The Flickr pic o’ the day is getting rave reviews from at least a few of the regulars around here; Gambolin Man e-mailed me wondering how they get picked, so I figure others might also be curious.

It works like this:

Flickr has a keyword search; I scan on the word “hiking,” which yields about 600,00 hits. This does miss everybody who fails to add keywords to their Flickr pictures (like, uh, me), but 600k is plenty to choose from when I need just one.

Once I’ve done my search, Flickr gives me a couple sort-down options: “most interesting” or “recently posted.” Must be the news in my genes, because I always go for the newest posts vs. some computer algorithm’s idea of what an “interesting” picture is. The “interesting” shots are generally excellent photographs, but most were posted months ago. Not interesting to me.

Going for the new obliges me to scroll through five pages of somebody’s lame vacation pictures, but the search is more rewarding precisely because eventually a great picture shows up. Looking for great hiking pictures at Flickr is much like looking for great shots on the trail: when the right image appears, you just know.

My idea of the right image is that it has to convey the visual experience of hiking. Lots of excellent scenery is visible from the highway; I’m interested in what’s visible from the trail.

Originally I was just posting pretty pictures of nature’s splendor but after awhile I wanted more: Visual splendor plus evidence that there was some hiking happening. The picture of The Keyhole at Long’s Peak I posted the other day is a prime example: hikers moving through an amazing rock formation. In focus, well composed, just a nice photograph.

A note about copyright: The pictures at Flickr are the intellectual property of the people who upload them. Flickr’s “blog this” feature does not grant a copyright exemption. It assumes you’ll contact photographs’ owners and secured their permissions.

For awhile there I was just posting pics to the blog and sending notes to people informing them I had used their pictures. But one guy said “how about asking me in advance next time?” and I realized I was letting expedience trump virtue. Just because you can use somebody else’s work without their permission does not mean you should.

Now I pick two or three good pictures and send notes to their owners requesting permission. This helps me create a backlog of “pic of the day” entries and builds goodwill among potential readers of the blog. And it’s the right thing to do.