New featured images – Headers, website posts, and computers
In a previous post (New featured images – Astronomy), I mentioned that I’m updating all of my featured images on my website by category. For “computers”, I have just over 100 posts in that category, although that is a bit misleading. I have tended to use it as a bit of a catch-all category.
For example, the main topic in computers is not really about computers at all — it’s about my website. But to be honest, having separate categories about my website (content and mechanics), how I do things and the tools I use (WordPress, plugins, themes), the tools I use at home (desktop apps, graphic editors), and even how I organize myself (photo backups, etc.), didn’t really seem to make a lot of sense to me. It is a VERY wide category, admittedly, but they do seem to lump together. And until recently, I was “forcing” myself to have “one category, one image” for my theming. With this update, I’m giving myself more flexibility.
Yet even though they are lumped, I feel the same as I do with astronomy. I would like to “nuance” the images I use a bit. Plus, I have a MUCH bigger problem. The main graphic I use now for the category is one of a frog typing. It looks like this:
And since my site is PolyWogg.ca, and my nickname is PolyWogg, and polliwogs are baby frogs, I love the idea of a frog using a computer. It is a perfect graphic for me. Except I want to use it for my writing category, not my “computer” category. I have to confess, I like it so much, I have occasionally used it for both. Like THAT’S not confusing to anyone, including me. If it was slightly better resolution and quality, I’d be tempted to make it my overall logo.
Speaking of which, some people suggest that if you are writing about your “website”, you should use your logo or a modified version of your header as your featured image (a bit of a meta thing, intellectually — a blog on your blog about your blog). That would give me a bunch of choices, including my original frog image that is as close as I come to having a real logo, but I view that more as my personal branding logo, not just a website logo.
It isn’t about computers, it’s about me. And so I’m saving that for my truly “personal” posts. Therefore, by process of elimination, I should use a smaller version of my header. If only I could decide on WHICH header I was using!
Over the past 15+ years, I have had approximately ten headers. The first was a modified form of the big frog logo. My friend Liam designed my first website, and he integrated the image into my core splash page and again into my combination header/menu options across the top.
My second and third options were provided by the Weaver theme and sub-themes that I was using. I liked the idea of having a nicely tied-in image (colour-wise) across the top of my site. But neither lasted long. They looked nice, sure, but there was nothing about those images that resonated with me. I played with having my frog again (option 4), except using it as a logo to the left rather than a banner, and it worked for a while.
My fifth option was a picture I took in Gaspesie of a waterfall. I loved the way the water was hitting the ground, and so I went with this image for a short while. I’m proud of the photo, it resonates with me because I took the picture, but it doesn’t really “say” anything. It’s just a cool photo.
My sixth option was a counter-punch to that one. It was taken in southern Nova Scotia, at a B&B we stayed in for a night. I love the reds in the trees, it has water which resonates with me from my youth, and it has bullrushes (oddly, while “bull rushes” is the official name, the Kawartha region seems to have used the term “bowrushes”, which is what I heard growing up), perfectly suitable for me as a frog. What’s not to love? The colours are a bit strong. And again, I was there only once. Does it look okay? Sure. But it’s not like the location means anything to me. We were just passing through. More resonance than the waterfall image, sure, but not enough to make it my header image long-term.
Partly in response to the previous image (notice a trend?), I wanted something that would have more links to me, my site, my “theme”, etc. Most people would just go to Shutterstock, find a suitable photo, or the best photo even, fit it within the site, tweak colours, etc., and BAM! One header image. And I suppose if I was running a commercial site, I’d probably do the same thing. Except it’s not a commercial site. It’s MY site. Everything that goes on the site comes from me. Every post, every page. With the recent exception of two guest blogs from my wife, I have created all 1400 posts. So I want the site to reflect that “personal” touch, and it starts with the header.
So after the previous images using my own photos, I realized I really liked that aspect. A photo that I would take, unique to me, would head the site. I wanted to maintain the PolyWogg motif, something not so dark as the reds in the Nova Scotia picture, maybe more swamplike for the tadpole idea. And suddenly I knew where that existed. Some place with some personal resonance. The Bruce Pit. My family and I go walking there every spring and fall, and I frequently take photos near the pond. I confess that while my main interest in those walks is getting a good photo of a red-winged blackbird (more on that later), I like the pond.
So early one spring, we went for a quick hike. I tried some shots like the Nova Scotia one — farther back, vista / landscape colours — but I wasn’t feeling it. I headed closer to the water. I got up close and personal with some lilypads, and I found some pink water lilies to go with them. I thought about trying to get a shot of an actual frog in the water, but that seemed a step too far in the motif to me. I tried a bunch of shots, different angles, different PoV, different depths, chose a few when I got home, and played a bit with cropping. I’d love to say I hit it fast, and fell in love with a single photo. I didn’t. I found one that worked well, with some cropping, and so I used that for quite a while too. My seventh header.
I had upgraded my camera to a DSLR and was getting better results with my photos, and I took one of a sunset at my inlaws’ cottage on Balsam Lake. Nice, good lake photo, has some merit. A little less “froggy” but I liked it enough to add it to the rotation as my eight header. I tried it for a couple of months, but it didn’t stick.
Then my mother died. That doesn’t sound like something that would trigger a change in my website’s header, but it did, incidentally at least. After her funeral, I went for a drive. Just wanted to be alone. And I drove out to the lake where I grew up. Sure, we lived in Peterborough, but from 24th of May to Thanksgiving, we were always out at Chemong Lake. We had a sweet deal on a low-cost campground site, great location, on the water. It was awesome. And of course, right in front of the trailer was a quiet secluded bay with a swamp at one end. A lot like the Nova Scotia pond pic. With bullfrogs, red-winged blackbirds, bullrushes, water. Yeah, that’s why I like all that stuff. It defined much of who I am as a person. It’s also part of my nickname — I got it from my family (mostly my sister Sharon). Paul – Paulie – PolyWogg, not a stretch.
And so it wasn’t surprising to anyone that I went for a drive and that’s where I ended up. Yet I wasn’t quite ready to go directly there. Instead, I drove over near the Curve Lake reserve. I have never ever driven over there before, but I guess I wanted to see how much of the area I could see from that shore (it’s across the lake from our campground area). And the lake was weirdly calm. Not a ripple. Something you NEVER see during a late afternoon. In 20 years out at the lake, I never saw it that calm except first thing in the morning, or perhaps late at night. But late afternoon? Never. I snapped a photo.
And while I like the photo, and it does mean something to me, let’s be honest. It was never a serious contender for a long-term header. It lasted about a week as my ninth header.
I drove over to the campground area, but of course, I should have mentioned that it is long-gone, replaced by a small sub-division of expensive lake homes. But the coastline doesn’t change. The bay is still there. The swamp is gone, the bay’s been dredged out, but oddly enough, some of the trees are still there. Even a hill that was behind our campsite is still mostly there, I thought they would have flattened that considerably. But near the site is a road’s end boat launch that used to double as our swimming hole. The county used to drop sand there every spring, so you had sand out about 30 feet or so, about 20 feet wide. I spent a significant part of my childhood at that exact spot.
You can’t see the campsite area until you’re in the water, mostly because there is a huge tree on the edge of the property that hangs over the water. It’s still there, getting bigger every year, and it was like seeing an old neighbour to wave “hello” to in the old ‘hood. You can see it over at https://PolyWogg.ca.
Sunset, lake, emotional resonance out the wazoo. Yeah, it was my tenth choice as a header and it lasted for quite some time. I even thought that it might become my “forever” header. But over time, the grief faded, and the resonance lessened a tad. And while I love the image, I feel it is too dark for the site. Not dark emotionally, not sombre, just visually. And so, I have reverted. Back to my seventh header with the lily pads.
Feature image for “the website”
So, after all those discussions of header choices, it is really just context to say, which of those do I use on a smaller scale to represent my “website”. If I whittle them down, there are really only four choices, and the first three fall by the wayside pretty fast:
- The tree frog — nope, using that for my “personal” image;
- Quiet Chemong Lake (Header 10) — nope, I’ve moved on from that, and it isn’t a great photo for cropping to 150x150px anyway;
- My website icon — while this shows in the tab above as the small symbol for a URL page, it doesn’t look that great when you increase the size to 150×150, unless I was going more for Ninja Turtle with someone stepping on their stomach.
No, none of those really work. Which means I’m left with a cropped version of the current header of lily pads and water lilies, with two sub-versions … one is pulled back a bit, one is cropped to the pink water lilies.
While I like the content of the first one with the pads, the pink in the second one is more visually impactful. The second one it is!
Other “computer” images
After that, the rest is relatively straight-forward. Most of the images are new additions, rather than grouping everything under the “frog typing” image… I have added ones for hardware (simple PC), problems (man sad at computer), testing and learning (boy concentrating), smooth sailing (man at ergo desk and computer), and video games (one of the PacMan ghosts, multi-coloured).
And that’s a wrap! I have my new images figured out for the “computers” category. Two categories down, twenty-four more to go. At least a bunch of the other ones are relatively easy.