participate, but since she was kind enough to donate the figurine to this giveaway, you can go on her Instagram gallery and show her some love!

Feel free to share this post, but sharing is not required to win.

The giveaway will end on 11 September at 12 a.m. CET and the winner(s) will be notified through Instagram.
The image will be mounted on 5 mm Foamex board laminated with a satin heat seal that makes it durable. The A4 image will be printed on high-quality Canson paper. The prints will be signed and numbered.

That’s it! See you on Instagram and good luck!

Interview at Francejapon.fr

A couple at KinkakujiI was recently interviewed by a French travel site called France Japon and I’m happy to say that the interview has now been published. It concentrates mostly on my photography and my relationship with Japan so it might be of interest to the readers of my blog. Unfortunately it’s all in French, but I’ve sent them some photos from Japan that I haven’t published anywhere else yet, so go take a look even if you don’t speak French!

You can find the interview here: http://www.francejapon.fr/france-japon-a-la-decouverte-de-sami-hurmerinta-un-photographe-de-talent

The mirror pond at Kinkakuji

The mirror pond at the Kinkakuji temple

Here’s one more image of the Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto. I wanted to post this separately as I felt that the Kyōko-chi pond (the Mirror Pond) deserved attention. The reason the pond, designed in the Muromachi period, is called the name Mirror pond is that it reflects the Golden Pavilion. It contains 10 small islands, which according to Wikipedia represent famous places in Chinese and Japanese literature, and it seems that the surroundings of the pavilion were built according to descriptions of the Western Paradise of the Buddha Amida, the largest islet representing the Japanese islands.

Even though you weren’t interested in the history of the pond, there’s no denying that the golden pavilion wouldn’t be half as spectacular without the carefully designed pond that really makes the building shine.

Five views of the Golden Pavilion

The Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto at sunset

There’s a time for words and a time for images, and now’s the latter. I already wrote about the Rokuonji temple in a previous post so I won’t go into detail about its history anymore. Instead I decided to show the temple’s main attraction, Kinkaku, the golden pavilion from different angles that you see when you walk around the pond and the temple area. I was extremely lucky that the evening when I visited the temple turned out so beautiful. I hope you enjoy these images!

The Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto at dusk

Reflection of the Kinkakuji

Kinkakuji seen from behind

Side view of Kinkakuji

Sunset at Kinkakuji

The Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto

After a quick tour at the Nijo Castle, we headed to the final destination of the day, the famous Kinkakuji temple or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. The official name of the temple is Rokuonji, but Kinkakuji has become the more common name for it. it is probably one of the most famous buildings in Kyoto, and also one of the city’s World Heritage Sites. And like many other temple’s in Kyoto, Kinkakuji too was burned down by a monk, although the arson at Kinkakuji took place as late as the 1950s.

The top floor of the Pavilion is covered with leaf gold, and the architecture of each floor is different. There’s a detailed description of the temple in Kinkakuji in Wikipedia, so I’m not going to copy and paste the article here in its entirety. What I like about the temple site even more than the temple though, is the garden around the temple. If you happen to go there when the number of tourists is low, it is a quiet and relaxing environment. We visited the temple in early October and entered about 15 minutes before the closing time, which meant that most of the visitors had already left and because the trees had not yet changed to autumn colors, it wasn’t the peak tourist season. We walked around the area taking photos until a guard ushered us out, but it wasn’t until 25 minutes after the closing time that we actually left the area.

I’ve also visited Kinkakuji in winter (early February), and because Kyoto gets a bit chilly in winter (not really, if you’re a Finn), there weren’t a lot of visitors then either. It also happened to snow that time so I got to see Kinkakuji covered in snow. So, although Kyoto’s temple’s are beautiful in autumn and the climate is really pleasant then, I wouldn’t shy away from visiting Kyoto during other seasons either.

Nijō Castle

Nijo Castle's Moat

Although the title of this post says Nijō Castle, the image above is actually of the castle’s outer wall and moat. Unfortunately we were in a kind of hurry between too places when we visited the castle, so I didn’t take a lot of photos there. The Nijō Castle was It was built as the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns and it was completed in 1626 during the reign of Tokugawa Iemitsu. Many of the palace’s buildings have been destroyed in fires during the past centuries, but there are still a few magnificent ones left, such as the Ninomaru palace. It houses beautiful artwork and is known for its “Nightingale floors”. They are designed to make a chirping sound when walked upon to ensure that no one could sneak through the corridors undetected. There are also three beautiful gardens in the palace area – the oldest of them originating from the Edo period (1603-1868). Like many of the temple’s and castles in Kyoto, Nijō Castle is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If you’re wondering what a nightingale floor sounds like, listen to the clip below – it’s a really peculiar sound (sorry for the background noise).

 

Ornate stairs at Kiyomizudera

Ornate stairs at Kiyomizudera

Often when visiting a new place, I tend to photograph wider landscapes to record an overall picture of the place. While I think it’s important to make those images as well and I primarily shoot landscapes, it often results in overlooking the details of the place. Looking at the photographs others have taken from locations I have visited, I’ve come to realize that as much as the entire view, the details help tell the story of the place as well. These ornate stairs at Kiyomizudera caught my eye when we were finishing our tour of the temple and leaving the area. In this case it was the aging staircase with all its cracks and the red autumn leaves on the stairs that made be want to press the shutter. The day was beautiful and sunny, but I did warm the image up and add some flare in post-processing to emphasize the summery feeling.

By the way, I hope you like the new layout of the blog. I’m still working on it, but think it makes the photos look better and is generally easier to read. What do you think?

Kiyomizudera and Kyoto skyline

Kiyomizudera and Kyoto skyline

If the view of Kyoto I posted earlier is a classic view from Kiyomizudera, this one is downright iconic. You can see the Kiyomizudera temple and its three-story pagoda from this angle from the viewing platform right next to the Oku-no-in hall. With this image I wanted to go the traditional route without subtle post-processing and make the image look as glorious as the view was. That’s one thing I love about digital photography – with just a bit of retouching I was able to bring back the lush green of the foliage and dig out the clouds and the mountains from the original raw photo where the sky looked like it was covered in white haze. Which, of course was not, what the scene looked like when I was there – or how I want to remember it.

A classic view of Kyoto

A view of Kyoto

This image was taken at the Kiyomizudera temple on a path that leads from the Oku-no-in hall down to the Otowa waterfalls. It’s one of the views of Kyoto that most visitors probably photograph (just do a search for “Kiyomizudera” and “Kyoto cityscape”), so I wanted to try to make my version a bit more personal.

The image was taken at noon and the light was a bit hard, so I softened in by applying one of DxO’s classic film presets on it. I then added a couple of paper textures on the sky in Photoshop and a third texture with a warm tone on the foliage to soften it a bit more. I don’t remember an image of this view with similar treatment or tones before, so I’m quite happy with the result. I might even end up printing this for my study.