Happy July 4th + digital photography + FeedBurner’s MyBrand

Hey, I hope everyone had a good Independence Day if you live in the United States, and a perfectly normal July 4th otherwise. My wife and I went to see fireworks at Shoreline in Mountain View, and I took my camera along:

Fourth of July fireworks

My fireworks pictures turned out 10x better than they ever have before. It’s true that I have a tripod and digital SLR now, but the pictures would have sucked again this year, except for a wonderful little book called The Digital Photography Book, by Scott Kelby. The idea behind this book is brilliant. From the back cover:

If you and I were out on a shoot, and you asked me, “Hey, how do I get this flower to be in focus, with the background out of focus?,” I wouldn’t stand there and give you a photography lecture. In real life, I’d just say “Put on your zoom lens, set your f-stop to f/2.8, focus on the flower, and fire away.” That’s what this book is all about: you and I out shooting where I answer questions … — without all the technical explanations and techie photo speak.

For the fireworks photos, the advice was
– Set your camera to full manual mode and put it on a tripod.
– Use a three or four second shutter speed.
– Set your aperture to f/11.

That’s all I did, and my photo snapshots were great. The book is jam-packed with tips like that. I highly recommend Kelby’s book if you’re starting out in photography.

By the way, a hat-tip to Rick Klau for turning me on to this book. It was one of the books I read on summer vacation.

This post is already longer than I intended, but I just want to send a shout-out to Rick Klau and all the Feedburner folks that joined Google. In my encounters with them before they joined Google, the FeedBurner team was amazing and humorous. Plus FeedBurner just started offering a couple really useful premium services for the low, low cost of free.

I was paying for one particular FeedBurner service called MyBrand. Instead of hosting your feeds on e.g. http://feeds.feedburner.com/mattcutts/uJBW , the MyBrand services lets you create a CNAME subdomain so that the address of your feed can be http://feeds.mattcutts.com/mattcutts/uJBW instead. That way the “ownership” of the final feed location always stays under your control.

I’d say that anyone using FeedBurner should take advantage of the newly free MyBrand service. The best write-up I’ve seen of how to do it is this MyBrand tutorial by Danny Sullivan.

80 Responses to Happy July 4th + digital photography + FeedBurner’s MyBrand (Leave a comment)

  1. Hey Matt!
    Nice pic.
    Check out the fireworks photo on my blog, it is good for a laugh!

    It was point and click blindly!


    P.S. Please tell us/me more about word camp!

  2. Sorry, this is the correct link!

  3. Scott Kelby’s book is really good. I bought it myself and I have given it as a gift to friends intersted in fotography – all positive responses so far. Congrats for the pics Matt!

  4. Oh boy, I’ve been on a quest for good fireworks pictures for years and years (I’ve got the SLR and the tripod too, I just never shot anything worth a nickel) so I’ll check out that book. That pic is beautiful. My best-visited website is about fireworks. I love to watch things blow up, and even more I’d like to be able to take decent pictures of things blowing up.

  5. HOLY COW!!! THAT is a GREAT photo!

    Saving up for my dSLR and hope to be buying the Canon EOS 40D when it comes out (IF it comes out). Definitely going to be reading that book. Thanks for the recommendation

  6. The photo is striking. If it was larger, it would make an excellent Desktop Wallpaper. It even has potential for a background image of a Web page. It would have made a great flash animation if more shots were taken at different stages or angles of that firework.

    This quality of this photo pleases SearchEnginesWeb!

  7. I always preferred f/22 married to fuji velvia. Ultra slow, fine grain. Over saturated colours. Magic stuff. Haven’t gone digital on the slr’s. Unsure if I ever would to be honest.

    I find that mixing and matching the length of fireworks pics was good too. Some shorter ones of 1-3 secs with a few up around 10-20 secs even. Just try and remember what’s gone off where as the photo is being captured and when it looks like a nice spread, let go.

    And printing fireworks pics on ultra high gloss cibachrome paper? Perfect.

    My favourite that I’ve ever done: It captured the firework rocket trails shooting up and then exploding into the shapes like yours. Looks like 3 flowers. Stem and all.

  8. Wow – so glad the book was as useful for you as it was for me. And thanks for the kind words – we’re excited to be part of Google, though I think our assimilation orientation would go so much better if there were an internal version of acronymfinder.com. πŸ™‚

    I’ll be in MTV full time in about 2 weeks, will make sure to look you up once the dust settles.

  9. Sweet. My friend and I started a photography business less than a year ago, and I remember him asking me about fireworks and my response was “It’s something to do with longer exposure” =P I think we’ll get some good use out of the book LOL

  10. That is an absolutely incredible picture. Mine, of the city’s display, turned into some big colorful blurs πŸ˜‰ I think I might have to go ahead and get that book – no sense in having a great camera if you don’t know how to use it, right?

  11. Hey Matt,

    Thats a beautiful picture, I am also into photography, but never really got started as knowing all the different modes and macros on a SLR camera can sometimes be daunting….great recommendation on the book, placing my order today….Thanks too Rick….


  12. I went and looked up that book, and noticed that the same author (Scott Kelby) had also written books specific to the various versions of Photoshop, under the same premise (never mind the bollocks, here’s how you do it) – anyone know if that book is similarly useful? I could *really* use something like that for Photoshop. I can get around in it to some degree, but it’s like getting around with sunglasses, a cane and 16 pound weights tied to my ankles.

  13. Cool shot, Matt, but maybe you should watermark it. Someone’s bound to steal it and use it as their own.

  14. Your image confirms that with the slower ISO speed of 100 and a shutter speed of 4 the qualiity actually improves.(many argue for fireworks using an ISO of 1600+) The manual setting on most cameras switches off flash which many leave on by default and that is the worst thing to use for fireworks.
    For such an image to be of good quality with no noise at ISO 100 the camera has to be a Nikkon (D40X ?). With my Canon I have to use an ISO 1600 to avoid the noise however one thing i have noticed about the Nikkon is the better quality pink/purple hues it reproduces.
    A most impressive picture.

    BTW if it was not taken with a nikkon could you moderate out this comment and leave me to crawl under a rock.

  15. Great photos and great book excerpt, I definitely need to pock up a copy for myself.

  16. I found this online guide to digital photography really good and it is free:
    (link contains no adverts).

  17. typos courtesy of my iphone

  18. Thanks, everybody. πŸ™‚ Shahid, last night was literally the first time I put my camera in full manual mode. So it is possible to start slow and try more things over time.

    Rick, definitely stop by when you’re in town. I’ll be happy to interpret any acronym and even tell you any stories I know about them. Glad that FeedBurner is on board.

    jeff Hall, that’s pretty damn impressive. My camera is a Nikon D40X.

    M.W.A., I guess it’s a little late to watermark it now, eh? Maybe something to remember for next time. But I wanted to share it with folks anyway, so let’s call this photo in the public domain.

  19. WoW ! Very nice picture indeed Matt ! congrats on that one !

    Taking pictures of light is one of the hardest things there is in photography and I can know … http://www.zonneke.com/en/gallery/


    (most of my picture are taken with a ‘real’ camera … that was before the digital age, you know, when we used to live in caves and stuff πŸ˜‰

  20. Very nice picture Matt. Wish I could get mine to look that good. Maybe one of these days. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing..

  21. That photo is terrific! It’s amazing what a tripod can do for the more artistic branches of photography. I’m a darkroom guy at heart, but can’t deny the perks of digital SLR!

  22. Well as long as Feedburner does not become another Measuremap, I think it could bode well. Else, I’d have to assume yet another awesome tool was bought and crushed by Google πŸ˜‰


  23. I’m not a photographer or wanna be photographer. I guess I never felt the urge to see the world from behind the camera. But I do like to see great photos. Especially about people. Expressions, emotions, situations and moments. I also enjoy photos of different places. Different cultures.

    I wouldn’t be that good, so I guess I would just photograph beautiful women! πŸ™‚ You can’t go wrong there. Even if your photo is awful. Women will not look at the photo. And men will just stare at the women in the photo. They will not judge the quality of the photo. Just the quality of the women.

    That’s the problem with fireworks. You have to have a good photo or everyone will just comment: it’s out of focus or any other similar comment. Your photo is an impressive photo! Congratulations!

    So, what are you going to photograph next? What are your interests? Nature, places, people?

    I read today or yesterday that in Ohio – USA, no one can be arrested on the 4th of July! Found that on digg:


    Maybe Google could offer something similar! Any links bought on the 4th of July would not be devaluated! πŸ˜€ Joking!

  24. Dave (original)

    Excellent picture Matt!

    Hurray for the constitution and the first amendment of free speech.

    Keep in mind igor, just because you have a right to do something, doen’t mean your’e right in doing so. Or, in the case of posting on Matt’s blog, over-do it!

  25. I’m still pretty new to the blogging scene, but for someone using WordPress, doesn’t the FeedBurner FeedSmith plugin effectively accomplish the same thing as MyBrand? It automatically takes the feed from my website (i.e. blah.blah.com/feed) and routes it to FeedBurner. Are there any advantages to using MyBrand if you have a WordPress Blog?

    Chronicles of a (Wannabe) Professional Blogger

  26. Dave (original)

    Igor, you miss the point. Those who post too frequently and insensately become nothing more than background noise. Kind of like living next to a freeway. At 1st you hear the cars all day and night, but before long you don’t even know they are there πŸ˜‰

  27. Nice picture.

    It may be a while before the next fireworks, but here’s one tip on making sure you get good firework shots (beyond the ones already covered): put the camera in manual mode, set the exposure to ‘bulb’ and then use a remote release (I prefer the little infrared clicker) and you open the shutter just as the fireworks streak up, and you close it when they’ve fully opened, which can vary betwee 2-8s. That gives you a bit more control over the timing and avoids having two different sequences run into each other, or have the camera close the shutter before the scene is fully developed.

    You started a hot topic for the gadget lovers – and many of us took pictures yesterday (myself included).

  28. Matt, thanks for the lead on that book. I quit trying to take pics of fireworks a while ago. Next year I’ll be armed and ready.


  29. Scott wrote the book, but didn’t take that sample picture (P.175) by himself. Do you have one without the smoke?

  30. Great work matt and thanks for sharing with us. πŸ™‚

  31. Matt

    “so let’s call this photo in the public domain.”

    Oh I see. I thought the whole Matt Cutts blog is in the public domain, including all MWA comments πŸ™‚

  32. No, my comments are copyright 2006 – 11,912 Crazy Bastard Industries Inc. In the year 11,913, people can do whatever they want with them. πŸ™‚

  33. igor

    “Matt’s blog is a private domain, not public!”

    Then you haven’t read yet the declaration by Emmy & Oz?

    Public Domain Declaration by Emmy & OZ:

    “Unless specifically noted otherwise, all works published on Matt’s blog are dedicated to the public domain.

    Emmy & Oz recognize that, once placed in the public domain, Matt’s works may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, used, modified, built upon, or otherwise exploited by anyone for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, and in any way, including by methods that have not yet been invented or conceived.” πŸ™‚

  34. I have always tried to take pictures of fireworks. I thought it would be awesome to blow the pics up and really decorate a room around it. I have never had them turn out. I can’t believe how great your pic looks

  35. igor

    “Hey do Emmy & OZ work for Google?”

    Of course not!

    Emmy & OZ have much important things to do than wasting their valuable time in Googleplex πŸ™‚

  36. LittleMissSEO

    Matt, the Nikon d40x is indeed an amazing camera. I recently bought it for myself as an early birthday present. πŸ˜‰ I will have to check out the book… thanks for the tip!

  37. Hi Matt,

    Maybe you should start your own photo blog. Nice shot you have there. What is the specs of your camera? I hope it’s not that expensive.

  38. Igor,

    I actually sold one of my lamps to the inventor of the lava lamp, I’m very proud of that !

    But ok, I don’t do lava lamps, I stick to my own special technique. It’s very unique, we can make any shape in 1 piece !

    the difficult part is to create the mold, so to do that for just 1 lamp would be kind of a waste … still if Matt wants some great G displays … I’m your man πŸ˜‰

  39. Wow, nice fireworks photo Matt. Perfect exposure to capture the effect. Bravo!

  40. Great looking pics matt.
    We blew some stuff off wed, I’ll try to post some pics

  41. That looks nice… it sucks that we debated between Shoreline and San Jose (I was in town w/ family visiting more family!) – and chose San Jose, and got stuck in the light rail and never saw anything πŸ™

    Since we started from MV downtown, Shoreline would have been a so much better choice.

    Great tips – the mybrand and the book. Thanks.

  42. Michael Van Keets – I headed to the ‘plex’ recently to meet some folks there – they have some wicked-cool lavalamps in the foyer – only thing I can’t understand is why they don’t have the lamps in the full array of Google colors..

    I uploaded my photo for you so that you can see whether they are one of yours – http://www.utheguru.com/lavalamps.JPG (sorry I haven’t reduced the res)



  43. I got some great shots to, the 4th is my favorite celebration…. igor must go…

  44. Sara James – ‘interesting’ site.

  45. Dave (original)

    Hey guys Google Webmaster Help Group banned me for expressing my opinion on search engine indexing!

    That’s a euphemism if I ever heard one!

  46. I didn’t know you enjoyed photography and its workings otherwise I would have sent you my site earlier (chuckle). Hope there are some tips on digital photography you like there ( http://photography-business-tips.com ) – most are straight to the point.

    I am aware of the book you mentioned and it’s underrated – hopefully that may change now.

    Your fireworks shot needs no guidance though, so perhaps you don’t need any tips at all now that you’ve found the digital photography book.

    Not sure about feedburner just yet. Keep up the good work, Roy Barker

  47. If it was larger, it would make an excellent Desktop Wallpaper. Thanks

  48. of course we don’t celebrate 4th July in the UK but every bonfire night i attempt to capture fireworks with my digital SLR and you know what?

    I haven’t got a decent shot yet!

    I always try and capture the movement with a slower shutter speed but always end up with a complete mess, and that’s AFTER reading all the books i can get my hands on.

    Maybe i should take up another hobby πŸ™‚


  49. Fireworks and phone sex don’t go hand in hand?

    All I’m hearing in my head now is Group X…”I just want BANGBANGBANG!”

  50. Ok.

    I see that Matt needs to update his comment policy to the following effect:

    Please don’t put your site name in your profile if it is related to adults materials and Services πŸ™‚

  51. MWA

    Btw, I saw a Canadian flag on Sara James site. Would you be kind to elaborate more on that πŸ™‚

  52. Amazing photo Matt. Thanks for the tip.

  53. igor

    Be nice πŸ™‚

    In defence of Adam Lasnik. He has been kind and helpful on the forums and conferences to hundreds of webmasters and SEOes as well. Adam contributions specially in relation to duplicate contents issues has been very generous indeed.

  54. I’m just commenting here cause I love taking fireworks photos as it has been a passion of mine since I was like 8 or 9yos. Fireworks that is… Taking photos of fireworks since I was 16- to present. I’ve got digital cameras all over but for fireworks displays I love my old Minolta.
    I will for sure get that book on digital photography.

    Canadian flag is there because we welcome Canadians on our line with open arms.

    No porn intended (Matt will get that).

    Peace Igor!!!!!

  55. Harith,

    Agreed – to the contrary, the Adam Lasnik I know would have been saddened, upset, disappointed about the turn of events. I don’t think anyone is jumping around the place with glee about it.

    Indeed this was a ‘free speech’ issue. The abuse and trolling associated with ‘disagreeing with others opinions’ was not cool, was upsetting to some and dissapointing to those who wanted to have a say but were drowned out by sheer noise. It was like someone had set up a megaphone in the place, and only one opinion was able to be heard – that is not free speech.

    Under conditions like that the democratic thing to do is listen to the people. One of the regulars conveyed the majority feeling here – http://www.jlh-design.com/2007/07/what-to-do-with-igor-berger/ . I applaud Adam and the team for taking a difficult but strong stance.


  56. About Feedburner… Matt I have a couple companies that want to see my exclusive stuff and I want them to host it like you do with Feedburner… Once the site is on their subdomain but I want the subdomain as, “me.me.com”. Do I loose out on dupe content cause the same site is at, “me.theirsite.com” as well as. “me.me.com” ? I know overall this is not good but I have no control over the other site… What do I do?

  57. dockarl

    Thanks for feedback.

    It seems the link you mentioned is redirecting now to “the page you’re looking for can’t be found”. However Google has already cached the said page πŸ™‚

    What to do with Igor Berger?

    Read it and have no comments though πŸ˜‰

  58. Thanks Harith πŸ™‚

    Look, I think prob JLH removed it because he (like everyone else) wasn’t happy about the whole ‘need’ to moderate on a forum that’s been otherwise full of really great, peaceful, self moderating people.

    I just wanted to add my two cents worth, because I think it’s important to get balance in an argument – and to know that this wasn’t just a case of someone being banned or ‘picked on’ because they were tendering any particular opinion that any one individual disagreed with.

    I firmly believe that the fact the ‘problem’ lasted >2 months prior to this speaks volumes for the tolerance of both the posters on the forum and those that moderate it.


  59. igor

    Take a deep breath and leave Adam in peace πŸ™‚

    Better to resolve that matter in friendly manner. The solution could be that they lift the ban on you (if there is a ban) in return for that you and all the “regulars” friends agree upon to attach a disclaimer to your posts in future. Something like:


    All the information provided in this post is to the best of my knowledge. I will not be liable for damages of any kind, including, but not limited to, direct, consequential (including, loss of profit, business, data, or reputation) or special damages which may arise out of or reliance on the use of any information found on this post.

  60. igor

    If we agree to leave Adam in peace or to settle your differences with him in more friendly manner, we can instead discuss “The Truth About Google Supplementary Index” πŸ™‚

    However, you can find the best “knowledge base” for the subject on Google Search News Forum of Webmasterworld.com. Here is one of the relevant threads; Supplemental Results: What exactly are they. I’m sure tedster, g1smd and steveb would be glad to assist if you need any help on the subject πŸ˜‰

  61. igor

    Hopefully you, the regulars friends and Adam will find a common ground for peaceful productive “coexistence” on Google’s groups. It seems thats the wish of all of you as I see it.

    However, I have a short remark about what you wrote. But first off:

    All the information provided in this and next posts on this thread is to the best of my knowledge. I will not be liable for damages of any kind, including, but not limited to, direct, consequential (including, loss of profit, business, data, or reputation) or special damages which may arise out of or reliance on the use of any information found on this post. πŸ™‚

    You wrote:

    “So Google deamed suppelmentary as duplicate as Spam as Google hell.”

    In short and IMO. Google’s supplemental index covers several kinds of pages which Google might consider of less value or not trustworthy (for different reasons as what Google consider to be duplicates, pages lack sufficient back links, pages with excessive internal or outbound linking etc..) than the rest of pages on the main index.

    Google take care of spam either by algos, filters or in few cases manually. As such there are no indications that Google is using the supplemental index as anti-spam tools.

    Though supplemental pages in general don’t rank on main index, moving pages from the main index to the supplemental index shouldn’t be considered as a penalty enforced by Google on pages or sites. Rather its an attempt from Google to improve the quality and relevancy of the serps of the main index.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see webmasters and sites owners upset and expressing frustrations if major part of their pages are moved to the supplemental index. Thats human and understandable of course.

    Having said that, I’m not sure Matt and Adam agree with me on above, hence the Disclaimer πŸ˜‰

  62. Awesome photo Matt!

    I actually just picked up this book after your recommendation and it’s a great resource. It instantly tells you what to shoot at and gives you an estimate about what your photo will look like. Of course it helps if you have a digital camera and can take many photos, but it definately gets you started.

    Great post.

  63. This is a GREAT picture! I set it as my desktop wallpaper if you don’t mind. May I know what camera (brand, model) you used to capture such an amazing picture?

  64. Very impressive pic, I’m not usually into photography but you may have just inspired me.

  65. GREAT picture, thanks dude.. πŸ˜‰

  66. very nice picture

  67. This is one of the coolest pictures I’ve seen!

  68. Those shots are lovely. I’ll definitely purchase that book. I use a Nikon D80. I’ve actually looked at it for some time. I have most of Ansel Adam’s books.
    I took pictures of the fireworks while I was vacationing in Manning South Carolina. I had a great view from my waterfront condo. The were right on the water. My fireworks pictures really stank, Bah!

  69. WOW..Thats a awesome photo. I also have the problem of not knowing how to use correctly my camera, i hate technical details sio this book will be very helpfull. tks

  70. Very nice picture.

    I am into photgraphy, I have a NIKON DSLR.

    That is a well composed and carried out shot.

  71. Try getting some IS lenses, i mean with image stabilization technology, good shots in low light conditions, hand held. I`m personally a fan of Canon Rebel XTi. Enjoy your camera and practice, practice and some more practice! πŸ™‚

  72. Very nice picture, Matt…you were able to give the perfect stop of the frame….even if I saw some years ago a better firework than this: there were descending lightened parachutes, and they went down so slowly that I couldn’t believe it….hey, that’s in Italy that we have the best fireworks organizers, not in other parts of the world !!
    PS: I wish also (if you have a little time) you to tell me too a little bit more about the described word camp ?
    Thank you, Matt

  73. Great picture. I doubt my camera could take one of that quality.

  74. This is a very nice picture. Well done. I have been trying to take a photo of the fireworks, but never get the picture even close to the quality of yours.

  75. Hello,
    I’d like to ask your permission to use your fireworks image on my Civilian Conservation Corps blog (Forest Army). Tomorrow is the 75th anniversary and I need a nice fireworks explosion to place at the top of the post. I’ll credit your name below the image, gladly.
    Hope to hear back from you soon.

  76. Go for it, Michael.

  77. I looks like made by 3dmax ,haha beautifull!

  78. Nice pictures, Matt!

    Sorry, if this has been already mentioned, what camera have you made those pics with?

  79. Hi! My photo expirements is not so good. f/16, 4 and 8 seconds shutter speed but no so good.

    Where is smoke on your photos? πŸ™‚

  80. Hi, love your picture. May I use it as my profile shot for the 4th of July weekend. . . I will definitely put a tag on it giving you credit for taking the shot; the tag would read: photo by Matt Cutts, Google Images. Thanks in advance.